Why Do You Have Lessons – I Thought You Could Ride?

I suspect it’s a question that we all get asked by non-horsey friends from time to time.

I thought you said you can ride, so why are you having a lesson?

It happened to me for the first time in ages yesterday. The thing is though, I really don’t know how to answer in a short and succinct way. Yesterday I said, “Well, think of it more as coaching”, which seemed to do the trick. However, calling it coaching makes it sound like I’m some kind of elete sports woman, which I’m really not.

The thing is though, I don’t really understand why people ask the question in the first place. After all, how many things do we ever get to a certain point, and then totally stop learning about? Now, OK, I’ve never driven a car, but, everyone I know who does drive, and let’s face it, that’s a lot of people, say that they didn’t really start learning about driving until after they passed their test. Likewise, in most professions, my own for example, you are expected to take part in what is called Continuing Professional Development throughout your career. I can’t think of any scenario where, unless yu are determined not to, you can’t keep learning.

Now, OK, we’ve all met people who, apparently at least, were born knowing evrything. They don’t need to continue learning about whatever it is, because, well, they know it all. The equestrian world seems to attract a disproportion amount of these paragons, but they can be found anywhere. For the rest of us mere mortals though, learning, in any sphere of life, if a lifelong process. The thing with horses and riding is that, just like us, horses are all individuals, and, also like us, have their moods, and idiosyncrasies, so riding a horse, even if it is always the same horse, is not like riding a bike. We also have our good days and bad days, our like and dislikes, and get into bad habits. very often he have no idea that we aren’t riding as effectively, or as in balance, as we could, or even should, until something begins to go wrong. Horse riding is a partnership in which, as in all other partnerships, both sides need to play their part. We humans are not very good at being honest with ourselves. We tend to be over confident about our abilities, believing we are really on top form, when we might not actually be, or we are over critical of ourselves, doing ourselves down when actually, we’re not that bad. Very often all we need is an unbiased, honest, input from a third party to get us back on the correct road.

Whether it be the horse, rider, or the whole partnership that needs some guidance, having lessons, training, coaching, call it what you want is essential for even the most experienced horse or rider. There are always bad habits to tweak, and new things to learn. Even just being around horses you always learn something new. You are never too experienced to have lessons.

No only that, but I personally enjoy them.

Taking Stock

Sometimes it’s good to stop and take stock, especially when you are feeling a bit like you are lost in the wilderness, which is exactly how I have been feeling for a while now. So today, when I was browsing Social Media over my early morning cuppa, and one of those ‘Face Book Memories’ came up on my time line, it gave me pause to reflect and get some perspective..

Today is the 5th Anniversary of the day that Hal and I first came to view what is now our home.

So, as we were waiting for Steve to deliver some hay this morning, I couldn’t help reflecting on the past 5 years, and thinking how far we’ve come, and how much we’ve learned. Back then, having pulled out of a purchase on legal advice, and, only the day before coming here, viewed an almost derelict dump of a farmhouse, which seemed to be all that was available in our price range, we were beginning to believe that we were on a fools errand. Our dream of having our own little equestrian property was beyond our reach. Now though we have our own little yard with a lovely school, and have plans to get our own transport later this year.

Ok, so at the moment, we have 2 unrideable horses; but 5 years ago, I was in danger of not having anywhere to keep the 2 horses we had back then. Also, even if neither Florence nor Breeze can never do a stroke of work again in their lives, they will still be here. Having our own yard and land means I do not have to make that horrible choice between having a ridable horse and keeping the now unsound, older horse that I love. That single fact alone is enough to make all the hard work, sacrifice, financial hardship, and difficult decisions, worthwhile.

Yes, doing it yourself is extremely hard work, and it’s poor Hal who has to bare the brunt of it. We haven’t had a holiday since we moved here. Apart from the fact that we can’t really afford it, it’s a question of what we do with the horses if we go away. Yes, if we have to be away for a night or 2, then we are lucky in that Amy will take care of them, but leaving them for a whole week, or a fortnight… Well that’s a different kettle of fish altogether. All our money goes into the horses and maintaining th yard. We have invested a lot in building the stables and school, neither of which existed before we moved here. Also, we haven’t really recovered from taking a hit when that crook stole our money instead of building stables, and yes, this is a choice we have made, and I’m ot complaining, after all, what else would I be spending my money on? Horses are my passion after all. However, Hal and I are not rich, in fact, if people knew how small our income atually is they wouldn’t believe us, so there’s not a lot spare for luxuries, or for that matter even essentials. Even if we didn’t have our own place, and kept our horses on livery somewhere, we’d still have to make difficult decisions from time to time. We’ve had to have 3 horses put to sleep since we’ve been here. In each case, being kept on livery would have made absolutely no difference. We had good support and guidance from our Vet in each case, and we can rest assured that in each case we did the best thing for the horse. In fact, for me personally, whilst having to make that ultimate decision is the most horrible thing you can think of, because I was confident I was doing the best thing for the horse at the time, whilst it was heartbreaking, it wasn’t entirely unbearable. This probably sounds very strange, and maybe a bit heartless, but I actually coped worse with the planning process for the stables and school. I think this is because it was a much more prolonged process, and other people’s opinions could have made a difference to the outcome. Ultimately I was in charge of the decision to send the horses on their final journey, but, having submitted planning applications, I had no control over what happened at all. Applying for planning consent is probably the most stressful thing I have ever done. I’m glad we did it though.

