Fireworks – A Plea From the Heart

It’s often said that the last person to enter the House of Parliament with honest intentions was Guy Faulkes.
“Rememver remember the Fifth of November
Gunpowder treason and plot”

So here we are. Tonight is Halloween, Saturday is Guy Faulkes Night, and, I understand, this week , this year, I understand, it also happens to be Diwali. All this adds up to a fabulous week of fun and celebration. A jolly good time will be had by all!

Well no actually .

There at least two groups of people , and I belong to both, who dread this time of year.

They are?
Horse owners, and dog owners, and more specifically, Guide Dog Owners.

The reason?


Now, OK, I grant you, fireworks aren’t traditionally integral to Halloween, but for some people it’s any excuse to party with a bang. Also, while fireworks are a big part of Diwali, it is a festival of light after all, Diwali itself is a moveable celebration, so happens at a slightly different time each year. However, most people would agree that the celebration of Guys Faulkes takes place on far more days than just the 5th November..

There are supposed to be regulations controlling when, and to whom, fireworks can be sold, as wel as when, where, and by whom, they can can be letoff
Yeh right!

I don’t know of many Guide Dog Owners who don’t actually dread this time of year. I expect it’s the same for other Assistance Dog Owners too. A frightened, anxious dog can’t work safely. So what do you do? Do you reach for the white stick and leave Fido at home? OK if you aren’t going to be very long, or there’s someone at home to look after the dog; and if you’re a confident cane user. Do you stay at home and live like a recluse for the duration? Hardly practical, or possible, especially if you have to get to work or take the kids to you carry on as normal and prey/hope/trust that nothing bad will happen?

Guide Dogs often have to hang up their harness for good as a direct result of being terrified by fireworks.

For horse owners it’s just as difficult.. Even if you know that there is going to be an organised display or private party close to where you keep your horse, you have very few options. Very few, if any, of us, are able to take our horses elsewhere for the duration. Even if we could, there’s no guarantee that there won’t be fireworks there too! So, do you leave your horses out, or shut them in? There’s no right or wrong answer here. Horses, being prey animals instinctively flee , or bolt, from scarey, things. Their mantra is, ‘Run first, ask questions later – Your life might depend on it!’. A terrified horse is dangerous, both to themself and anyone who gets in their any. They are runnin on pure Adrenalin and they are not engaging their mind.

Every year horses die as a direct result of fireworks. I’ve already read about one this weekend. Usually horses have to be put to sleep, or even sometimes shot, because of injuries they sustained while trying to run away. Often , prolonged exposure to adrenalin from the fear, stress and anxiety that prolonged or repeated fireworks cause, leads to a lethal bout of colic. Some horses just drop dead because their heart just can’t take it anymore. Whatever, the result is the same, a dead horse, and a decastated owner. All because of it worth it? If it was up to me fireworks would only be allowed at organised public displays, and those Chinese Lanterns that float off indescriminately with a lit flame inside them would be banned outright. It’s not up to me though.

So please, if you are planning a fireworks party this year, let people know. Then, they can at least try to make it easier for their animals.

Buckle Up Baby, We’re About to Hit Turbulance

Wow last week was challenging. Yes it had its high points, but , like all roller coasters, it had plenty of dramatic and frightening lows. So buckle up, it’s going to be a bumpy ride.
It goes like this…

Monday. Not having been feeling too well for the last few days, I had a lie in and didn’t check the horses first thing. So there we both are, tucked up in bed, when the doorbell goes. There stands our young next door neighbour with the news that the horses are in the process of clambering through the hedge into our bottom field. Cue mad dash to catch them in. No harm done thankfully. Just a realisation that that stretch of hedge is no longer secure.

Monday was such a lovely day that I took the opportunity to hop on Florence and go for a ride. It was one of those rides where everything just clicked. It was like we were telepathically linked. Perfect!

Tuesday. 6.30a.m. Tuesday saw me standing in the field trying not to go into a total melt down as I listened to Florence struggling to breath e. Seriously, I’ve never heard any horse make that kind of noise. Did she puncture a lung getting through the hedge yesterday? Should I call the emergency vet? Calm down dear! A horse who is at deaths door wouldn’t be trying to steal mints of me, would she?

I waited for the Vet’s to open before calling them, and waited on tentdrhooks until a lovely new vet arrived. She was very thorough, and had a lovely way with Flo. It turns out that there was nothing wrong with Flo’s lungs, but that her upper airways where completely blocked with mucus. . The poor girl was completely bunged up. Bloods was taken and antibiotics, anti inflamatories and decongestants prescribed. Nothing but R&R for Flo for a couple of weeks.

Wednesday. With time on my hands, and the sun shining we decided we should do something with Breeze. So I hopped on board. . She went off really positively, and I was just warming to the idea that Brezd might turn out to be as nice suddenly…
Let’s just say that, even with doing everything he could to help from the ground, when Breeze naps there ain’t nothing I cann do about it. She stopped, I sent her forward. She Sam round, I turned her round. She went backward, I sent her forward with Hal leading her. Hal let go, she span, I turned her round. She went backwards…
You get the picture. Anyway, this went on for what felt like eternity. Breeze getting more and more cross, me getting increasingly dizzy and disorientated . Then a van came up the road behind us. I got off.
We walked her in hand the rest of the way, and she was an angel. Looks like we’ve got some work to do to build Breeze’s confidence..

Thursday. Riding lesson day. We both had very positive lessons . Both of us had taken steps forward. For me there was also the fact that I had ridden 3 different horses in 4 days, and, I was not in any pain! Perhaps I am finally getting back to some degree of fitness at long last.

