Taking Stock

Sometimes it’s good to stop and take stock, especially when you are feeling a bit like you are lost in the wilderness, which is exactly how I have been feeling for a while now. So today, when I was browsing Social Media over my early morning cuppa, and one of those ‘Face Book Memories’ came up on my time line, it gave me pause to reflect and get some perspective..

Today is the 5th Anniversary of the day that Hal and I first came to view what is now our home.

So, as we were waiting for Steve to deliver some hay this morning, I couldn’t help reflecting on the past 5 years, and thinking how far we’ve come, and how much we’ve learned. Back then, having pulled out of a purchase on legal advice, and, only the day before coming here, viewed an almost derelict dump of a farmhouse, which seemed to be all that was available in our price range, we were beginning to believe that we were on a fools errand. Our dream of having our own little equestrian property was beyond our reach. Now though we have our own little yard with a lovely school, and have plans to get our own transport later this year.

Ok, so at the moment, we have 2 unrideable horses; but 5 years ago, I was in danger of not having anywhere to keep the 2 horses we had back then. Also, even if neither Florence nor Breeze can never do a stroke of work again in their lives, they will still be here. Having our own yard and land means I do not have to make that horrible choice between having a ridable horse and keeping the now unsound, older horse that I love. That single fact alone is enough to make all the hard work, sacrifice, financial hardship, and difficult decisions, worthwhile.

Yes, doing it yourself is extremely hard work, and it’s poor Hal who has to bare the brunt of it. We haven’t had a holiday since we moved here. Apart from the fact that we can’t really afford it, it’s a question of what we do with the horses if we go away. Yes, if we have to be away for a night or 2, then we are lucky in that Amy will take care of them, but leaving them for a whole week, or a fortnight… Well that’s a different kettle of fish altogether. All our money goes into the horses and maintaining th yard. We have invested a lot in building the stables and school, neither of which existed before we moved here. Also, we haven’t really recovered from taking a hit when that crook stole our money instead of building stables, and yes, this is a choice we have made, and I’m ot complaining, after all, what else would I be spending my money on? Horses are my passion after all. However, Hal and I are not rich, in fact, if people knew how small our income atually is they wouldn’t believe us, so there’s not a lot spare for luxuries, or for that matter even essentials. Even if we didn’t have our own place, and kept our horses on livery somewhere, we’d still have to make difficult decisions from time to time. We’ve had to have 3 horses put to sleep since we’ve been here. In each case, being kept on livery would have made absolutely no difference. We had good support and guidance from our Vet in each case, and we can rest assured that in each case we did the best thing for the horse. In fact, for me personally, whilst having to make that ultimate decision is the most horrible thing you can think of, because I was confident I was doing the best thing for the horse at the time, whilst it was heartbreaking, it wasn’t entirely unbearable. This probably sounds very strange, and maybe a bit heartless, but I actually coped worse with the planning process for the stables and school. I think this is because it was a much more prolonged process, and other people’s opinions could have made a difference to the outcome. Ultimately I was in charge of the decision to send the horses on their final journey, but, having submitted planning applications, I had no control over what happened at all. Applying for planning consent is probably the most stressful thing I have ever done. I’m glad we did it though.

Hal and I have been lucky in the support we have had since we have been here. However, we haven’t had things handed to us on a plate. I truly believe that we wouldn’t have the support we do if we weren’t prepared to put in the graft. If something is important to you, then it’s worth the hard work.

5 years ago today, as we drove across Dartmoor in a snowstorm, little did we know that we were driving into the amazing dventure that the last 5 years have been. I love living here. My happiest times are when we are down on the yard. Yes, sometimes it feels like a struggle, and yes, sometimes I feel like I’m stood at the bottom of a mountain with only a very thin piece of rope to help me up to the top. However, these are just passing qualms. If you told me even 7 years ago that this is where I’d be I’d haved laughed at you. Living here is a privilege. Life is good. Here’s to the next 5 years. Bring it on.

Thirty Years an Owner

Thirty years ago today, a skinny 21 year old scrambled into the cab of one of the poshest horse boxes she had ever seen , and set off on a massive adventure. The journey took all day. The adventure still continues.

Yes, amazingly, thirty years ago today a man called Roger Arrowsmith, who ran the local garden centre and bred show ponies as a hobby, kindly drove from Plymouth to Honiton and back,to fetch my first horse home

Thirty years! How did that happen?

OK, I soon learned, as if I didn’t really know already, that a just backed, three -year-old, wait carrying Cob, was not the ideal first horse for a seven stone, severely visually impaired, Novice, who had only ever ridden riding school horses before. Jigsaw didn’t stay with me for long, but every aventure has to start somewhere.

I well remember that feeling, when we took him off the lorry, put him in his stable, and I looked at him, my dream come true, a horse of my very own at long last, and realised for the first time, that he was totally dependent on me for his well-being, and despite years of reading, and dreaming, I hadn’t got the first clue how to look after a horse! Thirty years on, and there are still times when I am completely out of my depth! . Lot’s of horses have come and gone, and I have experienced best and the worst but the horse world can offer. I can’t imagine what my life would be like without having a horse in it, and I really don’t want to find out. They say you never stop learning when you have a horse. I for one am looking forward to the next thirty years of education.