Hal and I have been lucky in the support we have had since we have been here. However, we haven’t had things handed to us on a plate. I truly believe that we wouldn’t have the support we do if we weren’t prepared to put in the graft. If something is important to you, then it’s worth the hard work.

5 years ago today, as we drove across Dartmoor in a snowstorm, little did we know that we were driving into the amazing dventure that the last 5 years have been. I love living here. My happiest times are when we are down on the yard. Yes, sometimes it feels like a struggle, and yes, sometimes I feel like I’m stood at the bottom of a mountain with only a very thin piece of rope to help me up to the top. However, these are just passing qualms. If you told me even 7 years ago that this is where I’d be I’d haved laughed at you. Living here is a privilege. Life is good. Here’s to the next 5 years. Bring it on.

Problems Problems Problems

Oh dear it’s all going a bit wrong at the moment. Florence and I have hit a major problem, and I worry that it might be an unsurmountable one. I am convinced that she has some collateral damage from her recent breathing troubles, and is still experiencing pain in the chest, thoracic spine, ribs and intercostal muscles, or even in the lungs or Plura themselves. She is no longer coughing, is not in any way wheezy, and there is no heave., but something is definitely wrong. For the first time since I’ve had her, she will not stand up to the mounting block! Florence, The worlds safest and most reliable horse, The horse that anybody can ride, and who anybody can mount, no matter how stiff they are and how much they have to scramble, The horse that loves hacking out, and will try her damnedest in the school even if she doesn’t really see the point, won’t stand up to the mountain block! Something is very wrong.

She is happily allowing me to tack her up, and can’t get the bit into her mouth quick enough, but as I lead her down into the school she becomes increasingly tense, A worried expression replacing her a bitch your smile. She walks towards the block and then once I start stepping up onto it she just rushes off, or if Hal leads her in , with me already in situ, she just rushes past!

It’s not a one off thing. I first tried to get back on board last weekend, on Saturday and Sunday, and the same thing happened. So, in order to try and rule a few things out, Flo has had this week off again, and has been taking a low-dose of Bute to ward off any evil spirits. I had hoped that this might counteract any residual inflammation, or ease any soreness in the muscles around her chest. That might have been caused by coughing and heaving. Sadly though, this morning was no different to last week. I’m very worried. The last time a horse of mine suddenly decided they didn’t want to be mounted after being 100% reliable, it was Magnum, and it was the first sign that his heart was giving him trouble.

Of course I will be speaking to the vet on Monday, I’ve already left a message with the Sadler, and I will try and book a Masterson Method treatment for both horses, and then potentially a physio appointment for Florence. They only had the teeth done a couple of weeks ago, so that shouldn’t be the issue.

Breeze is also being a little bit tricky. We know she has quite extreme arthritis in her Hocks, and is slightly lame in her off side hind because of it. We suspect this lameness is now a permanent thing, but the vet has suggested we run her on Bute permanently now, this will make her more comfortable, and she may even come sound. However, Breeze being Breeze, she won’t take the Bute! Oh no thank you very much. If it’s a question of taking beaut, or starving to death, Breeze is on a serious diet!

So here I am, One permanently lame pony Who refuses to take her medication, And one seemingly healthy horse, Who is behaving completely out of character, and for some reason doesn’t want to be mounted. The reality is that neither of my lovely girls are in the first flush of youth. They are both officially 20, but in both cases this is only a guesstimate age. Florence has a date of birth the 1st of January 1999, and Breeze the 30th of June 1998, but we know these are not actually the days on which they will fold. In Florence’s case it is standard practice to give a horse a birth date of the 1st of January. Where as I have been told that, in Breezes case, 30th of June is actually the birthday of her old owner. Apparently if a horse was bought to work in the trekking centre didn’t have a passport, it was always given the 30th of June as its date of birth. In reality, whilst Florence is most likely 20 or thereabouts, of the smart money is on Breeze actually being a lot older. When she had her teeth done recently we were told that they had stopped erupting.

