Nationals – A shot in the arm πŸ˜„

So, despite everything, on Friday morning, Hal, Quincey, and I loaded up, and travelled up to the RDA National Championships at Hartbury College, near Gloucester.I only went because a lot of people had made a lot of effort to get me there. Honestly though, I’d have rather stayed in bed.

I’m so glad I did go. The whole experience was the most perfect antidote to the terrible week that preceded it, and I’ve come away feeling much happier, more confident in my abilities, with a little more self believe, and a lot of plans/hopes/dreams for the future.

This has to have been the friendliest, and most supportive equestrian event I have ever been to. No dragging other people down, no bitching about why the person who got placed above you shouldn’t have even been allowed to enter, no arguing with the judge, no fat shaming, picking fault with other peoples riding ability, tack choices, turn out, or choice of horse. Just support and admiration from everyone to everyone, a feeling of camaraderie, genuine good will, and a lot of people having a lot of good horsey fun. Why aren’t all equestrian events like this?

Hartbury, or at least the bits I saw, is an amazing place. OK, so I can’t comment on the human accomodation, as we stayed in the Holiday Inn in Gloucester (a lot nicer than our usual Premier Inn or Travelodge whenever we go anywhere), but the horse accomodation was the poshest stabling I have ever experienced.Large, airy,barns with lovely wide walkways, and all immaculate.I have no idea how many stables there actually were, but North Cornwall RDA were based in Barn D, and I know there was a Barn G! There were several arenas, both indoor and outdoor, although confusingly, according to a plan that Hal saw, no arena 3. Although I did dressage, there were a lot of other disciplines taking place. Showjumping, showing, endurance, vaulting, musical rides, and the Countryside Challenge, a handy pony style competition unique to RDA

Now, when it came to my test, in all honestly, I didn’t think that I really rode that well

. No excuses here, it’s just how I felt, sick, sad, and sorry over Breeze, extremely nervous, and desperate not to let anyone down, and far far too hot! Let’s face it, even in the coldest of conditions I run warm, and I get a proper sweat on when I’m nervous or anxious, and it was really very hot on Saturday. However, Willow (Stephania! Who knew?) was a total pro, bless her, she’d have done a lot better without the sweaty mess on her back, and of course Mark, Becky, who had only giben birth to their tiny daughter Lowenna 12 days before, and the wonderful, and very long suffering groups of volunteers who called my letters for me, were just the best. A special mention has to go to whoever it was who turned Willow out, all shiney and white, and plaited beautifully. Thank you whoever you are.

Ok, so my test wasn’t a thing of beauty. This was the first time I had ever ridden in an arena where the boards are all away from the walls, and it’s fair to say it’s something I need more practice at. I was worried that Willow would step out of the boards, so I over compensated and ended up cutting of the ends of the arena. At one time I was riding directly towards K thinking to myself,”I really shouldn’t be here should I”. I felt a bit like a bunny in the headlights throughout the test. Not my best effort at all.

So imagine my total shock, and utter delight, when I discovered that I’d won! I still can’t believe it now.

My score was 63.12%, which is the lowest score of the 3 competitions I’ve done with the RDA so far, but having read my scoresheet, I think the judges comments are entirely reasonable. Although, I am a bit surprised at the comment “A calmly ridden test”! Oh no it wasn’t!

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If I’ve managed to attach a video here you will see exactly what I mean. Ignore the first bit it’s me on the grey. As she can probably tell, Hal wasn’t very much calmer than me.

So, all I really need now is a new four legged dancing partner, a lot of practice, and some self belief. Not too much to ask surely?

Here’s to next yearπŸ˜„

48 Hours From Hell

Sunday was very hot, so when we caught the girls in, and Breeze was breathing a bit hard, I didn’t think much of it. She was hot and bothered and just suffering with the heat. While Hal did some Brush Cutting down in the bottom field in preparation for Florence and Breeze to move down there for a couple of weeks, Ben and I had a sort out day in the takc room. As we worked Ben commented on how fat Breeze had become, and we joked about her being about to have a foal. Ben of course thought that it was highly likely that a random stallion had junped into the field, and then disappeared, leaving both mares in foal. He claimed both foals as his, but not until they were 4, when he would break them in and turn them both into champion show jumpers. It was a good day.