Friday. Bloody Leonie kicked Hal! He’s OK, very sore, badly bruised and very shaken. . We’ve been putting light rugs on then at night when it’s cold and taking them off in the morning. Leoni has grown out of her rug from last year (which luckily fits Breeze) and is actually wearing one which I bought for my old horse Bella about 20 years ago. . Unlike the more modern rugs, this rug had fixed leg straps. . I prefer a fillet string, and always remove detachable leg straps and convert one into a fillet string, but in this older rug the straps were sewn into the lining of the rug. Leonie is not convinced about about the whole concept of rug wearing, and had let me know she wasn’t happy with the leg straps. Poor Hal was actually undoing one of the offending items prior to taking the rug off when she lashed out and caught him on the thigh. I’ve cut them off now!

Sunday. A lady called Clare, who works at the yard we bought had arranged to come and see her. I had originally suggested we rode out together, but the vet had told me not to ride Florence. So Clare rode Breeze while Hal, still hobbling, led Sapphire in hand. Breeze was a bit nappy, but seemed to draw confidence from Sapphire. Sapph herself seemed to really enjoy herself, and didn’t put a hoof wrong.

Tuesday. Ever known true fear? I did on Tuesday night. We checked the horses last thing as usual but there was no sign of Florence! What there was was a lot of churned up mud, some broken fence, and a huge hole in the bank, but no Florence! Now there are two things you need to know. Florence is not the horse for striking off alone. Leonie or Sapphire, it’s a point of honour with both of them to thoroughly test the security arrangements in any location, but not so Florence. In fact, in Leo’s earlier escapes, Flo really became very anxious. So something bad must have happened for Florence to have gone by herself. Secondly, a long way below where the hole in the hedge was there is a deep, corn create drainage channel, and I mean a long way below! Also, behind our land, and again, a long way down, there is a disused sunken lane, it!s only use for years, an unofficial dumping ground to the lazy. All I knew was that Florence must be down there somewhere – and she was ominously quiet!
With the others , strangely subdued and compliant, caught up and munching hay in their stables, Hal braved himself up and went on a fact finding mission. I went for reinforcements in the shape of my Dad who was staying with us.
I don’t know if horses have multiple lives in the same way cats do? Hal found Florence down in the sunken road. She was a bit wide eyed, and very pleased to see him, but stood on all fours and totally fine! If there is a God of Horses then it was certainly watching over Flo on Tuesday night. The problem was now how to get Florence back home. The obvious answer would have been to walk her down the lane to the village and back up the road. No chance! The lane is so blocked with rubbish that a cat couldn’t get through. I don’t think Hal knows how they did it, but he and Florence managed to clamber up the bank into our field. It was now about midnight!

Florence seems none the worse for her adventure, and is all better from her breathing trouble too. I don’t know what happened, but all four of them have been unusually agitated since Tuesday, and they all keep staring at that corner of the field.

All I know is that we are very lucky to still have Florencd.

The Shed of Doom!😱

I don’t know if it’s because I’m turning into a grumpy old moo, or if it’s a blindy thing, but I’m finding it increasingly difficult to cope with disorganisation and chaos. Surprising really, as anyone who knows me well would never describe me as tidy or well organised. The exact opposite in fact! I am finding it increasingly tedious, not to say stressful, wasting time searching around for things that aren’t where I think they are. For most people, all it takes to find something they are looking for, that they aren’t sure where they left, or that someone has ‘helpfully’ moved, is a quick visual scan. For me it’s the full on fingertip search. I shudder to think how many years of my life have been used up by the simple act of searching around for things that are hidden in plain sight!. This was always a real challenge while keeping horses at livery, or on someone else’s yard. . Over the years I’ve experienced everything from the basic not enough space at the yard, so tack and equipment has to be carried to and fro, through other people “borrowing ‘ stuff, only for it to disappear , never to be seem again, or to mysteriously reappear in it’s rightful place anything up to a year later, filthy and/or broken, to having hens raise their chicks in my bedding! This is why, when I came here, I was really looking forward to having my own, spacious, well organised, tack room. Every thing to hand near the stables, no fetching and carrying, no borrowers, no hens! A place for everything and everything in it’s place.

So far it hasn’t happened like that.

Now that Breeze has joined us, I have had to relinquish the 12 X 12 unit that was always meant to be my tack room once and for all. Florence did live in there last winter, but I really thought I had it back and could get sorted. Suddenly though I’m back to square one!

So, to overcome this problem we bought a shed. A cheap, flimsy, 10 x6 garden shed. It’s all we could afford, and all we have space for. . If ever a building was inherently malevolent, it’s this shed of doom! It was described as quick and easy to erect. The shed has other ideas! 1. The floor is so weak that it bent and wobbled really badly under the feet of our 9 y.o. next door neighbour. There was no way it was going to hold all I need to keep on it., let alone Hal and I, AKA Mr & Mrs Bloater walking around on it. So Hal reinforced it with decking timber.

2. The newly reinforced floor is now too heavy for us to lift! We had to recruit back up to help us get it into position.

3. When we began to put it up, the wind got up to such a strength that no sooner was a wall up, than it was straight back down again! Also, while I was desperately trying not to become the record holder for the longest flight powered only by a panel of Feather Edge, that I realised exactly how low the roof was going to be!

4. So Hal has put a frame around the base to raise the so that, all of 5ft 3, me won’t keep banging my head!

5. So finally the walls are up, and the roof is on. Now for the roofing felt. 2 days, and near hypothermia later, it was finally on. What a p palaver!

6. Of course, because the walls had been raised, the doors have to be extended! Then, in the shed’s final attempt at thwaughting us, the doors were too wide and wouldn’t shut! Cue the planer and sand paper.

The shed arrived on 13th September. Was that an omen? We started trying to build it on 17th. We finally got the doors on yesterday, 3rd October!

I am about to embark on a massive game of, how many things can you fit in a matchbox.
Wish me luck