Nationals – A shot in the arm πŸ˜„

So, despite everything, on Friday morning, Hal, Quincey, and I loaded up, and travelled up to the RDA National Championships at Hartbury College, near Gloucester.I only went because a lot of people had made a lot of effort to get me there. Honestly though, I’d have rather stayed in bed.

I’m so glad I did go. The whole experience was the most perfect antidote to the terrible week that preceded it, and I’ve come away feeling much happier, more confident in my abilities, with a little more self believe, and a lot of plans/hopes/dreams for the future.

This has to have been the friendliest, and most supportive equestrian event I have ever been to. No dragging other people down, no bitching about why the person who got placed above you shouldn’t have even been allowed to enter, no arguing with the judge, no fat shaming, picking fault with other peoples riding ability, tack choices, turn out, or choice of horse. Just support and admiration from everyone to everyone, a feeling of camaraderie, genuine good will, and a lot of people having a lot of good horsey fun. Why aren’t all equestrian events like this?

Hartbury, or at least the bits I saw, is an amazing place. OK, so I can’t comment on the human accomodation, as we stayed in the Holiday Inn in Gloucester (a lot nicer than our usual Premier Inn or Travelodge whenever we go anywhere), but the horse accomodation was the poshest stabling I have ever experienced.Large, airy,barns with lovely wide walkways, and all immaculate.I have no idea how many stables there actually were, but North Cornwall RDA were based in Barn D, and I know there was a Barn G! There were several arenas, both indoor and outdoor, although confusingly, according to a plan that Hal saw, no arena 3. Although I did dressage, there were a lot of other disciplines taking place. Showjumping, showing, endurance, vaulting, musical rides, and the Countryside Challenge, a handy pony style competition unique to RDA

Now, when it came to my test, in all honestly, I didn’t think that I really rode that well

. No excuses here, it’s just how I felt, sick, sad, and sorry over Breeze, extremely nervous, and desperate not to let anyone down, and far far too hot! Let’s face it, even in the coldest of conditions I run warm, and I get a proper sweat on when I’m nervous or anxious, and it was really very hot on Saturday. However, Willow (Stephania! Who knew?) was a total pro, bless her, she’d have done a lot better without the sweaty mess on her back, and of course Mark, Becky, who had only giben birth to their tiny daughter Lowenna 12 days before, and the wonderful, and very long suffering groups of volunteers who called my letters for me, were just the best. A special mention has to go to whoever it was who turned Willow out, all shiney and white, and plaited beautifully. Thank you whoever you are.

Ok, so my test wasn’t a thing of beauty. This was the first time I had ever ridden in an arena where the boards are all away from the walls, and it’s fair to say it’s something I need more practice at. I was worried that Willow would step out of the boards, so I over compensated and ended up cutting of the ends of the arena. At one time I was riding directly towards K thinking to myself,”I really shouldn’t be here should I”. I felt a bit like a bunny in the headlights throughout the test. Not my best effort at all.

So imagine my total shock, and utter delight, when I discovered that I’d won! I still can’t believe it now.

My score was 63.12%, which is the lowest score of the 3 competitions I’ve done with the RDA so far, but having read my scoresheet, I think the judges comments are entirely reasonable. Although, I am a bit surprised at the comment “A calmly ridden test”! Oh no it wasn’t!

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If I’ve managed to attach a video here you will see exactly what I mean. Ignore the first bit it’s me on the grey. As she can probably tell, Hal wasn’t very much calmer than me.

So, all I really need now is a new four legged dancing partner, a lot of practice, and some self belief. Not too much to ask surely?

Here’s to next yearπŸ˜„

Feeling Down

What is wrong with me!? I should be feeling like a kiddy on Christmas Eve. I’m in a really unusual, and, what should be very exciting situation. Not only have I qualified for the RDA National Championships (Who’d have thought?); but I am officially looking for a new horse, one that I will continue to do RDA Dressage with, and that I will be able to do some of the brilliant things that the Riding Club do with, and, unusually for me, I’ve got what feels like a massive budget for said horse. Usually I’m buying in the cheaper range, and I’ve been stretching my resources to do that. Not this time. You’d think I’d be like a dog with two tails, bursting with excitement, like a kiddy who’s been told they can have anything they want from the toyshop regardless of it’s price. What iactually feel is – well – nothing much to be honest, and I don’t really understand why. Don’t get me wrong, It’s not that I don’t want another horse, I really do, and I am thoroughly enjoying my newfound RDA Dressage success. I should be buzzing with enthusiasm, but frankly what I feel is flat and a bit down. Somebody take me out and slap me please! I’ve been trying to work out why I’m feeling this way, and I can only imagine it’s for one of the following reasons.

