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OMGGGGG, I have been obsessed with where I hide my schooling whips since the very beginning of my horse riding career. Luckily I have pals willing to keep them in their car boots for me, or give me a lend of their own; I’ve also got an in-case-of-emergency stick* hidden in a tack box in the loft. I don’t have to worry about finding new hiding places and being robbed; this particular long stick is long gone, but clearly not forgotten…


Tenth Anniversary: The Miracle Part III [2011]

THE SAGA CONTINUES This is what you get for thinking a bad thought.

On Tuesday, as I winkled my long stick out of its hiding place, I thought, You know, it’s been nearly a year since I hid this thing behind the big cabinet of hats. This has got to be a record!

On Saturday, the stick was gone. Read the rest of this entry »


Rebel figures largely in my book, which is based on many of the events I recorded on this blog. This is one of many crop posts — there’s an entire category called The Crop Chronicles; none of those anecdotes made it into the final draft, but as I toy with ideas of what the next horse book is going to be, there may be scope to talk about how something can someone [me] confidence without even having to use it much. A metaphor waiting to happen…


Utterly Changed

It’s only 43 inches of flexible plastic covered in a polyester weave, but let me tell you something, sistuhs, this long stick has effected an utter transformation. Read the rest of this entry »

A couple of weeks ago — see, I didn’t even bother writing about this, because honestly, this is like the eleventy billionth post on this topic.

A couple of weeks ago, I walked into the building at the yard where the lockers are, and I noticed out of the corner of my eye, as I was taking off my outerwear, that the walls looked yellower. Paint job? I wondered to myself — but maybe they had always been like this, except I never noticed? No, yellower, deffo, I thought as I simultaneously thought Oh, craaaaaaap. Sure enough, the long stick was nowhere to be found. And the tower of lockers that contained mine own had been shifted around, too. You know that weird feeling you get, when you know that something is changed — it’s like, your body knows something is weird, it is standing there with a key in its right hand and it knows that it is not going to fit into the lock, and it waits for the mind to figure it out so it can whatever comes next.

Located my locker, not the stick. Asked around, snooped around — nothing.

That was that, finally. All gone. The thing was, it wasn’t horse people moving stuff around, it was painter people, so, not a hope that they’d even just pitch it into the indoor arena.

I had this other long stick, I talked about it here, and I grudgingly brought it along the following Tuesday — and then realised when we were halfway home that I’d just left it on the ground! I frantically texted my instructor to please find it for me. There was no way I was going to lose two sticks in one week!

Then today I decided to take along a sort of medium-long stick instead of the red — okay, so, clearly, we are not deprived of whips in the Conley household. But the long stick was ‘the’ long stick, the Lassie Come Home of schooling whips, a veritable prodigal son of riding crops. I wanted that one, dammit, because, because — because I managed to keep it hidden, in an active yard, for almost two years!

It’s about its history as much as its length.

I walked down to the lower arena, to watch the end of the lesson and to save Connell the walk back to the indoor. His rider had just taken the fence at B, and was heading towards A. All the way at the opposite end to where I was standing. She had a stick in her hand. She had my stick.

The lower outdoor arena is 50m x 30m. 50m = 164ish feet. And I knew it was my stick. I experienced the moment of doubt that anyone would, from a distance of 50 metres, but: it was my stick. I knew it! I recognised the way it was frayed at the end. I felt — I felt a bit annoyed, as well as exultant. Annultant? I claimed it back nevertheless, because for crying out loud, this thing is like a homing pigeon. I gave my medium long stick to AM for the hour, and brought both of them home.

Have I lost my nerve?!?! I don’t think so. I think I’ll leave in back in its hiding place. It really is fiddly to carry about. Also: comments from the outside world have degenerated to the degree where I got honked at from a car on my way home. This allows me no time for a come back. Unacceptable.

I absolutely dare it to disappear again. I dare it!

It was sunny yesterday morning. I began to project.

If it was sunny, then maybe we could jump the course that I didn’t get to jump the Friday night. If we were going to jump the course, then I would take Delilah. If I took Delilah, then I wouldn’t really need the long stick, would I? Read the rest of this entry »

Yes, so the long stick: I have, as I said, become rather blasé about carrying it around.

I do realise, occasionally, that it is basically something that could be confused with a weapon. Recall my experience in Heathrow in 2006. So I keep it as close to my body as possible, tucked up under the handle of my kitbag, which is over my shoulder. I kid myself that no one can see it.

I think people are just too afraid to say anything.

I carry it in to the newspaper with me on Tuesdays. I come dressed in my jods, I don’t even care about that anymore, and hell, I’d wear them everyday if I could. One guy once made a comment, but only because he was caught off guard. Everyone else averts their eyes.

I guess if you have the brass neck to carry the thing around, well… Anyway, I think about it now only to write about it, and to say that I wouldn’t be without it. All that faffing about I did, avoiding getting one, just because I didn’t want to have to figure out how to carry it? All I had to do was carry it off!

I’ve gotten rather blasé about the long stick.

I’m handling it better, both in the arena and out. The first few times, handling it was like trying to juggle babies: it felt funny, it felt wrong, but it had to be done correctly or else.

Now I can [almost] switch it from hand to hand without too much wobbling. Although Fiona says it should always be in my dominant hand, no matter the rein. Ruth was equivocal about that. I’ll just do what suits the particular lesson. I’m learning…

I wasn’t going to name it. I tend to name stuff, must be my Viking [very, very very much in the] background. My gran was from Limerick, I’m sure my people got raped and pillaged just like anybody else. Anyway, I do love naming things: people, places, events, cats, dogs, inanimate objects.

So I was thinking about it and I thought about how I was going to call my lost stick Ted [walk softly and carry a big…] and how I didn’t want to call this one Ted, out of respect, and that this one was longer anyway, and then I thought of Longshanks, Longshanks, wasn’t that a medieval British king, one of the Plantagenants, Longshanks— Richard?

Rick the Stick?

But, dammit, it’s Edward, Edward was Longshanks, but I was right about the Plantagenant bit and the era [I have a thing for the middle ages, what can I say].

Back to Ted! That’s very weird and creepy, how that worked out… Nah, forget the whole thing. Although if anybody on the bus gives me — wait for it — stick about the whip, I suppose I could act [act?] really crazy and tell the above story. I do get more than my fair share of personal space when I’ve got it on me—

Nope, can’t get behind the name. Ah, well: first time for everything…

It’s only 43 inches of flexible plastic covered in a polyester weave, but let me tell you something, sistuhs, this long stick has effected an utter transformation. Read the rest of this entry »

OH, DON’T BE SILLY  I really tried. I did, I really did. But the dressage whip is the only thing Rebel respects, and it now seems pointless for me to ride without it.

Which means I gotta figure out how to get it from point A to point B. Read the rest of this entry »

THE SAGA CONTINUES My buzzer rang unexpectedly this morning. The speaker phone revealed a man holding a long, skinny, handful of bubble wrap— Read the rest of this entry »

I LOST THE AMAZING AND MAGICAL STICK OF WONDER I lost it. It’s gone. Gone. Read the rest of this entry »


Twelve years on from my first ever riding lesson, these posts are still wandering round and round, a figure of eight starting with today, probably, and yesterday, definitely. It’s the antithesis of how I usually do things, but… that’s horses for ya.


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