I don’t like the thought of either of them being in pain, but I am really worried that flow may never be able to be ridden again. Both of then have a home here for the rest of their lives regardless, but I am itching to get back in the saddle, and right at the moment I can’t afford another horse.

For once I would just like things to go my way a little bit

The Invisible Equestrian 3 – No Such Thing as An Elephant.#horseBloggers #BlindPeopleUsePhones #BlindRiders

This post may seem a little bit off topic at first, but bare with me, I have a point to make.

When I was a little girl I enjoyed any activity that meant I would be able to interact with,or even just see, animals. Admittedly, as quite a small and shy child, I could often be a bit intimidated by larger animals , especially if they were a bit up front and personal, but nevertheless animals, all animals, fascinated me – they still do. Therefore, going to the Zoo was a particular favourite day out for me.Throughout my childhood I visited a great many Zoos, and, whilst a lot of people are very much against the concept of animals being kept in captivity, I personally believe that if I hadn’t seen wild, exotic, and rare animals in the flesh as a child, I would in no way be as concerned about conservation as I am now. That’s not the point of this post though. However, it’s the Elephant, or rather the ongoing Dad/daughter ‘joke’ about elephants, which somehow managed to persist throughout my childhood, which will help illustrate the point of my post.

If you tell somebody something often enough, and with conviction, they will begin to believe it. Even if it is demonstrably not true.

My Dad is a brilliant story teller, and as a child I believed every word he said. Let’s face it, even though he is now 88, and I am fast approaching 52, he can still catch me out with alarming regularity. So, when , as quite a small child, I had wondered away from the parental gaze, and found myself, nose pressed against a fence, staring at an enormous grey beast, with huge ears, and a long pendulous trunk, awe struck didn’t quite do my feelings justice. I had only ever seen elephants in story books, or on Telly before, never in the flesh. I didn’t believe anything could be that big! “Dad! Dad! Dad! Come and see the Elephant!” I ran squealing with excitement

“But Nicola” He replied “There’s no such thing as an Elephant, you must be mistaken”

So, imagine my confusion when, after dragging him after me, loudly proclaiming how it was him who was mistaken, when we got back to the Elephant enclosure, the creature in question was nowhere to be seen! Now, obviously, the Elephant had just gone into it’s house, but remember, I can only have been about five, so , although I was a bit bewildred, and truly believed I had seen an Elephant, wel, Dad said it wasn’t so, so maybe…

The thing is though, strangely, everytime we went to a Zoo, any Zoo, I would see the Elephant, but my Dad wouldn’t. It was uncanny, and , as a result, even though I knew full well that Elephants were real animals, after all they’d had one on Blue Peter didn’t they?, I did, briefly, begin to doubt myself, Because, if you tell somebody something often enough, and with enough conviction, they will begin to believe it, even if there is incontrovertible evidence to the contrary. This is how perpetrators of coercive control and domestic abuse manage to get away with it for so long.

Now, I need to make it clear here that my Dad did in no way perpetuate this Elephant thing out of any sort of malice. On the contrary, he would have torn anyone with any bad intentions toward his little girl into very small unrecognisable peices in the blink of an eye, it was a joke, and a bit of a life lesson. Believe the evidence before you, don’t just take what people tell you on face value. It’s still a bit of a joke between us.

So, what’s your point? I hear you all ask. Well, it’s that very often we believe things, hold beliefs and preconceived ideas about things, other people and situations without any real evidence as to why we hold that belief, we just do. Quite often these beliefs really only effect us and the lifestyle choices we make, but sometimes, what we believe about somebody, and the way they ‘should’ be living their life, can have a very detrimental effect on them, their life chances, happiness, confidence, and mental wellbeing.

Wind forward to recent weeks. If you are a frequent flyer on Social Media, especially Twitter, you will most probably have come across the story about the photograph of a blind woman walking with a Long Cane (White Stick) whilst using a mobile phone. The photograph was taken and shared without the woman’s permission, and it was shared, and went viral, with the assertion by those who shared it that the subject must be faking her blindness because she was using a phone! Understandably this mindless act of Ablist hatred has sporned a massive backlash from the blind community, and given rise to the Hash-Tag

#BlindPeopleUsePhones

So, let’s deal with this particular can of worms first, then I’ll get to the real point of this post.

Firstly, blind people, and for that matter, people with any other form of disability, impairment or chronic illness , are NOT public property. You do not hav the right to take photographs, share our information or in any other way intrude on our private life just because you prcieve us as being different to you. We are not there to entertain, bolster your ego, be the butt of your jokes, validate your pity, or inspire you. We are subject to, and protected by, the same laws as you, including those to do with privacey and Data Protection.

