Making Changes

The more observant among you might have noticed that Poo Picking in the Dark has changed. We used to be a WordPress hosted blog. Now we are a Website. We are still hosted by WordPress, who I find extremely easy to use and very accessible, but we are our own little entity. This will hopefully make us more visible, and help spread the message that vlindness and equestrianism are not mutually exclusive. .

Since Starting Poo Picking I have always automatically shared my blog posts to my personal Twitter and Face Book Accounts . However, at the beginning of August Face Book no longer allow third party content to be shared directly to personal Newsfeeds. So now Poo Picking in the Dark has it’s own Fave Book page. This means that I can still automatically share blog posts with Face Book. It also means I can share other snippets of relevant, interesting or amusing horsey/blindy news.

Now we are a Website we can have other content as well as blog posts. So I can add pages on different topics. The first of these is the Poo Picking Recommends page, #PooPickingRecommends, where I give the details of services and goods and organisations that I really rate.

Another change is that I have added Hal as an admin for the website and the Facebook page. This means that not only can he correct my typing and spelling errors, but he can also add more visual content, such as photographs and videos, which are inaccessible to myself. Hopefully this will make the blog and website more interesting for other people..

So watch this space, feel free to spread the word, comment and interact with any posts

, and share away.

The Invisible Equestrian, part 2 –

Yesterday I started to write a post about Florence and my niece Hannah, but then I received a phone call that made me so angry that I’ll burst if I don’t get this off my chest!

I have been a member of the British Horse Society for a very long time, since i was 18 in fact. . I am, or at least I was, proud to be a BHS member. I honour their welfare work, am grateful for their campaigning, especially around access and rights of way and road safety, I am reassured by the insurance that my horses and I gain from my membership, have sought their advice on more than one occasion… you get the picture. On the whole if you are at all horsey, then the BHS is the organisation for you. They do appear to have one massive problem though. . They have an appalling attitude toward the disabled, and in particular blind and visually impaired people.

“Hang on, that’s not fair! What about the Accessibility Mark? ” I hear you all shout. Well, yes, anything that empowers disabled people to ride get’s my vote. Here’s the thing though, and it’s a biggy. They should be doing it anyway, it’s been the law since 1995, when the disability Discrimination Act hit the Statute Book. That’s right! Under the terms of the 1995 Disability Discrimination Act, and subsequently the Equalities Act 2010, those providing goods and services required to make reasonable adjustment to cater for the needs of people living with disabilities. Therefore the accessibility mark is an accreditation that shows riding schools are finally doing the things that they should have been doing by law for the last 28 years. It’s a bit like giving a restaurant an extra Michelin star because the kitchens meet the minimum health and hygiene standards required buy law.

Regardless of what you actually think about the accessibility mark though, it would be expected that the organisation to whom this award was accredited, would insure that they themselves met their legal obligations when it comes to disability access and reasonable adjustment. Frustratingly, when it comes to the BHS, this is not the case.

It has been a very long time since I have had enough useful vision to be able to read print. In very many cases this problem is overcome by the reasonable adjustments that variety of organisations put in place. I am fortunate enough to be able to read Braille, albeit extremely slowly, I am reasonably computer literate and use a variety of screen reader programs, One of which I am currently using to enable me to write this blog, I am of course also able to listen to audio tapes and CDs. Therefore I am reasonably open-minded as to ways in which organisations communicate with me or send me literature. Print however is an absolute no-no. You might as well not bother.

As a member of the BHS, I am in receipt of the quarterly members journal ‘British Horse’. However, whilst when I was younger, and able to read the printed word, it was eagerly anticipated, it has been a very long time since I have been able to read it. Over the years I have regularly asked BHS if they could provide me with a version in an alternative format. Sadly though my requests always seem to be ignored, overlooked, passed on. Somebody would look into it for me, somebody would get back to me. Nobody ever did. Until last year that is, when I really thought I struck gold. A lovely man called Dave prints, Who at the time was the incumbent editor of British horse, started to send me copies of the magazine by email as Word documents. Result!

This happy and proud member of the British for society has enjoyed a whole year of the British horse journal. Sadly Mr Prince retired earlier this year. I wish you a long and happy retirement, and I’m truly grateful for your help with getting an accessible format of the journal to me. However, it would appear that since Mr Prince retired, my accessible British Horse is mo more.

