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 30 – a Trip Down Memory Lane

As today’s Blogtober Challenge prompt is another photographic one, I thought I would go off piste and tell you about the horses that I have owned over the years.

Jigsaw- when I first started having lessons I rode a little skewbald pony called Jacob. He was one of those steadfast classic riding school ponies, he was a difficult pony to instil a sense of urgency into, but he was completely unflustered by clumsy novice nervous children. I am absolutely sure it is because of this I have a little bit of a thing about coloured horses. So roll-on several years from when I first threw a leg over Jacobs back, and we meet my first horse, Jigsaw. Bought from a dealer in Honiton, Jigsaw was only the second horse I ever looked at, and he was totally unsuitable for me, but I had to have him! He was a heavyweight Cob, was only three, and although he was broken in, was greener than the lushestField! Whereas, I was 5ft3in , weighed 7stone wet through. Registered blind, and had only ever ridden riding school horses. . Jigsaw was skewbald though, and he looked like a bigger version of Jacob. It was not a match made in Heaven! In all honesty, there was absolutely nothing wrong with Jigsaw. He was just a young Cobb, and totally unsuitable as a first horse for a nervous novice rider. I sold him to the riding school where I learnt to ride, and kept him on livery. He was subsequently bought by a local family and went on to have an lilustrous pony club and hunting Korea.

Oliver Twist. After selling Jigsaw, only 4 months after buying him, I set out to find myself another steed. I wasn’t going to make any stupid mistakes this time, and set out to find something older, more experienced, and smaller. After trying and rejecting several likely candidates, I bought Oliver Twist

From a man in Lanivet. I think it’s no exaggeration to say I was had! Oliver was not the Schoolmaster and ideal first pony he was advertised as. 14.2hh, bright chestnut, part bred Arab, I truly believe that he had been doped when I went to try him. Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but I watch him being ridden, and handled, and rode him myself, including over a bridge over the main A30, and the man he was selling him racing up behind me in a car and honking his horn.

. If you were riding in a school he was indeed a good teacher. He had obviously been very well schooled, both on the flat and jumping. However, by the time I got him at 12, something very bad must have happened to him. He had no truck with the human race whatsoever. He bit, he kicked, you couldn’t catch him in a stable, let alone a field! I took him away from the yard where I was keeping him, because he couldn’t set foot on open Moorland without bolting. Then I discovered that he was completely unreliable in traffic. I had one of the worstfalls that I have ever had when Oliver took off with me and started jumping bushes. It’s because of Oliver that I have a front tooth that is a ceramic implant. Frankly, by the time I gave up and put him up for sale, eight months after buying him, I was absolutely terrified of him.

Surprise. Beautiful little horse of my heart. Bought from a private home near Liskeard, I had no intention of buying Surprise. In fact, with my confidence crushed by my ,so far, disastrous horse buying experience, I didn’t know if I should try again. . I went to see her out of pure politeness . An acquaintance New her and thought she would be eminently suitable for me. 14:3hh, part bred Arab, chestnut mare, and only 3! In what way suitable? An unplanned, unexpected foal, by an Anglo-Arab stallion out of an Arab x Exnoor mare

. Surprise was the worst put together Horse you could meet, hi withered, ewe necked, swaybacked, slap sided, bum high, cow hocked, and lop eared. She was the kindest, gentlest, and bravest little horse. From the very first day I went to see her, kindness just oozed from her. She was a real people person, and the only horse I had ever met up till then who would actively cuddle you. I trusted her completely. We went for miles together over the moors and even had lessons with the marine instructors from the local barracks. I adored her. Sadly, I lost her to suspected black thorn poisoning when she was only 8.

