As long as I can remember I have been 100% horse mad, some might say horse sad. There was never a Eureeka moment when I suddenly looked at a horse and thought’Wow!’, it was just always there, like a seed had been sewn in my soul before I was born. Strange really, because I don’t come from a horsey background at all. I love all other animals as well (although I freely admit to being terrified of geese, and a little bit spooked by the uncannily human hands that monkeys have), but with horses it’s different! I just can’t get enough of them. I don’t actually have to ride very often to be happy, but I do need to be able to touch them, smell them, interact with them. They feed my soul and they ground me. Remove me from horses for more than, say, 3 weeks, and I am a very unhappy, and very unsettled human being.
I was also born with Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP). A genetic condition that makes people slowly go blind.
The problem is, that in many peoples minds, these two things do not go together. You can be horsey, or you can be blind. You cannot, under any circumstances be both.
I beg to differ!
As soon as I could talk, I talked about horses. AS soon as I could walk, I trotted and cantered around on my invisible pony. My bike was a horse. If a toy wasn’t a toy horse I wasn’t really interested (unless it was a dog). The little girl next door was also horse mad which helped.
After much nagging (pardon the pun) I was finally allowed to have riding lessons when I was nine. I didn’t get my first horse until I got my first job at twenty-one though.
I’ve had several different horses over the years. Because of working full time, and needing a little more support with horse care because of my deteriorating eyesight I have always kept them on livery. However, in May this year that changed. My husband and I bought a bungalow with four and a half acres of land on which to keep our horses.
Poo Picking in the Dark is the story of our new adventure. Looking after the horses and the land on our own terms for the first time.
Wish us luck
Hi, and welcome to Poo Picking in the Dark. An everyday story of horse ownership without prejudice. There is also little by way of money, expertise or eyesight! What there is though is love, joy and laughter – oh yes, and plenty of mud😄
It’s incredible to think that tomorrow Peregrine has been with us for a month!
Yes, I know; but it’s true.
It’s also 2 weeks yesterday since mayo joined us..
So that’s roughly only 6 weeks since losing Breeze.
OK, so it’s understandable that Hal and I are a bit wiped out right now, especially if you factor in Nationals and Hannah and Sam’s wedding as well. So you’d think that all this disruption and chaos would be having a really detrimental effect on Florence and her 2 new field mates.
Not a bit of it.
Unless I’m missing something here, as far as the horses are concerned, things couldn’t be going better. Yes, there’s some jostling over who’s in charge; but actually, not as much as you would imagine. They all seem to be very comfortable in each others company, and although there is some bickering, there hasn’t been any really nastiness. In fact, without wishing to anthropomorphise, they all do seem to like each other.
There is one thing that i wasn’t prepared for though
I’m not used to geldings. I have nothing against them, it’s just that, for some reason that I don’t really understand, I seem to be drawn towards mares. Mayo is the 12th horse I’ve owned (13th if you count Bell the Fell, who was never officially mine), but he is only the 5th Gelding. In fact, until Peregrine arrived I’d only ever had 3 boys over the years, and the 1st 2, Jigsaw and Oliver Twist, who were my 1st and 2nd horses respectively, were both only with me. For less than a year. It wasn’t until Magnum entered my life that I really had a proper relationship with a gelding; and, although I’ve had several mares at once, I’ve only ever had 1 gelding at a time.
Geldings play really rough!
Perry and Mayo are like kids. they really enjoy a good bit of rough and tumble. One minute their chasing around, bucking and kicking, the next they’re up on their hind legs sparring, and trying to bite each others faces, the next they’re are mutually grooming, or grazing next to each other. In the meantime, Aunt Flo is keeping a beady eye on them, and stepping in to split them up when she deems things have gone too far.
Apart from Leonie, who, let’s face it, was different, none of my mares have ever played this rough. It’s quite unnerving when you first see it. Poor Ben was quite worried when he saw Mayo and Perry up on their hind legs play fighting the other evening. I’m not sure he belived me when I told him they were just messing around.
Another thing, which I was prepared for, but has quite disturbed Hal and Ben is the way the boys like to relax things from time to time. It really doesn’t bother me, probably mostly because I can’t see it; but poor Ben was, well, quite shocked when he was grooming Perry the other day. I’m not sure he was really prepared for a relaxed gelding displaying his wares to quite that extent. Ben has only handled mares before, as he didn’t start coming here until after Magnum left us. He’s certainly been having an education over this last few weeks bless him.