Three Years of Joy

It’s Florence his third Gotcha anniversary today! It feels like she’s always been with me.

Florence came to me when I was going through an extremely stressful time. In all honesty I really should not have even been thinking of buying a horse just then. I was taking part in a clinical research trial, and sadly things have gone slightly wrong for me, and Hal and I were making the journey from North Devon to Oxford on an almost fortnightly basis, I ended up having four surgeries between September and February At the same time we were also being filmed for a television programme. An experience which I never want to repeat. I had been told earlier that summer that my beloved Magnum had a serious heart problem, and therefore could no longer be ridden, so I started window shopping for horses as a distraction. My friend Amy sent me a link to an advertisement on the website pre-loved for a 16-year-old piebald Cob mare that she thought might be eminently suitable. As the horse was not particularly far away from us we decided to go and have a look. The rest as they say is history.

Although Florence arrived in the November, because of the ongoing problems with my eyes, more surgery, an absolutely appalling weather, I didn’t actually sit on her until the beginning of March the following year. O’Boywas that leap of faith! Florence was amazing though, if you didn’t know, nothing in her behaviour would have told you she hadn’t been sat on for four months. It’s fair to say that up to that point Florence and I had not been getting along particularly well, and there had been more than one occasion when her bags had been packed and she was going back to her previous owner. However, every time Hal talked me down and convinced me to give her another chance. Poor Florence

, it must’ve been extremely difficult for her to move from her secure home of eight years, into a completely alien environment, with an owner who seem to keep disappearing and reappearing, and who must have been radiating stress, anxiety, and unhappiness like the Sun radiates light and heat. I truly believe that she could either here or smell the implant that I had in my I, and was very very aware of the problems that I was having, because she kept trying to bite my face. Believe me when you can’t see it coming, The snapping together of huge great horse teeth just millimetres away from your face is quite alarming! My theory about this was backed up by the fact that, as soon as I had the implant removed, in the middle of February, the attacks on my face stopped. Another problem we had when Florence first came to me, what’s that had not appreciated that she has extremely sensitive skin, and is extremely ticklish. She is a great big enormous hairy gypsy cob, but underneath all that black and white fur she has a thoroughbred skin I’m sure.

I’ve always believed that, Magnum, being a very old and wise horse, New that his time was coming to an end, and understood that Florence and come here to take over from him. I am quite sure that he explained the situation t her to look after me. You see, on what was probably the hardest long weekend of my entire life, we had Magnum put to sleep on the Friday, and had the implant removed on the Monday. From the moment I got home from hospital Florence and I began to build and understanding and bond. . I am so glad that Hal convince me to keeper. I trust Florence completely, I know she has boundaries, and I respect that. She does not have a nasty bone in her body, but she does not give her trust automatically. Yes she can occasionally be rude and pushy when handling her on the ground,

but when I’m sat on her back there are no limitations,? The world is ours too own. Florence is an extremely intelligent horse. She has the ability to read her rider, and adjust her way of going accordingly. This year she has carried my extremely capable writer niece Hannah, 11 year old Ven, my 87 year old Dad, Hal, and me, and been a total lady with us. She hates being on her own, and gets terrible separation anxiety. However, she has always been the bottom most ranking horse in my herd. She hates water,really hates having her legs touched, and can be a little bit girthy. Florence is completely unflappable, and extremely nosey. She is the kind of horse who would rather investigate something instdad of run away from it. She can be very impatient though, and doesn’t like standing around. Florence is quite vocal, and has an endearing way of wickering and snickering to me. Someone once connected that they thought Florence spoke to me like I was a foal. I just adore her!

So here’s to the next three years – Big beautiful black and white horse

Day 8 – Paws and be Thankful.

Today I’m going to go off topic. This is a post that I would be writing today even if it was not part of the Blogtober Challenge, and it’s got absolutely nothing to do with horses whatsoever. Today is my beloved retired Guide Dog, Ripley’s 13th birthday. A day which, back in April, when he was extremely ill and refused to eat for nearly a week, and all the examinations and tests known to vet could not work out what was wrong with him, I was convinced he would not see. This week also happens to be Guide Dogs Week here in the UK. So I thought it was an opportune moment to use this blog to spread the word about what a fantastic organisation Guide Dogs is.

Incredibly it’s 87 years since the first

Four in Trepid Pathfinders, ventured out on the streets of Britain with their guide dogs by their side. The idea of guiding blind people with dogs was not universally accepted bag then. In fact quite The opposite. It was considered pure lunacy, The term crackpot was used to describe both the idea and those who were advocating it. Many people considered it to be cruel both to man and dog. . I’m immeasurably greatful to those pioneers who believed in the idea, and fought to get it off the ground. Ripley was my 3rd Guide Dog, and, while it’s fair to say he wasn’t the most dedicated Guide, we had some adventures together before he took early retirement age 6.

he saw me through a career change, that took me from being a police civilian to holistic complimentary therapist. He was by mine and Hal’s side while Hal’s Health hit rock bottom. He sat through countless lectures and tutorials, both at college and university, and travelled hundreds of miles with me on my journeys to and from Hereford from Plymouth. When I graduated he graduated to. At our graduation ceremony Mary King was given an honorary doctorate by the University, and when I was receiving my degree, according to my slightly star struck husband, had a sly stroke. Everybody who has a copy of the graduates video for that ceremony will see a large black guide dog leading the students parade. He got me home in a blizzard once, after my taxi driver lost control of the car on ice at the top of our lane. .

