Massive Achiebement

I think that Hal would be the first to admit that riding does not come naturally to him. He loves the girls, especially Leonie, dearly. However, his anxiety, muscle tightness caused by his medication , and an old back injury, can make riding both mentally and physically extremely difficult, and painful.

Although Hal has had the occasional foray into the saddle over the years, it was always made clear that horses weren’t for him. Although he did really quite successful at the carriage driving lessons we were given as a wedding present, he has historically hadd very little to do with my horses over the years. That is until I brought Magnum home, and got Sapphire back off loan that is. . One day, back when Magnum and Sapphire were living at Jim’s farm, completely out of the blue, Hal announced that he wanted to learn to ride. Result! We had two horses, soon we would be riding out together, and exploring the countryside.

Well, it’s fair to say it hasn’t been an easy journey. However, in North Devon rather than the Western edge of Dartmoor, and on Florence and Breeze, , not Magmum and Sapphire, and with a little support on the ground , yesterday, for the first time ever, Hal and I hacked out together on our own horses.

I can’t tell you how proud I am of both Hal and Breeze.

Bursting with happiness.

Back on Board

It’s been a good week. The weather has been kind, and a lot has been achieved. It started on Saturday, when, with help from our lovely friend and neighbour Loraind, Hal got back on Breeze for the 1st time since the beginning of December. Back then, a combination of of Breeze being spooky, and having a full on shake, resulted in Hal putting his back out. Breeze is much calmer now, and Hal rode all the way round the block! Result!

Then, on Monday, Amy came over. While Amy rode Florence while I rode Breeze. Both mares behaved impeccably, and, once I’d got used to how’s all Breeze is compared to Florence, I really enjoyed riding her. .

On Thursday we went over to Melisssa and each had a lesson for the first time this year. Hal of course is beating up on himself for not having done very well. I don’t know why. Frankly I’m amazed he did so well. He hasn’t sat on a horse for about 4 months, and , other than the mucking out, has done very little exercise. Yet, he appears to have picked up exactly where he left off! Remarkable!

Here’s to a long, happy, horsy summer ahead.

No Novices, No Time Wasters…. No Blind People?

To be honest with you, I’m feeling a bit down, and very frustrated at the moment. Which, considering all the amazing things that are happening in my life at the moment, probably makes me sound like an ungrateful cow. It’s just that we seem to have hit an enormous road block in our aim of riding together. Finding me a horse coupled with improving Hal’s fitness, flexibility and confidence.

When I was younger, you used to buy the local paper on a certain day of the week and there would be pages of small ads for horses for sale. When you’d selected some likely sounding candidates, you were then able to phone the sellers, because they sensibly provided a phone number, and discuss the horse’s suitability with them. Then you could arrange to go and see the beast.v Now, everything is done through the Internet and social media, andit seems impossible to to actually talk to anybody in person. Another thing that has changed is that, in the past, if you placed an ad saying you were looking for a horse, you would be inundated with calls , usually about totally unsuitable horses, but not always. I got Sapphire that way. So far this year I’ve put 3 ads on various sites and had exactly 0 replies! Strange, as, if you believe what you read in the equine press, people can’t afford to can’t afford them, and are dumping them because they can’t give them away.

What hasn’t changed is some of the pointless wording used in horse ads. The 3 that annoy me most are
No novices
No hoof kickers
No time wasters

No Novices –
Fair enough, obviously not every horse is honest, safe and vice free,, an some horses are more high powered than others. Shouldn’t this be made clear in the ad though? Why then do I keep seeing horses being described as paragons of virtue with the words No Novices written at the end of the ad? We all began somewhere, and none of us really start learning until we get our first horse. Using myself as an example, I started riding when i was 9, but didn’t get my 1st horse til I was 21. As far as riding went I was pretty proficient , but I didn’t start learning anything about horses until I led my own horse off the lorry ! So if no horse is suitable for a novice, how can anyone progress? In fact, when I see these words at the of an ad for an otherwise lovely sounding horse, it makes suspicious about the honesty of the seller.

No Hoof Kickers –
I actually don’t know what this really means, but I think it probably says more about the seller than any potential buyer.it’s a very derogatory turn of phrase, which screams of narrow minded arrogant , anyone who treats their horse like a friend not like a tool is an idiot, old fashioned prejudice.i imagined the people who use this express as being the kind of people who believe the best way to solve a problem with a horse is to beat them through it, or use harsher and harsher bits and gadgets. These people often use the expression that anyone else who does things differently from them has all the gear but no idea.

