Something New Every Day

A wise man, or indeed it could have been a wise woman, once said that you never stop learning where horses are concerned. How right they were.

Two weeks ago I finally started having lessons again. At the moment I’m going over to Melissa’s and having lessons on dear old Goldie. , but I intend to start having lessons on Florence soon, she just needs to be a bit fitter. . She’s not the only one!

One of the great things about Melissa is her open mindedness. I’m not sure if she’s ever net anyone who is blind before me, let alone give them riding lessons, but that hasn’t stopped her pushing me. She’s even had me jumping!

This week we introduced my Riding School mount, a rather gorgeous 16hh Palomino mare called Goldie, to my Talking Letters. Bless her, she didn’t turn a hair. It must be very confusing for a horse, suddenly being inside a ring of visembodied human voices, all shouting letters at the top of their voice. Frankly it amazed that any horse will put up with it. While Breeze won’t even enter the school with them running quietly, it seems that Florence, and mow Goldie, are prepared to give it a go. This means that I cam concentrate on what me and my mount are actually doing, rather than worry about where we ‘re going quite so much.

I’ve had another new horsey experience this week too, but this time with Florence. Bizarrely, despite having had Flo for 2 1/2 years now, and even though this area could rightly be described as horse infested, I have never yet another horse while out riding Flo. Until Saturday that is. . So, when, on Saturday, Hal told me that we were about to pass to who were approaching us, I had no idea Florence was going to react. So I sat up, gathered up my Reims, put my leg on, and said “Good girl, walk on!”. I needn’t have worried. Bless her, she just carried on as if they weren’t there. Now even dear old Magnum would have let me down in the circumstances. He would always walk past the other horses, then when my guard was down, throw in a U-turn, and start walking behind them.

. It didn’t how prepared I was, or how hard I tried to ride him forward, when 16.3hh of ex riding school, Irish Draught, decides it’s time to joithe back of the ride, there’s nothing 5ft 3 of overweight, under fit blimd can do about it. You can take the horse out of the Riding school, but you can’t take the Riding school out of the horse. It could be a bit embarrassing really.

We met them again later. This time in a much narrower lane. Once again Florence was the epitome of politeness. She’s such a lovely horse..,n

28 Days to Save the World

As regular followers will know, this has been a particularly difficult year for Florence. She took quite seriously ill in the first week of January, and although she responded to the vets interventions really well at the time, she hasn’t really been right all year. As a result, she has done very little as she doesn’t really seem to want to be ridden. We’ve tried all sorts of interventions, from treating her arthritis, to looking at her tack, feed, supplements, teeth, you name it, we’ve tried it. We’ve had a few little glimpses of hope along the way, but no real progress beyond a certain point. Our gorgeous girl is trying to send us a message, but we just can’t hear what she’s trying to say. It’s frustrating, soul destroying, and heartbreaking in equal measure. Florence is the absolute centre of my universe, I adore her; she challenges me teaches me, and validates me on a daily basis, sitting on her back is my happy place, and when I’m riding her I feel invincible.So it absolutely destroys me that we haven’t been able to find a solution for her.

Florence is quite an old lady now, officially 20, but only she really knows how old she is. Her passport was drawn up before they were compulsary, and her date of birth is a ‘think of a number’ guestimate. Only Florence really knows how old she is, and like any true lady, it’s a closely guarded secret.She owes me nothing, and, if she’s not right by the New Year, or even beforehand to be honest, then I’m OK with the idea of her hanging up her saddle and retiring. However, before we do that, there’s one more avenue to go down.

Gastric Ulcers.

OK, if you just look at Florence, and don’t take any of her behaviours into account, she’s not a classic Ulcer candidate. She’s a big heavy cob, who is a very good doer, and who, at the moment, is scarily obese. She has a light work load, does not compete, and lives out most of the time. However, recent research has shown that any horse can get ulcers, apparently some studies have shown that even ferrel and wild horses show some sign of ulcers on post mortem examination. Also, Flo is a very sensitive soul, and a bit of a worry wart. Her behaviour sometimes includes some classic ulcer related traits; girthiness , sensitivity to touch, mild colicky signs like pawing the ground, which is something she never used to do, refusing to be mounted, and generally being grumpy. Some of you may remember that a few years ago she had two unexplained bouts of colic. She also has Cushings (PPID).

So today we have started a 28 day ulcer protocol to see if it makes any difference. Normally a horse would have an endoscopy to see if there are indeed any ulcers, and whereabouts they are exactly. Differently located ulcers need different medication. However, we would need to take Florence to the vets to have this done, as the equipment is highly sensitive, and does not take kindly to being transported around, and we do not have our own transport yet. So, after having a conversation with my wonderful vet, he decided that we could run Flo on both medications for 28 days to see if it makes any difference.By the time this is done, we should have our own horsebox (there’s a whole new blog post coming about that soon), so if it’s made a difference, then we can take her to be scoped and find out where the ulcers are, and then continue treating with just the most appropriate medication. However, if there is no change, then that’s the end of Flo’s ridden career. Luckily there are no serious side effects of the medications she is on, so this approach will either make a difference, or things will just stay as they are. However, if we all survive the next 28 days it will be a miracle!

