It Talks!

Excuse me if I sound just that bit pleased with myself. It’s just I really think I might be getting somewhere. Not only that, but I had a lovely, and totally unexpected surprise earlier this week.

As regular followers will know, I have, for what feels like a very long time, been trying to find a way of making Dressage markers audible to me. . Now, there are many talented and successful VI and blind riders out there who don’t feel the need for such assistance. They count their horses strides, and know exactly how many strides, in which ever pace, it takes to get from marker to marker. I have no idea how this works withlateral movements, or circles, but regardless of that I take my hat off to them. I’ve tried counting steps when doing long cane and guide dog mobility training. For example, it takes 36 steps to get from the zebra crossing to the door of the shop you want to use. Yeah right! I know it works in theory, but for me personally, I get far too easily distracted by what’s going on around me, somebody only has to say hello to me and I’ve completely lost count. In a dressage or lesson environment The same thing happens, I am so busy concentrating on what I am supposed to be doing, that counting strides is a complete nonstarter. Also, and again I am speaking only for myself here, without something audible to aim for, I have absolutely no idea if I am travelling in a straight line or not. I am in absolute awe of anybody who can count Strines, instinctively know that they are straight, and concentrate on what they are supposed to be doing all at the same time. They are far superior beings to me.

By far the best solution to the problem, and the one that is advocated by the Riding for the Disabled Association, is to have people call the letters. This is a brilliant system as only the letter you are aiming for gets called, making it less noisy and confusing for horse and rider than an automated system where all the markers get called all of the time. There’s just one drawback though, and it’s a biggy, you need eight people if you want to use every marker in a standard twenty by forty school. Not necessarily an insurmountable problem for those who ride or train at large equestrian centres or volunteer rich RDA groups, but completely impractical for privateers like me.many years ago are used to belong to something called the blind riders Group, they held an annual dressage competition during which they used people to call the letters, and in fact this was the method that I preferred to use personally, but they also had some audio devices that they called Talking Letters. These were actually old fashioned tape recorders playing continuous loop recordings of somebody saying the letter over and over again. It’s these Talking Letters that inspired my search for a solution to my problem.

Over the last few years I have experimented withmany potential solutions, but to no avail. At first I thought using something that was PIR and so would only make a noise or speak letter when I was approaching it would be the best solution. That way I wouldn’t be bombarded by continual noise. However, after trying several PIR gadgets, I came to the realisation that it wasn’t as practical a solution as I had originally believed. These things are so sensitive that they go off constantly regardless. It only takes a gust of wind, or a fly, and off it goes. Ironically though, The sensor range on these things is so narrow that they don’t seem to be able to pick up a horse until it is practically on top of the device. Back to the drawing board. . Perhaps some kind of sound beacon that beeps or buzzes! Well, you did used to be able to buy these from the RNIB. Not any more ! Old fashioned tape recorders or dictaphone that used continuous loop cassettes perhaps? It turns out I t’s easier, and cheaper, to buy a pedigree Unicorn! I did think that I had resolve the problem when Hal discovered a digital voice recorder on Amazon, which had the capability of being able to make continuous loop voice recordings. Not only that, but it only cost £11! We ordered one to see how we would get on with it. It’s an amazing device, tiny and with a massive memory. It would be the ideal sort thing for somebody to carry around in their pocket or handbag. However, neither Hal nor I find it particularly easy to use. Back to the old drawing board. Makingvoice recordings on Mobile phones was our next idea. This didn’t work out to be very practical either. With no continuous loop facility it meant having to sit for ages just saying the same thing over and over again in order to get along enough recording. It was difficult to get the sound loud enough. Not only that, but really, Who has eight Mobile phones sitting around anyway?

While all this was going on I was asking around continuously in the blind community see if anybody could come up with a solution. . I was advised to contact a company called Talking Products. This is a company that manufactures and supplies all sorts of interesting items that talk. They are primarily aimed at visual impairment market, but also cater for learning difficulties and dementia. Several of the products looked very promising, but none quite fitted my requirements. The biggest issue being that the majority of them need to meet manually operated and would only speak once before having to be manually operated again. I did however email the company and ask for their advice, unbeknownst to me so did Hal. I personally did not get very helpful reply, but rather than emailing customer services like I did, Hal went straight to the top man. Eventually though, Hal got a reply that was really helpful. The man suggested that maybe Bluetooth speakers might be the solution to our problem. He pointed out that some Bluetooth speakers have The facility to take an external memory card. If we could find a way of recording a sound file onto such an external memory card we might then be able to play it in the Bluetooth speaker.

Bingo!

As it happens, at around this time Hal got an Email alert for an Amazon Lightning Deal on a Zoee Tree S3 Wireless Speaker. It was as cheap as chips, so he ordered one to try.

Result!

This clever little device really seems to be made for the job. It’s small, light and robust, actually being intended for outdoor use. It works as a Vluetooth or wired in speaker, but also takes a micro SD card. It is simple to use with clearly defined buttons, and, although there was no mention of this in any of the blurb, it talks! You get an announcement for power on, power off, or whether you are in Vluetooth or music mode (using the SD card). Perfect! It’s working so well that we’ve just got seven more. It looks like I’ve cracked it.

If that isn’t positive enough news, well I was bowled over by what happened earlier this week. The riding club AGM took place on Monday night, we had intended to go, Life and the weather got in the way so we didn’t. iMessage the Chair to apologise, And was told that the membership secretary would bring my membership form and trophy around later in the wee.

Trophy?!

I’ve only been awarded the annual award for outstanding achievement. Me! Chuffedisn’t the word!

