A Bit Off the Front Madam?

Yesterday we had one of those experiences. The really good kind. The kind of experience where, having believed that something would be very difficult and traumatic for all concerned, it turned out to be a walk in the park. Yesterday we had had Breeze and Florence clipped. Not a hunter, not clipped out completely, not even a trace or blanket clip, just a bit taken off the front. Nothingcomplicated, just enough to make them feel a bit cooler in the little bits of work they do. I however, feel like I have won a massive prize. It all went so smoothly.

To be honest I didn’t anticipate that we would have any problems with Breeze. It was Florence I was worried about. She is a sensitive soul, and I did not know sif he had been clipped before. I asked her previous owner, Clare, if she had ever clipped Florence, or if she knew whether she had been clipped previously or not. Her reply was that she had tried once, but it had not been a good or successful experience. This wasn’t going to be easy.

Why did I want to put us all through this? To be honest I was beginning to ask myself the same question. . Well, Florence and Vreeze , and Leomie too for that matter, all what is known as traditional cobs. This means that they are heavyset, deep girthed, short legged, and very very hairy. Picture a lovely sleek thoroughbred racehorse, then picture it’s exact opposite, there is your traditional cob.all horses change their coat according to the season, growing a warm, thick,dense coat for winter, then shedding it in spring, to reveal a shorter, finer Summer coat. . This is a biological response that is triggered by the amount of daylight hours, as much as it is by temperature and weather conditions. A horses breed, age, and general state of health wil influence heavy a winter coat and individual horse will grow. So if nature designed the horse to grow a heavy winter coat, why clip it off? Because nature never intended horses to do any heavy work. In nature, horses live on planes and savannas, in large family groups or herds, grazing, playing, having babies, and trying to avoid being eaten by the local predators. Being ridden or driven by humans was never part of the plan. Like humans, when horses exert themselves they get hot. Also like humans, horses cool down by sweating. Sweat forms a layer of moisture on skin, which evaporates, thus cooling the skin. The trouble is that when you have a particularly thick, debts, covering of fur, sweat, or for that matter any other form of wetness, gets trapped in the fur, and cannot evaporate. This means that the coat gets wet, and the horse becomes cold and chilled. This not only makes the horse uncomfortable, but can lead to skin infections, and even things like Lemonia. In Florence’s case, this problem is exacerbated by the fact that she has A condition calledPPID, also known as Cushing Syndrome. Two of the symptoms of this condition are excessive sweating, and extreme hair growth. Bless her, as the weather has been so mild and damp over the last few weeks, she has found it virtually impossible to dry out. I really had no choice but to try and clip her.

Having booked the ever patient Amy to come and do the deed, i set out to try and reduce the risk to horse and handler. I got some oral sedative paste from the vets. Then I set about trying to desensitise Florence and Breeze to the sound and feel of the clippers. Not easy when you don’t actually have any.what I needed was something that vibrates and buzzes loudly. Enter a battery operated back massager, that I got is a a Dove gift set several years ago. Starting by running it briefly while standing outside the stable door I gradually increased the length of time I ran it for, and slowly got closer and closer, until I was able to run the back of it over the 10 days. Or at least that’s how it worked with Florence. It took abarea I wanted clipping. whole process took about 10 minutes with Breeze. As soon as I turned the massager on outside the stable she was leaning over the door demanding a go.

Whether it was my efforts with the back massager, or Amy’s calm controlled attitude, I don’t know, but things could not have gone better. Both horses behaved impeccably, and we did not actually hath to use the sedative at. I could not be more delighted. The cherry on the cake being that when I went down to do the horses this morning Florence was lovely and dry to the touch..

Ophelia & Brian

Things have been pretty quiet around here since Sapphire left us. At first Leomie, Florence, and Breeze were very subdued, and stayed unnaturally close to each other. One horse, three heads! Kowever, things are pretty much back to normal now. There is a little bit of a power struggle going on between Leo and Breeze over who takes over the lead of the herd. It’s all academic though. The job belongs to Breeze.

