The Beast is Back

I’m really losing the will to live. So far , in every aspect, this year has been a total … I actually can’t think of a printable word to describe it. I feel like all I’ve done this year is run round after other people, done the right thing, been sensible, been understanding, put others first,been the bigger person. In return I’ve made to feel like some kind of evil ,selfish bitch. I’ve lost a horse, and I’ve hardly had any time for the others. When I have had time to ride it’s either chucked it down with rain, howled with rain, or snowed!

Florence and Breeze didn’t cope very well with losing Leo. All Friday after she was collected, all day Saturday, and most of Sunday, they just kept calling and calling for her. It was totally heart rending to hear. By mid week they begun to relax again, and yesterday Hal so then eating from the same hey Kyle. Something that has hitherto been unheard-of.

The weather has actually been very nice this week, okay a bit damp, but there has been some warm sunshine, and it’s actually felt like spring be around corner. Perhaps I might be able to start doing things for me, spending some quality time with horses, having some nice hacks out, and maybe start having lessons again? No not a chance! It hasn’t stopped snowing since yesterday lunchtime. It’s a total whiteout out there. It’s back to stumbling around in the W and hauling water to the stables. Frankly I feel like it’s not worth trying to achieve anything.it either goes wrong or gets thrown back I’m your face.as far as I’m concerned this year can just do one.

They Also Break Hearts

As many of you will know, Hal’s horse, Leonie, Leo, has always had problems. Damaged left eye, covered in scars, intermittent ataxia, neurological problems, suspected Wobblers Syndrome. Over the last few months her symptoms have worsened, and she developed a head shaking issue. Her behaviour has become unpredictable, at times challenging sometimes dangerous. Hal has had some frightening near misses while handling her. Our Vets have done a lot of work to try to get to the route of the problem, and see if there is anything that could be done for her. Sadly though

, while Leo seemed to be getting worse, all the tests were inconclusive. After a long and difficult discussion with our Vet we decided that enough was enough. Leo was put to sleep yesterday morning.

This has been so hard. She was only 8, and, as far as we can tell, we were probably the longest home she had ever been in. I also have the sneaky suspicion that her problems were , whether imtemtionally or not, as a result of human action, and The view that a horse is just a thing, not a sentient being with feeling and needs. We will never know the truth, but I don’t think Leo had a good life before she came to us. I hope she felt safe and loved here.

Whatever she was, Leo was no shrinking violet. . She was first at the gate, followed you around, a knocker over of poo ladies wheelbarrows, a grabber of hoses, a biter of bums, and a door banger. There was something about her though that everyone liked.

In Memory

Leonie

15hh Black Irish Cob mare. Passported in Newry, but could have come from anywhere. Exact age unknown, but approximately 8. Taken far far too young.

Very much loved

Next time it thunders, don’t worry, it’s just Leo banging on the gates of heaven because she’s not getting enough attention,

Blind man’s fog

It’s fair to say that it’s been very cold all week. It didn’t actually rain for roughly 10 days which quite honestly feels like a bit of a triumph. We’ve coped with frozen water troughs, and if I’m perfectly honest, rejoiced in the hard frozen ground whichas made such a refreshing change from wading through mud. However things became a bit more tricky when the water started freezing in the buckets in the actual stables. However, we do have a working kettle in the tackroom now, so this wasn’t an unsurmountable problem. That is until Wednesday when disaster struck. The tap on the yard finally froze solid and refused to be revived by boiling water. The tap on the house didn’t want to know either. . So now we’re hauling water from the house to the yard. Hal has been doing the water carrier relay. Back and forth with a wheelbarrow loaded with our enormous water carrier. However, yesterday morning I had to carry the water carrier from the house to the yard, as pushing A wheelbarrow whilst carrying a stick doesn’t really work. I had to make two trips, because I’m not strong enough to carry the water carrier when it is completely full, and on my second trip I really struggled as I had put too much water in and the container was too heavy for me. However I managed it, so my horses did not go thirsty.

