Boys and Girls

It’s incredible to think that tomorrow Peregrine has been with us for a month!

Yes, I know; but it’s true.

It’s also 2 weeks yesterday since mayo joined us..

So that’s roughly only 6 weeks since losing Breeze.

OK, so it’s understandable that Hal and I are a bit wiped out right now, especially if you factor in Nationals and Hannah and Sam’s wedding as well. So you’d think that all this disruption and chaos would be having a really detrimental effect on Florence and her 2 new field mates.

Not a bit of it.

Unless I’m missing something here, as far as the horses are concerned, things couldn’t be going better. Yes, there’s some jostling over who’s in charge; but actually, not as much as you would imagine. They all seem to be very comfortable in each others company, and although there is some bickering, there hasn’t been any really nastiness. In fact, without wishing to anthropomorphise, they all do seem to like each other.

There is one thing that i wasn’t prepared for though

Horse play

I’m not used to geldings. I have nothing against them, it’s just that, for some reason that I don’t really understand, I seem to be drawn towards mares. Mayo is the 12th horse I’ve owned (13th if you count Bell the Fell, who was never officially mine), but he is only the 5th Gelding. In fact, until Peregrine arrived I’d only ever had 3 boys over the years, and the 1st 2, Jigsaw and Oliver Twist, who were my 1st and 2nd horses respectively, were both only with me. For less than a year. It wasn’t until Magnum entered my life that I really had a proper relationship with a gelding; and, although I’ve had several mares at once, I’ve only ever had 1 gelding at a time.

Geldings play really rough!

Perry and Mayo are like kids. they really enjoy a good bit of rough and tumble. One minute their chasing around, bucking and kicking, the next they’re up on their hind legs sparring, and trying to bite each others faces, the next they’re are mutually grooming, or grazing next to each other. In the meantime, Aunt Flo is keeping a beady eye on them, and stepping in to split them up when she deems things have gone too far.

Apart from Leonie, who, let’s face it, was different, none of my mares have ever played this rough. It’s quite unnerving when you first see it. Poor Ben was quite worried when he saw Mayo and Perry up on their hind legs play fighting the other evening. I’m not sure he belived me when I told him they were just messing around.

Another thing, which I was prepared for, but has quite disturbed Hal and Ben is the way the boys like to relax things from time to time. It really doesn’t bother me, probably mostly because I can’t see it; but poor Ben was, well, quite shocked when he was grooming Perry the other day. I’m not sure he was really prepared for a relaxed gelding displaying his wares to quite that extent. Ben has only handled mares before, as he didn’t start coming here until after Magnum left us. He’s certainly been having an education over this last few weeks bless him.

The Worst Kept Secret – Introducing Mr Mayo #PonyHour #HorseHour #RDA #BlindRiders

As regular followers will know, for a while now I’ve been looking for a new horse. Florence is the absolute centre of my universe, and I trust her completely; but, she isn’t getting any younger, now officially 20, and she’s had a few ongoing health problems this year. In fact, this is partly why losing Breeze was such a shock, as although Breeze was older than Flo, she was generally in much better health.I hope to be able to keep Flo going for a while yet, but she is definitely looking for the quiet life nowadays, whereas, having rediscovered my love of dressage, want to start doing a bit more. Hence the decision to get another horse for me to ride.

Now, although I want to do dressage, I also want to be able to hack out safely, and do some of the things that the riding Club put on. The level of dressage I’m anticipating doing is quite basic, unaffiliated, as well as RDA competitions. I loved my experience of Nationals this year, and I’d really love to get there again, with my own horse. Being blind, I have some very niche requirements in any horse, which can be tricky to find all rolled up in one package. They need to be calm, confident, and forward thinking, but not buzzy, overly spookey, and definately not prone to tanking off. They need to be able to think for themself, but still listen to their rider, and they need to be very very genuine , and quite brave, but not so gung ho that they don’t look after themselves and their rider. They also need to be polite and easy to handle on the ground, but at the same time, they do need to be open to their handler being more, well, up close and personal, and hands on. It also helps it they can cope with being walked into occasionally, and they absolutely must be easy to catch.There’s also that other, undefinable thing, and it’s something you will never know about a horse until you start riding and handling it on a regular basis. It’s difficult to explain, but, some horses seem to understand the blindness thing, and others just don’t. A lot like humans really when you come to think of it.

