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.

Winter Draws On

As I was feeding the dogs last night I heard the phone ring. Like Hal and I, my Dad had just seen Country File, and, like me, . Had winced when the Weather Man said the S word, and then went on to say that snow showers could potentially occur as far South as the Moors of the far South West.

Gulp!

No, OK, we aren’t actually on the Moor here inn Shebbear, but we are invetween Dartmoor and Exmoor, in an area known as Ruby Country. We don’t actually get much snow here, but we’ve already had more than our fair share back in March. I truly think that if we do get a lot of snow this winter it might just finish me off! If you want to know why, please read my post from 2nd March this year entitled “Blind Man’s Fog”.

Dad really wanted to know if we’d brought the horses in. Yes we had! In fact yesterday was the big day. The change has now been made from Summer to Winter routine, a whole 25 days later than last year – and we’ve actually still got some grass left.

Usually the decision is made based on how wet and boggy the ground has become. This year, while the ground is a bit wet, it’s down to wind chill, and Vreeze struggling a bit. Poor Breeze, she was very stiff yesterday. Not exactly lame, but definitely not sound. It was like all her joints needed oiling. Mind you, she’s not The only one. I’ve never really been convinced the weather does have an effect on my arthritis, but, oh my word, am I having a flareup at the moment!

Thankfully this morning, whilst the wind can’t be bothered to go around you, there is no snow around here. Long may that last. I’m hoping for a short winter. I personally don’t mind it being cold and dry. In fact I love cold frosty Krispy mornings, kind of morning when I imagine everything is sparkling like diamonds. Pleased though, no snow!

Day 11 – To Rug, or Not to Rug..

, How things have changed over the years. When I bought my first horse 30 years ago, when it came to buying rugs for him there was very little choice as to style, , weight, fabric or colour. For turn out it was a green, canvas, New Zealand Rug, and for the stable, a Jute Rug with a separate roller. There was also a string vest style sweat rug. If your horse was cold, you put a bed blanket under the rug. If your horse was wet, you put the jute rug on inside out, and thatched him with straw under the rug. I remember there being nothing more heavy and difficult to handle then a truly soaking wet, mud plastered, New Zealand Rug.

Fast forward 30 years

and the choice of rugs is mind blowing . The equine clothing industry is a multi billion pound sector which seems to be going from strength to strength. However I do wonder how much of this is actually Led by fashion, and owner shaming, rather than the actual needs of the horse. Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t go back to using a heavy, difficult to handle, old-fashioned New Zealand Rug if you paid me. However I sometimes wonder if all these different rugs are strictly necessary, and if the basic animal needs of the horse are being forgotten.

Last year I did a quick count up, and was really shocked to discover that I had around about 40 rugs. Okay, i’ve owned horses for about 30 years, and in recent years I’ve had as many as four at any one time. I also have a tendency to keep hold of the Quitman, even when I have no real need for it, just in case.

. My attitude towards rugging has really changed since we moved here and have been doing it all ourselves

When I kept my horses on full livery I was very much influenced by what the yard owner said I needed to do. By and large, they were the ones who were actually handling my horse on a daily basis, so when they told me I need a particular rug, off I would toddle and buy one. After all, they were the expert here, Who was I to question their judgement? It wasn’t until I bought Magnum, and ended up having to keep him and Sapphire more or less on a do-it-yourself basis, that I started to question things. The actual Yurika moment came courtesy of the woman whose land are used to keep Magnum on, and who, at the time, had Sapphire on loan for one of her daughters. It was June, admittedly it wasn’t a particularly nice June, but it wasn’t what you would call cold.

I can’t remember where we were, but it would’ve taken us about an hour to get back to home. Suddenly my mobile phone rang, and when I answered it I was met with a very shouty voice, which informed me that I had to get to the field NOW! That it was raining, that I had to put a rug on my horse NOW! OR ELSE!!! When we did eventually get back to the field, it had stopped raining, and the Sun was shining. I found a comfortable and content Magnum stuff in grass like it was going out of fashion, in the company of four extremely uncomfortable ponies, all wearing rugs, and sweating profusely. Why has she shouted at me like that, and why was she letting her ponies suffer through being too hot? It wasn’t very long after this that I decided to try and move Magnum two other quarters. It was when I told her that I had found another billet for him, that she suddenly decided she didn’t want Sapphire anymore..

In recent times I have read a lot of articles written by vets and equine physiologists, which question the need for horses to be rugged except in the coldest conditions. Thereseems to be a lot of evidence now, that horse is a very good at regulating their own body temperature, and, in general, are perfectly comfortable

In temperatures between 5 – 25 degrees. This means that just because we’re cold, it doesn’t mean our horses are. Since last winter it has been my policy not to rug umtil it’s 5 or below, or under 10 if it’s hammering down. It’s fair to say that they are hardly wasting away.

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.

Day 6 – ..And Suddenly it’s Autumn

Yesterday was gorgeous. Blue sky, gentle breeze, and really very warm. Poor Florence was already in a muck sweat tby the afternoon when we caught her and Breeze in for some TLC. . The midges were out in force and biting for all their worth..

Today, somebody somewhere has finally got the memo about it being October. The temperature has suddenly and dramatically dropped, the wind is blowing, and, oh my word, that rain is cold!

Sometimes I think that sudden changes in weather conditions like this can really upset a horse. Professionally I am a holistic complementary therapist, and I’m used to looking at a person’s wellbeing as a whole, body, mind, and spirit. It is impossible for one to be affected by something without there being a knock on affect on the other two. We call this the triad of health. To be truly well all three elements need to be in balance. Easier said than done. I try to treat my horses in the same way. I’ve noticed that, when the weather gets cooler there is a tendency for horses to become a little bit more sharp and spooky. Even my laid-back cobs can be affected by this. So maybe that’s why, when one of my neighbours started up his pressure washer this afternoon, something happened so regularly that I would’ve thought neither of the horses will take any notice now, Breeze shot off down the field like she was trying to win the Derby. Paul Florence thought the breeze was going to have a go at her, Lept into the air and shot off in the other direction. I have to admit this came as a little bit of a shock to me, I was only a couple of foot away from them at the time, albeit on the other side of the fence. Still it’s nice to know that this pair of elderly porkers have still got it in them