Yesterday I received a phone call which told me that I would no longer be receiving my accessibleversion of British horse. Not only that, but I was told that Mr prints should not have been sending me the magazine in Word document format because, and I quote, “It breaks security protocols”. Security! Really! How?

Now here’s the thing. The professional organisation to which I belong, Federation Of Holistic Therapists, also have a members quarterly journal, which, at their own instigation, they send to me as Word documents attached to an email. They’ve never mentioned security protocols, they just do it. My bank sends me my bank statements in braille, my credit card company sent me my statements as an audio disk, my pension company sends me an email with a link to an accessible website. My mobile phone company email me my monthly bill., The hospital emailed me about appointments, my vet both emails and texts me about appointments and emails me my bill, The wildlife trust to which I am a member Sensley the journal recorded on CD, even the Inland Revenue write to me in braille, but the British horse society cannot send me their journal in an accessible format because it breaches security protocols. What utter rubbish!

The truth is that the British horse society have an arrogant patronising attitude towards disability. They view those of us living with disability A’s ‘Less than’. . We are to be indulged and pitied. We are not to be treated as equals. Why would somebody who is disabled, especially somebody who is blind, be genuinely interested in, or have any knowledge of, horses for equestrianism? We are expected to shut up, put up, and be grateful for any crumbs that are thrown our wayi. t’s not good enough!

It’s time British Horse Society clambered down from it’s ivory tower, dragged itself into the 21st century, and met it’s legal obligations.

Freak Show

It’s been one of those weeks. It’s been frenetically busy, and I have come out of it feeling completely wiped out. . Don’t get me wrong, it hasn’t all been doom and gloom, but there have been some challenges that I would rather have not had to face. There has been an unacceptable amount of focus, negativity, an, for want of a better word, prejudice, aimed at me , as blind , for my personal comfort, and not enough recognition of the whole person. I haven’t had much opportunity to shake It off by playing ponies.

An example of this happened on Thursday, when Hal and I spent a, mostly, enjoyable time at the Royal Cornwall Show. It isn’t the worst thing that happened this week, but it’s a prime example of the sort of thing that I, and countless other blind and visually impaired people, especially Guide Dog owners, and, I imagine, wheelchair users, have to deal with on a daily basis. . It’s also the most horsey related example of the week. . We

Are thinking about buying a trailer. So we thought Royal Cornwall Show would be a good place to d

Some research. Enter the idiot from Newgent Horse Boxes.

The conversation went like this.

Hal. Aha, horse boxes!

Me. Ooh, what make?

Hal. Newgent? Ring any bells?

Mee, squeezing between two closely parked trailers. No. Oh the ramp isn’t down. There’s no room back here.

Man, strolling over. Hello, can I …

ooh what a lovely dog!

Me. Shame the ramp isn’t down I’d have liked to gone inside

Man. Is it OK to say hello

Be, removing Quincey’s harness. What size horses will this take?

Man. Are you interested in horse boxes then?

Hal. Yes, we haven’t had one before so we’re just doing some homework

Man. Is he a collie? That’s unusual.

Me. He’s half collie half Golden Retrieber. So I’d be able to put 2 16.2’s in here?

Man. Hmm I think so. Yes, I think you can carry some quite large horses in here. You have horses then?

Hal. Yes, my wife is horse and. Is the floor aluminium?

Man. So do you ride then?

Me. Yes. What did you say oh say the floor was made of?

Man. Aluminium. So are you partially sighted or blind then?

Me. Totally blind… and what about the ramp, actually, is there a front ramp? Are they wood or ally?

Man. You must have excellent hearing

Me. Not really. What did you say the ramp was made of?

Man. Oh, aluminium. There’s no wood anywhere in the construction. The sides are some kind of composit

Me, tapping side of trailer. Oh I see

Man. You can really tell by doing that! You really do have heightened senses don’t you

Hal. So how much is one of these?

Man. Hmm, I think it’s about £6000.

Me, losing the will to live. Do you have a brochure?

If ever a man came across as not knowing anything about, or not having any interest in, his product, it was this chap. Frustratingly, this act of hyjacking of a situation by asking irrelevant , and sometimes extremely personal, questions about my Guide Dog, or my eyesight, happens on a daily basis. If I sat next to you on a bus or train, and, on noticing your wedding ring, exclaimed at the top of my voice in tones of total amazement, “your Married!?”, you would, rightly, be very offended. If I then went on to ask you if your spouse was ginger/blue-eyed/black/fat… too you would think I was both rude and weird. So why do you think it’s OK to do this to me? Likewise, if a salesperson kept asking you questions about your gender/sexuality/religion/cultural background/ethnicity.. you wouldn’t be very impressed. However, I’m routinely expected to grin and bare the inevitable barrage of sometimes intimate questions about my blindness, and am accused of having an attitude problem if I complain. This is something that impacts on every aspect of my life, but, oddly, actually tends to be less prevalent in the horse world.

