Galloping on a Shire horse

Someone asked what it’s like to canter – nay gallop on a shire horse and this was the best video I could use to really emphasise the point.


Velka Pardubicka (aka Czech Grand National)

Not that up on the world of horse-racing really but for reasons that don’t particular matter for the purposes of this post I ended up reading up and researching the origins of the Grand National which started out as truly unfair, gruelling to the point of sheer cruelty cross country race.

Rules were – well there were no rules you just steamed flat out and the first horse and rider to make it home wins.

Anyway as I’ve read up and gone along, I’ve ended up at what is known as the Czech Grand National – “Velká Pardubická” which someone pointed me toward and said was a brutal, horrific race few people outside of the country had heard and would be appalled if they were to educate themselves on what is a death sentence.

I’d never heard of it so looked it up, read and researched and then got absolutely fascinated by the race in particular the list of winners most of whom match Red Rum’s triple victory which many will argue to the death is a one-off and a horse like no other the world will never see again.

First and foremost I’m not ripping on Rummy for a second.  My Dad was a friend of the McCain’s and a friend I met later in life used to look after and Rode the horse with many a brilliant story to tell about a horse I never tire of seeing.

I just didn’t know that a race dubbed harder, more dangerous and gruelling than the National had seen horses doing a Rummy not just once but multiple times.

The most successful horse was “Železník” clocking up four wins with the legendary jockey Josef Váňa who to date has won eight times in total.

  • “Korok” won three times with the same jockey in 1969, 71 and 72
  • “Sagar” won in 1982, 83 and 84 with the same jockey each year.
  • “Peruan” won in 1998, 99 and 2000 – same jockey
  • “Orphee des Blins” won in 2012, 13 and 2014 – same jockey.

Is the success with the horse, the jockey or both?

Dunno but the people that pointed me in this direction were clear about a few things namely that the race is far more dangerous than the Grand National and has one fence that is harsher namely “Taxi’s Ditch” which has to said is pretty hardcore.

Old black and white footage with horses wiping out all over the place and looking like they were drowning in the water jumps I avoided in the same way I don’t like to see old footage from the National back when welfare was nonexistent and the race saw some horrifying fatalities.

Through one eye and imagining to see something I’d later wish I had’t seen, I watched the 2017 race won by “No Time To Lose” – trained by eight time winner as it happens.

First thing that struck me was how few runners there were.  I’m used to seeing 40 horses steaming flat out towards the first so it seemed odd to see a small number of horses huddled closely together but seemingly in a more organised informal way much like cross country / team chasing more than anything.

It’s surprising how many people from outside the UK have called the National out as being fake footage on YouTube.  Someone flat out refused to believe that Red Rum’s first win in 1973 was genuine footage citing too many riders and the whole race being too fast and too furious to be real.

The Czech National is wide open free from rails that keep all the horses tightly huddled in and it gives loose runners (any I guess) freedom to nope out, go around fences or slow to a halt but the feel of the race seems less urgent and minus the same level of stress for some reason.

Then I went “WTF??” as the horses went up and down a mound (5th) like they were a children’s ride at the fair it just caught me off guard all over the place.  What that would be like to ride even with prior notice and an idea of what’s coming must still catch you out.

That water jump seems huge  – possibly made worse by the camera angle but made me go “Oooosh!!” as they went over it anyway.  That 4th fence known as “Taxis Ditch” is bad.  Info via Wiki states it’s the only fence not available for training purposes which makes me think the rest of the course is although I’m assuming there is an alternative training ground with a fence similar to Taxis elsewhere.

It has been the end of 24 horses to date – 24 too many.  That said I stand beside the “Cottesmore Leap” each summer at Burghley and the “Vicarage Vee” at Badminton both of which I would nope out on all over the place.  Cock up your approach and go in too fast or too sloppy – happen to be on a tired horse that misjudges it even slightly and you’re knackered.

