From :

Wagon. A cranky contary female / an ugly female. She\'s some wagon eh?

wagon. wagon - an awful woman. than one is such a wagon!

wagon. a woman thats a bitch. dat ones a right wagon.

Wagon. A cantankerous old woman.. Yer wan's some wagon, I asked her could I feed the seagulls and she lifted me out of it!

wagon. car or other mode of transport. i'll drive my waggon.

Wanderly Wagon. A much loved Irish children's TV program which ran from 1968 to 1982

Saturday, 12 May 2012

It's a Dog's Life

Poor Cinnamon and Cookie have had a raw deal.  While the LSH was still with us on Le Big Trek, they spent their days pretending to be his secretaries, while in reality they were asleep in the car the whole time.

They were given occasional toilet and water breaks, but their days were pretty boring really.  When the LSH left, their life became even more boring. In order to protect innocent B&B rooms, we had to leave them locked in the car while we were riding.  We were incredibly lucky to end up in Camping du Lac at this stage, as Moira and Andrew let them out regularly, made sure they had water and moved the car when necessary, so they stayed in the shade the whole time.
Despite all of this confinement, they've both become much more sociable.  They've had plenty of time in cafes, restaurants and dining halls with us in the evenings, meeting lots of new people and plenty of other dogs too.  Cinnamon in particular has gone from being quite a shy, timid little dog to being a brazen and artful mendicant, begging shamelessly from anyone within range and making friends wherever she goes.

These quad-bikers at the Chateau de St Agnan were particularly taken with her… the big burly guy on the left was looking for baissus (kissies) from her at breakfast the next morning!
She has learned to communicate with fish
And read maps.

She loves the idea of swimming, but not the reality, so she’s really good at paddling and savagely killing any pieces of vegetation she finds near the waters edge.

She has taught Cookie how to paddle too, although Cookie is not absolutely convinced it’s a great idea.

She has also taught Cookie how to make sure that Every Single Hole and Crevice gets investigated properly…. You never know, there might be a mouse or a rat hiding in one of them!

Together, they saw off the threat of the deadly Root Ball.
 They bit and gnawed
 and dug and shook
until that evil Root Ball was no more.

Since Monday, we’ve been able to spend much more time with them, so they’ve had a couple of nice walks each day.  Even when we were in Dijon, which is a big city, we were right beside a park, so they got to experience the life of town doggies, trotting through the park with lots of people and children around, and visiting the little Petting Zoo at the far end.
After a long drive, which included a visit to the Normandy beaches, we were on the ferry, and the dogs were confined to the kennels.  Back in December, they were not happy at all, and barked and yipped every time they heard us coming to visit them.  Toiletting was also an issue, Cinnamon refused point blank to pee while on the boat and Cookie held on grimly for about twelve hours, before eventually giving in.
They accepted it much better second time around, and have both gotten the idea of using the sand box - what a relief!

Anyone remember the Little Old Ladies post?  Well, Jeepy, being a Toyota Landcruiser (remember that Top Gear show?) is still going strong and has done us proud.  Molly, my very elderly Bearded Collie, is just about hanging in there, having been cared for very well by Granny while we were away.

She's very wobbly and it looks like she's slowly heading for liver failure, but we're so very grateful for the opportunity to be with her for her final days/weeks/months.

Finally, this is what met us when we arrived in my house on Friday evening!  Thanks, Daughters, and the LSH for putting them up to it, and thanks Friends for being at the surprise party to welcome us home!  Unfortunately, the biggest surprise was that we were an hour early.... sorry folks, blame Irish Ferries!

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Homeward Bound

Today was the big day, the horses didn't realise of course, they were just enjoying having the morning off, Flurry in particular was full of high spirits when I went up to feed them, cantering around and rearing, Gigi just looked at him wisely, and tucked into the extra treat of a pile of hay as well as the usual horse nuts for breakfast. We packed up, walked the dogs, they needed some quality time, having been short changed since George left, with us piling on the kilometres every day. Martine checked the pressure in all the tyres, then it was time to catch the horses and load them up. Our transporter had said they should have the truck in Dijon around 5 or 6pm.

They were both easy to catch, probably expecting to be boxed somewhere to start yet another hack!

The journey to Dijon went smoothly, and we arrived a bit before 2pm. So I went looking for someone to tell us where to put the horses, and met with a French attitude we hadn't seen in Provence. Ce n'est pas l'heure (it's not the time), the man in the room marked accueil (welcome) said! But he relented and showed me where to find the patron.