My first guide dog, Odine, came down the aisle with me when I got married. Guide Dog Number two, Annie, saw me through a career change from being a civil servant to being a police civilian. Annie and I were presented to her Majesty the Queen once, on the behalf of guide dogs, and Annie, bless her, jumped up at her Majesty and left wet Pawprint on her coat. When Annie retired, aged 10 and half, my colleagues love to so much that they arranged a retirement party for her at work, and presented her with a certificate signed by the chief constable. My current guide dog, Number four, Quincey, has already been by my side through the lifestyle change which brought us to this village, and living with the horses in the back garden so to speak. He’s been there with me well I’ve gone through being a participant in a clinical research trial, and looked after me well I’ve been recuperating from a lot of eye surgery.

These are the extraordinary examples of what having a guide dog can help somebody achieve. The reality though is much more fundamental. Without odine, Annie, Ripley, or Quincey, my life would have been completely different. Doing the most basic things in life, like the shopping, going to the postbox, going to work, would have become much more difficult as my eyesight deteriorated,. Yes I am capable of, and apparently very good at, using a long cane, but using a long cane is so difficult, stressful, and at times even painful. Without my dogs I doubt I would have achieved anywhere near things that I have with my life.

many people living with sight loss rely in a guy dog to help them Live their lives to the full. Those things that the majority of people take for granted. Going to the pub, taking the kids to school, going to work.. .. if you can think it, chances are there’s a Guide Dog Ownersomewhere doing with the help of their faithful hound.

All of this can only happen because of the kindness and generosity of people who make donations to a fundraiser for guide dogs

So if you have ever put your change in a guide dog collecting box in the shop, bought merchandise from all taken part in the tombola at a guide dogs stand at a large show, If you sponsor A puppy, or take part in the guide dog lottery, or if you have ever sponsored anybody taking part in a guy dog fund raising event. thank you from the bottom of my heart..

4 Years!

It’s 4 years ago today that Hal, Quincey and I moved to Albert’s Bungalow. 4 Years! In many ways it feels like we’ve always been here, but in many ways it also feels like we’ve only been here 5 minutes.

I still love living here . I still think this is one of the friendliest places I’ve ever beeen. No, it’s not perfect, but nowhere is. Yes, there are some challenges, but isn’t overcoming challenges what makes life interesting? OK, in an ideal world a couple extra acres of grazing and some off road riding wouldn’t go amiss, but now I’m being greedy.

I still have to pinch myself regularly. My own little yard, and now with my own school – your having a laugh aren’t you?

I’m definitely living the dream.

Don’t give up on yours

Gotcha!

Today, believe it or not, is the second anniversary of Florence joining us.

Two years!

How time flies. We’ve achieved so much in those Twenty-Four short months. This reliable, trustworthy, sensitive lady has bought a lot of joy into our lives. I never truly believed I’d ever have another horse that I trusted, and who filled me with self belief like Magnum did. I was wrong. Florence has more than stepped up to the plate. I think she’s had a profound effect on Hal as well. As he said goodnight to her last night, and slipped her one last mint, I distinctly heard him say “There you go Maggers”!

Florence herself has celebrated this momentous occasion by taking a mud bath. She’s filthy! She’s supposed to be being clipped on Friday, I better start grooming her now!

Equinoctial Breeze

Happy Equinox everyone. This is the day when Summer turns to Autumn. Yes I know, in this neck of the woods we appear to already have skipped Autumn, and gone straight into winter, or at least the monsoon season. Nevertheless, from today until the rebirth of the year at the Winter Solstace there will be increasingly more hours of darkness, and fewer daylight hours. This is always a difficult and challenging time for those of us living with RP as one of the first symptoms to manifest itself is night blindness. Thankfully I’m beyond all that now. The amount of light available, or lack of it, makes no difference. I can’t see regardless.

For us here at Alberts Bungalow though, today is important for another reason.Not only is this the the anniversary of Leomie going over to Melissa to be assessed, but, it’s also one year ago today that Breeze joined us.

What a difference 12 months has made. The terrified and completely bewildered, elderly little cob, who backed off a really Rattaley cattletrailer, with eyes so big and worried that they resembled poached eggs, has turned into a really sweet little lady. Yes, she insists on keeping a very large personal space, and isn’t above giving any horse who enters her personal zone iwthout permission both barrels at hi velocity, and yes, after 12 years of being a trekking pony, she really doesn’t do going out by herself. These are both small points though. h. She’s a really gentle easy to handle lady who is a joy to handle.

Our little herd is very settled and, on the whole easy going now. The menege build is very close to being finished. The future is looking very good indeed.