Life On The Farm Part 2 - Clive And June's Story

Published on 16/02/2009 in Expat Life

Read part 1 first...

Horse riding on the farmIt was thanks to Polly, our first horse, that we discovered the location of our nearest hospital in Antequerra.  On John's thirteenth birthday he was putting Polly into her stable and she was being very naughty, reluctant to leave the succulent grass that she had been eating.  She tugged herself free, and as John bent to pick up her rope somehow his head collided with her hoof.  It was a shock to see him covered with blood, which was dripping from over his eye, however as with most things, it looked far worse than it was and a few stitches soon had him patched up, though the scar remains to this day.  Thank goodness for our wonderful Spanish neighbours who sped us to hospital in their car.

Polly was becoming very wilful and dominating and it was clear that she needed the companionship of another horse, and this we found in a lovely placid old horse called Carretta .  With two horses going out for a ride now became a great pleasure rather than the chore it had previously been.

During the first few months of our new life in Spain it was necessary to get to grips with the never-ending 'legalities'.  We had an ever-growing list of 'things to do'.  The first priority was to obtain Resedentia's for all the family; these are required for anyone choosing to live permanently in Spain and in those days had to be obtained during the first six months after arrival. We also needed to get the relevant permit to enable Clive to work.

Horse riding on the farmWe had to find ourselves an accountant who guided us in joining and contributing to the Spanish Social Security and taxation systems which would enable the family to obtain health care, education, pension rights etc.,. Next came Spanish driving licences, which in turn, reminded us of the need to transfer our British registered car on to Spanish plates. All this, and learning Spanish too. It seemed that for every task we crossed off our list we added another two.

One of the trickiest adjustments we had to deal with was learning to cope with Spanish business hours.

How frustrating it was to be so absorbed in a task that we lost all track of time, that is until the materials ran out and we realised it was two O'clock, 'Siesta time' no chance of getting any more materials, and consequently no more work could be done, until five. Those early days saw much gnashing of teeth and pulling of hair.  The generally slower pace of life was also a frustration in those very busy days, we would rush around the shops all morning, but the leisurely pace adopted by Spanish shop assistants, together with their habit of slowly and carefully wrapping every item often meant that we failed to meet the two O'clock deadline, and ended up having to kill time till five in order to finish our errands when business resumed at five.  

Nowadays, although we  can't slow our own pace of work, we have become used to allowing lots of extra time for any chore involving banks, shops, dealing with officialdom or absolutely anything involving the national telephone company.

Horse ridingEven today, after 9 years, we find it impossible to adapt to having a siesta in the middle of the working day, preferring to work right through without a break.  Working in the Spanish heat however soon had us yearning for a swimming pool and this was moved to the top of our list of projects.  As soon as we mentioned our plans to our neighbours, they located a Machina, as a JCB is referred to in Spain; and before we knew it we had a very large hole in the garden. 

Two days later the heavens opened and we had days and days of torrential rain; our pool was filled far quicker than we had planned!  We have vivid memories of that first, pool-less summer which found us all sharing the children's paddling pool, lolling back with gin and tonic in hand, even the dog climbed in.

Polly was a very sociable horse and when she first arrived we housed her in a stable close to the house. This stable had a small yard with a door connecting to our courtyard.  Whenever Polly heard us outside she would kick on the door insisting that we opened it. She was so persistent that in the end Clive had to rig up a bar across the entrance to enable her to see what we were up to, and to scrounge food.  We never made a habit of feeding her tidbits as horses can react violently to strange foods but she was very entertaining so got the occasional treat. She was particularly fond of ice cream. 

One day as we were leading her from her stable she decided to take a quick drink from the plastic paddling pool.  Polly always gets very enthusiastic about taking a drink and about water in general, she loves to splash her feet about in any stream she is drinking from and has attempted to roll in water whilst being ridden through it!  Before we could stop her she had kicked the bottom out of the pool and rendered it useless.

Horse riding on the farmDuring our first summer we returned to England for a holiday.  We had promised the kids that we would all go back to visit friends.  When the time came we were so settled into our new lives that we no longer wanted to go, we had a growing family of pets and were very busy with work and various projects. However, a promise is a promise so with Clive's Mum generously offering to hold the fort in our absence we reluctantly set off.  It was wonderful to see all our friends, and everyone wanted to hear about our new lives so we literally dined out every night on our experiences, but when it was time to come home we were glad to have confirmed to ourselves once and for all that Spain was where we wanted to be and we were glad to be leaving a damp and grey England behind us once again.