No Time Wasters –
In itself this expression is in fact a waste of time. As a seller surely you want your horse to go to the best possible home. So why wouldn’t you want people to take the time to make sure that your horse suits their needs? Or, are you actually more interested in getting shot of your horse as quickly as possible, to the first mug who walks through your gate? If you haven’t been entirely honest in your ad, then whose time is being wasted exactly? OK, I have sold horses from time to time, and I know that it is difficult especially when they are less than perfect. I also know that there are a certain kind of person who enjoy viewing horses, or for that matter, houses or cars, who have no intention of buying. They just enjoy it! Yes it’s annoying, but putting No Time Wasters at the end of an ad won’t keep them away.

The biggest problem i am having at the moment is the lack of suitable sounding horses in my area. You read about a lovely sounding cob on a local platform, and it turns out that it’s at the other end of of the country! I I look at a Devon & Cornwall for am and find the perfect horse – in Yorkshire! So who’s time is being wasted here? Then, when when I do find something close enough and and send the seller a message or email, because there’s no phone number, I either don’t get a reply, or , suddenly the horse isn’t quite as originally described. Examples of this include a 14.2hh cob mare, described as a wait carrier and anybody’s ride, Who was suddenly not big enough for me, and a15hh Belgian Draught, that was described as a safe confidence giving happy hacker, Who suddenly became fizzy, difficult to handle on the ground when in season, and strangest of all for a horse who stood at only 15hh, very big!

The trouble is that I find it difficult to tell whether The original advertisements for these horses were dishonest, or, if I am being the victim of good old fashioned disable list prejudice when I explain to potential sellers what my situation is. All I know is that the chance to even try a horse, even if it does turn out to be unsuitable, would be a step in the right direction

On the subject of no novices, Hal had a strange experience the other day, which I think has knocked his all over self-confidence quite considerably. We have been trying to find a sand school or similar in our area that we could hack two and have lessons. A near neighbour, Who does not normally allow people to use hers, very kindly offered to let Hal use hers a couple of times, as long as he was under the supervision of a fully qualified and insured instructor. Result! We were in the process of arranging for his usual instructor, Melissa, to come over, when the yards owner said that she had her instructor coming one day, and Would Hal like to have a session with her? Well he jumped at the chance, Who wouldn’t? However, when we got there the instructor refused to teachHal, saying he was too unfit and inflexible to ride. She also said thatLeonie was totally unsuitable for him. How she knew this by watching Leonie stand like an angel whilst tied up next to a strange horse on the strange yard, I honestly can’t tell you. What I can tell you though is that I have One very upset husband whose confidence is at rock bottom.

Here Comes Summer😎

Yes! We’ve done it! Hal and i have got through our first winter of looking after the horses all by ourselves, and more importantly so have Magnum and Sapphire.☺️
Last night they stayed out over I for the first time this year.

I have a huge sens of achievement right now. Both horses are happy and , on the whole, healthy. With the one exception of Hal’s damaged thumb, obody has been hurt or Ill and there haven’t been any disasters. Both Hal and I have learned things, and we have both grown in confidence. Also, our relationship with Magnum and Sapphire has never been so good.

It must be the same for most people who live with any form of disability, but I tend to find they people don’t really believe that I am capable of doing the basic things in life. So looking after horses… Worse than this, people always seem to take great pains to explain exact why I might not be able to do something , and what the consequences of me trying might be. The trouble is that someone is constantly told that they are incapable , even when they are as self-willed and bloody minded as me, they will begin to believe it. Therefore self-confidence is a huge problem for me. So I came into the winter believing that I wouldn’t really be able to cope. I’ve come out of it with two happy healthy horses knowing that I can.😄

Hal has also grown in confidence, and his ability and willingness to be hands on with the horses has grown beyond recognition . For example he used to be reluctant to pick up the horses feet, now he does it as a matter of course.

Yes it’s been hard work, and yes I’m still fa too slow at mucking out, but we didd it. I couldn’t be prouder!😎

A Stable Environment

We don’t actually have any stables at Albert’s Bungalow ,or at least we didn’t . So one of the first things we did was apply for planning permission. What a complicated, long winded, stressful and frustrating process! However, after many objections from the neighbours, even more fruitless conversations with the planning department of Torridge District Council and our planning con-sultan; together with much support from other neighbours, and many fruitful conversations with the Parish Council, and our local District Councillor, we finally got planning permission in October .
Unfortunately by the time permission was granted it was too late to get the stables built before winter. Enter plan B. We Willl put a temporary mobile stable unit to tide us over for the winter.

