Wednesday, 13 February 2013

This. Is. It. Our Journey To The Red Dragon

As of February 8th Blaze was back in training!

Me and Blaze competing. 2005
In 2005 me and Blaze began a competitive career in Endurance. At 13 I was amongst the youngest of the Endurance GB competitive riders and Blaze turned out to be a natural at the sport. We both enjoyed it thoroughly and together we completed what turned out to be a very successful first season.
We competed all over the country, including a 170 mile 5 hour journey up north to Burnley to compete on the moores at Townley Park. We rode past the Westbury White Horse on Salisbury Plain in Wiltshire. We crossed the damn over Lake Vyrnwy, travelled along Britain's oldest roads at The Ridgeway and galloped round Ludlow race course in a final attempt to cross the finish line before we ran out of time.
Blaze truly excelled herself, keeping up with my friends experienced endurance 15+hh Carbbert Arab. Our first ever ride at The Forest Of Dean on 10th of April 2005 me and Blaze completed a 40 km (25 mile) ride at an average speed of 11 km's an hour. That was 2 km's an hour faster than the Novice speed we needed to go! Blaze finished with a resting heart rate of 47, which meant we had achieved a grade 2. The second best result!
Me and Blazed crossed the damn over Lake Vyrnwy
On 13th August we headed 170 miles up north to compete at Townly Park. We completed a 30km ride at 10.5 km's an hour. Blaze finished with a resting pulse of 42, her heart rate had lowered to her original resting pulse that she had before we began our ride. We achieved our first grade One!
The weather was horrific, truly apocalyptic, by far the worst weather i have ever ridden in. Horses were racing with their heads tucked between their front legs in an attempt to shelter from the howling gale force wind and the driving rain. Horse and rider were soaked through to the skin. Blaze powered her way over the moores, head down, she thrived in these wet, cold conditions.
I remember like it was yesterday. The vet stared at the ticking hand of her watch whilst she pressed the stethoscope to Blaze's side. Always the longest minuet of my life, the vet taking her heart rate at the final vetting.
"42, well done"
"42! Well done Blaze, good girl!" I kissed her pretty face and wrapped my arms around her neck. We did it! Our first grade one. Unkown to me at that time, it should have been our last.

The chalk horse we past over on Salisbury Plain

August 21st 2007

Me and Blaze had nt yet completed another season of Endurance as we made the transition to barefoot (one of the best things we've ever done!) Blaze had just started going really well over hard ground and we aimed to get back on the endurance scene the following year in 2008.
We were taking Blaze and my other pony on holiday to the beach. I had never ridden on the beach before. I have never ridden on the beach before. It's one of my dreams. 30 minuets in, i turned to speak to my friend in the back of the truck when I saw the underside of a car coming towards us, in the air.
The next few seconds were just a blur of road, hedges and tree's and the sound of squealing tyres and crumpling metal.
The trailer was no where to be scene. Mum restrained me to the seat whilst I screamed. She didn't want me to see my horses like that. She didn't want my last memory of them to be that. Dead.
A stranger ran over and opened my door and I screamed at him "My horses! My horses! Check my horses! Are my horses okay? Please!"
He ran behind the car and past the hedges and trees we had skidded through. Waiting on a completed stranger to come and tell you if your children are alive or dead is a strange feeling. Things don't seem to play in real time and it feels like your on the outside looking in. Its not real.
I cried, and cried then he came running back.
"They're fine, they're fine!"
I launched my self out of the car, and ran round to the road, past the horse trailer . It was on its roof. Blaze and Piggles were stood in the middle of the road looking extremely bewildered, a couple of onlookers holding their lead ropes.
At a first glance they appeared fine, until I got to Blaze. Her abdomen and hind legs were shaking. Her stifle ripped open.

The car accident. 2007
The car I had scene in the air had hit a car opposite when trying to over take us at dangerous speeds. He got launched in the air and he hit out horse box. Right where Blazes head was. The horse box flipped on to its roof. Piggles fell on top of Blaze. The roof smashed apart. Blaze and Piggles were flung out of the roof and skidded across the road. They skidded out so fast their travelling rugs and boots melted.

