Taking Stock.

It’s incredible to think that last week marked the 4th Anniversary of Magnum and Sapphire joining us here. What an adventure the last 4 years have been! I still have to pinch myself from time to time to make sure this is really happening. OK, it hasn’t all been plain sailing, sadly Magnum, Sapphire and Leonie have all taken their final journey, now it’s Florence and Breeze who greet me in the mornings, but, whisper it quietly, I’ve never been so happy..

Flo and Breeze seem very settled and content, and, again whisper it quietly, are glowing with health.. We must be doing something right.

Hal and I have started to have lessons at home. Having our own school is a blessing. However, do to Breezes propensity for laying down on the job, we are both riding poor, long suffering, Florence. . We’ve had two lessons so far. It was supposed to be more, but a stupid tandem accident, and the uncharacteristically hot weather (this is Devon in July, it’s supposed to be raining, not wall-to-wall sunshine and 28°), have been cramping our style for the last couple weeks. However, Hal is already trotted Florence, whilst I am working towards doing my first online dressage competition.

Despite her evident lack of desire to do any work, Breeze is proving to be a total sweetheart. She is lovely to handle on the ground, and has the kind of personality which makes it very difficult to get cross with when she is messing around. She’s a gentle soul and very easy to love.

Since Leo left us, quite a few people seem to have an opinion as to whether or not we are going to get another horse, or even whether we should. Some people asked the question. Other people tell us what we should or shouldn’t do. . Although I have to admit that it annoys me when, without being asked, people presume to tell me what I should or shouldn’t do, I am touched that so many people care. Yes, there will be another horse. As long as I am able to look after them properly, there will always be another horse. Mot yet though. Mostly because we can’t afford it right now, but also because, despite what Breeze might say, both our girls are rideable, so we don’t need another riding horse. Sadly, Hal’s back problem prevents him riding as much as we anticipated he would, and if truth be told, the whole Leonie situation has seriously damaged his already fragile confidence.

Florence and Breeze are an easy going pair, and for now Hal and I are just enjoying having these two lovely mares in our lives. Who knows what the future holds? For now I’m quite content with what the present has to offer.

It’s Show Time!

We have had an adventure this weekend!

Hal and I have been members of our local riding club since we moved here. . The club, and it’s various members have been a tireless source of advice and information over the last 3 years. . So this year we decided it was time to take our chance at their annual show.
It’s been a long time since I dipped my toe in the sometimes murky waters of the show ring. In her youth, Sapphire used to have a very successful in-hand career, even qualifying for Royal Cornwall Show. It wasn’t me who produced and showed her though, it was our yard manager at the time, Pauline. Sadly Sapphire’s Maast Cell Tumour problem arose just a few weeks before her county level debut, and killed her showing career dead. . A little while before Sapphire Dad and I had a big Palamino Cob mare called Bella on loan. We had her for 10 years, and in fact saw her on ear final journey. Over the years we did all sorts with Bella, and I used to show her at a local level reasonably regularly . This was between 15 and 25 years ago though. All the classes I did back then were under saddle. Things like Tack & Turnout, Best Combination, Best Cob etc. I did have some useful vision back then, but it’s safe to say that I did have some, erm, blind moments occasionally. I couldn’t see the rope that delineated the ring for a start. This didn’t pose a problem when the whole class were parading. It was a bit more of a challenge when it came to doing my individual show, especially in proper cob classes, where you are expected to do a short gallop! Nobody wants to be the one who runs through the rope! 😱 Another potential problem I had was the possibility that I might ride into a steward, or worse, the judge!😰 Thankfully it never happened. I also didn’t always those subtle signals that I was being called in, or being asked to leave the ring. Bella bless her was an old pro though, so we usually came home with a few ribbons☺️

The other thing that was different back then was that the majority of the shows I attended were within hacking distance of the yard where we kept Bella, so there was no need to even think about transport.

So wind forward somewhere between 15 and 25 years. 50%’ of me really wants to go to the Riding Club show, but the other 50% can list a whole range of reasons why it’s a really stupid idea. . How are we going to get there? I’ve got nothing to wear. I can’t go in the ring by myself, I need a guide. Other than Sapphire I don’t think any of the horses have ever been on the Showground before, so they might go daft. All my girls are natural and I don’t want to clip them or pull their manes. The show is on a day with a’y’ in it. I’m sure you get the picture. It turns out that none of these problems are unsumountable.

For my birthday, one of my oldest and dearest friends, Sarah, gave me a Robinsons Equestrian voucher. Enter a smart new pair of beige jodhpurs.with my boots and chaps, my old black velvet riding hat, one of Hal’s shirts, my old black tie from Bella’s day, a pair of black gloves, and a jacket borrowed from Amy, what to wear was no longer a problem. The Riding Club are extremely accommodating, and had no problem with Hal coming into the ring to guide me. Ideal👫 So only 2 real reasons not to do it left. Who to take? It had to be either Florence or Breeze. Florence is beautiful (I might be biased there), but if I’m totally honest, while I trust her totally when I’m on her back, I do sometimes find her a bit strong and bolshy when I’m on the ground. Breeze then? Well, I’m not sure. Actually, my mind was made up when we bathed them the other week (see my previous post “Unwelcome Guests”). Breeze actively enjoys being bathed, whereas Flo really doesn’t. . So it was going to be much easier to get Breeze show ready. We also know that Florence doesn’t travel very well, which leads me onto the biggest problem. How are we going to get there?

Hal and I have been fantasising about having some kind of transport of our own. It’s all a pipe dream. We can’t afford it. Hal has never towed before, neither has he ever driven anything bigger than a Shogun. Until Friday that is. He hired a self drive 3.5 tonne horse box! He picked it up on Friday morning so he could practice bribing it before putting Breeze on board. . Pretty bloody amazing for a man who suffers from severe anxiety. He also arranged for Amy to help us on the day, as neither of us has ever travelled a horse ourself before. When we’ve had to travel a horse we’ve always used a transport company.

Pony all washed and clean
Outfit all prepared
Horsebox on driveway

Looks like we’re off to the show!

Saturday was a beautiful day. The animals were shocked to say the least when I emerged at 5a.m.another groom for an already gleaming Breeze. Check and double check we’ve got everything we need on the lorry. Wash, cress, several nerbous wees . It’s time to load Breeze. Bless her, she walked up the ramp like it was an everyday occurance , and hardly moved for the entire journey.. Mind you, Hal gave her a very smooth drive. Breezd stood on the lorry calmly while we went to get our number, and basically behaved like a lady all day😊

We did 2 in-hand classes, Best Cob,Hunter, Riding Horse, and Best Veteram. True to their word there was no problem with Hal coming into the ring with me. It wasn’t even remarked on so far as I heard.

Bless her, she came fifth in both our classes! What a star😍

I suspect that somewhere in the dim and distant past Vreeze has done stuff like this before. She just took everything in her stride. This is a lovely friendly relaxed show, I didn’t hear a single bitchy comment the whole time we were on the Showground. Also the judge was lovely, full of praise and advice, and mindful that it was a very hot day. Amy, as ever, was a superstar. She really does go above and beyond. We also had support from Ben and his Mum Helen.😊

Thankyou Ruby Moor Riding Club for organising such a friendly, welcoming and inclusive show.

I can only take positives from the whole brilliant experience. It has reawakened my showing demon though😈😉

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!