Later on we came across a company who had Ifor Williams horseboxes. What a contrast! The man here knew his product inside out, and really wanted to sell it too us. Nothing was too much trouble, and, best of all, it was the trailer, not me or Quincey, that was the star of the show.e

Feeling Guilty

It’s not very often that I have to put my hands up, and confess that my blindness, together with my stupidity, is the direct cause of a problem for my horses. Yesterday though, well, let’s just say the buck stops squarely with me, and I’ve never felt so guilty. Anyone know the best way to apologise to a horse?

Since Leo left us, Florence and Breeze have been rubbing along quite nicely, and a general atmosphere of peace and tranquility has prevailed. Breeze is quite a dominant little soul, whereas Florence likes the quiet life, and rarely, if ever, rocks the boat. I get the impression that Breeze May have had to compete for resources In the past. She’s a real sweetie to handle, but, oh my word, can she be aggressive toward other horses, especially when there’s. Food involved! She has mellowed since she’s been with us, but nevertheless… She doesn’t actually chase other horses off their feed, but she has a large personal zone around her, and if another horse steps into it while she’s eating, well let’s just say, she’s got a powerful kick!

Ideally you wouldn’t feed your horses whilst they’re all in the field together, but this Is the real world

, and needs must. Usually with Florence And Breeze it’s not that much of a problem. Hal and I, and even Ben for that matter, are mindful of Breezes need for space, and together with the fact that we need to make sure that Florence, and nobody else, gets Florence is medication, they get fed comfortably far apart, and are closely supervised

Last night I got it very wrong, and poor Florence ended up bearing the brunt. For some reason I missed judged where both horses were in relation to each other. Thinking that Breeze was further to her left than she actually was, rather than dropping Florence his food on the far side of the water trough as usual, I dropped it a few feet inside the gate. Disaster! Breeze was actually only just on the other side of the gate. Poor Florence had only just dropped her head and started eating, when, with no obvious warning, Breeze let fly, and gave her both barrels squarely and firmly on the backside. It sounded like a gun going off! Remarkably, after I had repositioned Florence’s feed back to its usual place below the water trough, both horses carried on eating like nothing had happened. Thankfully Florence does not seem to have any nasty after affects, although I’m sure she must have one hell of a bruise. I was so horrified, and felt so guilty that my stupidity and carelessness caused this to happen, that it was all I could do not to burst into tears. I won’t make that mistake again.

Something New Every Day

A wise man, or indeed it could have been a wise woman, once said that you never stop learning where horses are concerned. How right they were.

Two weeks ago I finally started having lessons again. At the moment I’m going over to Melissa’s and having lessons on dear old Goldie. , but I intend to start having lessons on Florence soon, she just needs to be a bit fitter. . She’s not the only one!

One of the great things about Melissa is her open mindedness. I’m not sure if she’s ever net anyone who is blind before me, let alone give them riding lessons, but that hasn’t stopped her pushing me. She’s even had me jumping!

This week we introduced my Riding School mount, a rather gorgeous 16hh Palomino mare called Goldie, to my Talking Letters. Bless her, she didn’t turn a hair. It must be very confusing for a horse, suddenly being inside a ring of visembodied human voices, all shouting letters at the top of their voice. Frankly it amazed that any horse will put up with it. While Breeze won’t even enter the school with them running quietly, it seems that Florence, and mow Goldie, are prepared to give it a go. This means that I cam concentrate on what me and my mount are actually doing, rather than worry about where we ‘re going quite so much.

I’ve had another new horsey experience this week too, but this time with Florence. Bizarrely, despite having had Flo for 2 1/2 years now, and even though this area could rightly be described as horse infested, I have never yet another horse while out riding Flo. Until Saturday that is. . So, when, on Saturday, Hal told me that we were about to pass to who were approaching us, I had no idea Florence was going to react. So I sat up, gathered up my Reims, put my leg on, and said “Good girl, walk on!”. I needn’t have worried. Bless her, she just carried on as if they weren’t there. Now even dear old Magnum would have let me down in the circumstances. He would always walk past the other horses, then when my guard was down, throw in a U-turn, and start walking behind them.

