New YEAR fresh Start`

Happy New Year everyone!

Here we are then, January 1st 2019, and the world is full of possibility. Out with the old, good riddance, and in with the new. Bring it on! So what plans does everyone have for this year? Have you made any horsey. New Year resolutions?

I have lots of hopes for this year, lets face it I always do, but if I learnt anything from last years series of disasters, there are no guarantees. So this year, whilst, of course, I have made some New Year Resolutions, , when it comes to the horses and my riding , I have aspirations rather than fixed plans. Mind you, there are quite a lot of them.

1. Actually, this one is a resolution, and it will effect every part of my life. To lose weight and become fitter. For my health this is essential . I have never been so heavy, so unfit, or so unhealthy as I am right now. However, for my professional life it is essential too, I am not exactly a good advertisement for living the healthy lifestyle at the moment. I need to go back to practicing what I preach. In my defence, it has been a very difficult year, and self care has disappeared off the horizon completely. Not any more! In fact, away from the horses, this year is all about self care, and self love, I need to start looking after myself so I can look after everyone else. The horses will benefit as I become lighter, fitter, better balanced. It’s going to be hard worth, but I can’t see a down side really.

2. I’d like to do some very low level, very basic, dressage. I need to put some things in place, but potentially some unaffiliated and/or RDA /Para intro level competitions later in the year?

3. To keep Florence and Breeze healthy and happy, and in the best shape possible. Let’s face it, they are both 20 now. I suspect that Breeze may need to retire soon, she has a few issues after all. But , fingers crossed, Florence does seem to have plenty of life left in her yet. I love them both dearly, and the healthier and happier they are, the happier I am.

4. To go out into the world and be more out there in horsey society. This could be anything, but I’d particularly like to attend some of the stuff that the Riding Club put on. Let’s face it, I didn’t even get to the AGM last year.

5. To be more diligent about cleaning and looking after my tack and equipment. Let’s just say that standards have slipped recently.

6. To get back into having regular lessons. I was doing really well, but then life got in the way. I’m one of those strange people who actually enjoys having lessons. I hope to be able to continue with Melissa, but I also want to get myself booked in somewhere to have some lunge lessons to help improve my seat, position and balance, but I need to lose a certain amount of weight first as I currently exceed most places upper weight limit.

7. To be better organised. Like the weight loss, this is something that will have an impact on the whole of my life. It’ll be a challenge though as I have very few natural organisational skills! However, possibly because last year was so disrupted, I have felt like I’ve been lurching around from one crisis to another and missing, or nearly missing important dates and deadlines. It’s not a good way to be.

8. To be more mindful. Again this is something that will influence my entire life, but when it comes to the horses, I mean that I intend to be there, in my entirety, in the moment, present, while I am riding and handling the horses, not just going through the motions while my mind is somewhere else stressing.

9. To continue to educate and inform the rest of the horsey world about Blind riders, our rights and capabilities, and to try to make the equestrian world more accessible and inclusive .

10. To be as supportive as possible to other equestrians, especially those who are new to the horse world, lack confidence, or for some reason find it difficult to fit in.

Hopefully it’s going to be a good year. The work starts today.

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

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…

It’s Show Time!

We have had an adventure this weekend!

Hal and I have been members of our local riding club since we moved here. . The club, and it’s various members have been a tireless source of advice and information over the last 3 years. . So this year we decided it was time to take our chance at their annual show.
It’s been a long time since I dipped my toe in the sometimes murky waters of the show ring. In her youth, Sapphire used to have a very successful in-hand career, even qualifying for Royal Cornwall Show. It wasn’t me who produced and showed her though, it was our yard manager at the time, Pauline. Sadly Sapphire’s Maast Cell Tumour problem arose just a few weeks before her county level debut, and killed her showing career dead. . A little while before Sapphire Dad and I had a big Palamino Cob mare called Bella on loan. We had her for 10 years, and in fact saw her on ear final journey. Over the years we did all sorts with Bella, and I used to show her at a local level reasonably regularly . This was between 15 and 25 years ago though. All the classes I did back then were under saddle. Things like Tack & Turnout, Best Combination, Best Cob etc. I did have some useful vision back then, but it’s safe to say that I did have some, erm, blind moments occasionally. I couldn’t see the rope that delineated the ring for a start. This didn’t pose a problem when the whole class were parading. It was a bit more of a challenge when it came to doing my individual show, especially in proper cob classes, where you are expected to do a short gallop! Nobody wants to be the one who runs through the rope! 😱 Another potential problem I had was the possibility that I might ride into a steward, or worse, the judge!😰 Thankfully it never happened. I also didn’t always those subtle signals that I was being called in, or being asked to leave the ring. Bella bless her was an old pro though, so we usually came home with a few ribbons☺️