All this cold weather has been having quite a serious effect on Hal. Although he has not been formally diagnosed, we believe he has a condition called Raynolds syndrome. This means that, when he gets cold, The blood vessels in his hands contract too much, his hands go pale, and numb, and can be very painful if he touches something. He has really been struggling this week. To try to combat the problem, he has some hand warmer sachets called Little Hotties, which he keeps in his pockets, or can slip inside his gloves if necessary. You just shake them, and they warm up, staying warm for about eight hours. Well they say that necessity is the mother of invention, so when

He was struggling with his hands the other day, Hal had a sudden lightbulb moment. If he placed a little Hottie hand warmer under the water troughs and buckets would it prevent them from freezing? Erm, well yes actually it would! It’s not perfect, but it definitely makes quite a difference.

Yesterday though things got a whole lot more challenging. Storm Emma and the beast from the east had a hot, or should that be cold, date in Devon. The wind blew, and it snowed big-time, and because the Wind blue, The snow drifted. Enter a whole new level of difficulty for yours truly.

It’s not for nothing that some people refer to snow as blind man’s fog. It is the most difficult thing to orientate yourself in if you cannot see. Snow dead and sounv, so you lose all those audible clues, like echoes for example, that you rely on to tell you where you are. Neither can you feel all those tactile clues you get from the ground through your feet. Not just the official tact tiles that you get at road crossings and junctions et cetera, but also those unofficial things tell you where you are, like that even piece of pavement for example. Curbs, sleeping policeman, Grass verges, steps, ramps, and low walls, all things that you might use to tell you where you are, become hidden by deep snow and snow drifts. Using a long cane is extremely difficult, and even Guide Dogs can struggle.

It took us over an hour last night just to give them water. Hal hauling a wheelbarrow through thick drifting snow, and me floundering around trying to find the path I use several times every day. The thought of having to get water to the horses by myself this morning nearly reduced me to tears.

I did it though! I only took a gallon, but added to the remains of their overnight water it kept them going.

Frankly though we are both exhausted. Please let it be Spring soon!

It Talks!

Excuse me if I sound just that bit pleased with myself. It’s just I really think I might be getting somewhere. Not only that, but I had a lovely, and totally unexpected surprise earlier this week.

As regular followers will know, I have, for what feels like a very long time, been trying to find a way of making Dressage markers audible to me. . Now, there are many talented and successful VI and blind riders out there who don’t feel the need for such assistance. They count their horses strides, and know exactly how many strides, in which ever pace, it takes to get from marker to marker. I have no idea how this works withlateral movements, or circles, but regardless of that I take my hat off to them. I’ve tried counting steps when doing long cane and guide dog mobility training. For example, it takes 36 steps to get from the zebra crossing to the door of the shop you want to use. Yeah right! I know it works in theory, but for me personally, I get far too easily distracted by what’s going on around me, somebody only has to say hello to me and I’ve completely lost count. In a dressage or lesson environment The same thing happens, I am so busy concentrating on what I am supposed to be doing, that counting strides is a complete nonstarter. Also, and again I am speaking only for myself here, without something audible to aim for, I have absolutely no idea if I am travelling in a straight line or not. I am in absolute awe of anybody who can count Strines, instinctively know that they are straight, and concentrate on what they are supposed to be doing all at the same time. They are far superior beings to me.

By far the best solution to the problem, and the one that is advocated by the Riding for the Disabled Association, is to have people call the letters. This is a brilliant system as only the letter you are aiming for gets called, making it less noisy and confusing for horse and rider than an automated system where all the markers get called all of the time. There’s just one drawback though, and it’s a biggy, you need eight people if you want to use every marker in a standard twenty by forty school. Not necessarily an insurmountable problem for those who ride or train at large equestrian centres or volunteer rich RDA groups, but completely impractical for privateers like me.many years ago are used to belong to something called the blind riders Group, they held an annual dressage competition during which they used people to call the letters, and in fact this was the method that I preferred to use personally, but they also had some audio devices that they called Talking Letters. These were actually old fashioned tape recorders playing continuous loop recordings of somebody saying the letter over and over again. It’s these Talking Letters that inspired my search for a solution to my problem.