Now, whilst I love horses, and riding, I have to admit that I find the whole, trying out potential new horses thing really stressful and frightening. I really have to trust, even more so than anyone else, that the seller is being honest with me about this horses personality. If a horse tanks off with me I have no way of telling where I’m going, what’s in front of me, either on the ground or overhanging, or what the grounds like… well you get the picture; and that’s on top of the whole, being in a strange and unfamiliar place that I don’t know my way around, and being watched, and possibly judged, by the horse’s owners. I really do find it all very difficult. For these reasons I am extremely picky about what horses I will even consider going to see. I have a list of absolute deal breakers, words and phraises that, if they appear in an advertisement, mean that horse if automatically rejected. Can be nappy, prefers to hack in company, neds experienced rider/handler, to name just a few. Then, when I contact the seller once I’ve read a likely sounding ad, I explain my situation, and see how they react. I once had a persona tell me that their horse, who they were selling as an ideal novice ride, wouldn’t suit me as she was very big. The mare was advertised as 15hh, and at the time I had Magnum, who was a 16.3hh Irish Draught, so I thought it was a strange reaction; but she obviously didn’t think I was right for the horse, so I didn’t labour the point. Mind you, some people would sell a rabid wolf to a puppy petting zoo, look at the dealer who sold us Leonie to us, so you do need to take things with a pinch of salt, and be open to the possibility that things may not be as rosey as they have been painted. Once I’v got to actually viewing the horse in the flesh I have a few rules. I like to see the horse being tacked up, and ridden before I will consider gettingon board myself. Before I bought Florence, a yard that I had had some dealings with, who knew I was blind, and who knew I was looking for a horse, contacted me to tell me about a young cob they were selling. I’ve never seen a horse run backwards down the yard when somebody was trying to put his bridle on before! Definitely not the horse for me. I know almost instantly my bum hits the saddle if I feel safe on a horse. It’s difficult to explain, but with some horses I get a butterflies in teh stomach, sitting on top of an unexploded bomb, slightly nauseous feeling before i’ve even put my leg on; whereas, with others, like Florence, Sapphire, and Magnum, I just feel at home.

So, last week i went to view a likely sounding little cob. When I spoke to his owner I got the impression that selling this horse was not an easy thing for her, and she was very concerned that he would go to a home where he would be loved as much as they love him. He sounded very genuine, and, whilst not your typical dressage horse, he did sound like he’d be more than capable of doing the kind of dressage that I want to do. He had apparently been bought as a confidence giver for her teenage son, after he had had a bad experience with another horse, and he had done such a good job in this role, that her son now found him a little bit too steady. Well, that sounded ideal to me!So, off we went to darkest Cornwall, to meet a lovely Mother and Son and their gorgeous little cob. He handled beautifully, the lad was more than happy to show hin off to me, this cob definately can, and he’s a good little junper too, and then I got on. At this point I think it is fair to point out that. The horses owners were quite tall,wel in comparison to me a lot of people are quite tall, and as the horse is only 14.3hh, they never use a mounting block, in fact thy don’t have one. This could havr been a massiv problem for me, as, not only am I short, but I have restricted movement and strength in my left hip, so mounting even a very small pony from the ground is just plain not going to happen. I needn’t have worried. this genuine little horse stood like a rock while I scrambled up onto a wooden block thing that they used as a junp, and then scrambled up onto his back from there.Yes, this was one of those feeling at home horses. So a short plod around the school trying not to ride into the jumps, then a short hack out, and i was feeling very safe and secure indeed.

On Friday we had him vetted, and the vet couldn’t find even the smallest thing wrong with him.

So…

Let me introduce you to Mr Mayo (just plain Mayo to his friends).

He’s an 8 y.o., 14.3hh, bay roan, bllagdon, cob gelding.