Bella. . 15.1hh Palamino cob mare, Bella was a little bit of a local hero. She had originally come to the area as a very young horse, alongside a great many other equines, as part of the entourage for a film called Revolution that was being made in the local area. Apparently the film was a box office flop, but lots of local horse enthusiasts benefited from them selling off the stock at the end of filming. Bella was one of those horses who could turn her hoof to anything. She became the range keeperrs horse, responsible for clearing the ranges when the army were firing on the moorBella was ride and drive, and took many a bride to their wedding. She gave many a local teenager the first taste at pony club, and hunted regularly throughout seasons. Endurance riding, dressage, Forest clearance, moorland pony drifts, showing, The only thing that nobody ever remembered Bella doing was carrying a sidesaddle. . I was still struggling to get over the death of Surprise when I was offered Bella on loam. She was about 17 or 18 then, and I shared her with my dad, Who had started to learn to ride when I had Oliver. We had years of fun with her, and Bella and I won many rosettes in the show ring. We lost her when she was 28 to Cushing related laminitis.

Maisey.. Because Bella was very old I decided to look for a younger horse before we lost her. The result was a 10 year old, 15.1hh blue and white heavyweight Cob mare. Funnily enough Maisey came from Lanivet, same place is Oliver, but not the same yard. She was spoilt and very much the apple of her owner’s eye. This was a very reluctant sale. . . It’s fair to say Maisie could be a bit of an old bag. She could be a little bit handy with her teeth, but actually there was just something very special about her. Unfortunately, Maisie was extremely wide, and, as the result of a stupid accident I had with surprise, I had damaged my left hip, and as I began to do more and more with Macy, I found her increasingly painful to ride. My left hip became so painful that I was finding it difficult to walk, and even dress myself. I was referred to a rheumatologist, Who advised me to stop riding until they worked out what exactly the problem was. Sadly after only having her for 18 months I made the difficult decision to sell Maisie on. I’ve always regretted selling her.

Sapphire. From here on in all the horses I have had have featured in this blog since the beginning of it. Once I had been given the all clear, and had experimentally Saturn a few friends horses to see if it would hurt or not, I set out to fill the horse shaped whole in my life. The result was a 14hh 5 year old, dark bay Welsh Section D mare called Kissamie Sapphire. She came from Truro, and was being sold by the proprietor of a stud farm. The lady had bought Sapphire through Abergavenny Welsh pony sales, when she was only a two-year-old, with a view to using her as a brood mare. However, she bread much larger Section D’s, and little Sapphire just didn’t grow that big, so she sent her to a friend to be broken in and sold on. . It’s fair to say that Sapphireand I did not always have the easiest of relationships. She didn’t have a nasty bone in her body, but oh boy did she want to have everything her way, and didn’t she throw a tantrum when it didn’t happen! I’ve learnt over the years that many of sapphires quirks, are fairly typical characteristics of the breed. When Sapphire and I were working in harmony, well you couldn’t have a sweeter little horse, but, when she said and no she meant it, and when she didn’t like something everybody knew about it. My history with sapphire is well documented throughout this blog. Sadly we lost her the age of 17 last year. With been together, on and off, for 13 years.

Magnum. The horse that changed everything.16.3hh, grey, ID, gelding.bought/rescued from a not particularly nice riding school on the outskirts of Plymouth. I ha d reluctantly given up horses, or so I thought. Hal is very ill, I had left work and gone back into full-time education, Sapphire was out on what I thought was permanent loan. I’ve never been so miserable in my life. So I decided to start going to a local riding school once a week or so, to try to mitigate the horse shaped emptiness inside me. The horse they put me on was Magnum, and soon as my bum touched the saddle we had a meeting of minds. Had I been looking for a horse, there is no way that I would’ve looked at anything so big. However, he came up for sale, and when I went there one date for my weekly ride, I caught them in the act of putting his saddle on top of an open, infected sore. I refused to ride, which they thought was very peculiar indeed. My dad was with me on that day, and by the time we had got back home, we had formulated a plan as to how we were going to buy him. The rest is history. He gave me five years of absolute joy. It is because of Magnum that Hal and I live where we do now, and live a wonderful lifestyle. Magnum was put to sleep on 12th February 2016, here at home. We don’t know exactly how old he was, but he was riddled with arthritis, had navicular disease, and was in heart Phalia. I hope you was happy with us. I still miss him terribly.