He showed us to the stables and said he would be back shortly to give us hay. So our darlings were installed and happy, lots of hay and no work, how bad! We had noticed flies on them in Saint Agnan, and had at last discovered what they were, Hippobosca equina or the Louse fly. They are blood suckers, but not a danger. So we spent a happy(?) hour picking them off and squashing them, yuck!
We phoned Mullins to let them know the horses were at the pick up point, and they said the truck driver would call us about 30 minutes before they got to the yard.

The hotel we were staying in has a nice looking restaurant so we booked a table for 7:30 and looked forward to a nice relaxing evening meal. But by 7pm there was still now word from the transporter, so we phoned again, we'll call you back was the response. By now it was nearly 7:30 so we decided to risk having dinner, but we would make it a quick one. At 7:40 Mullins phoned to say the lorry wouldn't arrive 'till around 9pm. We had made the right choice to eat anyway, but not the relaxed meal we had been expecting as we had both stressed out over the whole delay, wondering what the problem was, would the horses be collected tonight etc etc.

Dinner over we headed back to the yard, put Gigi's travel boots on and finally in rolled the truck. It all seemed unreal, we had waited and planned for this trip for so long, and now it was finally over.

We both know the horses are in the hands of the experts, but so hard to say goodbye to our constant companions of the last month.

It was dark by now, but you can just see the truck. The same one that had picked them up, way back in December.

Bye guys we'll see you in Cork on Friday evening, thanks for being such great horses and making the whole trek possible.

Please support our cause, Irish Guide Dogs program for Assistance dogs for families of children with Autism

Monday, 7 May 2012

Day 23 - The Final Frontier

We were on 487.7km, with 12.3 to go to make the 500km, but Everytrail on the smartphone has a nice(?) way of changing its mind about the distance we've covered - we've lost half a k here and there once it's actually uploaded - so we wanted to do at least 13km today to be sure of crossing the 500 marker.  It's 8.7 around the lake, so I added on an extra bit through the woods which looked like it would work out at between 13 and 14k.
We posed for photos in our "IGDB Volunteer" Hi-Vis vests before we left, taken by one of the French cyclists who are staying in the gite next door.  Front view... 
and back view....
but it's still hard to make out the writing!
Today's weather was the best we've seen in the Morvan, the sun shone a bit, and there was no threat of rain.  The fishermen were out in force on the lake - maybe they are celebrating their new President?
We were all tired, both us and the horses, so we took it easy for most of the hack.  We did ask them to canter up a lovely long stretch of grass verge, and they were happy to oblige, and just as happy to pull up and settle into "one foot in front of the other" mode again.
Once we came out of the woods and back beside the lake again, they suddenly realised that this was a SHORT hack and the speed of the walk became noticeably brisker!  But the funniest thing is that we are now calling a two and a half hour hack SHORT - a few weeks ago we considered anything over two hours to be quite long!
We watched the distance build up on Everytrail, and as we passed the 500km mark we cheered, punched air and shook hands.  There was no-one there to witness it but us and the horses, and in the great scheme of things it's not a big event, but it means a lot to us.
We've pushed ourselves as far as we could go - we have no doubt that the horses could have done more, but we're both at the end of our resources, with sore backs, bums and joints.  In addition to the physical fatigue, I found the responsibility of navigating for three and a half weeks, through unknown and sometimes difficult country, very wearing mentally.   I feel like I've run a marathon, and I suppose in our own way, we both have.
The very last French "Through the Ears" shot
Taking stock of things, we've all come through pretty well.
The emergency veterinary kit has travelled over 500km in my saddle-bags and was only ever needed once, when Gigi had a mystery cut on her fetlock.
The horses are slimmer, but fitter.  Flurry no longer looks quite so cobby, he looks like a trim little horse!  You can just see Gigi's ribs, despite the feed Anne has been shovelling into her twice a day, but she started the Trek a little bit thinner than we would have liked.  Both horses have changed shape noticeably, they have muscled up tremendously in their hindquarters and in their shoulders.  Their saddles are not fitting as well as they used to, but despite this we've had no lumps or sores under the saddle or on the girth-line.  Gigi has some new white hairs under her saddle and Flurry's hair is a bit worn where one of his numnahs rubbed it a bit, but otherwise they are great.
And their feet?  They're definitely in need of a trim at this stage, they haven't seen hard ground in four weeks.  The Renegade boots have done a great job of protecting them, and there is no way we could have accomplished this without them.
Well-used Renegades!
Gigi wore through the toe on three of her boots, and Flurry wore through on one.  The tread pattern on all boots has been worn almost flat, and we could feel this for the last week - both horses were slipping more than usual.  I don't think we could have done the really rocky bits in between Vaucluse and the Drôme without them, as metal shoes would not have given any sort of grip on the pure rock surfaces we encountered.
Holey Renegades, Batman!
Flurry and Gigi will leave tomorrow and will have a few weeks break when they get home.  Once we've seen them safely onto the transporter's lorry, we will breathe a sigh a relief.  We then have a day and a half to sort out the dogs' vet visit - they need to be wormed before they will be allowed into Ireland - and travel to Cherbourg for our ferry.  It's hard to believe we've done it.  We had a lot of things go against us - the broken wrist being the most significant, but the LSH's early return was also a major issue.  Neither of us wanted to finish Le Big Trek doing circles, but that's what we had to do to cover the last 100km - we hope our sponsors understand!
Flurry and Gigi, in front of the Chateau, blissfully unaware that it's all over
Twenty-five years ago, on this day, I completed another feat of endurance - 17.5 hours of labour!  Happy Birthday to my wonderful daughter Aideen, at 25 we will have to finally admit you are grown up!  Sorry I'm not there today, but I'll see you in a few days!

