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.

The Beast is Back

I’m really losing the will to live. So far , in every aspect, this year has been a total … I actually can’t think of a printable word to describe it. I feel like all I’ve done this year is run round after other people, done the right thing, been sensible, been understanding, put others first,been the bigger person. In return I’ve made to feel like some kind of evil ,selfish bitch. I’ve lost a horse, and I’ve hardly had any time for the others. When I have had time to ride it’s either chucked it down with rain, howled with rain, or snowed!

Florence and Breeze didn’t cope very well with losing Leo. All Friday after she was collected, all day Saturday, and most of Sunday, they just kept calling and calling for her. It was totally heart rending to hear. By mid week they begun to relax again, and yesterday Hal so then eating from the same hey Kyle. Something that has hitherto been unheard-of.

The weather has actually been very nice this week, okay a bit damp, but there has been some warm sunshine, and it’s actually felt like spring be around corner. Perhaps I might be able to start doing things for me, spending some quality time with horses, having some nice hacks out, and maybe start having lessons again? No not a chance! It hasn’t stopped snowing since yesterday lunchtime. It’s a total whiteout out there. It’s back to stumbling around in the W and hauling water to the stables. Frankly I feel like it’s not worth trying to achieve anything.it either goes wrong or gets thrown back I’m your face.as far as I’m concerned this year can just do one.

Blind man’s fog

It’s fair to say that it’s been very cold all week. It didn’t actually rain for roughly 10 days which quite honestly feels like a bit of a triumph. We’ve coped with frozen water troughs, and if I’m perfectly honest, rejoiced in the hard frozen ground whichas made such a refreshing change from wading through mud. However things became a bit more tricky when the water started freezing in the buckets in the actual stables. However, we do have a working kettle in the tackroom now, so this wasn’t an unsurmountable problem. That is until Wednesday when disaster struck. The tap on the yard finally froze solid and refused to be revived by boiling water. The tap on the house didn’t want to know either. . So now we’re hauling water from the house to the yard. Hal has been doing the water carrier relay. Back and forth with a wheelbarrow loaded with our enormous water carrier. However, yesterday morning I had to carry the water carrier from the house to the yard, as pushing A wheelbarrow whilst carrying a stick doesn’t really work. I had to make two trips, because I’m not strong enough to carry the water carrier when it is completely full, and on my second trip I really struggled as I had put too much water in and the container was too heavy for me. However I managed it, so my horses did not go thirsty.

All this cold weather has been having quite a serious effect on Hal. Although he has not been formally diagnosed, we believe he has a condition called Raynolds syndrome. This means that, when he gets cold, The blood vessels in his hands contract too much, his hands go pale, and numb, and can be very painful if he touches something. He has really been struggling this week. To try to combat the problem, he has some hand warmer sachets called Little Hotties, which he keeps in his pockets, or can slip inside his gloves if necessary. You just shake them, and they warm up, staying warm for about eight hours. Well they say that necessity is the mother of invention, so when

He was struggling with his hands the other day, Hal had a sudden lightbulb moment. If he placed a little Hottie hand warmer under the water troughs and buckets would it prevent them from freezing? Erm, well yes actually it would! It’s not perfect, but it definitely makes quite a difference.

Yesterday though things got a whole lot more challenging. Storm Emma and the beast from the east had a hot, or should that be cold, date in Devon. The wind blew, and it snowed big-time, and because the Wind blue, The snow drifted. Enter a whole new level of difficulty for yours truly.

It’s not for nothing that some people refer to snow as blind man’s fog. It is the most difficult thing to orientate yourself in if you cannot see. Snow dead and sounv, so you lose all those audible clues, like echoes for example, that you rely on to tell you where you are. Neither can you feel all those tactile clues you get from the ground through your feet. Not just the official tact tiles that you get at road crossings and junctions et cetera, but also those unofficial things tell you where you are, like that even piece of pavement for example. Curbs, sleeping policeman, Grass verges, steps, ramps, and low walls, all things that you might use to tell you where you are, become hidden by deep snow and snow drifts. Using a long cane is extremely difficult, and even Guide Dogs can struggle.

It took us over an hour last night just to give them water. Hal hauling a wheelbarrow through thick drifting snow, and me floundering around trying to find the path I use several times every day. The thought of having to get water to the horses by myself this morning nearly reduced me to tears.

I did it though! I only took a gallon, but added to the remains of their overnight water it kept them going.

Frankly though we are both exhausted. Please let it be Spring soon!