The other thing that was different back then was that the majority of the shows I attended were within hacking distance of the yard where we kept Bella, so there was no need to even think about transport.

So wind forward somewhere between 15 and 25 years. 50%’ of me really wants to go to the Riding Club show, but the other 50% can list a whole range of reasons why it’s a really stupid idea. . How are we going to get there? I’ve got nothing to wear. I can’t go in the ring by myself, I need a guide. Other than Sapphire I don’t think any of the horses have ever been on the Showground before, so they might go daft. All my girls are natural and I don’t want to clip them or pull their manes. The show is on a day with a’y’ in it. I’m sure you get the picture. It turns out that none of these problems are unsumountable.

For my birthday, one of my oldest and dearest friends, Sarah, gave me a Robinsons Equestrian voucher. Enter a smart new pair of beige jodhpurs.with my boots and chaps, my old black velvet riding hat, one of Hal’s shirts, my old black tie from Bella’s day, a pair of black gloves, and a jacket borrowed from Amy, what to wear was no longer a problem. The Riding Club are extremely accommodating, and had no problem with Hal coming into the ring to guide me. Ideal👫 So only 2 real reasons not to do it left. Who to take? It had to be either Florence or Breeze. Florence is beautiful (I might be biased there), but if I’m totally honest, while I trust her totally when I’m on her back, I do sometimes find her a bit strong and bolshy when I’m on the ground. Breeze then? Well, I’m not sure. Actually, my mind was made up when we bathed them the other week (see my previous post “Unwelcome Guests”). Breeze actively enjoys being bathed, whereas Flo really doesn’t. . So it was going to be much easier to get Breeze show ready. We also know that Florence doesn’t travel very well, which leads me onto the biggest problem. How are we going to get there?

Hal and I have been fantasising about having some kind of transport of our own. It’s all a pipe dream. We can’t afford it. Hal has never towed before, neither has he ever driven anything bigger than a Shogun. Until Friday that is. He hired a self drive 3.5 tonne horse box! He picked it up on Friday morning so he could practice bribing it before putting Breeze on board. . Pretty bloody amazing for a man who suffers from severe anxiety. He also arranged for Amy to help us on the day, as neither of us has ever travelled a horse ourself before. When we’ve had to travel a horse we’ve always used a transport company.

Pony all washed and clean
Outfit all prepared
Horsebox on driveway

Looks like we’re off to the show!

Saturday was a beautiful day. The animals were shocked to say the least when I emerged at 5a.m.another groom for an already gleaming Breeze. Check and double check we’ve got everything we need on the lorry. Wash, cress, several nerbous wees . It’s time to load Breeze. Bless her, she walked up the ramp like it was an everyday occurance , and hardly moved for the entire journey.. Mind you, Hal gave her a very smooth drive. Breezd stood on the lorry calmly while we went to get our number, and basically behaved like a lady all day😊

We did 2 in-hand classes, Best Cob,Hunter, Riding Horse, and Best Veteram. True to their word there was no problem with Hal coming into the ring with me. It wasn’t even remarked on so far as I heard.

Bless her, she came fifth in both our classes! What a star😍

I suspect that somewhere in the dim and distant past Vreeze has done stuff like this before. She just took everything in her stride. This is a lovely friendly relaxed show, I didn’t hear a single bitchy comment the whole time we were on the Showground. Also the judge was lovely, full of praise and advice, and mindful that it was a very hot day. Amy, as ever, was a superstar. She really does go above and beyond. We also had support from Ben and his Mum Helen.😊

Thankyou Ruby Moor Riding Club for organising such a friendly, welcoming and inclusive show.

I can only take positives from the whole brilliant experience. It has reawakened my showing demon though😈😉