I’ve been trying not to say too much about him until he got here because I think that selling him has not been an easy decision for his previous owners, and if I’m perfectly honest, I half expected them to change their minds before he got here. However, Hal has been just as excited about his pending arrival as I have, and, even though I asked him not to, he just couldn’t help telling people about Mayo.

Mayo wasn’t supposed to be coming to us until Saturday, but here in the South West we’ve got a severe weather warning for storm force winds (gulp) on Saturday. They’ve even cancelled the Board Masters Surf Festival in Newquay, which is where he came from. So they decided to bring him up early. Suits me!

He seems to be taking everything in his stride so far. Yes, he’s only been here a few hours yet, but compared to others I’ve had over the years, he is remarkably calm about having been left on a strange yard, with strange people, and strange horses. So here’s hoping he’s going to carry on that way.

So now we’re back up to 3 horses. The future is looking very bright indeed.

Magic Moments

It’s already really hard to remember that Peregrine has only been with us for 12 days. This small bundle of undiluted cheek and joi de vive has already wormed his way right into our hearts. He’s such a happy, jolly pony. OK, so, he’s still at that baby stage where everything goes into his mouth. I do seem to have had my arm down his throat retrieving things that no pony should eat, on an almost daily basis, and those inquisitive teeth are sharp! He’ll grown up though, and his winning personality makes up for any little, erm, accidents, along th way.

When it comes to his actual job, being a companion for Florence, well, even that’s going better than expected. Yes, he’s a youngster, and so considerably more energetic and playful that his older field mate, but they do seem to have bonded really well already.

This mornign I had one of those magic , just me and the horses moments. Both horses, stood together, waiting by the gate. No argy-bargy, in fact it could easily have been 1 horse with 2 heads. Florence is fully accepting of, and relaxed with Peregrine now. Both of them had time for a chat, and it felt like they both genuinely wanted to spend some time with me. When I was filling the water troughs, Flo wandered off a little to graze, but Perry (yes that’s what feels natural) decided to ‘help’ me witht he water.I ended up quite wet.

A lovely August morning, not too hot, not too cold, so far too early for the flies, birds singing, the countryside waking up around me, 2 gorgeous, friendly, relaxed horses. No better way to start the day. Just magic!.

Looking Back, Moving Forward

As I clambered through the fence this morning to check that Florence and Breeze had enough water, and as our gorgeous girls searched me for treats, I was oblivious to the date and what an important day it is today. It was actually one of those Face Book memory things that woke me up to the fact that today is the 5th Anniversary of Magnum and Sapphire joining us here at Albert’s Bungalow.

Five Years!

Bakc then we had no stables, no School, and didn’t even have a proper access onto our own land. We moved up here without knowing anybody, and, to be brutal honest, without really knowing what we were doing. Now we have our own lovely yard, our own menage, which still rocks my world, and have opened the old field access next to the house. We have lovely neighburs, and even more lovely friends. However, we couldn’t have done it without the good will and support of a lot of people, most of which we didn’t know before we moved up here.

Ok, so nowadays it’s Florence and Breeze who are the centre of my universe, and hopefully there will be another horse joining them later this year. However, looking back, if it hadn’t been for Magnum, none of this would have happened. Who knew that an elderly Irish Draught Horse with an open festering wound on his back could be the tiny pebble that set off such a life changing avalanche!?

We’ve achieved so much in the last five years. Now it’s time to regroup and consolidate on what we’ve built. What will happen in the next 5 years? I’m certainly looking forward to finding out.

Bring it on!

Five Years!

Today marks the fifthe anniversary of Hal and I coming to Albert’s Bungalow.

Five Years!

I’ve just read back through all my posts since I began Poo Picking in the Dark, which it surprises me that I didn’t actually begin until the November after we moved in, and, we haven’t stopped have we?!

Looking back, we’ve achieved such a lot, and learned even more. Yes, there have been some terrible lows, the whole Leonie situation will haunt me for life, however, there have been so many more highs. Yes, it’s hard work, no we haven’t had a holiday since we’ve been here. No, we don’t have any money. Yes, we have a great quality of life.

