Frozen

https://www.facebook.com/groups/186408721474505/permalink/1083883751726993/It’s properly cold out there. What a contrast to last week! When Storm Angus hit we had so much rain that parts of the field, most noticeably the gateway to the paddock we call Annabelles Bottom. Dangerously boggy. You could hear the water bubbling! Unfortunately the awesome foursome had been turned out in Annabelles Bottom before the waters rose. Hal got the three bigger cobs out without incident . Not so for Sapphire and me. We’d cleared the running water, and had just stepped up onto “dry’ land, when the ground went from under us! Cue more than a little spooked , breathless, blind woman, desperately clinging to an electric fence while trying to convince a snorting, panicking pony that she wasn’t on her way to the bowels of the Earth. Suffice it to say we won’t be using that particular paddock until things dry up again.

,So wind forward to this week, what a contrast! Cold, crisp, fresh, and, I’m my mind at least, sparkling like an accident in a glitter factory. I make no bones about it, I love this cold, frosty weather! It’s not without it’s challenges though. . Frozen taps, troughs, and hose pipes go with the territory. Breeze and Florence seem not to notice the icicles they have almost perminant lay got in their beards. However, I wasn’t prepared for the water that is actually inside the stables to freeze. It has for the last two nights! How cold has it been in the wee small hours?

I’d much rather have to break ice than cope with the wind, rain and mud we were battling with this time last winter. Here’s to a proper winter.

Peace

.and breathe.

Florence and Breeze are finally out over night. Yes, we’ve made it through another winter! Actually, this winter hasn’t been too bad. Only having the 2 horses has helped, but also, well, compaired to last year, the weather hasn’t been to bad either. There’s been minimal mud, they’ve hardly had a rug on, we haven’t used nearly as much hay as in previous years, and we’ve got shed loads of beddin gleft. Result! We never even completely ran out of grass this winter and haven’t had to supplement hay in the field at all.

You may remember that last Autumn we invested in a Haygain hay steamer. What an investment! Yes it was very expensive, but I’d highly recommend it. Apart from when she was ill back in January, Florence’s breathing has never been so good. It’s much less hassel that having to soak hay, and not once did I have the problem of having to deal with a frozen block of icey hay first thing in the morning. There’s also something truly lovely about the warmth and delicious smell of freshly steamed hay – Gorgeous!

The girls being turned out overnight corresponded with Hal an I having having to make our annual pilgrimage to Oxford to see the Eye Boffins. It’s been a very long couple of days. As far as the eye situation goes, nothing has changed, and so, unless anything dramatic happens I don’t need to go back for 2 years this time. Really though, Maundy Thursday is not the day to have to travel back towards tha West Country. Oh My Word! We had a very long day yesterday, and a total pig of a journey home. Oxford is such a noisey, polluted, and frenetically busy place. Going to check the horses first thing this morning was the perfect antidote to the 2 days of noise and rushing about we’ve just had. Yesterday I awoke to traffic, beeping horns and sirens. This morning, birdsong, sheep, and cattle. The woodpecker was hard at work, a Ewe had lost her lamb somewhere, and the noisiest things were the geese down on Alberts Lake squabbling as only geese can. I was greeted by 2 happy relaxed and content horses, and the air smelt of grass. Perfect!

I certainly know where I’m happiest.

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

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

Personal Hero – Lest We Forget

Sometimes chance has a way of shining a light on something, or indeed, someone, that you have previously been oblivious to, but , when you do discover it, or them, it has a profound effect on you.  It was just such a chance, in the shape of a couple of randomly selected Talking Books, sent to me from the RNIB’s Talking Book Library, which lead to me discovering the story of one of the most fascinating, and to me personally, inspirational, people i have come across. As we are approaching Remembrance Sunday, and this gentleman was a soldier, Who was injured during World War II, and subsequently held as a prisoner of war, I thought it might be relevant to tell his story here.

