Comfort in sound at my favourite time of year

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What a beautiful week it has been. Riding out every morning through the fields has been an utter joy to experience.

The sweet smell of Spring has trickled down the becks and spread across the pastures like a warm glow. The horses can sense it, adding a bounce to their step. Nature’s energy is everywhere, the sun’s rays charge like an electric shock through the undergrowth to waken hibernating beasts.

I love to sit on the doorstep, cup of tea in hand and take a moment to listen, appreciate and sense life around me. Real nature, not the fictious domesticated version we like to pretend exists, but the tough, beautiful, harsh, violent, procreative, amazing nature that will exist long after we’ve gone. The silence can be deafening. I just adore this time of year.

It’s strange to liken the local livestock market to a National Hunt race meeting but to me there has always been something comfortably familiar about both places. As no-one in my family had been involved with racing before I caught the bug it was a feeling I could never fully understand but when chatting to an owner recently it dawned on me that in many respects the two occasions have remarkable similarities.

Both provide the opportunity of friendship for those with a like-minded interest. Many racing folk, especially those who are retired, go along to a meeting knowing they are likely to end the day have spoken to more people than they may do spending a week at home.

My retired owner goes to local meetings every week. He always finds someone to chat to, share a tip, a drink and discuss in detail the day’s actions with.

For many of the older farming generation who work alone on their land, livestock markets offer their biggest chance of social interaction through the week. High in the Dales it can be a beautiful but severe and lonely existence for a farmer. They attend market not always for business purposes but often just to be around people, have a hearty lunch and discuss farming issues. Much of the days chat will be on the trade and how prices are looking.

For those generations unfamiliar with social media both places can be vitally important. The company, conversation and a chance to forget the daily routine, whilst watching a hurdle race or a flock of ewes being sold, it’s a distraction in what might otherwise be a week of solitude.

My father is thankfully not in that category, with a family close by and a hectic social life. He’s worked on the farm for 50 years, the last 15 have been single handed ever since selling the dairy herd. In an industry with the second highest suicide rate in the country it’s hardly a surprise he can’t jump in the wagon fast enough at the chance of a day at the races, especially if his horse Urban Gale is running.

Our local livestock auction, Wharfedale Farmers in Otley, offer a twice weekly market and the farming fraternity who attend love a flutter.

Farmers are always after a tip (but enjoy moaning laboriously if it loses) and, like an owner at Catterick races on a chilly November day, to back a winner is the best feeling of all. There is huge elation from even the smallest amount won. It makes their day and, like my horses, gives them a bounce in their step.