Hal has been keeping himself extremely busy repairing and reinforcing the stables. Sadly, two years after having them built, it is evident that our so called Stable Stables are actually anything but. Yes, my lovely little Welsh girl was quite destructive, but really! Last Tuesday I scrubbed out with disinfectant, and then Hal jet washed, the three actual stables, and then bedded them down for winter. Leomie has now moved out of the tack room and into Sapphire’s box, and with bedding and hay In the barn, and rugs washed and proofed, we are winter ready.

Just as well really, because the weather has been appalling. Last year I brought them In overnight on 15th November, or thereabouts, and considered that early. They are already in this year!
My dislike, well, total terror, of strong wind is no secret. So you can imagine how I felt when I heard Hurricane Ophelia was heading straight for us. HURRICANE!!! Everybody talks about the Great Storm of 1987. Weather Man Micheal Fish’s fated words, “No madam, there is not going to be a hurricane”, thousands of fallen trees, structural damage, lives lost. However, I don’t remember it being that bad in Plymouth. What I remover, and what I think is significantly responsible for my wind phobia, is what happened in January 1990. It happened to be the day that I advertised my then, second, and totally unsuitable horse, Oliver Twist, for sale. Bad timing. Believe me, nobody in Devon and Cornwall was reading horse ads that day. My memory starts with standing with a group of colleagues, in a 1st floor room of a four story office building, with my eyes out on stalks and my heart racing as the metal framed windows bowed inwards, and my companions described the roof tiles flying off the houses opposite and the street lights being bent like rubber. We had just been told not to leave the building because the cars were being blown round the car park, the cladding was falling off the building, and the flat roof was peeling back like the lid off a tin. I have never been so scared! That wasn’t the end of it though. When, the next day, I managed to get to the little Riding school where I kept Oliver on full livery, it was to discover that one of the stable blocks, a 5 box wooden unit, not unlike our stables here at Albert’s Bungalow, had been lifted clean off it’s concrete base and deposited 20 foot back behind where it had been. It was pure luck that there were no horses in any of the stables at the time. They had been turned away for a weeks winter break. My blood still runs cold when I think about what might have happened otherwise. I think some people think that I am weird, cruel, or stupid, when I keep my horses turned out during extremely windy weather. I think they would have a different opinion they had seen that stable block as I did on that day. None of the usual resident horses would have survived if they had been shut in.

As it happened, Ophelia, down graded to an X hurricane, changed her course slightly, and did most of her damage over Ireland. Yes it was windy, but we have definitely had worse. What was incredibly strange though was how Hot it became on Monday, and how strongly everything smelt of smoke. The Internet and social media Full of colour of the Sun & sky. Of course I couldn’t see this, and when I asked Hal, Who had been working on the stables all day, about it, he said he hadn’t noticed.

Feeling very relieved that we had got a way with Ophelia so lightly, imagine how I felt when I learnt that storm Brian was coming straight at us! Not even a week in between! As Brian was forecast to be bringing a lot of rain with him, Hal persuaded me to bring the girls in. Mow, it just so happens that that over the summer we have been trying to teach the horses to bring themselves in. Breeze Has obviously done this before, and Florence is getting that idea, but Sapphire and Leomie never really got idea, and would go off in all directions. On Friday afternoon, with Brian already beginning to make his presence known, and the way out of the paddock but the horses were in almost impassable, Hal suggested he let the horses out to bring their own way up to the stables. All I heard was the thundering hooves, and thought to myself that they were coming up rather sharpish. What was actually happening though, was that while Breeze and Flo were slowly working their way up to the yard, stopping every now and then to craft a mouthful of grass, Leo, God love her, had The wind well and truly under her tail, and was galloping around in excited circles, bulking and kicking like an idiot. On one of these circuits, she managed to side swipe Hal, and catch him with her back feet as she bucked. He ended up sitting in one of the water troughs, on the other side of the fence. Luckily, although he is extremely sore, and has some lovely bruises, he has not been seriously hurt. This could have been so much more serious. We won’t be doing that again in a hurry.

As it happens, Brian seemed to be much worse than Ophelia. The wind was much stronger, and oh boy did it rain! The horses seem to be quite content in the stables. Both oh philia and Brian, came from the south, so we were relatively sheltered in both cases. I read on the Internet yesterday, that we are expected to have another 11 storms that are strong enough to be named over autumn and winter here in the UK. Another 11! We’ve already had two and it’s not even the end of October yet.

