SINKING into a boggy winter field, struggling to stay upright while attempting to reach a group of horses on a rain-lashed hillside, Jenny Loweth found herself thinking: “Be careful what you wish for”.

Late December, 2017, Jenny was a week or so into her job at Farfield Livery Centre, working at the stables and turning out and bringing in horses to and from fields. For someone who had loved and ridden horses all her life, to be looking after them for a living, in the great outdoors, in a beautiful corner of the Yorkshire Dales, was a dream job. So why did she feel hopelessly out of her depth?

In Forking Off! Jenny recounts the 10 months she spent at the livery yard, enduring a harsh winter, physical ailments, the trials of middle-age, and the huge horses charging towards her in the Paddock of Doom...

It's an entertaining, frank, funny and occasionally moving account of what happened when, reaching a crossroads in life, Jenny left her job as Telegraph & Argus court reporter for a new world in the stable yard. With a troublesome knee, and approaching her seventh decade, she finds that a long, gruelling winter of hard graft, caring for more than 60 horses, from huge hunters to lively ponies, isn’t as idyllic as it seemed.

“As I ploughed through the mud, I felt certain I had made a huge mistake,” writes Jenny. “My unfit body was screaming in protest. My left elbow creaked, my right wrist was inflamed. A deep split across my thumb was sickeningly painful and my new boots were scraping the skin off my heels, making every step a teeth-gritting misery. The temperature had plunged to minus six, we worked in blizzards, hazardous black ice and a bone-chilling wind. I was cold, wet and miserable as I joined the queue at the horse wash-down.”

A particularly bitter January day, bringing in horses in a hailstorm, Jenny set off across deep mud to reach a gelding, Duco, and, struggling to get his head collar on, sank deeper into the mire: “Duco seemed the size of a house as I resumed my desperate bid to fasten the hands were frozen and my elbows so tender they twanged agonisingly as I tugged. Duco was a gentle giant and walked down the track with me. But I felt like a total failure.”

Suddenly Jenny yearned for her old life as a court reporter. “I recalled, with a nostalgia I never expected to feel, the often delayed 7.34 train to Forster Square and the sausage melt I used to buy on my way to the office...the Telegraph & Argus building, with its Dickensian staircase...I even felt an odd sort of longing for the day's court lists...and the crown court building, yards from the office."

Despite the mud, ice and snow, the agonising aches and pains and the horses galloping to her across boggy fields, Jenny recalls the fun and team spirit of pitching in with colleagues in the stable yard - I particularly enjoyed the occasional appearance of a stable-dwelling rat family she refers to as Samuel Whiskers & Co - and she captures the rural beauty of the Devonshire Estate around Bolton Abbey, where winter eventually turns into spring. As she enjoys victories at hunter trials on her horse, Sprite, her confidence returns.

The book includes beautiful poetry by Jenny. Father's Day follows a moving account of her elderly parents coping with her father's return from hospital in a wheelchair. "I remember him sitting by the summer lake, in an orange anorak and hiking boots, munching flapjack from little tins, as we splashed, lithe as geckos, in the green mountain haze. And as I grow nearer the age he was then, this somebody's child I have always been, must etch my own lifelines or stay paper-thin."

At the heart of Jenny's book is the love she and her partner, Steve, have for their own horses and the others in her care.

It's a must-read for anyone who loves horses, but it also stands alone as a lovely memoir, and a funny, honest, revealing insight into the reality of rural life - and of 'forking off' in mid-life.

Emma Clayton