Leonie. 14.3hh 5year old black Irish Cob mare. Leonie actually belonged to Hal. She was his first horse, and the story is very well documented throughout this block. She was bought from a dealer at Tedburn Saint Mary near Exeter. Sadly she was put to sleep at the age of eight in March this year. She is the reason why I believe indiscriminate breeding should not be allowed, and why I would always strongly advise anybody to have a horse vetted before buying them. We like to think we gave her a good life in her last few years. However, she is the only horse that I’ve ever bought with out a prepurchase vet check, had I insisted that Howe had her vetted, it would’ve saved us both awful lot of pain and heartache.

Florence. The absolute centre of my universe.15.2hh. Heavyweight traditional, piebald, gypsy cob mare. She will officially turn 20 on the 1st of January. Bought from a private home near Launceston, I will have had her for three years on the 15th of November. She is a real character, A bit of a bossy moo when she’s being handled on the Ground but the safest, most reliable, cause when being written. I trust her implicitly, and she makes me feel as if I can take on the world. She is the most vocal, talkative horse I have ever met. I think she is also one of the most intelligent. I really hope that I can keep her sound, well and happy for a very long time into the future.

Breeze. She actually belongs to Hal. . 14.2hh black Cob mare. She is now 20, and we have recently learned that she is beginning to lose her eyesight. An ex-trekkingpony, bought from a trekking centre near Okehampton that was closing down. The only horse I have ever met who is frightened of cats! She is a sweet little soul, full of cheek, but she is extremely nervous and has a will of solid iron. We both adore her.

Day 28 – Inspiration

Nobody knows where my love of horses comes from. My Dad sometimes jokes that my first word was horse. It must be somewhere in my DNA though; I have a cousin who is equally horse obsessed. My cousin had a pony, and became an AI. She is a lot older than me, and grew up in Staffordshire, a long way from me in Devon. However, hand-me-down toys and books used to feed my enthusiasm. My cousins mum, and my mum, were the youngest daughters of a man called Harry Wakley. I hardly knew my grandad,as he died when I was very young, but I have been led to believe, that when he was a young man, he used to ride point to point. I have also heard a family rumour that he was in some way related to Richard Wakley, the jockey and racing pundit. I will never know if these things are true, but if they are, perhaps my DNA theory isn’t as daft as it sounds.

As a child, if toys, books and games didn’t involve horses, or possibly dogs, quite frankly I wasn’t interested. I read every book that the Pullien-Thompson sisters wrote, I practically new black beauty word for word, Learned about Australia through the eyes of the Silver Brumby, rode the range with My Friend Flicka, and read every pony care book I could lay my hands on, even before my parents gave up and let me start having riding lessons. I watched champion the wonder horse, Folly Foot, White Horses, Horses Galore, Horse In the House, and the adventures of Black Beauty. I would watch any western, be glued to the racing, and when I was 10 I wrote a letter of “complaintment” to the BBC because they kept putting showjumping on after I had to go to bed. Every Birthday, and every Christmas, I would ask for a pony. I never got one though. I did always get the black beauty Annual, The Follifoot Annual, and the Princess Tina pony book (I have absolutely no idea who princess Tina was)..

Growing up in the hinterland between the city of Plymouth and Dartmoor there were a lot of horses around. There were always moorland ponies, no designated the Dartmoor hill pony, and I used to dream about taming one to be my own personal playmate. However a boy in my class at primary school got kicked by one, and broke his leg, so I decided to give them a slightly wider birth from then on. Lots of people in our area had horses and ponies, and I would go running enthusiastically to stand on the back fence to watch them go by every time I heard the clip clop of hooves, dreaming that one day it would be me riding past on my own horse.