On Monday Hal and I, with Quincey, ventured to the other side of Barnstaple, to Barnstaple Equestrian Supplies, which is a place we had never been to before, to buy me a new, competition legal, riding hat. What a brilliant place,and what great customer service! I can’t recommend them highly enough. There was no rush, and a wide selection of hats to try, a bowl of water for Q, and a cuppa for Hal and I. I left with a brand new Gatehouse hat, and a feeling that it genuinely mattered to them that I bought the right hat for me. We will definitely be going back. Monday was also a good day…

Until Monday evening that is.

When we went to do our late night checks on the girls we found Breeze in a bit of a bad way. Breathing hard, and reluctant to move, I suspected colic or laminitis. We brought both horses up into the stables, which was a real struggle for poor Breeze, so enter the emmergency out of hours vet. He commented on how fat she was, but couldn’t find any sign of Laminitis or colic, instead he was worried by her breathing, which had turned into a proper heave. Suspecting some kind of allerggic asthmatic reaction to whatever plant was in pollen down the bottom he administered intravenous steroids, anti spasmodics, bronchodilators etc and left me their oral counter parts. Now, having experienced exactly thisscenario with Florence a couple of times over the years, I was confident that I’d find a happy relaxed pony in the morning, so I was a bit concerned when, on checking her at 6ish on Tuesday morning she wasn’t really any better. Still fat, still heaving, and still reluctant to move. I left her with a small breakfast with her meds in and carried on as normal. Even though he hadn’t left us until twenty past twelve that morning, David the vet phoned me before 9 to ask after Breeze. When I reported no change he sounded concerned, but told me not to worry as the meds were cumulative, and that the intravenous meds could take up to a day to work. However, he said to call back if there was no inprovement. He also advised me to leave her in, as he was sure she was readting to something in the field. So, off I went to Melissa’s to have my last lesson before Nationals, which went extraordinarily well. As we drove home I have to admit that I was buzzing with excitement for the forthcoming weekend.Sadly my joi de vive was short lived. When we got home Breeze was not better, and hadn’t touched her breakfast.

I phoned the vets immediately to give them an update, and another vet, Dan, was dispatched. Dan did the same examinations as David had, checked she wasn’t running a temperature, and tried to listen to her heart, but couldn’t hear it for her breathing. Definately not Laminitis, and definately not colic. He agreed that it must be an allergic reaction to something; but suggested we truned her out as he ws worried that the stable environment might be making matters worse.So we turned the girls back out, not into the bottom though, and while Florence was delighted, and shot off to have a role and eat some grass, Breeze , who found walking down to the paddock really difficult, just stood by the gate looking miserable and getting hot.. By 4.30 Breeze still hadn’t moved. Another panicky conversation with David, and the duty vet was dispatched. Imagine my surprise when my old vet from where we used to live, Keiren, arrived. This straight talking old school vet’s first question was”Has nobody said anthing about this oedema?”. There hadn’t been any oedema earlier, but there certainly was now/ Keiren was concerned that this wasn’t really anything to do with Breezes respiratory system, but actually circulatory. She still didn’t have a temperature, but just in case there ws some underlying infection, he decided to give her an antibiotic injection. However, when he stuck the needle in to her vein, blood spirted out like it was an artery! A lot of blood! Hal had to leave the stable! Blood is not supposed to spirt out of veins, veins are not supposed to be under pressure.

AT 6 yesterday morning, at first I actually thought Breeze sounded like she wasn’t breathing as hard. Perhaps it was wishful thinkingon my part because the oedema had got much much worse. Poor girl, she had a shelf on the frontof her chest, and it ran all the way back to her udder. In fact, her teats were hidden in a groove between two huge swellings.

Vet number 4, Gemma, was sent out. She had been sent to take blood samples; but by the time she got to us, Hal and I had come to the conclusion that poor Breeze was going down hill still further. It did n’t take long for Gemma to come to the same conclusion.