It’s going to be a long winter

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.

Tonight’s the Night

Well, I can’t put it off any longer. A very strong message is being sent. It’s time for the girls to start coming in at night. When we turned them back out after being in for a few hours the other day, well, they weren’t very impressed. Florence even tried to bring herself back in! They are spending far too much time loitering by the gate, and starting to be first as soon as they see a head collar.

Message received and understood.

Not only that, but the weather is getting horrible, the fields are getting boggy, and the grass has stopped growing. Last night I spent a guilt ridden, sleepless night listening to the wind, rain, and hale.

Winter is coming!

Mucking out , Haynes, mud, rugs…

Actually, they are coming in later than they did last year. Also, without the frequent trips to hospital and surgery , it should be much easier to get into a routine this winter.

Bring it on!

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.

How Can it be February Already?!

How can it possibly be the 1st of February already? January seems to have flown by, but, although I haven’t been sitting around doing nothing, as far as my horsey aspirations are concerned, I haven’t achieved much. In truth, this is mostly down to poor Florence’s continuing problems with her breathing. I had hoped that I would be back on board, and preparing to book our first lesson of the year by now. Sadly though, she isn’t really right still, and although we have done some very low level in hand work, it’s really been to entertain her, rather than as a serious atttempt to start getting fit. The weather turning cold has exacerbated her breathing problems. I don’t want to make matters worse for her, ridden or unridden, she is far to important for that, so we are still at base camp planning our route up the metaphorical mountain at the moment. Breeze is also taking it easy at th moment. We are giving her stiffness/lameness time to resolve itself a bit, and we are experimenting with her not wearing any back shoes for the time being. Like Florence, she has done a little bit of in hand work, but not much.

None of this means that there aren’t things going on in the background though. Hal has decided that he and Breeze are going to try their hooves at Horse Agility, and to this end has joined the International Horse Agility Club. We did a bit of this with Sapphire before we moved up here, and it’s really good fun. Also, although Horse Agility HQ is only just down the road from us, it’s something that can be easily done from the comfort of our own school. To that end we are now gathering together various items that can be used to build agility obstacles.

For myself, well, I am in the process of going over to the Dark Side! I have been given some advice by another Blind Rider who I have met through the Blind Ridrs UK Twitter account, and as a result I am in the process of joining the Riding for the Disabled Association as an independent rider. I will be joining/affiliating to the North Cornwall RDA group, as they are the closest to me, and will hav coaching through them, but will not be riding as part of a group. The aim is to eventually compete. At the moment it all seems very positive. It couldn’t be more different to my last experience with RDA. I have to get a medical, because of my arthritis, to say it’s OK for me to ride, and them I have to have a riding assessment, to see what level I am at, but so far so good. So watch this space.

The idea was always that I would be training and competing with Florence. However, her state of health, and the realisation that she is now 20 has made me very thoughtful about the future. When I first approached RDA, asking how I would go about becoming an independent rider I told them that I would be riding my own horse. However, I’m not sure Florence is realistically going to be that horse. I cannot wait to get back on Florence’s back, after all, it is my happy place, and I hope to soon start having lessons with Melissa again very soon. However, I have told the North Cornwall RDA Group that, for the time being at least, I will need to use one of their horses.Flo’s not going anywhere, and , fingers crossed, is going to live, and be able to be ridden for a long time yet, but I don’t think it is fair to expect her to suddenly become a competition horse, not at her age.

So, yes, this does mean that I am beginning to consider getting another horse. Not yet though. For a start we can’t afford it at the moment. We are finding looking after Florence and Breeze is a pleasure, yes they both have their quirks, but, on the whole, they are really easy going and stress free to do. Also, I’d like to make sure that I’m really up for it, the RDA stuff I mean, before I decide exactly what type of horse I want. It’s no good forking out for a potential dressage diva if I’m destined to be a happy hacker for the rest of my life.

In the meantime though, while I’m not riding, I am working hard on my fitness. I’m already feeling a difference in my everyday life, although the weight’s not coming off as easily as I’d hoped. I’m feeling very positive about life, despite Florence’s problems. It’s all very exciting. So watch this space.

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