It’s just occurred to me that it’s a month ago today that I rode at Nationals. Really! Where did that month go then?
Honestly we just haven’t stopped. Once we got home we went straight into the whole rehoming process for Peregrine. The car knows it’s own way to the Mare and Foal Sanctuary now, and naps in that direction every time we pass the junction. We’ve also been down to darkest Cornwall several times to view potential new horses, and get Mayo vetted. Then the weather did the dirty on us, so Mayo’s delivery day had to be brought forward. Not that I’m complaining, any extra time spent getting to know a new horse has got to be time well spent, but it did mean we had to suddenly prepare things, rather than having a few days to play with. Since we’ve only had 2 horses for a while, the third stable has morphed into an unofficial storage shed. Let’s face it, the tractor lived in there last winter!
In between all this, we’ve been up to Shropshire to celebrate our neice Hannah, and her lovely man Sam’s wedding. We’ve had the outside of the house cleaned, and we’ve ordered a Horse Box!
It’s no wonder we’re both so knackered!
Today though I finally feel like things are slowing down and becoming more relaxed.
Florence came home exactly a fortnight after we lost poor Breeze, and Melissa took her over to Kingsland. Peregrine came home on the same day, and Mayo came home on Thursday. It’s early days; but all of them are now turned out in the same paddock, and all really does seem to be going incredibly well. I’ve never had such a smooth, or quick introduction of new horses.They all seem totally relaxed about everything. In fact this is the most chilled I’ve ever seen Florence; she really does seem to be warming to her new found status as the matriarch of the herd, and is being remarkably tolerant of having a small pony almost perminantly welded to her side. She called to the boys the other day when I had her out, and called to them both yesterday when they were being worked in the school and she wasn’t. It really couldn’t be going better really.
So now we can relax again and start having fun. I’ve just booked my first lesson since Nationals and I have a plan to try and get Florence hacking out again, I’ve got lots of plans for Mayo, and Peregrine is beginning agility and beginning to walk out in hand. All three horses are far too fat, so are, along with their equally porky owners, officially on boot camp, well, OK, more like comfy slipper camp really, but we all need to be fitter and slimmer.
So now we’re waiting for some concreting to be done. Yes folks, Digger Man Pat is returning, and for the Horse lorry to be built, then the world is our lobster, as Arthur Daily would say.
From where I’m sitting the future is looking very positive indeed.
As regular followers will know, for a while now I’ve been looking for a new horse. Florence is the absolute centre of my universe, and I trust her completely; but, she isn’t getting any younger, now officially 20, and she’s had a few ongoing health problems this year. In fact, this is partly why losing Breeze was such a shock, as although Breeze was older than Flo, she was generally in much better health.I hope to be able to keep Flo going for a while yet, but she is definitely looking for the quiet life nowadays, whereas, having rediscovered my love of dressage, want to start doing a bit more. Hence the decision to get another horse for me to ride.
Now, although I want to do dressage, I also want to be able to hack out safely, and do some of the things that the riding Club put on. The level of dressage I’m anticipating doing is quite basic, unaffiliated, as well as RDA competitions. I loved my experience of Nationals this year, and I’d really love to get there again, with my own horse. Being blind, I have some very niche requirements in any horse, which can be tricky to find all rolled up in one package. They need to be calm, confident, and forward thinking, but not buzzy, overly spookey, and definately not prone to tanking off. They need to be able to think for themself, but still listen to their rider, and they need to be very very genuine , and quite brave, but not so gung ho that they don’t look after themselves and their rider. They also need to be polite and easy to handle on the ground, but at the same time, they do need to be open to their handler being more, well, up close and personal, and hands on. It also helps it they can cope with being walked into occasionally, and they absolutely must be easy to catch.There’s also that other, undefinable thing, and it’s something you will never know about a horse until you start riding and handling it on a regular basis. It’s difficult to explain, but, some horses seem to understand the blindness thing, and others just don’t. A lot like humans really when you come to think of it.