Secondly. Visual Inpairment and Blindness is a spectrum. Blindness is not all or nothing, different eye conditions effect sight in different ways, and an individuals ability to utilise whatever residual vision they have will be effected by so many factors. Very few people are actually totally blind. Yes, some people have absolutely no eyesight at all, but the majority of us have something. Even I, who describe myself as being totally blind these days because I have no useful, functional sight, still have a degree of light perception.

Thirdly. Modern technology has revolutionised the lives of people with all kinds of disabilities, not just those of us who are blind. Screen readers, screen magnification, text to speech, speech activation, it all makes using tech possible. I am actually writing this post using an Ipad. OK so I’m using a Blue Tooth keyboard to type, but only because I find it quicker and easier than using the touch screen keyboard. All Apple devices have a built in screen reader called Voiceover, so it speaks everything onthe screen out loud. Androad devices have similar programmes. Most smart phones can talk in fact. All Smart phones and tablets have the ability to magnify the text on the screen, alter the contrast, revert to Grey Scale or invert the colour scheme, all things which will enable people with a variety of eye conditions to use them. Not only that, but there are a plethora of apps which are specifically designed to help the blind. From apps that help you find your way around, tell you what colour something is, use the camera as a scanner and read documents to you, recognise bank notes, even tell you if it’s light or dark. In fact, I often describe my iPhone as a Swiss Army Knife for the blind. So yes, not only can Blind People use phones, but they are actually a very important tool to aid our independence.

Finally. Being Blind, or for that matter habin any other disability or chronic illness, is hard work! The world is built around the specific needs of the fully sighted and able bodied. It’s not a lifestyle choice, and the world doesn’t really cut us any slack. We do not get things handed to us on a plate, regardless of whatever ablist propaganda you read in the Newspapers. White Sticks cost money, and can’t just be bought in the corner shop, and, well, getting a Guide Dog is, a long and complicated process. Unless, and sadly it does very occasionally hapen, you have some sort of mental health condition that might lead you to behave that way, there would be absolutely no benefit to anyone faking being blind. In fact, for many new to sight loss, the fear and stigma of being believed to be a fraud is a huge barrier to them seeking the help and support they need, or being able to carry on with the life they had prior to losing their sight. . So situations like this, where some random stranger, who most probably is not an expert in sight loss, and did not spend years training as an Opthalmic Surgeon, suddenly declares that somebody they don’t know anything about, but happen to see getting on with their life in the best way they can, decides they are faking it, and spreads malicious lies about them for who knows what reason, is extremely harmful, not just to the individual who is the butt of their toxic behaviour, but to everyone who is in the same or similar situation.. You do not know that persons truth,so why do you think you have the right to judge?

Sadly though, these kind of value judgements are not just reserved for whether or not a blind person can use a phone. People believe all sorts of strange and inaccurate things about blindness, and what blind people can and cannot do. Mostly this is because the vast majority of folk have never, knowingly at least, met anyone who is blind, and if they have, it’s more than likely to be somebody who is extremely elderly, and has lost their sight to age related conditions such as Age Related Macular Degeneration (AMD). What most people ‘know’ about blindness, has been learned from fiction, backed up by the occasional sensationalist headline in the Media. . We are expected to be either pitiful and frail, or absolute super heros, we all read Braille, We are all gifted with extra sensative hearing, touch, smell, we all have Guide Dogs, we are all elderly, we all have blank, staring, or disfigured eyes, we all wear very dark glasses, we are all piano tuners, basket weavers, physiotherapists, unemployable, we all need 24 hour supervision lest we hurt ourselves. We are never, young, interested in fashion, capable of dressing ourselves, capable of feeding ourselves, we are never married, in relationships, have children, have sex, fall in love, unless it’s with another blind person of course, we never work for a living, unless of course it’s as a piano tuner, basket weaver or physio, we never live independantly or own our home home. We never have any hobbies or interests, we never go out by ourselves, not eve with our Guide Dogs, we aren’t educated, we are never interested in politics, telebision or sport, unless of course we are Paralympians, we never travel anywhere, not even on Public Transport.

Yes indeed, it’s a sad, lonely, and confusing life that we blind people live.

Of course none of this is true. We do all of the above, and more. Or at least we would if the prejudice and preconceptions of others didn’t get in our way. You see, the more you believe the rubbish that is propagated about blindness, the more you will put barriers up that prevent blind people living the kind of lives we want to. The more barriers there are, The less we are able to integrate into society. The less integrated into society we are, The less we are seen. The less we are seen in the society carrying out normal everyday activities, The less we are seen to be able to do them, and so the belief that blind people can’t use phones, or do anything else for that matter, gets perpetuated.

So, what’s all this got to do with horses then?