Gemma put Breeze to sleep there and then. The poor girl dropped like a stone. She really was very poorly, and I suspect only staying alive out of pure stubbornness.

Afterwards, Gemma looked at Breeze lying there and suggested that she wasn’t naturally fat. Gemma suggested that Breeze most probably had some kind of tumour , probably in her liver, which had got so big that it was putting pressure on her lungs and compromising her circulatory system. Poor little pony.

Losing Breeze presented me with a new problem.

Florence

Florence has terrible seperation anxiety. She hates being by herself. While we were waiting for the man to come and collect Breeze, Florence had a really bad panic attack, charging around the stable, kicking and bellowing. She would only stand still if either Hal or I stood with her. If we tried to move away from her stable door she would start racketing around the stable again. Once Breeze had been collected, we decided to try turning Florence out. At least she could move around more freely, and would be less likely to injure herself in the stable. So she spent the next couple of hours charging around the paddock bellowing.

Mow what was I supposed to do? I can’t leave Florence in this state or she’ll make herself ill, or do herself a mischeif. Not only that, but the whole village must be able to hear her.I’m supposed to be going away on Friday. How can i do that? Amy is brilliant, but she can’t be here 24 -7. Perhaps I shouldn’t go to Nationals. I can’t let everyone down though, a lot of people have put themselves out to get me to this point. Oh God what can I do?

Enter Melissa, who kindly offered to come and get Florence and take her to Kingsland until we get back from Nationals and find her a companion.. What a star! My next concern was that Florence doesn’t travel very well. Well, actually, I’ve only ever travelled her once, when we brought her home. And she really didn’t travel very well then.

I needn’t have worried. Florence loaded into Melissa’s lorry like a pro, and apparently travelled like a dream. Who knew!? Florence has settled into Melissa’s really well, has been turned out with one of her Riding School ponies and they are getting along like a house on fire. She has also come into season, and there is a lot of flirting going on, it turns out that Alfie rather fancies her.

Today I hav applied to rehome a pony from the Mare and Foal Sanctuary as a companion. They seem confident that they will be able to help me.

So here I am then. Mourning the sudden and unexpected death of Breeze, who until this week, was the least of my worries. Not knowing quite what to do with myself because, for the first time for 5 years there are no horses here at Albert’s Bungalow. tomorrow Hal, Quincey and I are off to Hartbury and on Saturday i will compete in the biggest competition I have ever taken part in. I should be excited, but I’m actually just very tired and upset.

Looking Back, Moving Forward

As I clambered through the fence this morning to check that Florence and Breeze had enough water, and as our gorgeous girls searched me for treats, I was oblivious to the date and what an important day it is today. It was actually one of those Face Book memory things that woke me up to the fact that today is the 5th Anniversary of Magnum and Sapphire joining us here at Albert’s Bungalow.

Five Years!

Bakc then we had no stables, no School, and didn’t even have a proper access onto our own land. We moved up here without knowing anybody, and, to be brutal honest, without really knowing what we were doing. Now we have our own lovely yard, our own menage, which still rocks my world, and have opened the old field access next to the house. We have lovely neighburs, and even more lovely friends. However, we couldn’t have done it without the good will and support of a lot of people, most of which we didn’t know before we moved up here.

Ok, so nowadays it’s Florence and Breeze who are the centre of my universe, and hopefully there will be another horse joining them later this year. However, looking back, if it hadn’t been for Magnum, none of this would have happened. Who knew that an elderly Irish Draught Horse with an open festering wound on his back could be the tiny pebble that set off such a life changing avalanche!?

We’ve achieved so much in the last five years. Now it’s time to regroup and consolidate on what we’ve built. What will happen in the next 5 years? I’m certainly looking forward to finding out.

Bring it on!

