Stuff

How much stuff do you actually need? In my defence, all this luggage was going with me to Gili Trawangan, much needed tack and medical supplies for the Gili Cart Pony Project.

Stuff

How much stuff do you actually need? In my defence, all this luggage was going with me to Gili Trawangan, much needed tack and medical supplies for the Gili Cart Pony Project.
How much stuff do you actually need? In my defence, all this luggage was going with me to Gili Trawangan, much needed tack and medical supplies for the Gili Cart Pony Project.

My New Year Resolution for 2017 was a lofty one – but I do think important one.  I was planning to go for zero waste.  And, what has happened?  Probably the year where I have thrown the most away.  Oh yes, don’t get me wrong – I have only used my metal water bottle, no plastic.  And, my fancy (expensive) thermal protected coffee cup is used daily – one of the best investments ever, no more take away cups.  My glass straw comes out at restaurants and food courts, my little pack of camping cutlery lives in my bag ready for use, and I always have a folding shopping bag in my pocket.  My use of single-use, flimsy plastic and takeout food junk is almost non-existent (I do slip up…).  In this regard, I have been about 95% successful.  But, in looking at our constant daily waste, I have also been looking at our over consumption.  Which is so not cool.

I live a nomadic life, hopping on and off planes at least once, twice, three times a month, And staying in regions for several months at a time.  In fact, I am typing away at this at 38,000 feet, on my way to spend 10 weeks in Asia and then 4 in South Africa.  I have to live lightly – 23 kg lightly to be exact.  Or, so I thought.  A big draw now is the airline who offers 30kg of luggage instead of 23kg – we all need that extra 7kg….  And now, several  of the airlines are offering two x 23kg suitcases, all included in your flight – a sign that we cannot fit in our 23kg allowance.  We are buying more and more, needing to fill our lives with more and more stuff…  Who says money cannot buy happiness?  Haven’t you see it in the shops?  Just buy this XXXX  and your life will be Awesome…

So, I arrived back in UK last month and urgently needed a certain important form – that bit of official paperwork which suddenly your life depends on.  And, I knew it was in a box at my nephew’s house.  Or, maybe in a box at my brother’s…  My nephew duly arrived with – 2 boxes and a suitcase, all of which had been in his garage.  My brother found a box in his cupboard under the stairs, and the suitcases at a friend’s house…  Well….  Over the past month, the local charity shop learnt exactly who I was, now greeting me when I breeze in.  A full suitcase the first day, and lots and lots of bags since.  And of course, the paper recyclers – they have been busy on my behalf too.

In a way, it’s easier for me to buy more – I get somewhere, realise I forgot to pack enough socks, so buy some more…A country isn’t as close to summer as I thought – so buy another fleece…  So, my year of zero waste has become the year of down-sizing, decluttering, sorting out and throwing out the old and unwanted…  Maybe 2018 can be the zero year…

Which, brings my thoughts back to horses.  I had 80 horses at one stage.  And the “stuff”…  I can pretty much list.  80 headcollars with flyfinges and ropes.  Around 60 bridles, mainly snaffles with cavesson nosebands.  About 3 had a flash / stronger bit etc.  2 wore martingales when they jumped.  About 6 /7 of those horses wore shoes, and only they wore brushing boots.  20 – 30 saddles, each with a saddle pad and girth.  And everyone had one blanket, for wearing at night in winter.  A pile of about 15 show saddle pads and some white ones for dressage.  That was it.  A big feed room filled with food.  Well stocked first aid cupboard.  And each groom had his bag of brushes.  A lot of the yards I go to around the world are still like that.  The best ponies often tootle into the arena with their worn old bridle and simple general purpose saddle.  More and more, owners are taking off the boots, bandages, martingales, bits, nosebands and other gadgets they had added, which have been weighing their horses down.

A very tidy tack room
A very tidy tack room

Two well-known event riders who I have huge respect for each said something that I always remember.  I worked for one of them for a season, and part of my job was hacking out a very naughty young event horse who would do flick flacks down the road.  He was in a snaffle bridle, cavesson noseband and a saddle, with a pair of front brushing boots.  That was it.  One day, after a particularly naughty outing, I asked, please can I put a martingale on him when I hack him out.  The rider asked if I knew what a martingale was?  Uhh, yeah?  Strap, you know, girth to reins?  No, he replied.  A martingale is a huge flashing neon sign hanging around a horse’s neck, saying “my owner doesn’t care enough to school me”.  So, no.  Apart from the fact you can’t hack him with a martingale, I don’t own one….  Says a two time Olympic, two-time world games event rider….  I don’t own a martingale.  The other thing that made me think, was watching a different event rider teach a cross country clinic, and saying that she never schools dressage, show jumping or eventing with boots.  Think about it she says – when, as a child, you walk into the corner of the coffee table, it hurt and you started to take note of where you put your feet.  You develop spatial awareness of your body.  Do you see people going out for a jog with shin pads and knee guards?  Of course not, don’t be ridiculous.  Do you see wild horses in the bush in boots?  No.  And do you see them with self-inflicted wounds on their legs?  No.  A horse knows where his legs are, or at least he should.  Putting boots on makes them sloppy in their movement. Then they do stand on themselves.  There is no reason for boots unless your horse has the kind of conformation fault that does in fact make them brush / speedy cut / interfere.

This boy is enjoying the fact that he owns a winter rug!)
This boy is enjoying the fact that he owns a winter rug!)

Part of the problem is that we keep up with the trendy.  Years ago, an Irish rider started to win on his horse in a hackamore, a bitless bridle.  Sales of hackamores, something that was not especially popular or needed before, went through the roof.  Why?  Well clearly it was the reason this horse won a derby / medal etc.  If you use the same bitless bridle, you too can win the medal…  Buy happiness or success, it always works…  Nothing to do with the hours of blood, sweat and tears that went into the training of horse and rider.  A bit maker once said, he makes 100 different bits, two for the horse, and 98 for the rider’s brain.  So, why do we get so hung up on gear?   On one hand, hours of work, on the other, good advertising that says we can buy success and happiness….  Hmmmm, wonder why we have a problem.

So, I’ll just keep chipping away at keeping below the 23kg limit, and we’ll see if 2018 will be the zero waste year…