1. It’s not the prospect of having another horse that’s actually the problem here, it’s the act of finding one. I do find the process of buying horses extremely daunting. I miss the days when you buy your local Newspaper on a Thursday or Friday, turn to the, extensive, Horses for Sale section at the back, and read through all the adverts, circling all the likely candidates, then phoning the seller and havinga proper chat with them before deciding to go and have a look at said beast. OK, so, nowadays I wouldn’t be able to actually read the ads myself; but now things have gone on-line even finding horse ads is challenging. Yes, there are plenty of websites where you can buy and sell horses, but they are none of them particularly accessible. Face Book used to be a useful place to look for horses, but they have just banned selling animals. It’s all a bit problematic really. However, that’s just the beginning of the problem, once I find a suitable sounding horse , I’ve then got to go and see it. The act of going to a strange yard, with strange people, who have their own preconceptions about blindess, or who, despite my careful explaination of my situation, may not have fully comprehended that I am blind, and then having to get on a strange horse, that may or may not have been honestly described, and so may or may not be as safe as it’s been cracked up to be, makes me feel very uncomfortable, and extremely vulnerable. I’ve had some, erm, interesting experiences over the years to say the least.

2. Over the last 3 and a bit years we’ve lost 3 horses. OK, Magnum was very old, Sapphire had cancer, and Leonie, well, things weren’t good with her, but nevertheless, 3 horses gone in 3 years is a lot in my book. Now we have Florence and Breeze, who, granted are both in their twenties, but Breeze has had to retire from being ridden, and, despite my earlier post about Florence being on the mend, sadly she seems to be going backwards again at the moment. Florence hasn’t been right all year, and I may yet have to retire her as well. So that’s 3 dead horses, 1 going blind, and 1 with some kind of chronic/intermittent lameness/pain issue. Really, am I the best person to take on another horse? I just seem to break them all the time! Is a new horse going to be safe in my hands? I love horses, all horses, but Florence in particular is the absolute centre of my universe. For the last 6 months she’s been trying to tell me what’s wrong, and I just can’t seem to be able to understand what’s she’s trying to tell me. I’ve spent a fortune on vet’s, tess, and treatments, but things are still not entirely right with her. If I bring another horse onto this yard is it just going to end up trying to tell me something that I just can’t hear? Am I really capable of looking after them properly? I’m really doubting my abilities at the moment, and that’s putting me off going out there and putting any real effort into finding another horse.

As it happens, there is a real lack of horses out there anyway, or at least, if they are there, I’m not seeing the adverts.I keep reading that we are in the midst of a horse crisis, too many horses, not enough people who want, or can afford to take them on, so where are they all then? So far, I’ve only really seen one horse that I would have wanted to go and view, and that sold within a week of me first seeing the ad. Now, I know that I have quite specific requirements, but really, all I need is a safe,responsive, weight carrier. What I actually want is a younger Florence, perhaps one who is more comfortable travelling, and who is a little bit less bitey ,but neverthe less, Florence, her personality,attitude, and build, is just right for me. They must be out there somewhere, but all I’m seeing advertised is ex racehorses (I’d snap a Thoroughbred), imacculately bred, high powered warm bloods and Sports Horses, ponies, or horses that sound ideal, but nap, have an injury, aren’t safe on the roads, or have never been in a school. I keep seeing the same horses on every site, or I think I’ve found a good one, but it’s in Ireland, or is being listed by a Dealer, who is regularly mentioned on the Dodgey Dealers listsNot only that, but this purchase is dependant on the sale of Hal’s late parents hous. Well, that’s going well, not. Today is the day we were supposed to be completing. Yeh right. We’ve just been told that the buyers, who were supposed to be cash buyers, hence why Hal accepted such a low offer. haven’t quite got there mortgage sorted yet! So now they are screwing us around and apparently can’t complete until 1st July. That is of course if they are actually going to complete and aren’t some kind of fantasists. Let’s face it, it’s a long way from cash buyers to can’t get the mortgage sorted. So there probably isn’t going to be a new horse anyway. So wht am I worried about.