This intervention isn’t simple. Both meds have to be given on an empty stomach. This means that Florence has to come in over night so she has nothing to eat for at least 8 hours before. Having her meds; and, because of Flo’s seperation anxiety, the boys have to come in too. This will be a massive challenge for Mayo, who is not used to being stabled overnight, and who is just that little bit claustrophobic. The boys don’t have to be starved though, so it’s not all bad news. Next, one of the meds cannot be given with food. It has to be delivered via aural syringe like a wormer. In the very nearly 4 years that Florence has been with us, worming has always been a battle royal; and now we’ve got to do it every morning for 28 days! It’s going to be a long month!

Normally I don’t bring my horses in over night until at least the middle of November, and later if I can possible do it. Last night we brought them for the first time, and started the ulcer regime. Everybody was fine until we went to check them last thing. Mayo barged out of the stable 3 times in the process of trying to give him a hay net! Bless him, he really doesn’t understand the need to be shut in. Perry though seems to be taking everything in his stride. Honestly, as long as there’s food, I don’t think he minds much to be honest. No early in the morning visit from me today, which felt really wrong; but I neither wanted to start a riot by given the boys hay and not Flo, nor did I want to be flattened by a forced exit from Mayo. However, Hal and I went down later and gave Flo her meds, and the boys some hay. Actually, Hal gave Flo her syringe medicine, and she took it really well. The other med went into a small feed half an hour later. That didn’t touch the sides! Once again Mayo came out of his stable like a cork from a bottle as soon as the bolt was taken off the door. It’s not nastiness, he doesn’t have a nasty bone in his body, he just doesn’t understand, and he probably doesn’t feel all that safe being shut in. Let’s face it he hasn’t been here 3 weeks yet. I’m sure he’ll get the idea. Perry though was as laid back as you’d like. He might be a monster, but he knows which side his breads buttered.

They’re all turned out for the day now, in the Old School Paddock (left hand side as you go into the bottom field) which neither Mayo nor Perry have been in before. We took the boys down together first, and they both walked down really politely. Then Hal went back and got Flo while I stayed in the field to monitor things. The boys both had a really good gallop around, with some bucking and leaping in the air for good measure. Life apparently is good. However, by the time Florence joined them, they’d already got down to the serious business of grazing.

Let’s hope the next 27 days pass as smoothly.

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.

What a Month!

It’s just occurred to me that it’s a month ago today that I rode at Nationals. Really! Where did that month go then?

Honestly we just haven’t stopped. Once we got home we went straight into the whole rehoming process for Peregrine. The car knows it’s own way to the Mare and Foal Sanctuary now, and naps in that direction every time we pass the junction. We’ve also been down to darkest Cornwall several times to view potential new horses, and get Mayo vetted. Then the weather did the dirty on us, so Mayo’s delivery day had to be brought forward. Not that I’m complaining, any extra time spent getting to know a new horse has got to be time well spent, but it did mean we had to suddenly prepare things, rather than having a few days to play with. Since we’ve only had 2 horses for a while, the third stable has morphed into an unofficial storage shed. Let’s face it, the tractor lived in there last winter!

In between all this, we’ve been up to Shropshire to celebrate our neice Hannah, and her lovely man Sam’s wedding. We’ve had the outside of the house cleaned, and we’ve ordered a Horse Box!

It’s no wonder we’re both so knackered!

Today though I finally feel like things are slowing down and becoming more relaxed.

Florence came home exactly a fortnight after we lost poor Breeze, and Melissa took her over to Kingsland. Peregrine came home on the same day, and Mayo came home on Thursday. It’s early days; but all of them are now turned out in the same paddock, and all really does seem to be going incredibly well. I’ve never had such a smooth, or quick introduction of new horses.They all seem totally relaxed about everything. In fact this is the most chilled I’ve ever seen Florence; she really does seem to be warming to her new found status as the matriarch of the herd, and is being remarkably tolerant of having a small pony almost perminantly welded to her side. She called to the boys the other day when I had her out, and called to them both yesterday when they were being worked in the school and she wasn’t. It really couldn’t be going better really.

So now we can relax again and start having fun. I’ve just booked my first lesson since Nationals and I have a plan to try and get Florence hacking out again, I’ve got lots of plans for Mayo, and Peregrine is beginning agility and beginning to walk out in hand. All three horses are far too fat, so are, along with their equally porky owners, officially on boot camp, well, OK, more like comfy slipper camp really, but we all need to be fitter and slimmer.

So now we’re waiting for some concreting to be done. Yes folks, Digger Man Pat is returning, and for the Horse lorry to be built, then the world is our lobster, as Arthur Daily would say.

From where I’m sitting the future is looking very positive indeed.

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!.