So, I’m feeling totally buoyed up and inspired to push myself that bit harder. Now, if it could just stop snowing…

Buckle Up Baby, We’re About to Hit Turbulance

Wow last week was challenging. Yes it had its high points, but , like all roller coasters, it had plenty of dramatic and frightening lows. So buckle up, it’s going to be a bumpy ride.
It goes like this…

Monday. Not having been feeling too well for the last few days, I had a lie in and didn’t check the horses first thing. So there we both are, tucked up in bed, when the doorbell goes. There stands our young next door neighbour with the news that the horses are in the process of clambering through the hedge into our bottom field. Cue mad dash to catch them in. No harm done thankfully. Just a realisation that that stretch of hedge is no longer secure.

Monday was such a lovely day that I took the opportunity to hop on Florence and go for a ride. It was one of those rides where everything just clicked. It was like we were telepathically linked. Perfect!

Tuesday. 6.30a.m. Tuesday saw me standing in the field trying not to go into a total melt down as I listened to Florence struggling to breath e. Seriously, I’ve never heard any horse make that kind of noise. Did she puncture a lung getting through the hedge yesterday? Should I call the emergency vet? Calm down dear! A horse who is at deaths door wouldn’t be trying to steal mints of me, would she?

I waited for the Vet’s to open before calling them, and waited on tentdrhooks until a lovely new vet arrived. She was very thorough, and had a lovely way with Flo. It turns out that there was nothing wrong with Flo’s lungs, but that her upper airways where completely blocked with mucus. . The poor girl was completely bunged up. Bloods was taken and antibiotics, anti inflamatories and decongestants prescribed. Nothing but R&R for Flo for a couple of weeks.

Wednesday. With time on my hands, and the sun shining we decided we should do something with Breeze. So I hopped on board. . She went off really positively, and I was just warming to the idea that Brezd might turn out to be as nice suddenly…
Let’s just say that, even with doing everything he could to help from the ground, when Breeze naps there ain’t nothing I cann do about it. She stopped, I sent her forward. She Sam round, I turned her round. She went backward, I sent her forward with Hal leading her. Hal let go, she span, I turned her round. She went backwards…
You get the picture. Anyway, this went on for what felt like eternity. Breeze getting more and more cross, me getting increasingly dizzy and disorientated . Then a van came up the road behind us. I got off.
We walked her in hand the rest of the way, and she was an angel. Looks like we’ve got some work to do to build Breeze’s confidence..

Thursday. Riding lesson day. We both had very positive lessons . Both of us had taken steps forward. For me there was also the fact that I had ridden 3 different horses in 4 days, and, I was not in any pain! Perhaps I am finally getting back to some degree of fitness at long last.

Friday. Bloody Leonie kicked Hal! He’s OK, very sore, badly bruised and very shaken. . We’ve been putting light rugs on then at night when it’s cold and taking them off in the morning. Leoni has grown out of her rug from last year (which luckily fits Breeze) and is actually wearing one which I bought for my old horse Bella about 20 years ago. . Unlike the more modern rugs, this rug had fixed leg straps. . I prefer a fillet string, and always remove detachable leg straps and convert one into a fillet string, but in this older rug the straps were sewn into the lining of the rug. Leonie is not convinced about about the whole concept of rug wearing, and had let me know she wasn’t happy with the leg straps. Poor Hal was actually undoing one of the offending items prior to taking the rug off when she lashed out and caught him on the thigh. I’ve cut them off now!

Sunday. A lady called Clare, who works at the yard we bought had arranged to come and see her. I had originally suggested we rode out together, but the vet had told me not to ride Florence. So Clare rode Breeze while Hal, still hobbling, led Sapphire in hand. Breeze was a bit nappy, but seemed to draw confidence from Sapphire. Sapph herself seemed to really enjoy herself, and didn’t put a hoof wrong.

Tuesday. Ever known true fear? I did on Tuesday night. We checked the horses last thing as usual but there was no sign of Florence! What there was was a lot of churned up mud, some broken fence, and a huge hole in the bank, but no Florence! Now there are two things you need to know. Florence is not the horse for striking off alone. Leonie or Sapphire, it’s a point of honour with both of them to thoroughly test the security arrangements in any location, but not so Florence. In fact, in Leo’s earlier escapes, Flo really became very anxious. So something bad must have happened for Florence to have gone by herself. Secondly, a long way below where the hole in the hedge was there is a deep, corn create drainage channel, and I mean a long way below! Also, behind our land, and again, a long way down, there is a disused sunken lane, it!s only use for years, an unofficial dumping ground to the lazy. All I knew was that Florence must be down there somewhere – and she was ominously quiet!
With the others , strangely subdued and compliant, caught up and munching hay in their stables, Hal braved himself up and went on a fact finding mission. I went for reinforcements in the shape of my Dad who was staying with us.
I don’t know if horses have multiple lives in the same way cats do? Hal found Florence down in the sunken road. She was a bit wide eyed, and very pleased to see him, but stood on all fours and totally fine! If there is a God of Horses then it was certainly watching over Flo on Tuesday night. The problem was now how to get Florence back home. The obvious answer would have been to walk her down the lane to the village and back up the road. No chance! The lane is so blocked with rubbish that a cat couldn’t get through. I don’t think Hal knows how they did it, but he and Florence managed to clamber up the bank into our field. It was now about midnight!

Florence seems none the worse for her adventure, and is all better from her breathing trouble too. I don’t know what happened, but all four of them have been unusually agitated since Tuesday, and they all keep staring at that corner of the field.

All I know is that we are very lucky to still have Florencd.