Well, let me tell you a story. This is a made up story about a fictional Riding School, and a fictional potential client, but it is based on real experiences I have had a few times over the years.

Imagine you are the proprietor of a Riding School. You have an excellent reputation, and most people for miles around would recommend you as the place for people to learn to ride or go for hacks, your livery services are highly sought after too. You are fully insured, and you and your staff are highly trained and keep your professional development up to date. You are of course BHS approved. and regularly pass every inspection from the authority that licences you. So one day you get a phone call from a prospective new client. they’ve just moved to the area and are looking for somewhere to have lessons and regular hacks out. They tell you that they have been riding since childhood and would consider themselves as an experienced rider. then they drop the bombshell.

They just happen to be blind!

Blind! What?! Blind people can’t ride horses!

Now, at this point the conversation could go one of three ways.

A. Let’s face it, you’ve never actually met anyone who is blind before, and you ‘ve never really thought about blind people riding, well, to be truthful, you’ve never really thought about blindness. However, your staff are well trained, your horses well schooled, and you have a lovely secure arena in which to teach. As a business owner you are fully aware of your obligations under the Equalities Act, and the person on the other end of the phone sounds like they are an adult who knows what they are talking about. You explain that this is a new experience for you, and book them in for a private lesson, asking them to come a bit early so you can get to know them a bit and take your time mounting them up. Perfect scenario.

B. Let’s face it, you have never met anyone who is blind before, and you’ve never really thought about blind people riding. Wellm to be honest, you’ve never really thought about blindness. However, you are fully aware of your obligations under the Equalities Act, and besides that, you’ve recently read an article about a restaurant that refused to allow somebody to take their Guide Dog in, and you’ve seen the back lash and negative publicity they have recieved, and you’re scared that might happen to you if you refuse to take this person. However, somewhere in the back of your mind you seem to remember that you’ve been told, or did you read it, that blind people have terrible balance, can’t coordinate, and are a bit heavy handed. In your heart of hearts yu don’t want to take this person, but neither do you. Want to be the subject of a storm of negative publicity if you refuse them. Reluctantly you book them in for a lesson, deciding to put them on the most unresponsive, hard mouthed, dead to the leg, old plod you have in your string, because, that would be safest all round. Not an ideal solution but, better than a poke in the eye.

C. Let’s face it, you’ve never met anyone who is blind before, and you’ve never really thought about blind people riding, well, to be honest, you’ve never really thought about blindness. Why would you? You run a highly thought of riding establishment, and blind people can’t ride. Blind people can’t even dress themselves. Yes, somewhere in the back of your mind you’ve heard of something called the Equalities Act, but that only means you can’t refuse to take somebody if they’re Black, or Gay. No, sorry, this is going too far. You can’t possibly allow a blind person to even enter your yard, it’s far too dangerous, you’re not set up for this sort of thing. if they hurt themself you wouldn’t have a leg to stand on, your insurance wouldn’t cover it, and you’d probably end up being done under Health & Safety legislation. No sorry, you tell them, you need to go to the Riding for the Disabled. You put the phone down shocked and amazed that you have had such an enquiry. Oh dear, wrong on so many levels.

Over the years since I have been riding I have been met by all three of the above respomses to trying to book lessons and hacks. Thankfully, Scenario A is not as uncommon as you might think, and yu don’t just get it from the big yards. In fact, it is often small family run yards, that might not have sought BHS approval, and who maybe don’t have the most swanky of facilities , who are often the most open minded and welcoming.Scenario B might not be a bad situation either. Often, once you go there, and they see that you are just another human being, and that you can indeed ride, they begin to relax, and both parties gain from the situation. Sadly though, Scenario C is all too common, and you meet it in even the most well thought of establishments. Apart from the fact that it is illegal under the terms of the Equalities Act, which does indeed cover disability as well as several other things as well as ethnicity and sexuality, this response is really harmful.

Harmful? I hear you say. Surely you’re being a bit melodramatic now.

Let me explain.

This will not be the first time that this individual has been told they can’t do something because of their blindness. It won’t always have been made so obvious to them, but, every time it happens it chips a tiny piece off their self esteem, and erodes their self confidence. The more you tell somebody that they can’t do something, that they are less than, a problem, inconvenient, a burdon, not normal, a risk, especially if it is for something they have no control over, the more they will begin to internalise and sub-consciously begin to believe that message.The less confident, capable and validated they will feel.

It’s a viscious circle though. How can people learn about blindness, if they never see or get to know anyone who is blind, and if all they are fed is inaccurate untrue fictional representations of blindness, and sensationalist and extreme media stories? If you are the kind of person who has been brain washed into thinking that all blind people are helpless, pitiful, drab, recluses, then why would you expect the atrractive , vital looking fashionista, who is walking towards you, latest Smartphone in hand, to be blind? Sadly it’s a damning indictment of the times that when you do see that person, the fact that they are using a cane, or being guided by a dog, doesn’t make you think they are genuinely blind, but instead you assume they are faking it. It’s heart breaking.