Seasons Greetings

Regular readers will know that for Hal and I 2018 has been a truly horrible year. I had so many hopes and plans as we waved a fond farewell to 2017, but right from the get go it became clear that things weren’t going to go our way.

Viruses, coughing horses, lameness. Extreme wet weather, storm force wind, snow! losing Leonie, Stella, Hal’s Dad, my Mum. Nearly losing Ripley. Having a very sick Tabitha. Falling off the tandem and damaging the ligaments in my knee. Having to replace a leaking oil tank, defunct fridge, broken dishwasher. Finding out Breeze is going blind.Yes, it does seem to have been a year of lurching chaotically from one crisis to another. No wonder we both feel so wiped out!

To be fair there have been some good bits along the way. Our Niece Sarah’s wedding, veing given an award by the Riding Club. Increasing support for this Blog, support for Blind Riders UK, my business getting stronger. Having lessons on Florence. Doing more talks for Guide Dogs. Doing some PR for Retina Implant.

Personally though, New Year’s Day cannot come quick enough for me. New beginnings, A fresh start, A blank sheet. I have of course got lots of hopes and aspirations for 2019. Poor Florence isn’t going to know what hit her! Neither is Hal for that matter. In the meantime though thank you very much for supporting this blog. I hope you have an absolutely marvellous Christmas and a happy horsey New Year

Do Horses Get Charles Bonnets Syndrome?

Last night we had a strange, and worrying, experience with Breeze. . Breeze is the sweetest pony, but she is extremely nervous. Last night however she surpassed herself, and gave me a few more grey hairs along the way.

Doing our usual bedtime routine, carrots for Florence, apples for Breeze, debrief on the day, hay, water, skep out, check all is well, it soon became apparent that all was not well with Breeze.

it is not unusual to find Breeze on high alert, but last night she took it to another level. I had heard her snuffing a bit, but just thought she was commenting on the dogs. However, when I went into her stable with a full haynet, only to be ignored, alarm bells began to ring. Normally I would be in for a full-scale mugging, breeze usually starts off by trying to eat out of the net as I take it in and try to hang it, and if this doesn’t work, she turns her attention to my pockets. Last night though, Breeze just stood there transfixed. Head held as high as she could get it, ears erect and straining forward, eyes bulging, nostrils flared, heart racing, and, I realised as I laid my hand on her shoulder, trembling. This poor pony was frozen to the spot with Fear! At what though? Let’s face it, what ever it was, it wasn’t bothering Florence. Yes it’s true, Florence is of a much more Sanguin disposition than Breeze, but she isn’t stupid. Had there genuinely been anything that frightening anywhere in the vicinity, Florence would definitely have mentioned it. However, despite only being in the adjoining stable, in stark contrast to her companion, Flo was the picture of relaxed contentment. It did cross my mind that she might be tying up, or have colic, but this wasn’t the stance of either a tied up horse, or a colicky one. Not only that, but Hal had just cleaned some very healthy looking poo from the stable. When it comes down to flight, fight., freeze, this was absolutely textbook freeze. She was staring up towards the house, but neither Florence, either of the dogs, Hal, nor I, where aware of anything untoward. Florence was perfectly happy and content in the nextdoor stable, The dogs have gone off down the field on their own private nose lead missions, and all I could hear was a distant owl. Absolutely nothing obvious for a horse to be scared of.

Thankfully Breeze did begin to relax after a while, but she was still unsettled by the time we left her. I find the whole situation a little worrying, and it’s made me begin to wonder about something. Is it possible that Breeze could be suffering from hallucinations?

Sadly a few months ago we discovered that Breeze is very gradually going blind. She is an old lady, at least 20 years old now, and has recently been diagnosed with age related pigmented retinopathy. Yes I know, whilst a horses eyes are different to humanise, The name of this condition, and indeed the pathology of it, are similar to retinitis pigmentosa )RP), which is the condition I myself have. However, as RP is not an age-related condition in humans, whereas age related pigmented retinopathy is and age related condition in horses, I prefer to think of Breeze as having the equine equivalent of age related macular degeneration )AMD). Basically she is a little old lady who is losing her eyesight. . There is absolutely nothing we can do about this, it’s not a treatable condition, and the vet has been very calm about the diagnosis. We have been told to carry on as normal but to be vigilant, and be led by Breeze as to what she can and cannot do. We have not even been advised to stop riding her, although I have decided that I wont ride her myself from now on. I’m actually too heavy for her anyway at the moment, but I think its better for all concerned if at least one of us has a fully functioning pair of eyes. As an aside, I recently read the headline of a research study which took place in Australia, which concluded that a high percentage of aged, defined as over 17 years old, horses have some form of eyesight problem, but this is usually not known about by their owners, and rarely has an adverse affect on the horses ability to carry out ridden activities