January Blues – and that’s just my feet

January is an odd month really. You make New Year Resolutions on New Years Eve, get all pumped up about a fresh start, and all the amazing things you are going to achieve in the coming year. Then, you wake up on New Years Day , maybe a little hung over, but full of enthusiasm for the year ahead…
And January happens. It’s a month with attitude. A dark and gloomy 31 day, resolve breaking, soul sapping, battle of wills between you and the forces of nature.

Last year howling wind, torrential rain, and the kind of mud that made The Battle of the Somme look “a bit damp” , were the theme for the entire winter. So far though, this winter has been a lot dryer, and thankfully, much less windy. Oh boy is it cold though!

Personally, I love cold, crisp, clear, frosty days. Give me breaking ice on field troughs ova having my arm ripped off by wind powered stable doors any day. However, even I find having to break ice on buckets that are inside the shed, well, beyond the pale. Hal really doesn’t cope well with the cold, and has gone into hibernation. We hand both had the obligatory post Christmas bug. So, apart from serving their needs, we haven’t done anything much with the horses except a few brief walks in hand. Thankfully they are all well, and coping with the cold extremely well. There are a few creaking joints here and there, but those lovely thick, unclipped coats, feathers, manes, tails, and beards, are really doing their job.

Sadly Breeze is finding her change of situation difficult to cope with. . I keep reminding myself that that it’s very early days yet. She’s only been here a few months, after twelve years as a trekking pony. However, i can’t help thinking we might have made a mistake in buying her. She’s a real sweetie to handle, and, although quite dominant, seems to have settled with the others. The trouble is that Breeze is terrified of everything! She’s constantly on red alert, even when In her stable. When being ridden he is both nappy and spooky, and it seems to be getting worse not better. She is not proving to be the confidence giving, supdr safe school mistress we need, far from it! As a result Hal’s already fragile confidence has died a death, along with his desire to ride. The whole idea was for us to hack out together. I despair of that ever happening now.

How Can it be February Already?!

How can it possibly be the 1st of February already? January seems to have flown by, but, although I haven’t been sitting around doing nothing, as far as my horsey aspirations are concerned, I haven’t achieved much. In truth, this is mostly down to poor Florence’s continuing problems with her breathing. I had hoped that I would be back on board, and preparing to book our first lesson of the year by now. Sadly though, she isn’t really right still, and although we have done some very low level in hand work, it’s really been to entertain her, rather than as a serious atttempt to start getting fit. The weather turning cold has exacerbated her breathing problems. I don’t want to make matters worse for her, ridden or unridden, she is far to important for that, so we are still at base camp planning our route up the metaphorical mountain at the moment. Breeze is also taking it easy at th moment. We are giving her stiffness/lameness time to resolve itself a bit, and we are experimenting with her not wearing any back shoes for the time being. Like Florence, she has done a little bit of in hand work, but not much.

None of this means that there aren’t things going on in the background though. Hal has decided that he and Breeze are going to try their hooves at Horse Agility, and to this end has joined the International Horse Agility Club. We did a bit of this with Sapphire before we moved up here, and it’s really good fun. Also, although Horse Agility HQ is only just down the road from us, it’s something that can be easily done from the comfort of our own school. To that end we are now gathering together various items that can be used to build agility obstacles.

For myself, well, I am in the process of going over to the Dark Side! I have been given some advice by another Blind Rider who I have met through the Blind Ridrs UK Twitter account, and as a result I am in the process of joining the Riding for the Disabled Association as an independent rider. I will be joining/affiliating to the North Cornwall RDA group, as they are the closest to me, and will hav coaching through them, but will not be riding as part of a group. The aim is to eventually compete. At the moment it all seems very positive. It couldn’t be more different to my last experience with RDA. I have to get a medical, because of my arthritis, to say it’s OK for me to ride, and them I have to have a riding assessment, to see what level I am at, but so far so good. So watch this space.

The idea was always that I would be training and competing with Florence. However, her state of health, and the realisation that she is now 20 has made me very thoughtful about the future. When I first approached RDA, asking how I would go about becoming an independent rider I told them that I would be riding my own horse. However, I’m not sure Florence is realistically going to be that horse. I cannot wait to get back on Florence’s back, after all, it is my happy place, and I hope to soon start having lessons with Melissa again very soon. However, I have told the North Cornwall RDA Group that, for the time being at least, I will need to use one of their horses.Flo’s not going anywhere, and , fingers crossed, is going to live, and be able to be ridden for a long time yet, but I don’t think it is fair to expect her to suddenly become a competition horse, not at her age.

So, yes, this does mean that I am beginning to consider getting another horse. Not yet though. For a start we can’t afford it at the moment. We are finding looking after Florence and Breeze is a pleasure, yes they both have their quirks, but, on the whole, they are really easy going and stress free to do. Also, I’d like to make sure that I’m really up for it, the RDA stuff I mean, before I decide exactly what type of horse I want. It’s no good forking out for a potential dressage diva if I’m destined to be a happy hacker for the rest of my life.