Likewise, if you have never met anyone who is blind, and never seen anyone who is blind riding a horse, why would you automatically believe that they can? Then again, why automatically assume they can’t?

There are a lot of very capable blind riders out here, just getting on with it, and enjoying horses and riding exactly like everyone else. We are interested in the same things as every other horse enthusiast The difference is that we do need a little more support at times, and we do have to think laterally and find alternative ways of doing certain horsey tasks. That’s how it is in every other aspect of our life though. So, by and large, when we say we can do something, we usually can, and when we say we need help we invariably mean it. It would be so much easier for us though, if we didn’t have to constantly have to swim against the current of prejudice and misconception about blindness, and the ability and inability of people living with sight loss.

Take it from somebody who knows. Blind people do use phones. Blind people do ride horses. In fact blind people do everything that sighted people do.

Oh yes, and I’m here to tell you, there are such things as Elephants!

How Can it be February Already?!

How can it possibly be the 1st of February already? January seems to have flown by, but, although I haven’t been sitting around doing nothing, as far as my horsey aspirations are concerned, I haven’t achieved much. In truth, this is mostly down to poor Florence’s continuing problems with her breathing. I had hoped that I would be back on board, and preparing to book our first lesson of the year by now. Sadly though, she isn’t really right still, and although we have done some very low level in hand work, it’s really been to entertain her, rather than as a serious atttempt to start getting fit. The weather turning cold has exacerbated her breathing problems. I don’t want to make matters worse for her, ridden or unridden, she is far to important for that, so we are still at base camp planning our route up the metaphorical mountain at the moment. Breeze is also taking it easy at th moment. We are giving her stiffness/lameness time to resolve itself a bit, and we are experimenting with her not wearing any back shoes for the time being. Like Florence, she has done a little bit of in hand work, but not much.

None of this means that there aren’t things going on in the background though. Hal has decided that he and Breeze are going to try their hooves at Horse Agility, and to this end has joined the International Horse Agility Club. We did a bit of this with Sapphire before we moved up here, and it’s really good fun. Also, although Horse Agility HQ is only just down the road from us, it’s something that can be easily done from the comfort of our own school. To that end we are now gathering together various items that can be used to build agility obstacles.

For myself, well, I am in the process of going over to the Dark Side! I have been given some advice by another Blind Rider who I have met through the Blind Ridrs UK Twitter account, and as a result I am in the process of joining the Riding for the Disabled Association as an independent rider. I will be joining/affiliating to the North Cornwall RDA group, as they are the closest to me, and will hav coaching through them, but will not be riding as part of a group. The aim is to eventually compete. At the moment it all seems very positive. It couldn’t be more different to my last experience with RDA. I have to get a medical, because of my arthritis, to say it’s OK for me to ride, and them I have to have a riding assessment, to see what level I am at, but so far so good. So watch this space.

The idea was always that I would be training and competing with Florence. However, her state of health, and the realisation that she is now 20 has made me very thoughtful about the future. When I first approached RDA, asking how I would go about becoming an independent rider I told them that I would be riding my own horse. However, I’m not sure Florence is realistically going to be that horse. I cannot wait to get back on Florence’s back, after all, it is my happy place, and I hope to soon start having lessons with Melissa again very soon. However, I have told the North Cornwall RDA Group that, for the time being at least, I will need to use one of their horses.Flo’s not going anywhere, and , fingers crossed, is going to live, and be able to be ridden for a long time yet, but I don’t think it is fair to expect her to suddenly become a competition horse, not at her age.

So, yes, this does mean that I am beginning to consider getting another horse. Not yet though. For a start we can’t afford it at the moment. We are finding looking after Florence and Breeze is a pleasure, yes they both have their quirks, but, on the whole, they are really easy going and stress free to do. Also, I’d like to make sure that I’m really up for it, the RDA stuff I mean, before I decide exactly what type of horse I want. It’s no good forking out for a potential dressage diva if I’m destined to be a happy hacker for the rest of my life.

In the meantime though, while I’m not riding, I am working hard on my fitness. I’m already feeling a difference in my everyday life, although the weight’s not coming off as easily as I’d hoped. I’m feeling very positive about life, despite Florence’s problems. It’s all very exciting. So watch this space.