The Hickstead derby bank (10ft 6in vertical drop) is another terrifying one that has seen one or two get flustered literally jumping off rather than going steadily down it.

Still reading up on the Velka Pardubicka but those of you with more noggin are more than welcome to give me further views, facts, links and other stuff about this race which is beginning to really interest me.

(That 5th fence though… Random as tits)


A fair, accurate depiction of my childhood and father

Dad left us for the bookies and pub in the sky five years or so ago now but I rediscovered this video from “Smokey & The Bandit” which is about as close as it gets to describing / depicting what life was like for me as a young kid.

Mum kicked Dad out when I was three or four years old following his numerous affairs, fondness for drinking all the profits from their pub, fighting, gambling, having more affairs, sinking the bar they were running and generally being a toerag and wrong ‘un

Many times as a kid he’d pick me up at the weekend sporting the biggest blackest shiner of an eye and say he tripped up taking loads out from his trailer or fell over a chair.

Many times I’d get to see him acquire said black eye and it never involved tripping up in the trailer or falling over chairs.  It involved an argument with some bloke or several blokes in a pub that ended with a brawl and bottles smashed and someone ushering me out the quietly.

I got to sit in a police car once or twice on the way home from the pub after he’d sunk a bellyful of beer and sometimes we’d hide out in darkened lay-by’s and roadsides in some car he’d acquired from somewhere and wasn’t keen for people to see him driving.

He taught my then 13yr old brother how to drive his wagon so he could ferry him home from the pub at weekends – which he did quite frequently.  I was taught to pour coffee from a flask at 70mph with an empty trailer and not spill a drop which is a skill I hold to this very day.    *You have to roll with the bounces and loosen up so  the cup and flask move in unison with the cab doing a 30ft somersault over potholes.

I got to meet racehorses at the yards Dad frequented having known many of the yard owners and trainers including the McCain’s place at Southport.  He wouldn’t let me get on horses in his presence and did his nut at my love for riding but one of the grooms / young trainers told him she was taking me to feed carrots and say hello to some of the horses to which he agreed but had no idea ended in a 10yr old me enjoying a flat out beach gallop – on a racehorse that ran at Newmarket, Redcar and Epson… He thought I was feeding some ponies a few carrots.

He made a lot of piss-poor choices, drank too much, would sometimes get overemotional and sometimes aggressive but he regretted every wrong thing he did to my Mum and us later in his life to the point I had to assure him he was good and should let it go.

He and Mum were the best of friends later in life and Dad never forgave himself for how he treated her when they were together.  He shared some hilarious stories about the rows they had including the time Mum threw a fit at him going to the shop and coming back 5hrs later popped up to the eyeballs,

They had a row, Mum lost her temper and threw the pan of beef stew or casserole at him which he ducked and it splatted all over the wall instead.

“Well that were daft… Gotta clean that up now”

When Dad died Mum shared stories about his younger years which were included at his funeral that had the packed church howling with laughter.

He tried doing his bit once and made tea serving us cooked daffodils thinking they were spring onions.

He got pulled over by police one afternoon in his wagon after drinking about ten pints and by sheer luck it was an officer he knew well and told him to park up, hand over the keys and come pick them up tomorrow.  Rather than be thankful and grateful for the police being willing to turn a blind eye Dad did his nut at having the keys taken from him and shouted “Well how the frig am I supposed to get home?”

The cheeky bastard actually managed to catch a lift from the police too.

He and Mum won thousands on the pools once – a huge amount of money that should have been life-changing but he bought a fast car, crashed it and bet the rest on a horse that fell at the first in the Grand National.

He looked exactly like Burt Reynolds – same clothes, same tache – same ‘tude.

When he died it amazed me how many people knew him and would stop and ask “Are you Paddy’s daughter?” which was a nickname given in his 20’s on account of his ferocious temper and tendency to throw a paddy – often on the football pitch.

With every stranger that stopped to ask if I was Paddy’s daughter I’d close one eye and go “Yeeeeeah.. did you know him?” expecting fire and pitch forks.