. It didn’t how prepared I was, or how hard I tried to ride him forward, when 16.3hh of ex riding school, Irish Draught, decides it’s time to joithe back of the ride, there’s nothing 5ft 3 of overweight, under fit blimd can do about it. You can take the horse out of the Riding school, but you can’t take the Riding school out of the horse. It could be a bit embarrassing really.

We met them again later. This time in a much narrower lane. Once again Florence was the epitome of politeness. She’s such a lovely horse..,n

Crisis! What Crisis?

Oh dear, this year is really testing us. . It’s already May, and, while I had so many plans, all I seem to have done so far this year is lurch from crisis to crisis. . To be honest, Florence and Breeze are the least of our problems, but I’d really like to be doing a lot more with them. . The weather has, of course, been, and continues to be, a major problem, but that’s the same for everyone.. .. I did manage to get them turned out overnight. A couple of weeks ago we had a brief spell of unseasonably warm sunny weather, and they were increasingly reluctant to come in in the evenings. . So, even though we had hardly any grass, on Friday 13th April they stayed out. So now it’s gone cold, wet, and windy again.

Sadly, last week, we lost Hal’ sDad. It wasn’t really a huge shock. He was 92 and had been ill for a while. It’s still a big thing for Hal and his sisters to contend with though, especially as their Mother died a few years back.

We have also had a very poorly dog on our hands this week. On Thursday night Ripley, my 12-year-old retired guide dog, was very very sick in the night. I discovered this by that tried and tested method known to all blind people who own cats,dogs, and small children, The world over, I stood in it! Now, Ripley being sick is not actually that big a deal. He is half labrador, and generally has the Constitution of the cast iron dustbin , and some of the most disgusting eating habits. Usually he is able to throw up royally, and then say to him self, “that’s better, what’s for dinner?”. Unfortunately though, this time it hasn’t gone that way. He kept dry heaving, and throwing up bile, all day on Friday. So I didn’t feed him all day. On Saturday morning I offered him a scrambled egg, which he refused and then started heaving again. Q trip to Vets on Saturday morning, where an initial examination could find nothing wrong. He was given an anti-emetic, which did stop his trying to be sick. However he was extremely quiet, and again refused food on Saturday night. He was extremely quiet all day on Sunday, and again would not eat. In fact he just seem to be getting weaker and weaker. No change by Monday morning, so back to the vet, where he had x-rays, blood test’s, mouth and throat examination, and a rectal examination, nothing showed up as abnormal. In fact he has the profile of an extremely healthy dog. When we fetched him back from the vet on Monday he was still very heavily sedated, and so, whilst The vets helped us get him into the car, we had extreme difficulty getting him out again at home. We managed to actually get him out, but he collapsed in the heap behind the car in the garage. So there we stayed, One very poorly elderly retired guide dog, and one very worried dog owner, between the back of The car and the garage door, for about two hours, while he gathered together enough energy and compus mentis to walk into the house, and I convinced myself he was actually in the act of dying. It’s been a very hard week. In a strange way Ripley being ill has managed to distract from dealing with the death of Hal’s Dad, but it has been all encompassing. I have not felt able to do anything other than watching him like a hawk. I’ve been on absolute tenterhooks in case I need to rush into the bet or in case he made his final journey before we could get him there. I’ve hardly been near the horses since Thursday, and haven’t been able to concentrate on anything. There is good news though. He does seem to have turned a corner, and started taking in very small quantities of food. He is still very weak and wobbly though, is being extremely quiet, and he does seem to have become very old dog overnight. Hopefully though he is taking his first steps towards recovery. What is really concerning and confusing though, is that we can’t seem to find what is cause the problem. He hasn’t been anywhere Quincy hasn’t, Quincy is absolutely fine. The best money is on the fact that he may have eaten something that has disagreed with him, but what, and where did he get hold of it? It’s all very strange.

So that’s bad weather, Snow, trying to resolve Leone’s problems and then losing her, my mum having to go into care, losing Hals dad, and coming very close to losing Ripley. Somebody wants told me that God doesn’t send you more than you can cope with. I don’t personally believe in an . all-powerful divine creator, but if I’m wrong and there is a God, I really think he may have got me mixed up with somebody else. I’ve had enough now. Please can I just be left in peace to play with my ponies? Preferably in some nice sunny weather.