In the meantime though, while I’m not riding, I am working hard on my fitness. I’m already feeling a difference in my everyday life, although the weight’s not coming off as easily as I’d hoped. I’m feeling very positive about life, despite Florence’s problems. It’s all very exciting. So watch this space.

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

Glove Story

Suddenly the weather has become cold, and I am faced with the dilemma. To glove or not to glove. That is the question. You see I have a little bit of a love hate relationship with the humble glove. Whilst I don’t mind getting my hands dirty, as a professional masseuse and complementary therapist they are the tools of my trade, I cannot work safely if my hands get damaged, Open wounds and plasters are a no-no

, and soft skin is a must. As a colleague of mine said recently, are clients come to us for a nice relaxing massage, not to be sanded down. So I have a real need to keep my hands protected. However, my hands are my interface with the world. For me, wearing gloves is a little bit like being blindfolded. That said, having bear hands when the weather is subzero is just as painful for me as it is for anybody else.

Most of us who handle horses on a regular basis have long since lost any squeamishness we might have had when it comes to where, and into what, we stick our hands. Horrible horse hands, with sore, dry, cracked skin are all to familiar, and beautifully manicured nails are akin to unicorn horns in their rarity. So, here is where I put my professional head on, and offer some winter skin care advice.

Your skin isn’t just the thing that keepss your insides in. It’s the biggest, and one of the most important, organ in the human body, and as such has a variety of very important functions.

Therefore, we should really view looking after our skin as being as important as looking after our heart, liver, lungs, kidneys etc. . Yeh right, how many of us do that? Whilst I am really concentrating on the hands here, most of the following apply to your skin as a whole. .

Before I go on, I think it’s important to point out that, if you have any conditions such as eczema, dermatitis, or psoriasis, it is absolutely imperative that you continue to follow the regime as set out by your doctor or dermatologist. For the rest of us though, The following will help protect your hands from the ravages of winter weather.

Protection. Whenever possible where gloves. However, if like me you find this is not always practical, then use a protective barrier cream. Anything which is mineral based, like Vaseline, petroleum jelly, the majority of baby oils, and Bio Oil are excellent. Mineral molecules are two big to be absorbed through the skin, and therefore leave a protective layer on the surface. In cold and wet weather, keeping your hands in your pockets can also be a real benefit. In fact many specifically out door Coates have what they call hand warmer pockets for this very purpose. Remember to thoroughly dry your hands after washing them, and moisturise them as well..

Moisturise. Unfortunately the popular mineral based hand creams, whilst being excellent for protecting your hands, aren’t the best thing to use to moisturise the skin. As I mentioned above, they don’t get absorbed by the skin. They protect, but don’t do anything to add moisture. In fact, in extreme cases of overuse, they can actually dry skin out even more. For moisturising look for products that contain plant -oils as these have smaller molecules, and so are more easily absorbed.Be careful though if you have a nut allergy, look for products that contain evening Primrose, starflower real, marshmallow,honey, seaweed or aloe Vera instead. Don’t forget that you need to moisturise from within as well. Most externally applied moisturisers will only be absorbed into the top layer of the skin. The best way to help keep your skin soft and supple is to make sure that it is not dehydrated.Make sure you are drinking plenty of fluid. Don’t be obsessed about drinking a certain amount of water, as long as you’re taking on water, and not drinking too much tea, Coffee, fizzy drinks, or alcohol.

Nourish. Remember that your skin needs full range of vitamins and minerals, as well as healthy fats. Try eating a varied diet, which incorporates plenty of vegetables fruit, pulses, nuts, seeds and Olive Oyl. Current dietary guidelines recommend eating not more than two portions of oily fish a week, and this is another source of beneficial healthy fats.

If like Hal, you suffer from conditions such as Raynaud’s disease, or your hands become extremely painful in cold weather, you might benefit from trying some handwarmer pouches. It’s possible to get reusable ones, which are activated by pressing a disk within them. They heat up quickly and stay warm for a good few hours, and are reset by boiling in hot water.. However, you can buy massive boxes of disposable hand warmers called Little Hotties, from Amazon much cheaper. Just shake them and they stay warm for hours. Slip them into your pockets, or even your gloves. Earlier This year, when it was snowing, Hal slipped some under the water buckets In the stables to try to stop them freezing. It worked a treat!

I hope the above tips are helpful. In the meantime, next time you wake up to a crisp frosty morning, please spare a thought for those of us you have to put their bare hand into a freezing water bucket to judge how fullit is.