We paid John Griffiths of Okehampton £2000 as deposit on a £4000 24ft x 12ft mobile block. He took our money, but we never got our stables. We have subsequently found out that we are not the only people he has done this to. Don’t worry, we have reported him to the relevant authorities. Be careful, and avoid this man like the plague. His website is
http://www.southernáshelters.co.uk
He also uses EBay to advertise his website. His username is Battfinc.
All this caused us more than a few problems, not the least of which is where to stable the horses over winter. Enter plan C.
Hal has converted our garage into stables! Thankfully Hal knows his way round a piece of wood and is handy with a saw. Also thankfully we have a generously proportioned double garage. Magnum and Sapphire have taken to it like it’s the most natural thing in the world, despite having to go in and through a really narrow door. They also seem to be OK sharing the space with their hay and bedding. The neighbours seem to be OK with it too thank all the gods!

Never Say Never!

This all began with a a horse. Magnum to be precise. Long story short, sapphire was out on what I thought was perminant loan, I had left work and gone back to college, and Hal really wasn’t very welll at all. Reluctantly I came round to the fact that my horse owning days were probably over. I was miserable. I started to have a weekly ride at a local riding school, and the horse they put me on was Magnum. So there I was, 5ft 3in of frustrated ex-equestrian , unfit, very overweight, virtually totally blind, and so stiff with arthritis that getting on the mounting block was a challenge, never mind getting on the horse! The lady who ran the riding school introduced herself and then said “Sorry, but I’m going to have to put you on Magnum. My other horse is Ill”. Odd really as they had about 20 horses. So you can imagine how uncertain I felt when they led out an enormous, skinny and scruffy battle charger and invited me to climb aboard.

Then I landed in the saddle and fell hopelessly and irretrievably in love.

To cut a long story short,and it is a long and complicated story, just over a year later Magnum became mine. Later that year Sapphire suddenly and unexpectedly came back from her loan home. After buying Magnum I’d kept him on land rented by the family who had Sapphire. However there were no stables there., so I wanted to move him to a yard where he could come in overnight during winter. This was wen I discovered that , since putting Sapphire out on loan, all the decent, affordable livery yards in our area had closed! Those that there were, were either hideously expensive, or the kind of place you wouldn’t keep a clothes horse. Luckily, we found Magmum a billet on a local farm. Then the woman who had Sapphire suddenly announced that if we were taking Magnum we better take Sapphire too! This caused a few problems as Farmer Jim had only allowed for one horse, but he kindly agreed for us to keep Sapphire with Magnum so long as we only needed one stable.

So there we were, with 2 horses that we couldn’t really afford. Keeping them on rented land on a Dartmoor hill farm, and with the dream of owning our own land just setting seed in our minds.

Meet the Family

So before we really get started it might be helpful if I introduce the stars of the show
People wise there’s me, who you already vaguely know, and there’s Hal.
Hal is my long suffering husband. Although I have owned horses for much longer than I’ve owned him, it’s really only in the last 3 years or so that he’s taken to horses himself .. This might be because of his Asperger Symdrome, general anxiety disorder , obsessive personality disorder , and bouts of depression ; but it could also be down to not being able to beat me, so joining me instead. Anyway, whatever the reason, Hal has become very hands on, helpful, and is even learning to ride.
There are several cats. These include our own two naughty torties, Stella (fat cat) and Tabbitha (Li’l Tyke), and Toggle, the black and white cat who used to live in our house and thinks she still owns it.
Dogs are also important. Ripley is my retired guide dog, and Quincey, AKA Q, is my working guide dog. However, Zak and Poppy, the dogs who live on either side of us, are keen to voice their opinions too!
The real stars of the show are the horses though. Magnum is a 16.3hh grey gelding. He is reputed to be Irish Draught cross, but crossed with what nobody knows – it ain’t no Thoroughbred though! His age is an equally closely guarded secret. His passport gives his date of birth as 1st January 1995, the smart money says he’s older! Scheduled ancient monument or not, he’s the kindest horse in the world. I’ve owned him for approaching 4 years now and he is, quite simply , the centre of my universe! Magnum’s best friend and almost constant companion is Sapphire. Sapphire is a very pretty dark bay, 14hh, 14 year old Welsh Section D mare. I’ve owned Sapphire since she was 5, although she has been out on loan in the past. She used to do well in the show ring when she was younger, and even qualified for Royal Cornwall Show. Sadly though those days are over . Sapphire has Maast Cell Cytoma, a condition more normally seen in dogs, not horses. As a result she has several large lumps, the position of some prevent her wearing a saddle. She’s a quirky little lady who holds strong opinions, and with whom life is never dull, but like Magnum, she doesn’t have a nasty bone in her body.
So there we all are. I hope you enjoy hearing about our adventures 😎