False Start

I chose the first Saturday of the year as the day I would formally bring Florence and Breeze back into work after their extended winter lay off. In prepraation for this I had arranged for Amy to come and clip Florence on the 3rd. Only Florence, as I’m still not sure how much work Breeze is going to be doing, and this is where we hit our first snag. Poor Amy was mortified, but her clippers jus wouldn’t go anywhere near Florences thick, yak like shaggy coat!She did get one shoulder and half her chest off, then the clippers threw up their hands in defete! Florence is now rocking that ‘Game of Thrones’ look, you know, the one where the women walk around with one boob hanging out! These things can’t be helped, and it’s was definately not the end of the world, so we agreed to try again when the clipper blades had been off for sharpening. After all, Flo was only going to be doing some in hand work for the next couple of weeks, so she shouldn’t get too hot and swety, should she?

Saturday dawned full of promise, and with a plan in my head for both horses, Hal and I set off to enjoy a bit of long overdue horsey fun.

Oh dear!

The best laid plans of mice, men, and short , fat, blind, horse owners…

Florence has always, as long as I’ve had her, had issues with her wind. She coughs and wheezes at the slightest provocation, and really seems to be allergic to everything. I had hoped we had a handle on most of her triggers now though. I’ve never seen anything quite as bad as ‘florences heaving laboured breath on Saturday morning though! As I waited for the vet to arrive, am not ashamed to admit that the thought crossed my mind that Florence might actually be dying! David, the vet, got to me really quickly, and I think even he was a bit taken aback by how much Flo was struggling to breathe. Honestly, I’ve never seen a heave like it. Itmust have been very painful too, because, when I gently laid my hand on her side, she went to kick me. However, Flo wasn’t running a temperature, so David was reasonably confident this was not anything infecteous. Well thank goodness for that, afteral, both Tony, the farrier, and Amy and her dodgey clippers, had been all over Florence only a few days earlier, so if it was catching, they could have been spreading it like the plague.Not only that but, Breeze would have got it too.

David took bloods, and administered a plethora of drugs, including, horror of horrors, steroids. He also left me with 4 different meds to give her, comprising of antibiotics, bronchodilators, expectorants, and, yes your’ve guessed it, more steriods. So why am I so fixated on the steroids? Well, as regular readers will know, Florence is and elderly lady now, is already over weight and an extremely good doer, and has PPID, all things which predispose her to getting lminitis. Unfortunately, one of the known potential side effects of steroids is a higher risk of contracting laminitis! She’s doomed! Luckily I have an excellent relationship with my vets, and feel very comfortable when it comes to voicing my concerns, so I was able to have an honest chat with David about the risks and advantages of giving Flo steroids. His opinion was that it was a Catch 22 situation, yes, there was a real risk of Flo getting Laminitis, but if we didn’t give her the steroids she may not fully recover, or at least take longer . He assured me that he had rarely had a patient that did get Laminitis while taking the specific drug he was prescribing, and that he was giving her the very lowest dose possible for a horse of her weight, but that if I thought she was even thinking of getting it, I should immediately stop them. Thankfully, by the time Daivid left, Florene was already responding to the injections he’d given her, and was already breahing more easily. I was really impressed when he phoned me that evening, remember this was a Saturday, with her blood test results! Everything looked perfectly normal. This must have been a massive allergic reaction to something.

I had the girls both booked in to have a dental 2 Wednesdays after this, so it was agreed that Florence would be reassessed then, unless of course I had called them back beforehand, and of course, Flo was on R&R for the time being. Thankfully Florence is your typical greedy cob when it comes to food, and has no concept of turning her nose up at anything, so getting 4 different meds down her was no problem. However, the antibiotics were really difficult to handle. They came in the form of a mousse type solution which had to be accurately measured out with a syrringe. Well, thre was no way I could do that myself, as I couldn’t see the markings on the syrringe. Mind you, Hal found it hard enough, the stuff was really thick and gloopy and got everywhere, except inside the syrringe of course. It smelt delicious though, a bit like Butterscotch Angel Delight.

Except for one morning when I thought Florence might be on the verge of colicking, until she had the biggest, stinkingest poo I’ve ever witnessed, there were no nasty side effects from the medication. In fact, some behaviours, which I thought were just Flo quirks , even went away, and she appeared to be brething perfectly normally within a few hours of starting the regime.

On Wednesday last, Justine came out to do the dentals and assess Florence. She was very pleased with Flo, although she could hear what she called a slight Plural Rasping, so she said there may still be some inflammation. At this point, we hadn’t quite finished the course of steroids, although everything else had gone. Justine suggested that I finish the steroids, give Florence a 24 hour break, and then put her on a short course of Bute to try to resolve any residual inflammation. Apparently you need to leave a gap because you can’t give steroids and non-steroidals at the same time. It’s a bit like mixing matter and antimatter I think. Justine also said I could start very gently bringing Flo back into work.