Many of you may already be familiar with his name, but until about 20 years ago, when the books ‘ Leopard, the Story of my Horse’ and ‘Soldiering On’ landed on my doormat, in the form of two Daisy Talking Books, I had never heard of Col. Sir Michael Ansell.

A career soldier and committed horseman, Mike Ansell was commissioned into the Enneskillans after passing out from Sandhurst in 1924. During The 1930s, he not only served as a cavalry officer, gaining command by 1935, but was also a successful showjumper and international polo player. . During World War II Mike Ansell became The British Army’s youngest commanding officer, when in 1940, he was given the command of the first Lothian and borders horse. Shortly after this he was awarded the DSO. Sadly though, he was injured, in what would now be called, A friendly fire incident, and was subsequently taken as a prisoner of war.

In 1943 Mike Ansell was repatriated. He went on to have an illustrious, and highly influential career in the field of equestrianism.

Shortly after his repatriation, Mike Ansell was invited to become the chair of the British Showjumping Association, and has been credited with revitalising the sport. From 1945 until 1957, not only was Mike Ansell Chair of the British Show Jumping Association,  but he also Chaired the British Horse Society.  Mike Ansell restarted the Royal International Horse Show, and initiated The Horse of the Year Show. He was also the first Chair of the British Equestrian Federation.

Away from horses, Mike Ansell became the High Sheriff of Devon, living in Bideford, not a million miles away from us here in Shebbear. He was also the president of St Dunston’s. Now, here’s the thing, the reason why I am so interested in, fascinated by, inspired by, and, frankly, in awe of this incredible man, is because Mike Ansell’s support of St Dunston’s, now Blind Veterans UK, came from a very personal place. Mike Ansell was blind. The accident which lead to him being taken prisoner, not only resulted in him losing all of the fingers on his left hand, it permanently, and totally, blinded him.

All the work which Mike Ansell did for BSJA, BHS, and BEF, as well as the work the Royal International Horse Show and Horse of the Year Show, his work as High Sheriff of Devon, and as President of St Dunston’s, was all achieved after he lost his sight. He also wrote several books, one of which was, at the time, reputed to be the definitive work on Show Jumping. All of this was done without the benefit of the technological advances which make things so much more accessible for blind and visually impaired people, like me, today. He was a truly remarkable person.

Col. Sir Michael Picton Ansell CBE, DSO, 26th March 1905 – 17th February 1994

I salute you Sir.

Day 15 – nothing to See Here

Yesterday’s Blogtober Challenge topic was to show the last week with your horse in photos.well that wasn’t happening round here!

At first I wasn’t going to do a Day 15 post at all. After all, I don’t have any photos of the last week, and even if I did, well, nothing much has happened. Then though, as I inwardly grumbled about people insisting on using inaccessible formats such as photos and graphics to impart information that might be useful, interesting, or important to those of us who can’t see, I had a rethink.

Don’t get me wrong, , I’m not anti photography. I think it’s Great way of laying down memories, and commemorating special occasions, but it shouldn’t be the primary means of sharing information.

I know it’s entirely unintentional, but using inaccessible means of passing on information, or making a point, , such as photos, memes, graphics, and gifts, is the kind of everyday Ablisn that can really impact on an individuals ability to fully integrate into society.

My particular pet beef is when people take a photo of printed material and then share it. What’s the point of that!?

You see, I’m typing this using a piece of software called a Screen Reader. . The particular one I’m using at the moment it’s called voice over, and is specifically used with Apple products, but there are a great many screen readers out there, for example I also use one called JAWS, which runs with Windows. I am no computer expert, but, by and large, screen readers use something called optical character recognition

. This means that they can “see” letters, numbers, punctuation, and in the case of Voice Over r, emojis, they cannot see graphics, animations, or photos.

I love reading other people’s blogs and Social Media content, and I gain a lot from it. I always feel a bit cheated when it’s photo based.

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.