Feeling Down

What is wrong with me!? I should be feeling like a kiddy on Christmas Eve. I’m in a really unusual, and, what should be very exciting situation. Not only have I qualified for the RDA National Championships (Who’d have thought?); but I am officially looking for a new horse, one that I will continue to do RDA Dressage with, and that I will be able to do some of the brilliant things that the Riding Club do with, and, unusually for me, I’ve got what feels like a massive budget for said horse. Usually I’m buying in the cheaper range, and I’ve been stretching my resources to do that. Not this time. You’d think I’d be like a dog with two tails, bursting with excitement, like a kiddy who’s been told they can have anything they want from the toyshop regardless of it’s price. What iactually feel is – well – nothing much to be honest, and I don’t really understand why. Don’t get me wrong, It’s not that I don’t want another horse, I really do, and I am thoroughly enjoying my newfound RDA Dressage success. I should be buzzing with enthusiasm, but frankly what I feel is flat and a bit down. Somebody take me out and slap me please! I’ve been trying to work out why I’m feeling this way, and I can only imagine it’s for one of the following reasons.

1. It’s not the prospect of having another horse that’s actually the problem here, it’s the act of finding one. I do find the process of buying horses extremely daunting. I miss the days when you buy your local Newspaper on a Thursday or Friday, turn to the, extensive, Horses for Sale section at the back, and read through all the adverts, circling all the likely candidates, then phoning the seller and havinga proper chat with them before deciding to go and have a look at said beast. OK, so, nowadays I wouldn’t be able to actually read the ads myself; but now things have gone on-line even finding horse ads is challenging. Yes, there are plenty of websites where you can buy and sell horses, but they are none of them particularly accessible. Face Book used to be a useful place to look for horses, but they have just banned selling animals. It’s all a bit problematic really. However, that’s just the beginning of the problem, once I find a suitable sounding horse , I’ve then got to go and see it. The act of going to a strange yard, with strange people, who have their own preconceptions about blindess, or who, despite my careful explaination of my situation, may not have fully comprehended that I am blind, and then having to get on a strange horse, that may or may not have been honestly described, and so may or may not be as safe as it’s been cracked up to be, makes me feel very uncomfortable, and extremely vulnerable. I’ve had some, erm, interesting experiences over the years to say the least.

2. Over the last 3 and a bit years we’ve lost 3 horses. OK, Magnum was very old, Sapphire had cancer, and Leonie, well, things weren’t good with her, but nevertheless, 3 horses gone in 3 years is a lot in my book. Now we have Florence and Breeze, who, granted are both in their twenties, but Breeze has had to retire from being ridden, and, despite my earlier post about Florence being on the mend, sadly she seems to be going backwards again at the moment. Florence hasn’t been right all year, and I may yet have to retire her as well. So that’s 3 dead horses, 1 going blind, and 1 with some kind of chronic/intermittent lameness/pain issue. Really, am I the best person to take on another horse? I just seem to break them all the time! Is a new horse going to be safe in my hands? I love horses, all horses, but Florence in particular is the absolute centre of my universe. For the last 6 months she’s been trying to tell me what’s wrong, and I just can’t seem to be able to understand what’s she’s trying to tell me. I’ve spent a fortune on vet’s, tess, and treatments, but things are still not entirely right with her. If I bring another horse onto this yard is it just going to end up trying to tell me something that I just can’t hear? Am I really capable of looking after them properly? I’m really doubting my abilities at the moment, and that’s putting me off going out there and putting any real effort into finding another horse.

As it happens, there is a real lack of horses out there anyway, or at least, if they are there, I’m not seeing the adverts.I keep reading that we are in the midst of a horse crisis, too many horses, not enough people who want, or can afford to take them on, so where are they all then? So far, I’ve only really seen one horse that I would have wanted to go and view, and that sold within a week of me first seeing the ad. Now, I know that I have quite specific requirements, but really, all I need is a safe,responsive, weight carrier. What I actually want is a younger Florence, perhaps one who is more comfortable travelling, and who is a little bit less bitey ,but neverthe less, Florence, her personality,attitude, and build, is just right for me. They must be out there somewhere, but all I’m seeing advertised is ex racehorses (I’d snap a Thoroughbred), imacculately bred, high powered warm bloods and Sports Horses, ponies, or horses that sound ideal, but nap, have an injury, aren’t safe on the roads, or have never been in a school. I keep seeing the same horses on every site, or I think I’ve found a good one, but it’s in Ireland, or is being listed by a Dealer, who is regularly mentioned on the Dodgey Dealers listsNot only that, but this purchase is dependant on the sale of Hal’s late parents hous. Well, that’s going well, not. Today is the day we were supposed to be completing. Yeh right. We’ve just been told that the buyers, who were supposed to be cash buyers, hence why Hal accepted such a low offer. haven’t quite got there mortgage sorted yet! So now they are screwing us around and apparently can’t complete until 1st July. That is of course if they are actually going to complete and aren’t some kind of fantasists. Let’s face it, it’s a long way from cash buyers to can’t get the mortgage sorted. So there probably isn’t going to be a new horse anyway. So wht am I worried about.

