| Published in The Independent on 29.03.2020 | A Touch of Frost |

I’m writing this from the garden in the fresh air. I’m wrapped up warm, a non-negotiable term set by Nikki. The birds are singing, and the lawns are looking amazing.
It has been nearly a fortnight now since I started coughing and I think I am getting over the worst. I still ache and feel totally washed out and the coughing continues to be non-stop. I refuse to give in to it and am dosing myself up on paracetamol.
Nikki and the children have shown no signs of having caught this yet and hopefully won’t. I have been keeping my distance from them in the house, and when out in the stables I have ensured that no one gets near me and I work alone. Every movement takes a tremendous effort.

Like the rest of the country I am sure, life is quiet. Lockdown plus self-isolation limits life but we do appreciate that we are very fortunate to have land to wander on, and access to the moors behind us where we can exercise both ourselves and the horses. I’ve included a photo taken by Bryony of Hadden last night on the moors. The sky was an incredible colour.

Illustration for Touch of Frost, 29.03.2020

Sunset on Dartmoor

Illustration for Touch of Frost, 29.03.2020

Exercise

As I said last week, the benefit of isolation is that we have enjoyed having our children with us. Bryony is limping around still. She had a scan on her knee earlier in the week and is waiting to hear the results. She is finding it very frustrating not being able to ride but is using it as an opportunity to rest and catch up on her paperwork. Hadden is busying himself in the schooling yard with the young horses. One of them is showing great potential. Otter-Lynn is a 4-year-old mare and is definitely one for the Frost Racing Club. I have been watching her stride as she approaches obstacles. You can see her thinking and pacing her feet to give her the best chance of clearing the fence sharply and cleanly. I was asked to explain the importance of this to someone recently. I compared it to a person preparing for a long jump. It is no good running and then just jumping. Every pace, every stride needs to be carried out at the appropriate speed and in such a way that the last stride provides the best opportunity to clear the obstacle with an effortless rhythm. Over time the horse will learn how to carry these movements out naturally, and eventually at a speed required for racing.

With no racing on we have put galloping on hold. There is no point in preparing the horses bodies for work that isn’t going to happen. All our older horses too are on holiday and enjoying the fields. It reminds me of the days when there was no racing in the summer. Back then, to pay our overheads and put food on the table, we would provide donkey rides for children on Paignton beach. Both Hadden and Dan were old enough to hold the reigns of the donkeys and escort the children on their rides. They would take payments and put the coins in their little bags that were strapped over their shoulders. Bryony however wasn’t waist high then. To keep her busy, we would sit her on a favourite donkey – Nosey, and she would ride it up and down the beach quite happily by herself. At the end of the day we would take the donkeys home and then drive the boys down to the go-carts to spend their earnings whilst Bryony would sit and watch eating her ice cream. Nowadays racing is a year-round sport, so we can earn a regular salary. Saying that, if this Coronavirus goes on much longer and we continue to not earn anything, it might be a case of offering donkey rides in Buckfastleigh.

A few metres from me Nikki is working on the garden. She loves gardening and whilst today is chilly, it is both dry and sunny and she’s turning over soil and tidying the borders. She has just reminded me that I forgot to mention last week that our Bryony has been listed 15th overall in the Jump Jockeys Championship Table (UK) and is listed as 1st in the females on the Table. We are all very proud of her.

I’m going to sign off now as I’m coughing a bit too much. Time for a cuppa inside.
I will catch up with you all next week. In the meantime, look after each other and where you can help those who are alone. They need us now more than ever.

Jimmy