Unbalanced! Me? #HorseHour #PonyHour #HorseBloggers

I seem to be having a real problem with my balance of late. It’s not a new thing, but in this last few months it really seems to be getting worse, ad I don’t really know why.

Everybody assumes that balance is all inthe ears. Afterall, aren’t we taught as children that the mechanisms behind balance are in the middle and innner ear? However, eyesight and proprioception both have their part to play. This is why people with certain neurological conditions, and those of us living with blindness or visual impairment, have problems with our balance to some degree. Strangely though, I have met a lot of blind people who just plain do not accept this to be a fact. They often just can’t understand wy they get travel sick, or seem to trip over thin air, or blame their Guide Dog for pulling them over, but if you explain to them about their innately rubbish balance, they will argue black is white with you that you are wrong. Not me though, I know my balance is compromised. . What i don’t understand is why it’s as bad as it is at the moment.

OK, so in my case I am specifically talking about my balance in the saddle, but actually, it all amounts to the same thing. Unbalanced on the ground, very unbalanced in the saddle.

For a while now I’ve been having a problemdismounting. At first I thought it was a fitness/flexibility thing; I was just too stiff and fat to lean forward and swing my leg over the horse to get off. However, since the beginning of the year I’ve lost a stone and a half, and, while there’s still a lot of weight to come off and a lot more fitness to gain, I am a lot more fit than I was, but dismounting is still a problem. It is getting better, but I’m also convinced that there’s more to this than just being a bloater. Now, I should point out that. In all the years I have been riding, I have never fallen over the front of a horse while dismounting, but, that’s exactly what my bodymind is telling me is going to happen when I try to lean forward before swinging my leg over. I am totally convinced that I am going to fall forward, over the horses head, It’s not even a conscious thought, I just feel very insecure and unbalanced. I don’t feel dizzy or lightheaded at all, and I haven’t had a cold or ear infection. It’s more a body control/proprioception/confidence issue, but what do I do to overcome it?

I do also have some problems when mounting, but thee are definately physical. I have arthritis in my left hip which was as the result of an injury I recieved whe I was in my 20’s., so I am restricted in the range of movement I have in that hip and putting my whole weight through that hip can sometimes be painful. That’s normal for me though, and tall mounting blocks are the order of the day. That doesn’t explain what has happened to me twice this week though. On Thursday I went to try a horse with a view to purchasing him. He was a lovely horse, but as it happens, not the horse for me. That’s not the point here though. Perhaps it is down to me being fitter and lighter, and so having more power in my left leg, or perhaps it’s because I just couldn’t judge the size of the horse properly, or maybe it’s down to my appaulling balance, and, this horse was a part bred Freisian, so narrower than Florence, Willow, Goldie or Alphie, who are the horses I ride the most; but I very nearly threw myself off the other side of him when I was getting on! I had real problems riding him too. I truly hadn’t realised just how large an action he would have, and when I asked him to go forward to trot, I completely lost my balance, and had to grab everything to stop me having an unscheduled dismount. Embarrassing! Even more embarrassing though was my mount and dismount yesterday, and this not even with a real life horse. The Riding Club once again had a Mechanical Horse Clinic with Emily Lloyd of E Equine and Mechanical Millie. So, once again I nearly threw myself off Millie as I was getting om her, and my dismount was dreadful, not helped by the fact that Millie only has half a neck and no head.

Core stability! I hear you all shout, and, yes, as I freely admit to being overweight and unfit, my core isn’t as strong as I’d like it to be; but compared to some it’s not that bad. I also think there’s more to my problems than just muscle control, and I really do think they are down to not being able to see. In the case of nearly throwing myself over both the real live horse and the mehanical one, I think it’s got a lot to do with not being able to gauge how far I have to move to get my leg over and sit in the saddle. I know all the horses I ride regularly, so I have a muscle memory of how much I need to do to get on them. This is something I can learn with any horse I ride on a regular basis. However, the dismounting problem goes deeper, and I’m really struggling to work out how to over come it.

I’d be interested in any input or suggestions from others please.

Welcome Home – and – Welcome to Your New Home

Today has been the best.

Florence is home!