Take it Away Nik!

Well, this RDA Nationals thing is all getting a bit real now. I’ve got all my coaching sessions booked, the first of which was on Wednesday, and there’s been a meeting about the costs, which days we are all riding on (Saturday for yours truly), and accomodation. The Group are taking Fourteen horses, and it’s going to cost in excess of Β£3000 for the weekend! I think I need to start doing some fundraising/PR for the group.

On Wednesday, which was the first time I have been back to Lakefield since Regionals, I picked up my score sheet and rosettes, and had a half hour coaching session with Mark. It’s made me realise that , even though my fitness has greatly improved throughout the first half of the year, there is still much to do. We worked on getting Willow to be more immediately responsive to my leg. Mark did explain that, as Willow is a Riding School/RDA horse, she is not expected to be too sharp and responsive to evry movement that the rider makes, after all, some of her regular riders make involuntary leg and arm movements because of their particular condition; however,she is capable of working from behind and accepting the bit with a capable rider.That would be me then allegedly. It seems strange to me that last week, when I had a lesson with Melissa and Goldie, everything went so well, and I had Goldie really responding to my leg, even riding the best circle I’ve ever ridden, but this week with Mark and Willow, well, lets just say it all felt like a bit of a struggle. What has impressed/amazed me though is that on Wednesday Mark had me doing quite a bit without stirrups, and I haven’t yet died as a result. I actually can’t remember the last time I did any real work without stirrups. Yes, somewhere in the annuls of Hals iphone there is a short video of me riding half way down our school on Florence squealing “It hurts, It hurts, it hurts”, but I really only rode the length of the school. On Wednesday I must have done about ten minutes. I must be doing something right during my daily struggle to get fit, lose weight, and turn my diabetes around, because I haven’t suffered very much in the aftermath at all. Yes, my hips are a bit sore this morning, but that’s got more to do with sitting on my backside for most of yesterday watching the monsoon that was going on outside. Honestly, it’s supposed to be June!

So, now I have some goals around weight and fitness that I want to hit before Nationals. I want to be under a certain weight, I want to be able to ride the exercise bike for a certain length of time on a certain tension, and I want to be able to ride Florence inthe school without stirrups for a certain amount of time. I’ll let you know how it goes. Hopefully, if these three things come together, alongside my coaching sessions with Mark, and lessons with Melissa, I will be in the best place to give it my best shot at Nationals.

PS. For anyone who doesn’t follow the Poo Picking in the Dark FB Page, excitingly I am now officially horse hunting.

Five Years!

Today marks the fifthe anniversary of Hal and I coming to Albert’s Bungalow.

Five Years!

I’ve just read back through all my posts since I began Poo Picking in the Dark, which it surprises me that I didn’t actually begin until the November after we moved in, and, we haven’t stopped have we?!

Looking back, we’ve achieved such a lot, and learned even more. Yes, there have been some terrible lows, the whole Leonie situation will haunt me for life, however, there have been so many more highs. Yes, it’s hard work, no we haven’t had a holiday since we’ve been here. No, we don’t have any money. Yes, we have a great quality of life.

I still have to pinch myself regularly. I still can’t believe I’m here with my own little yard and my own school. The last five years have been full on, but we’ve done all the big stuff now. So now it’s time to consolidate on what we’ve built here. Here’s to the next five years.