Now, whilst I love horses, and riding, I have to admit that I find the whole, trying out potential new horses thing really stressful and frightening. I really have to trust, even more so than anyone else, that the seller is being honest with me about this horses personality. If a horse tanks off with me I have no way of telling where I’m going, what’s in front of me, either on the ground or overhanging, or what the grounds like… well you get the picture; and that’s on top of the whole, being in a strange and unfamiliar place that I don’t know my way around, and being watched, and possibly judged, by the horse’s owners. I really do find it all very difficult. For these reasons I am extremely picky about what horses I will even consider going to see. I have a list of absolute deal breakers, words and phraises that, if they appear in an advertisement, mean that horse if automatically rejected. Can be nappy, prefers to hack in company, neds experienced rider/handler, to name just a few. Then, when I contact the seller once I’ve read a likely sounding ad, I explain my situation, and see how they react. I once had a persona tell me that their horse, who they were selling as an ideal novice ride, wouldn’t suit me as she was very big. The mare was advertised as 15hh, and at the time I had Magnum, who was a 16.3hh Irish Draught, so I thought it was a strange reaction; but she obviously didn’t think I was right for the horse, so I didn’t labour the point. Mind you, some people would sell a rabid wolf to a puppy petting zoo, look at the dealer who sold us Leonie to us, so you do need to take things with a pinch of salt, and be open to the possibility that things may not be as rosey as they have been painted. Once I’v got to actually viewing the horse in the flesh I have a few rules. I like to see the horse being tacked up, and ridden before I will consider gettingon board myself. Before I bought Florence, a yard that I had had some dealings with, who knew I was blind, and who knew I was looking for a horse, contacted me to tell me about a young cob they were selling. I’ve never seen a horse run backwards down the yard when somebody was trying to put his bridle on before! Definitely not the horse for me. I know almost instantly my bum hits the saddle if I feel safe on a horse. It’s difficult to explain, but with some horses I get a butterflies in teh stomach, sitting on top of an unexploded bomb, slightly nauseous feeling before i’ve even put my leg on; whereas, with others, like Florence, Sapphire, and Magnum, I just feel at home.
So, last week i went to view a likely sounding little cob. When I spoke to his owner I got the impression that selling this horse was not an easy thing for her, and she was very concerned that he would go to a home where he would be loved as much as they love him. He sounded very genuine, and, whilst not your typical dressage horse, he did sound like he’d be more than capable of doing the kind of dressage that I want to do. He had apparently been bought as a confidence giver for her teenage son, after he had had a bad experience with another horse, and he had done such a good job in this role, that her son now found him a little bit too steady. Well, that sounded ideal to me!So, off we went to darkest Cornwall, to meet a lovely Mother and Son and their gorgeous little cob. He handled beautifully, the lad was more than happy to show hin off to me, this cob definately can, and he’s a good little junper too, and then I got on. At this point I think it is fair to point out that. The horses owners were quite tall,wel in comparison to me a lot of people are quite tall, and as the horse is only 14.3hh, they never use a mounting block, in fact thy don’t have one. This could havr been a massiv problem for me, as, not only am I short, but I have restricted movement and strength in my left hip, so mounting even a very small pony from the ground is just plain not going to happen. I needn’t have worried. this genuine little horse stood like a rock while I scrambled up onto a wooden block thing that they used as a junp, and then scrambled up onto his back from there.Yes, this was one of those feeling at home horses. So a short plod around the school trying not to ride into the jumps, then a short hack out, and i was feeling very safe and secure indeed.
On Friday we had him vetted, and the vet couldn’t find even the smallest thing wrong with him.
Let me introduce you to Mr Mayo (just plain Mayo to his friends).
He’s an 8 y.o., 14.3hh, bay roan, bllagdon, cob gelding.
I’ve been trying not to say too much about him until he got here because I think that selling him has not been an easy decision for his previous owners, and if I’m perfectly honest, I half expected them to change their minds before he got here. However, Hal has been just as excited about his pending arrival as I have, and, even though I asked him not to, he just couldn’t help telling people about Mayo.
Mayo wasn’t supposed to be coming to us until Saturday, but here in the South West we’ve got a severe weather warning for storm force winds (gulp) on Saturday. They’ve even cancelled the Board Masters Surf Festival in Newquay, which is where he came from. So they decided to bring him up early. Suits me!
He seems to be taking everything in his stride so far. Yes, he’s only been here a few hours yet, but compared to others I’ve had over the years, he is remarkably calm about having been left on a strange yard, with strange people, and strange horses. So here’s hoping he’s going to carry on that way.
So now we’re back up to 3 horses. The future is looking very bright indeed.