Over the last few years I have experimented withmany potential solutions, but to no avail. At first I thought using something that was PIR and so would only make a noise or speak letter when I was approaching it would be the best solution. That way I wouldn’t be bombarded by continual noise. However, after trying several PIR gadgets, I came to the realisation that it wasn’t as practical a solution as I had originally believed. These things are so sensitive that they go off constantly regardless. It only takes a gust of wind, or a fly, and off it goes. Ironically though, The sensor range on these things is so narrow that they don’t seem to be able to pick up a horse until it is practically on top of the device. Back to the drawing board. . Perhaps some kind of sound beacon that beeps or buzzes! Well, you did used to be able to buy these from the RNIB. Not any more ! Old fashioned tape recorders or dictaphone that used continuous loop cassettes perhaps? It turns out I t’s easier, and cheaper, to buy a pedigree Unicorn! I did think that I had resolve the problem when Hal discovered a digital voice recorder on Amazon, which had the capability of being able to make continuous loop voice recordings. Not only that, but it only cost £11! We ordered one to see how we would get on with it. It’s an amazing device, tiny and with a massive memory. It would be the ideal sort thing for somebody to carry around in their pocket or handbag. However, neither Hal nor I find it particularly easy to use. Back to the old drawing board. Makingvoice recordings on Mobile phones was our next idea. This didn’t work out to be very practical either. With no continuous loop facility it meant having to sit for ages just saying the same thing over and over again in order to get along enough recording. It was difficult to get the sound loud enough. Not only that, but really, Who has eight Mobile phones sitting around anyway?

While all this was going on I was asking around continuously in the blind community see if anybody could come up with a solution. . I was advised to contact a company called Talking Products. This is a company that manufactures and supplies all sorts of interesting items that talk. They are primarily aimed at visual impairment market, but also cater for learning difficulties and dementia. Several of the products looked very promising, but none quite fitted my requirements. The biggest issue being that the majority of them need to meet manually operated and would only speak once before having to be manually operated again. I did however email the company and ask for their advice, unbeknownst to me so did Hal. I personally did not get very helpful reply, but rather than emailing customer services like I did, Hal went straight to the top man. Eventually though, Hal got a reply that was really helpful. The man suggested that maybe Bluetooth speakers might be the solution to our problem. He pointed out that some Bluetooth speakers have The facility to take an external memory card. If we could find a way of recording a sound file onto such an external memory card we might then be able to play it in the Bluetooth speaker.

Bingo!

As it happens, at around this time Hal got an Email alert for an Amazon Lightning Deal on a Zoee Tree S3 Wireless Speaker. It was as cheap as chips, so he ordered one to try.

Result!

This clever little device really seems to be made for the job. It’s small, light and robust, actually being intended for outdoor use. It works as a Vluetooth or wired in speaker, but also takes a micro SD card. It is simple to use with clearly defined buttons, and, although there was no mention of this in any of the blurb, it talks! You get an announcement for power on, power off, or whether you are in Vluetooth or music mode (using the SD card). Perfect! It’s working so well that we’ve just got seven more. It looks like I’ve cracked it.

If that isn’t positive enough news, well I was bowled over by what happened earlier this week. The riding club AGM took place on Monday night, we had intended to go, Life and the weather got in the way so we didn’t. iMessage the Chair to apologise, And was told that the membership secretary would bring my membership form and trophy around later in the wee.

Trophy?!

I’ve only been awarded the annual award for outstanding achievement. Me! Chuffedisn’t the word!

So, I’m feeling totally buoyed up and inspired to push myself that bit harder. Now, if it could just stop snowing…