A fair bit of bouncing

I do remember falling off horses, as a young fellow.  It’s not something I would want to do again.

This comes to mind because I’m getting riding lessons on the wonderful Paulie.

So far, I’m working on the trotting bit.  Paulie has cantered too, but I’ve slowed him down again so I can work on one thing at a time.

Trotting is second gear on a horse, and involves a fair bit of jarring up and down.  If you get it right, it’s not too uncomfortable.

It’s quite hard work as you have to rise in the stirrups every second bump.  The way I do it, your testicles get bashed into the saddle every two seconds.

Under Jan’s patient instruction, this is only half as painful as it used to be.  Perhaps because there’s not a lot of them left.  No, my technique is definitely improving each session.

Cantering has been OK, reasonably balanced but not as comfortable as I remember it from Dad’s ponies.  Maybe I don’t have the right muscles yet, or perhaps my weight distribution has changed a little (!) since then.  I’ll get Jan’s advice on that too, and partly it seems to be just a matter of getting used to riding again.

We did try whirling cardboard tubes while riding Paulie, and he’s relaxed about that.  Jan’s horses are now dealing with coloured flags, even garish rugby league flags, and they’re fine with them too.

Paulie has now had many riders, at various levels of skill, and he’s great with them all.  He seems to be very careful not to push things too far, and prefers to plod until he thinks you’re ready.

We’re so pleased with him.  He seems perfect for Cockatrice Farm.  I could easily have spent five times as much and not got such a good horse.

Our new wwoofer, Joonas from Finland, is helping a lot with the horses, and Jan is giving him riding lessons too.  He’s going to stay until our medieval horse event in May.

Hopefully we can do some great horseback games by then, without any unplanned interfaces with the ground.  In a limited study, I found that falling off a horse is not as bad as slipping off a high ladder when packing up a medieval feast after a long day.

A new horse

We picked up a riding horse on Saturday: Paulie, a standardbred ex-racehorse.  He is 7yo, 15.3 hands tall.

Paulie is black with brown highlights, and has a blondish fringe on his face.  He’s a laid-back surfer type, and our friend Jan is threatening to make him a Hawaiian saddle-cloth and put surfboard rails on top of the gypsy wagon.

On the trots track, Paulie was known as Chefino and was fairly successful.  Now he’s retired from racing and was in need of a new career.  In Australia, many ex-racers are turned into dog food.

There are a few dedicated individuals who take ex-racers and rehabilitate them for general riding.  We got Paulie from Anything But Standard, who are based in our general neighbourhood.  Karleigh gets the retired racers, rides them for a while, then finds homes for them.

Standardbreds have not been fashionable in show circles, but are now being recognised as reliable performance horses.  They are stockier than thoroughbreds and have less accidents and health problems.  They tend to be quiet and, because they pull little carts, are used to things hanging off them and around them.

Paulie has a lovely temperament and loves being patted and groomed.  At the moment he’s getting lots of attention and really enjoying that.

It’s 30 years since I have done any real riding, so I’m a bit rusty on the finer points.  Dad’s ponies used to steer mostly on the reins, whereas Paulie seems to respond best to shifts in my weight, and leg aids.

Fortunately Jan is helping me a lot in basic horsemanship and getting equipment together.  We have sourced a suitable saddle, just waiting on some adjustments to that.

I haven’t ridden him at more than a walk yet — the ground at the seller’s place was uneven and rocky, and there were some saddle issues at that point.  Paulie is so calm that I’m confident it will all work out.  I might even try him riding in a halter rather than a bridle some time, as he seems so happy to oblige.

My expanded yards should be arriving this week, which should make many things easier.  I’m seeing the concretor today about a slab for the stables, which are laying as a flat-pack in our big shed.  We should soon have a respectable horse set-up.

We’re having a medieval equestrian day at the farm in May, so hopefully we’ll be able to do some showing off by then.  Medieval horse games are a lot like pony club games.

I’m hoping that the gypsy wagon is repaired by then: at least the exterior, maybe not the reupholstery for the seats.  Paulie should be OK to pull the wagon, as he knows about carts already.

Domino the half-draft is still the paddock boss: all resolved in a civilised way.  Gawaine the giant foal is really excited to have someone to play with, and won’t leave poor Paulie alone.

Rowany Festival pictures

What happened to that week?

There is a write-up on the Rowany Festival, and some great photos from our group, here at the Okewaite website.

Back from Festival

We’re back from the Rowany Festival now.

We still have to dry the tents out and unpack everything.  It’s quite a logistical challenge to get everything there and back.

I will do a write-up on the Okewaite site but it may take a few days.  We’ll get some photos there, and links to photos taken by people outside our group.  The short answer is that it went very well.

Today I’ll talk about our period cooking experiences.

On Thursday we arrived at the site, and during the setup period our campfire ironwork appeared.  This was made by a work contact of mine, Daryl, who is a hobby blacksmith looking out for interesting projects.

Daryl made us a couple of stands, each about 1.8m high, with a rod between them.  The stands came with spit hooks and little dragon heads on top.

He also made us some S-hooks, a couple of long toasting forks, and a trivet for going directly over the coals to put pots on.

With a couple of modern utensils we bought separately, this was enough to cook rather complex feasts for 25-30 people in our campsite.

Mostly the recipes came from Forme of Cury, a cookbook commissioned by King Richard II in the 14th Century.  This is a favourite of mine, and comes from the era where nearly everything was cooked over the campfire.

Our plan was to cook this way just for the Friday night, but in fact we used the campfire for everything throughout the event.  Because we had quite a few small pots, we made a lot of little dishes, and they tasted great.

We used the great big potjie (South African cauldron) to cook a couple of legs of lamb and some vegies for the Friday, then added in the leftovers of the spitted ducks to make a lunchtime soup the next day.  Which was delicious.  We kept the soup going until the Monday, when we needed the pot again.

Daryl and his wife joined us for dinner on Sunday.  He has now promised to make us a few more odds and ends for the campfire.

Here’s our menu for the event, as best I can remember it:

ALL BREAKFASTS – porridge with mulberry sauce, bacon and eggs, French toast once

ALL LUNCHES — cheese and pickles, ham and salami, fruit, soup once it was made

THURSDAY NIGHT – soup kitchen provided by the event


* potroasted legs of lamb with root vegetables

* ducks on the spit

* pears in a red wine syrup

* cabbage in onion and leek pottage

* bread baked by myself

* an oatmeal, mead and currant pudding


* beef and almond rissoles

* frumenty (a savoury porridge made with cracked wheat)

* various vegies cooked in stock

* fig fingers and shortbread cakes (pre-made in Goulburn per Forme of Cury recipes)

* bread baked by Owen, and another by Sarah

* stonding pudding (an early Christmas pudding type dish, made in the bag in Goulburn before we left)

* egg custard


* lamb stew, with middle eastern influences

* cous cous

* patties made from left-over frumenty (really tasty)

* bread baked by me

* more fig fingers and shortbread


[was going to be pea and ham soup, but the bacon bones got mildew in all the damp heat]

* vegetable and salmon stew, with pasta thrown in

* bread by Owen

* sweet fruit bread by Allison, with custard