We had kept in touch with Janet, Clives Mum, while we were away and she assured us she was coping well and we were to enjoy our trip and not worry.  Little did we know the truth?  Poor Janet, she had had rather an eventful time.  The first disaster occurred when one of the horses dragged her off toward a patch of fresh green grass, Janet managed to get her finger trapped in the head collar and it was almost pulled out of its socket It was very seriously strained, though luckily not broken.  Next day it was very painful, swollen and bruised.  Our wonderfully kind neighbour Pedro came to the rescue taking over the care of the horses, while his wife Remes, made all of Janet's meals, and generally fussed over her. They became and remain great friends.

Disaster struck again in the form of equine colic.  Janet had little or no experience with animals least of all horses and the crash course in horse husbandry I had given her had not covered this eventuality.  If in doubt, call the vet was the best advice I gave her before departing.  The vet stressed to Janet the importance of not allowing Caretta to lie down, but other than remaining in the stable with her day and night it was difficult to see how this could be achieved.  Paja came to the rescue. Our clever little rescued stray dog stayed at Caretta's side the entire time, and each time the horse lay down Paja would race in to the house barking to raise the alarm. Quite how she knew what was required remains a mystery but hey - Lassie eat your heart out Paja was one clever little dog.

Having two horses meant that now two children could go off on a ride together, the problem of that being that we had three children and in those horse mad days there was always one left behind.  This problem was solved that first September, whilst visiting a horse fair in Velez Malaga.  Elizabeth fell in love with a pretty black pony which my dad very kindly agreed to buy for her. After dealing with the relevant paperwork we went home to await our new addition. 

Horse riding on the farmThe kids were so excited and couldn't wait to show Polly and Caretta their new companion, but where was she; they kept looking up the road for a horsebox or trailer.  Suddenly a small white van pulled onto our land and we immediately recognised the driver as the man we had bought the horse from.  Imagine our shock when he opened the rear doors and we saw inside not only Blackberry but a full-grown Mule as well.  Blackberry got down from the van as if she had been doing it all her life, come to think of it she probably had. Neither animal seemed the worse for the experience.

 Now we had three horses, one day if we were lucky we would have two more then we could all ride out together.  Little did we know!

Villanueva Del Trabuco is the friendliest of villages and as with all of Spain it really enjoys its Fiestas, of which there are many.  The season begins with the April 'Camping Day' when virtually the entire populations heads for the hills or 'Campo' to picnic and bbq with family and friends.   There are more Fiestas in June and August, then the main event, which takes place in September and sees the whole town decorated with coloured lights, and the arrival of travelling fairs and street vendors.  Restaurants are set up in the streets and people come from far and wide bringing horses and elaborate carriages and once again wearing their traditional finery.  Of course Elizabeth and I wanted to be a part of it and in August we rode into town on Polly and Blackberry. Resplendent in our Fiesta dresses, we joined the parade. It was enormous fun though Polly didn't seem to think too much of it. The best part for her was heading home, galloping back across the fields.  Elizabeth and I felt very glamorous with our hair and dresses billowing behind us.

Our younger son Harry shares his birthday with yet another Fiesta, which takes place just two minutes from our house.  October the 12th is Columbus day and is celebrated in great style. Stalls are set up and food and drink are served all day.  There are all sorts of competitions going on and on the very first year our boys decided to enter the 'Cintas' which is a horseback challenge involving a rope stretched across a track with rolled up ribbons on it, each ribbon has a small ring attached to the end.  Riders on horseback have to gallop under the ribbons and attempt to snare a ribbon by passing a stick into the ring. If it sounds difficult that is because it is.

The Spanish as usual were very welcoming and seemed delighted that the newcomers were joining in. Harry and his brother John where the only children to enter the competition, they both did well.  John riding Polly managed to secure two ribbons, but better still and to our complete amazement Harry at 12 years of age, the youngest competitor; riding Caretta managed to get four which was enough to win.  He was presented with a large silver cup, the best birthday present of the day.

To be continued....

Written by: June Wolfe

About the author:About the author: If we can be of help with anything to do with living in Spain, caring for animals etc please feel free to contact us and we will do our best to help.

Phone  June on 952 111 569 or 660294457  e-mail  see the animals on our website -

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