Whilst Blaze and Piggles took refuge in a neighbours garden the vet arrived. He confessed to me after examining the horses and concluding they were okay, that when he arrived he got his gun out of the back of his car. He said when he saw the wreckage there was no way a horse could have survived and the kindest thing to do would be to shoot them at the scene. He was astonished to see my two up and about destroying the poor ladies neatly mown lawn!

Blaze was taken to hospital in Tewksbury where she had an emergency surgery to stitch back together her stifle and assess the soft tissue damage sustained on impact and when Piggles feel on top of her. They concluded that the soft tissue damage was server, more sever that the wound to her stifle.
Blaze spent 5 days in hospital. I visited every day, wanting to bring her home.

Blaze's recovery was tough. The life she led was one of freedom, not only in the sport of endurance and the training but in her everyday life also, she lived out 24/7. Now she was confined to a stable. Every day, every night, all day, all night. She spent months stabled. She got really depressed and the spark that made Blaze Blaze was beginning to fade. I began to turn her out in to the field, keeping her on a lead rope id stand with her for hours, making sure she didn't exert herself but allowing her to smell and feel the grass, the breeze, the outside. This raised her spirits greatly and we decided that she was well enough to be able to walk to the next field to her pasture mates and be stabled there.
She broke out and ripped apart all her stitches. The vet advised against another surgery and instead told us to flush the wound with an antiseptic fluid. It didn't work. It got infected. The infection entered her blood stream and made her extremely ill. The next 12 hours were crucial. She could die.
Blaze just kept fighting and received emergency surgery as soon as she was strong enough. When i say emergency i mean emergency, there was no time for hospitals. She was operated on in her stable. The vet stitched her back together with what looked like rope! Only he had to take away a lot of dead skin which meant the wound and stitches were awfully stretched. There was a strong chance they could rip and we would be back to square one.
They held and healed and Blaze could finally start her 12 months of physio therapy to help repair her soft tissue damage. The vets said she would never be able to compete again. Only gentle hacks. I didn't care, Blaze had survived and the nightmare was over.

We built up her strength slowly over the next 12 months. Blaze did brilliantly and by the following summer I was walking her out in the woods, ridden! The future was looking bright, there was never any pressure to pick up Endurance again, but i looked forward to continuing her recovery. Walks in the woods weren't so much remedy for her body but more for her soul.

August 2008

Me and Blaze. Forest Of Dean. Sept 2nd 2012
Things were going great. Too great. Whilst running with the herd in the field, Blaze pulled the tendons in her hind leg. She could nt walk, not a step. She went back to box rest. We had sever flooding that summer, unable to walk through the mud to higher ground we had to dig a mote around the edges of Blazes stable in order for the water to run around her. She pulled the tendons in the same leg a further 2 times over the following months.
Ride details and entry form


Blaze had recovered from her tendon injuries and had come through 2 bouts of colic also. After many hours of pole work on the ground and stretches we finally built up her strength, and began riding again. Nothing as strenuous as our training days. The soft tissue damage sustained in the care crash has never 100% gone away. On August 2nd, my 18th Birthday, we did our first Fun Ride since the car crash and she was great.
Through out 2011 and 2012 we continued to do more and more and have taken part in more fun rides and pleasure rides. We completed a pleasure ride at Blaenavon where we climbed some really steep sloped until we reached the top. Me and Blaze touched the summit.
 There we were. On top of the world. Undefeated. Ready for more.

Blaze has already done the unimaginable. She survived the car crash. She survived surgeries and recovery. Regained her physical health. Touched the summit on the hills at Blaenavon. Now she is about to tackle the impossible. On October 2nd me and Blaze will be one of hundreds entering and competing in The Red Dragon Ride, considered one of the toughest rides on the Endurance GB Calendar. We'll be taking on a 42km ride round Builth Wales' toughest slopes.
Blaze was born for this. Its more than a sport to her. Its freedom, its the opportunity to roam, explore, live like generations before her, to do what she is so talented at, what she was born to do. This is it!

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