I still have to pinch myself regularly. I still can’t believe I’m here with my own little yard and my own school. The last five years have been full on, but we’ve done all the big stuff now. So now it’s time to consolidate on what we’ve built here. Here’s to the next five years.

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.

Taking Stock

Sometimes it’s good to stop and take stock, especially when you are feeling a bit like you are lost in the wilderness, which is exactly how I have been feeling for a while now. So today, when I was browsing Social Media over my early morning cuppa, and one of those ‘Face Book Memories’ came up on my time line, it gave me pause to reflect and get some perspective..

Today is the 5th Anniversary of the day that Hal and I first came to view what is now our home.

So, as we were waiting for Steve to deliver some hay this morning, I couldn’t help reflecting on the past 5 years, and thinking how far we’ve come, and how much we’ve learned. Back then, having pulled out of a purchase on legal advice, and, only the day before coming here, viewed an almost derelict dump of a farmhouse, which seemed to be all that was available in our price range, we were beginning to believe that we were on a fools errand. Our dream of having our own little equestrian property was beyond our reach. Now though we have our own little yard with a lovely school, and have plans to get our own transport later this year.

Ok, so at the moment, we have 2 unrideable horses; but 5 years ago, I was in danger of not having anywhere to keep the 2 horses we had back then. Also, even if neither Florence nor Breeze can never do a stroke of work again in their lives, they will still be here. Having our own yard and land means I do not have to make that horrible choice between having a ridable horse and keeping the now unsound, older horse that I love. That single fact alone is enough to make all the hard work, sacrifice, financial hardship, and difficult decisions, worthwhile.

Yes, doing it yourself is extremely hard work, and it’s poor Hal who has to bare the brunt of it. We haven’t had a holiday since we moved here. Apart from the fact that we can’t really afford it, it’s a question of what we do with the horses if we go away. Yes, if we have to be away for a night or 2, then we are lucky in that Amy will take care of them, but leaving them for a whole week, or a fortnight… Well that’s a different kettle of fish altogether. All our money goes into the horses and maintaining th yard. We have invested a lot in building the stables and school, neither of which existed before we moved here. Also, we haven’t really recovered from taking a hit when that crook stole our money instead of building stables, and yes, this is a choice we have made, and I’m ot complaining, after all, what else would I be spending my money on? Horses are my passion after all. However, Hal and I are not rich, in fact, if people knew how small our income atually is they wouldn’t believe us, so there’s not a lot spare for luxuries, or for that matter even essentials. Even if we didn’t have our own place, and kept our horses on livery somewhere, we’d still have to make difficult decisions from time to time. We’ve had to have 3 horses put to sleep since we’ve been here. In each case, being kept on livery would have made absolutely no difference. We had good support and guidance from our Vet in each case, and we can rest assured that in each case we did the best thing for the horse. In fact, for me personally, whilst having to make that ultimate decision is the most horrible thing you can think of, because I was confident I was doing the best thing for the horse at the time, whilst it was heartbreaking, it wasn’t entirely unbearable. This probably sounds very strange, and maybe a bit heartless, but I actually coped worse with the planning process for the stables and school. I think this is because it was a much more prolonged process, and other people’s opinions could have made a difference to the outcome. Ultimately I was in charge of the decision to send the horses on their final journey, but, having submitted planning applications, I had no control over what happened at all. Applying for planning consent is probably the most stressful thing I have ever done. I’m glad we did it though.

Hal and I have been lucky in the support we have had since we have been here. However, we haven’t had things handed to us on a plate. I truly believe that we wouldn’t have the support we do if we weren’t prepared to put in the graft. If something is important to you, then it’s worth the hard work.

5 years ago today, as we drove across Dartmoor in a snowstorm, little did we know that we were driving into the amazing dventure that the last 5 years have been. I love living here. My happiest times are when we are down on the yard. Yes, sometimes it feels like a struggle, and yes, sometimes I feel like I’m stood at the bottom of a mountain with only a very thin piece of rope to help me up to the top. However, these are just passing qualms. If you told me even 7 years ago that this is where I’d be I’d haved laughed at you. Living here is a privilege. Life is good. Here’s to the next 5 years. Bring it on.