But before Florence could come home, we had to find her a new companion – so…

Introducing Peregrine

Peregrine is a rather gorgeous 3 year old Welsh type gelding who we have rehomed from the Mare and Foal Sanctuary, a horse rescue, rehabilitation, and rehoming charity, who whilst they act on a national basis, are based here in Devon. Peregrine (I haven’t quite made up my mind whether that’s Perry or Pip in reference to Peregrine Tooke, one of the Hobbits in the Lord of theRings), was taken into the Sanctuary under the Animal Welfare Act, as part of a groups of ponies who were found abandoned on public land in Wales. He was then only 12 weeks old, and was not with his Mother. Honestly sometimes I’m ashamed to be Human. The Sanctuary have obviously done a brilliant job with him though, as he’s a very healthy and extremely confident little chap. He’s grey and white, and looks very Welsh Sec B, although he obviously doesn’t have a pedigree, and nobody really knows his breeding or parentage. He currently stands at approximately 12.3hh, but that’s at the front. He’s considerably bum high , so it’ll be interesting to see where he tops out. Obviously I can’t see him, but I’m told he’s absolutely stunning. He’s not yet backed, but in all honestly, when he’s matured a bit there’s no reason why he shouldn’t be, but he’s only here to be a companion for Florence. That’s all he really has to do, is just be there. However, he’s obviously a very intelligent, and very inquisitive pony, so we might try him with some agility, in an attempt to keep his mind occupied.

He travelled like a dream, a bit cautious loading, but as cool as a cucumber, and perfectly calm on arrival. You could almost hear him say “Travel Smavel – You seen one horsebox, you seen them all” as he walked off the lorry like a true pro. He didn’t even work up a sweat in transit, and it’s ridiculously hot out there. He was a bit reluctant to go into his stable, but it must have seemed like a cavernous black hole after the bright sunlight outside, and not only that, but, even though we’ve cleaned it out, it probably still smells quite strongly of Breeze. However, once he was in, and he had checked every corner out, he soon settled down. Despite the fact that our neighbour’s gardener was out with all his power tools, Peregrine didn’t seem at all bothered, and soon fell asleep, occasionally waking up enough for a bite of hay, lick of his salt lick, or to play with, rather than drink, his water. We hardly knew he was there.

Enter Florence

Florence arrived at about 2 O’clock. Just as when she left, she travelled really well, although she was unsurprisingly very hot on arrival. Poor Flo runs hot at the best of times, so this extreme heat is really uncomfortable for her. She’s been on her best behaviour over at. Melissa’s, and I’m surprised she wanted to come home. She’s been having far to good a time. There’s beensome squealing , all Florence, as she and Peregrine beginto get to know each other. She does make some terrible noises, but so far there’s been no nastiness. Flo doesn’t do nasty, she’s quite a naturally ‘don’t want any trouble, just leave me alone’ kind of horse, but she is extremely touch sensative, and also when she’s in her stable, that’s her space and don’t you dare stick your nose in here thank you very much, but it’s only because she’s scared of being bitten.

Now, normally, when introducing a new horse to a herd, you do t very slowly. You turn the new horse adjacent to the established horses, and when there’s no argy-bargy over the fence, you start slowly putting individual members of the established heard in with the new horse. I would normally do this. This time, I’ve just turned both Peregrine and Florence out together. Florence is of course the established horse here, but I was worried that if I did turn them out seperately, she might just go through the fence because she didn’t like being on her own. So there’s been a bit of marish squealing and bad language from Flo, but nothing nasty. Peregrine has had a good belt round the paddock, tipped the water bucket over, and learned that if you bite the electric fence you will get a shock. He’s also learned that you have to know Florence a hell of a lot better before you attempt to scratch your head on her bum! There’s been no nastiness though, and all seems peace at the moment. Peregrine is calling a bit now, but there’s a pony who has recently been re-homed from the Sanctuary on the other side of the valley, so I expect they are comparing notes.

As I’m typing this I’m sittingin the living room with the French Windows open listening to the peaceful evening sounds. The occasional snort from one of the horses, and an even more occasional call from Peregrine. I haven’t heard Flo squeal for a few hors now. I love beingable to sit and hear the horses.

Got my girl back. Got a new pony to enjoy.

Tonight life is good.

Nationals – A shot in the arm ๐Ÿ˜„

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 year๐Ÿ˜„

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!