We are doing Le Big Trek to raise funds for Assistance dogs for families of children with autism. If you like our blog please take the time to donate at
Thank you

Around the lake Again at EveryTrail

Sunday, 6 May 2012

Day 22 - to the Abbey again

The day got off to a slower start than we had intended, we have moved into Saulieu for a couple of days, as the lovely chateau by the lake was full up for the weekend; fortunately we had been able to leave the horses there so I had to get up earlier to feed the them. It was just starting to rain as I left, but as usual the horses were pleased to see me. But Flurry was in for a shock, he's been misbehaving again, spooking at things that wouldn't normally worry him, so his rations have been reduced to one feed in the evening, he was not impressed! When I got back to the hotel Martine was still in her pyjamas, she had been researching the flies that are sticking under the horses' tails and time had got away from her. So after an uninspired breakfast, we went back to the horses and got tacked up in the rain. Martine decided not to bring her camera, so I'm afraid the photos are not up to the usual standard. Especially as I think there was a bit of Carambar stuck to the lens.
We finally decided Gigi's front left boot had seen better days, and so I put our spare on her, and off we went!
It was a very grey morning, even the dandelions had decided not to bother opening up.

But then the sun came out and things looked a lot better.

Then we came upon this sign telling people not to light fires here.......

And maybe you can see the smoke in the distance, but that was some fishermen lighting a log fire to cook their catch. Ah the French, laws are to be interpreted not necessarily followed !

Finally we arrived at the Abbey we had visited before, L'Abbaye de Pierre qui Vire, but from the other direction.

After leaving the Abbey we came on a field with 3 young flighty ponies, Gigi was very interested in them, I think she must be coming into season, and when they started to canter towards us, Gigi decided to turn around and join them, well I quickly whipped her back in the right direction, but she decided to keep cantering anyway. Flurry, who was in front, maybe thought, if  Gigi is scared, so should I be, and took off at a canter as well. After a bit of a scurry we got them both under control... a bit of excitement is good...right?

Part of our journey was on the Saint-Jacques de Compostelle (Santiago de Compostela in Spanish) which is marked by this little sunshine sign

After the Abbey we trotted through some fairly soggy grass, and Flurry managed to trash one of his front boots, so Martine took the other one off, and we would see if we could fix it later.

Lunchtime and we had covered around 20k! The horses were turned out same as yesterday and Martine set about fixing Flurry's boot, but managed to drop one of the small adjusting screws in the process, but we had Gigi's abandoned boot from this morning, which now turned into a source for spares!

The afternoon started off really wet, we had a target of just 10k, to give us a manageable hack tomorrow to reach our 50k and most of it was done in the pouring rain, the only highlight was two small deer, who took off as soon as they saw us.

So we just plodded on, the sun came out and we reached our target for today.

To the abbey again at EveryTrail
EveryTrail - Find trail maps for California and beyond