Until they are near total blindness. Symptoms like stumbling and spooking are invariably put down to other things. Back to Breeze though, , and I wonder if last nights strange behaviour was down to her failing eyesight. As a result of the Retinopathy, does Breeze have Charles Bonnet Syndrome

Does Breeze have what?

Charles Bonnet Syndrome is a little understood condition that causes people who are losing their sight to have visual hallucinations. These hallucinations are only visual in nature, no sound,smell, or taste, but can vary from patterns to detailed and lifelike representations of animals, people, events or places, which can be static or moving. According to the NHS there are known to be approximately 100,000 diagnosed cases of Charles Bonnet syndrome in the UK, but there could be many more undiagnosed cases. Whilst it affects people who have lost most of all of the site in both eyes, The real mechanism behind it is not fully understood. However it is believed to be down to the brain trying to make sense of, and filling in the gaps in, The incomplete message being received by the visual cortex. The macular society believe that half of people with AMD will experience symptoms of Charles Bonnet syndrome at some point. These hallucinations are only related to sight loss and have no link to mental illness or any form of dementia in any way

So, whilst there are of course differences, horses and humans are both mammals, and mammalian eyes and brains do vary from species to species, there are also a great many similarities. What I am curious about is, given that Breeze has a condition which is not unlike a condition that humans get, could she also have another condition, which is often associated with the human variation of the condition she has? In other words. Can horses get Charles Bonnet syndrome? Is the reason that only Breeze was so frightened last night, because it was only Breeze Who could see what she was so scared of? I guess we will never know, but I’d love to hear the opinions of any vets, ophthalmologists, other experts who might stumble across this post in the future

day 20 – All Wound Up

Gone 2, Oh My Word! What is wrong with Breeze today? She’s behaving like some idiot Thoroughbred, not a sweet little elderly Cob. Florence is a bit wound up too. Granted, Breeze is quite an anxious soul, but things have hit a whole new level today.

Things seemed perfectly normal when I went down to check them first thing. Yes, they were both all over me like a rash, but this is not necessarily unusual behaviour. It was another one of those lovely silent mornings, just me the horses and a solitary owl in the whole wide world. It was a bit cool and clammy, foggy in fact, which is something that doesn’t really exist in my world, but there didn’t seem to be anything unusual going on. So what had changed by 11 o’clock this morning when we came to catch them in?

There was nothing untoward going on whilst sorting the stables out. So perhaps it was my fault for asking Hal and Ben to catch them in by themselves, while I went back to the house to use the loo. Whatever it was, by the time I got back down to the yard all hell had broken loose. Florence was dripping with sweat, and Breeze was behaving like a complete tit. Apparently Breeze had gone into one while Ben was leading her up. Then Florence decides to play silly buggers when Hal tried to get her in quick so he could take over from Ben. I had planned to hack out with Helen, Benz mum, this afternoon, and the idea was that Ben and I would get the horses clean and ready to tack up, while Hal worked with Steve, Who was coming to do more tree pruning. Yeah right. We couldn’t groom either of the horses, Florence was absolutely dripping, and Breeze was barging and stamping all over the place. Every time somebody opened her stable door she would try to barge out through them. I tied her up outside with a hey net, as she much prefers this, but no, that wasn’t good enough either. We gave up and put the kettle on at this point as I didn’t want Ben getting squashed

Steve didn’t get to us until, which cramped our style somewhat. So while he and Hal tackled the Blackthorn, I tackled the grooming. Florence was a bit shamefaced at her earlier behaviour. However, although not being so silly and rude, Breeze was still very much on high alert. So, as time was marching on Helen took Madam into the school, and they did some really nice work.

It’s on days like this that I wish I could speak fluent horse.

Day 12 – PANIC!!!

The first named storm of the season is upon us, it’s only just gone 6a.m., and all my triggers have already been activated.