Of course there were people who I was very very impressed bye. Caroline Bradley, John Whitaker. Virginia Holgate (later Leng), Mark Todd; but it was the horses I was more influenced bye. Tigre with his unusual high tail carriage, Ryan’s Son, Priceless, Charisma. Later I became influenced more by people who advocated different ways of handling horses, such as Monty Roberts, pat Pirelli, and Mark Rashid.

Today I draw my inspirationfrom people who I admire on a personal level. My friend Amy who handles horses so quietly and confidently, and who never seems to get in a flap. Are riding instructor Melissa, Who can find the positive in every situation. Young Ben whose enthusiasm and can do attitude, remind me what it was like to be 11. Hal, Who always seems to manage stay calm when the chips are down, and who is not afraid to put me in my place when he thinks I am being unfair to the horses. Florence, Who, every time I sit on her back, makes me feel like I could take on the world.

Day 27 – a Bit About Me

Today’sBlogtober Challenge prompt is to say a little bit about ourselves. It will come as a surprise to some, but I’m not actually very good at blowing my own trumpet. I’m actually quite shy, and despite some of the things I’ve done in recent years, i’m quite uncomfortable when it comes to being in the spotlight. Although I am a lot more confident now, right through from childhood until my 30s I was never comfortable if I felt that people were looking at me, or judging me. No I’ve hit my 50s, and have since been through quite a lot in life, if people want to look, Who am I to stop them?

Because I have a tendency to go off rambling I have decided to do this as if I was interviewing myself. So here goes.

Where were you born? I was born in Plymouth, Devon, UK.

Are you from a horsey background? No. My dad was in the Navy, and my mum worked in a newsagents in tobacconist before having my brother. We are not from a wealthy background.

What is your first horsey memory? Hmm, this is a difficult one. I do know that one of my cousins had a pony, but she lived in Staffordshire so I can have only ever seen it once. Growing up on the outskirts of Plymouth it was only a few miles to the edges of Dartmoor, and the wild maul and ponies seem to have always featured in my consciousness. The first time I remember sitting on a pony for any length of time was on the beach at Burnham on C when we were on holiday there.

When did you start learning to ride? When I was nine years old I started having weekly lessons at a local riding school

when did you get your first horse? When I was 21. I got my first job in the May, and bought my first horse in the December. He was a totally unsuitable horse for a nervous, visually impaired, novice, but I had to have him. He was a three-year-old skewbald heavyweight cob called jigsaw. I only had him for four months, and sold him to the riding school I kept him on livery . He stayed in the local area for the rest of his life, turning out to be an excellent pony club and hunting horse, he lived well into his 30s.

Do you own horses now? Yes. I have owned many horses over the years, and we currently have two cobs, Florence Who is a 15.2 heavyweight piebald traditional gypsy cob, and Breeze Who actually belongs to my husband, and is a 14.2 black traditional cob mare.

What do you do with your horses? Mostly I hack, but I enjoy having lessons, and do very occasionally take part in showing, very alone level unaffiliated dressage, and horse agility. Are used to enjoy taking part in pleasure rides, but as my eyesight has deteriorated this is no longer a straightforward as it used to be. This year I intended to take part in some online dressage competitions, but unfortunately a lot has happened away from the horses this year to prevent me from so doing.

Do you work in the equine industry? I wish! When I was a child and in my teens I wanted to be a riding instructor, but unfortunately this career path was not open to little girls who were going to go blind. Over the years I have been a civil servant and a police civilian, both careers which pay extremely well, but are mind numbingly boring. About 10 years ago I left full-time employment and went back into education, retraining as a masseuse and complementary therapist. I gained a degree in complementary health studies, as well as several qualifications in a variety of therapies. I now run a small therapies practice from home.

What do you enjoy doing other than riding horses? I am a prolific reader, I enjoy being out in the countryside, walking and I ride Stoker on the tandem. I’m interested in history, myth and legend. I like learning new things, and did start studying psychology with the open University. However, I stopped working towards my psychology degree when I put myself forward to be a research participant for a clinical trial of an electronic subretinal implant. Three years ago I took part in research project, and as a result I’ve been filmed for television and interviewed for radio and newspapers. I also do fundraising and campaigning work for Guide Dogs -.. i’m a bit of a rock chick love listening to music, although I can’t remember the last time I went to a gig.