Saturday, 5 May 2012

Day 21 - Two Loops near St Agnan

Day 21, 428km covered and it's beginning to like we might just do it, so I've shaken the dust off my South Munster Dressage sweatshirt and donned it for the day!  Here I am proudly flying the SMD flag in the middle of France :
Although, seriously, I don't know that I'll ever be able to show my face in the Dressage Ireland world again.  I now ride like a cowboy - I slouch in the saddle and ride at the buckle end of the reins from one end of the day to the other.  My "schooling whip" is whatever I can rip off a tree when Flurry is beginning to annoy me.  Flurry has learned to forage as he goes - a necessity when you're travelling for 6 to 8 hours a day, but it will be very much frowned upon if he stops to slurp out of a puddle at Maryville or munch on the floral decorations at Marlton.  Still, we'll be home in a week, he'll have a good break and maybe he'll forget all of these new "skills" he has learned.
Meanwhile, here we are in the Morvan, some serious trekking behind us and a couple of intensive days ahead of us.  The strain is starting to show now, particularly with Anne.  She is at the end of her resources and is hanging grimly on.  It's interesting, because at the start of the trek, I was the one who was struggling - my back and ankles were killing me and I was running on at least four Ibuprofen a day.  I'm now fitter, haven't taken a pain-killer for a couple of weeks now, but the wear and tear has accumulated on Anne, one of her knees is playing up, and by the time we've eaten dinner each day, she just wants to fall into bed and sleep.
Today we tried a new approach, aiming to give ourselves a better rest period in the middle of the day.  Normally we eat our sandwiches, holding the horses while they graze, which is not very restful for us humans as we end up juggling food, drink and lead-ropes.  Today the plan was to do a loop of about 17km in the morning, returning to St Agnan where we would put the horses in the barn with some hay, leaving us free to relax, enjoy our lunch and get a proper break.
First of all, though we had to get the horses ready, and started going through the usual drill, grooming, putting on Renegade boots and tacking up.  As I was passing behind Flurry, something under his tail caught my eye - was that the remnants of droppings lining his "crack"?  I looked closer - EWWWWW! It was a whole load of flat little flies, clustered together, gathered under his tail and dock area.  We scraped them off, and they fell/flew to the ground, but one by one they flew back up onto his body again.  They are almost tick-like in appearance and in the way they flatten themselves against the skin and hold on to the hair.  Here's a close-up of one - can any French residents tell me what they are?
I assume they are not good and are busy laying eggs around his bum area.  Will a good sponging every day be enough to get rid of any eggs they lay or do we need to be more aggressive than this?  Gigi had some too, but not as many as Flurry.
We finished tacking up, I put the poor doggies in the car and gave the keys to Moira and Andrew of Camping du Lac - they are really super, they let the dogs out every so often for a wee and a drink of water.  We finally got on the road and headed South initially.  We were trotting along, nice and easy, I could see a car a short distance ahead and a collie beside it, and I could hear a chainsaw.  Next thing C-R-A-A-A-C-K, a tree fell right across the road, about 30 metres in front of us, and the man wielding the chainsaw, oblivious to our presence, got to work cutting it up.
Eventually he looked up, surprised, and immediately shut down the chainsaw, to allow us pass.  We continued on our way, through the usual woods
 and Christmas tree plantations.
Christmas trees are big business here.  Apparently they start chopping them down in October.  I don't think I would like a three month old tree in my house.  The freshly chopped one we get is pretty pathetic after two weeks, I can't imagine what a three month old tree would look like.
Our route took us to Les Petites Fourches, where we joined one of the many Chemins de St Jacques for a short while.  This is the village of St Brisson, just to the south.  The church steeple caught my eye - this is one of those village churches that reminds me of parts of New England.
There were some quaint houses in Les Petites Fourches, this one is just an ordinary house,
 but this one houses the Musée de la Resistance.
 In the grounds to the front of the Museum, we found these guys.
Flurry, the horse who is a bit wary of cattle, was fascinated, and wanted to go into their field and meet them.  Not a good idea, Mr Flurry, those horns look pretty serious to me!
A little further in, the trail was completely blocked.  This has to have been done deliberately, but I don't understand why.  I was under the impression that the Chemins de St Jacques were almost revered - perhaps I'm wrong?
We picked our way around the blocked section through a Christmas tree plantation.  Even with this delay, we still made fairly good time, and although storm clouds were looming ominously, we got back to St Agnan with only a sprinkle of rain.
I retrieved the dogs and we settled the horses and ourselves down to lunch.  It worked really well, we got a much better quality break because we didn't have to worry about hanging onto horses, and we also took more time with it - deliberately, to try and give ourselves a rest.
Refreshed, we headed off in weak sunshine to do the tour around the Lac de St Agnan.  On the first stretch, we met this little old lady :
Despite her obvious age, she had a bright, alert eye and way very interested in our guys.
It's a lovely one and a half hour ride around the lake, but we are so focussed on our goal that we didn't really take the time to enjoy it.  We were aware of the storm clouds massing overhead once more, but yet again, they held off until we had finished.
Someone up there is watching out for us!
We've somehow managed to cover the bones of 60km in two days, giving us a total of 456.9.  If we can do another good day tomorrow, that will leave us with less than 20km to do on Monday.  Fingers crossed, we're nearly there!

We are doing Le Big Trek to raise funds for Assistance dogs for families of children with autism. If you like our blog please take the time to donate at
Thank you

Putting up the kms Agnan to at EveryTrail