Dad was a very talented footballer I’m told and had try outs for Blackburn Rovers and Burnley but didn’t go to either cos he was hungover.  His former team members remember him well – the skill he had but mainly the temper.

Once when his team weren’t entirely on form and quickly 2-0 down, Dad threw a tantrum, booted an own goal into the net hard as he could and yelled “There!!  We’re three nil down lads!!” which made me belly-laugh.  That temper and short-fuse runs in us all I’m afraid.

He was by all accounts a crap husband and Father but a good decent person at heart, a great footballer, funny as hell, great to drink with and knew about horses and racing surprisingly well for a guy that never rode in his life.   It made for a very eventful childhood with more memories and stories than most people can imagine so for that he gets the thumbs up and credit where due.

When I watch this and see the tumbling into beer bottles, bar brawls, wheel-spins in a Trans Am, hiding from the police with the help of other truckers, friends and acquaintances and the frequency with which he slips through the net and evades police at every corner I think “That is literally my childhood”

What I will say is some of that rubbed off and my daughter shakes her head when I’ve done exactly the same stuff my Dad did.

Robbing someone’s car (just borrowing it to go shop won’t be ten mins) and parking it back up minus a drop left in the tank covered in mud and leaving the owner bewildered.  That’s what happens when you’re careless and let people know you leave your car unlocked and the keys inside the glove-box.

The car that wasn’t taxed, tested or insured and had worn its brake-pads right down to the metal but I still chanced and drove for about six months with a whispered “Don’t tell Dad – he’ll do his nut”

Tiptoeing around the back of the farm to lift hay racks, matting and whatever I can rob and put in my stables.  Wiring and driving tractors and JCB’s with a hushed whisper as though it’ll make a difference.   I can drive pretty much anything and have driven almost everything despite having only a license to drive a car.   Arctic lorries, huge sports horseboxes, trailers, tractors, diggers – not much I haven’t driven.

She shakes her head, reminds me I’m such a council house kid but goes along with the shenanigans regardless and is slowly but surely taking after me in many ways.

She no longer flinches or gives a second thought to my “Pssst!!  Here grab this and chuck it in the car – don’t tell your Dad though he’ll go nuts” and is even on board with late night / early morning hooliganism.

Hang out with her at the farm and she’s “Here give me a leg up I’m gonna ride this horse – see what happens” and I’m sworn to secrecy because her boyfriend will go nuts if he knew.

Go with her into any McDonald’s and you’ll see her lift and pocket every sachet of sugar and pepper in the place because they’re free and.. well it’s free pepper.

Shamelessly scoops and crams about 421 sachets in her pockets with said boyfriend shouting at her to put them back before she gets banned.

“No.      Doesn’t say there’s a limit to how much you can have I might really like lots of sugar and pepper”

The illegal death trap of a car was eventually scrapped and I replaced it with a 20yr old Toyota Starlet bought for £150.  It has a cassette radio that crackles and whirs if you drive under a small tree and has windows you have to roll down by hand.

When I brought it home and showed my daughter the car we were gonna share she went nuts “Oh my God THAT CAR IS THE TITS!!   THIS IS ACE!!”

My son is ashamed to see it parked up outside the house, my husband is up and down in a brand new Mitsubishi Outlander and we’re up and down in a 1.3 “Toyota Shitlet” so discoloured its description says “Red / Pink” cos it’s impossible to determine which of the two it is.

One day she’ll be waking her daughter up at daft o’clock too to drive an old scrapper on some dodgy outing and her children and their children will have my Dad to thank for it.

“Psssst!!  C’mon bitch – road trip.  Don’t tell your Dad he’ll go nuts”

me and pops

Dad footy

Dad ray harold




My Son #2

He made this in half an hour one night when he was really tired and couldn’t be arsed much.  Woke up the following morning to find it had over a quarter of a million views.

I’m so glad my kids aren’t normal.