While Justine was doing Breezes teeth I asked her to give her a quick check over. Breeze is very stiff, especially through her off side hock, and although supposedly the same age as Florence, does come over as being a lot older. Funnily enough, Justine herself asked how old we thought Breeze was because her teeth appear to have stopped errupting, and are actually quite worn. She also pronounced Breeze as lame, rather than just stiff. We discussed varous options, and so Breeze is now on perminant Bute. Or at least that’s the idea, Breeze, unlike her bigger friend, is a little more discerning where dining is concerned, we are now going through a period of her behaving like we are trying to poison her!

I have given them both a few extra days off, just to let the new medication regimes set in, but they have both done one short session of in hand work in the school now. Florence was an angel, and apart from trying to scoff the grass that is growing aroung the edge of the school, you wouldn’t know it’s been so long since she did anything. Breeze on the other hand was on extremely high alert. She spooked violent and tried to tank off when a pony, which was on the lane on the other side of the valley, and so a long way away spooked and tanked off itself. Poor Hal tried to hold onto her, and ended up with a massive rope burn. She also lay down in the school to scrath her legs! I don’t know whether to laugh or cry sometimes.

All of this has given me pause. I adore Florence, and Breeze, for all her foibles is a sweetheart, but they are neither of them getting any younger. Is Flo really going to be up to doing all the things I hope to do over the next few years? For now we are enjoying having 2 lovely horses who are a delight to handle and look after, and who we both trust completely. Should I start formulating a long term plan though? For now I am hoping it doesn’t snow so I can get on with the fitness plan I have for them both.

New YEAR fresh Start`

Happy New Year everyone!

Here we are then, January 1st 2019, and the world is full of possibility. Out with the old, good riddance, and in with the new. Bring it on! So what plans does everyone have for this year? Have you made any horsey. New Year resolutions?

I have lots of hopes for this year, lets face it I always do, but if I learnt anything from last years series of disasters, there are no guarantees. So this year, whilst, of course, I have made some New Year Resolutions, , when it comes to the horses and my riding , I have aspirations rather than fixed plans. Mind you, there are quite a lot of them.

1. Actually, this one is a resolution, and it will effect every part of my life. To lose weight and become fitter. For my health this is essential . I have never been so heavy, so unfit, or so unhealthy as I am right now. However, for my professional life it is essential too, I am not exactly a good advertisement for living the healthy lifestyle at the moment. I need to go back to practicing what I preach. In my defence, it has been a very difficult year, and self care has disappeared off the horizon completely. Not any more! In fact, away from the horses, this year is all about self care, and self love, I need to start looking after myself so I can look after everyone else. The horses will benefit as I become lighter, fitter, better balanced. It’s going to be hard worth, but I can’t see a down side really.

2. I’d like to do some very low level, very basic, dressage. I need to put some things in place, but potentially some unaffiliated and/or RDA /Para intro level competitions later in the year?

3. To keep Florence and Breeze healthy and happy, and in the best shape possible. Let’s face it, they are both 20 now. I suspect that Breeze may need to retire soon, she has a few issues after all. But , fingers crossed, Florence does seem to have plenty of life left in her yet. I love them both dearly, and the healthier and happier they are, the happier I am.

4. To go out into the world and be more out there in horsey society. This could be anything, but I’d particularly like to attend some of the stuff that the Riding Club put on. Let’s face it, I didn’t even get to the AGM last year.

5. To be more diligent about cleaning and looking after my tack and equipment. Let’s just say that standards have slipped recently.

6. To get back into having regular lessons. I was doing really well, but then life got in the way. I’m one of those strange people who actually enjoys having lessons. I hope to be able to continue with Melissa, but I also want to get myself booked in somewhere to have some lunge lessons to help improve my seat, position and balance, but I need to lose a certain amount of weight first as I currently exceed most places upper weight limit.

7. To be better organised. Like the weight loss, this is something that will have an impact on the whole of my life. It’ll be a challenge though as I have very few natural organisational skills! However, possibly because last year was so disrupted, I have felt like I’ve been lurching around from one crisis to another and missing, or nearly missing important dates and deadlines. It’s not a good way to be.

8. To be more mindful. Again this is something that will influence my entire life, but when it comes to the horses, I mean that I intend to be there, in my entirety, in the moment, present, while I am riding and handling the horses, not just going through the motions while my mind is somewhere else stressing.

9. To continue to educate and inform the rest of the horsey world about Blind riders, our rights and capabilities, and to try to make the equestrian world more accessible and inclusive .

10. To be as supportive as possible to other equestrians, especially those who are new to the horse world, lack confidence, or for some reason find it difficult to fit in.

Hopefully it’s going to be a good year. The work starts today.