The wind is howling, and I can hear all sorts of things moving around out there. Opening the garage door to going get my wellies, the door caught in the wind and all but wrenched my arm off. As I stepped onto the back lawn, A strong gust of wind lifted the heavy wooden walking staff, that I carry when I’m outside with the horses, off the ground, and I could feel it trying to move my legs. It is also pouring down with rain, and I have to find my way down to the bottom field to check the horses, all by myself. This is one of those mornings when, despite me valuing this private time, I’d would really have preferred to have somebody with me.

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When I got down to the horses, my already high state of alert was thrown into overdrive. I couldn’t find Breeze!

She had to be there. If she wasn’t, Florence would have been in full on melt down. So where was she? Dead? Injured? Unable to move due to laminitis, colic, or AM? Biting down the wave of panic that was threatening to engulf me, I resisted the urge to phone the house and wake Hal. If there really was a problem Flo wouldn’t be Calmly trying to go through my pockets would she?

This is where not being able to see is a real problem. Usually I can hear where the horses are, even if they are quite some distance away from me, but with the wind howling I don’t stand a chance. Everybody else can just look across the field. Yes I know, it was a dark morning, and Vreeze is dark bay, but she does have three white legs and a blades, so something that I’ve shown up.

After calmly, yeh right, walking back up to the house, and gently waking Hal, he could confirm that breeze was indeed in the field, upright, and eating. Turns out she just can’t be bothered with me this morning.hal also told me that the roof has come off the Shed of Doom overnight. Well that explains that particular noise then.

I’m going back to bed where it’s safe

Day 7 – 10 things I love about Autumn(?)

Hmmm, today’s Blogtober Challenge is to list 10 things that I love about Autumn. The thing is though, and you better sit down here, I’m not sure that in the grand scheme of things, I am particularly fond of Autumn.partly it’s because, as regular readers will know, I am frightened of strong wind, and Autumn is usually when the storms increase. Partly it’s because hunting and shooting, and the arrogance and rudeness of people on both sides of the argument upset me.. mostly though, it’s because of living with Retinitis Pigmentosa. One of the earliest symptoms of RP, and one which I personally had since birth, is night blindness. So for people in early stages of the disease, who can see pretty well thank you very much, during daylight, or good indoor lighting. But are rendered blind from twilight onwards, the Autumnal Equinox means less hours of useful eyesight, and less independence. Nowadays I am well beyond the point where it makes any real difference to me. However, I well remember how frazzled I used to get when it did. I know several people living with RP who suffer from crippling depression and anxiety at this time of year.

I do like to try to look on the bright side though. So here are 10 things I do like about this time of year.

1. Cooler weather. Being an overweight, fair skinned, freckle Celt, I am not built for heat and humidity. In fact it can make me feel quite poorly. So when the temperature drops below 20 I am much more comfortable.

2. Frosty mornings. A rarity in these parts. That crisp, clean, clear air that makes you feel really alive, and makes it feel as if the whole world is sparkling. What’s not to like?

3. Less flies. Daddy Longlegs (shudder) not withstanding, there are noticeably less flying, buzzing, biting, stinging, irritating pests around.

4. Silence. I refer you to my earlier post, the Sound of Silence.

5. Fallen leaves. OK, I know all about the dangers of sycamores , but you really have to be made of granite if the inner child in you doesn’t enjoy kicking through freshly fallen leaves.

6. The smell of somebodyelses wood smoke. We don’t have an open fire or a wood burner ourselves but plenty of folk around here do. , and I love the smell of woodsmoke, especially when it’s cold outside.

7. Being Able to take the dogs to the beach. Woo hoo! The holiday season is over, and so on the punitive restrictions placed on dogs being allowed to go on to Devon and Cornwall speeches. I mean it’s not as if there are any families who have both children and dogs is it? I’m going to stop now in case I go into full frontal rant mode. Hopefully though, if we do manage to get our own trailer, riding on the beach might be a realistic possibility next year.

8. Quieter roads. Both as a pedestrian who lives innan area with few pavements, and as a rider who lives in an area with zero off road riding, I really appreciate it when the tourists have gone home and the roads are a tiny bit quieter.

9. The West Country Christmas Equine Fair at Westpoint Arena. OK, as it takes place in December it’s really a Winter thing, but it’s my 1 guaranteed horsey day out each year, and I really look forward to it.

10. Strictly Come Dancing. I love it! From September to Christmas it’s like having a big glittery panto party in your living room every weekend.