If you could have one luxury what would it be? A cleaner. I’d much rather be outside enjoying life than stuck indoors doing housework

Worst habit? I swear too much. Wow this is really difficult!

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 18 – โ€˜Ere! Who are You Calling a Pumpkim? ๐Ÿ˜ˆ

It’s fair to say that I have never carved a pumpkin In my life…i don’t even remember doing it at school. Mind you, , growing up in Plymouth, it would have been a turnip anyway.

Now I live in a village which has the dubious responsibility of ensuring that the devil does not walk this earth anymore,, and the whole business of Halloween and the subsequent turning of the devils stone, which takes place on the 5th of November, is taken very seriously indeed. Trick or treatingis a very serious thing in these parts. However, even the most ardent sugar addict will not knock on a door that doesn’t display a lit pumpkin. For the first few years we lived here we scrounged pumpkins of people, but last year we got our own. Well actually we got a pumpkin shaped lamp, but it sends out the same signal. Treats available here!

Actually it’s been pumpkin shaped things that have been worrying me lately. I’ve alluded several times over the month to Florence is excessive weight. I haven’t been very well, nasty cough, and post viral fatigue, so Florence has had more or less six weeks off. Hardly ideal. During this time she has had her blood taken to test her ACTH levels. Something I have done every six months as Florence has Cushing’s and is medicated. This time though, my vet was so horrified by the size of her she also took blood to test her insulin levels. Thankfully every thing came back within normal parameters. However when I did try to get on Florence roughly 10 days ago, she felt really wrong. Not lame, but as though it was as much as she could do to put 1 foot in front of the other. No heat in her feet, I couldn’t feel a radial pulse, mind you, I doubt I would find a radial pulse even if it was sending out a Cyran tone , vibrating ,,and shouting I’m over here, no strange stance. Eating, drinking, wee, poo, all normal for Florence. She definitely wasn’t herself though. I decided to take her for A walk in hand, and if she was still struggling the vet was going to be coming. Struggling! She walks off full of her usual enthusiasm, down to the Village Square, , A quick look at the devils stone, and then back up the hill to home, Hal guiding me, me leading Florence. There is nothing wrong with this horse! She is huge though. have had to dig out one Magnum’s Girth’s for her. Magnum was a 16 three Irish draft horse, Florence is a 15.2 Cob.

It started today. I actually woke up feeling much better this morning. My farrier has been, and unprompted by me, declared quite loudly how good Florence’s feet are looking. When I told him how relieved I was to hear that, and explained how worried I was about her getting laminitis, he couldn’t have been more reassuring. After he’d gone I scrambled of bored and went for a short. Florence was back to her old self, and practically skipped along with a great big smile on her face. Phew!

Mind you, when it comes to needing to lose weight I have no axe to grind, i’m pretty dam huge myself at the moment. It’s a good job that Florence is it chestnut, and I no longer have my orange fluorescent coat, or from behind we look like a pair of pumpkins stacked on top of each other.

Day 17 – A Good Read

Oops, sorry folks, I clean forgot to write this yesterday. It was a bit of a busy day. Mind you, today is going to be even busier.so, my favourite blogs, and please bare in mind that this does change frequently.

Mulography. This is probably my current favourite . Despite it’s sometimes highly visual content I love Sari’s quirky, alternative sense of humour. I’ve also learned a few helpful handling tips from her that work well with our cobs. I’ve never in my whole life met a mule, but I’m strangely fascinated by them.

Young Hip and Horsey. I’ve been following Poppy’s recovery Ann’s journey back to the saddle with interest

No BuckingWay. Interesting, educational, entertaining

Ride With No Eyes. Written by fellow blind rider Marie, I’ve certainly picked up a few tips from this one.

Happy reading everyone