Sunday, 14 August 2011
Home Sweet Home
Alas, we are home again - and have been for a little while. It's not easy to write when you are mentally still lost somewhere along the countless lanes we saw, while physically in something like your normal life again. Work is getting back to normal, though with its normal summer low and the ponies are having a well earned break, so there isn't much to do. I've taken to studying Welsh - which I had decided while still on the way - to fill the remaining time. Another language is at least a little challenge now that I can't spend all day walking.
So what happened with our trip?
Well, on the day we spent with the Hereford cows, Artax must have rolled in thistles or nettles or something similar and got a rash and lots of strange round spots on the left side of his neck. They did not seem to itch or hurt, so we continued. Then, the next morning, he had a very swollen nose. Again it did not seem to bother him and he ate and drank normally, so I put some anti-inflammatory cream on it and was happy to see it quite a bit better within a few hours, though it took several days to go down to almost normal again. We went on for two more days to the place with the friendly donkey who offered to wash the dishes and had a day off there, then did the short trip of just 14 miles over to Elizabeth's; that's the place with the outdoor shower from the beginning of our trip.
The next day Artax decided to get yet another thing - his left eye was swollen. Not much, it was only around the eye, the eye was the normal colour, nothing was inflamed and, again, it did not seem to bother him. I finally spoke to a vet, who was very reassuring. He said not to worry, to put some tea on the eye and just watch things. Apparently lots of horses were having allergic reactions to flies. Whether the tea helped or not, his eye was good the next day - only to swell up again in the evening, but again it was fine in the morning and then stayed like that.
So... in this situation... with just about six days to go to get home... I wondered whether we should do it or be really responsible and give it a miss. Elizabeth had just bought a new horse box and was quite eager to try it... and so it happened that we decided to drive the ponies home... very responsible...
Anyway, who knows what was actually wrong with Artax, but it cannot have been anything serious. Maybe he just felt his nineteen years a little bit.
And what do we learn from all this?
Well, the trip was AMAZING, I enjoyed very nearly every single moment of it and hope to bore my grandchildren with the stories one day. As you will have seen from our stories, long rides are a very simple activity. When you are well prepared, have well trained animals and a little portion of luck to go with it, nothing dramatic or especially exciting happens. That's the wonderful thing about it - the simplicity. You just wake up in the morning and have exactly two jobs for the day: take care of the team and walk. It's physically demanding, but mentally relaxing.
An enormous THANK YOU to everybody who helped us on the way or just simply stopped for a friendly chat along the way.
Thank you for the hundreds of pounds in donations that were given to me on the way and through the Just Giving Website. Of course the website is still open for more donations :o)
The pages are:
www.justgiving.com/ridearoundbritain for Compassion in World Farming
And thank you again to our sponsors for their invaluable supplies!
Maggie would hardly have managed the journey without her RuffWear dog boots. She did not need them full-time like the ponies, but every few days for the first five weeks until her pads were sufficiently hardened off. Of course they are also good for dogs that do not get so much exercise, but have hurt a paw or have to go out on salted roads in the winter. Yes, they really do stay on the paws well! Maggie was also kindly given a backpack that was fantastic for her to carry her own doggie essentials around during the day. She accepted that perfectly and was happy to take a bit of weight. Then there was of course also the collapsible food bowl that lasted the whole trip and came back still looking like new - great quality!
The Satmap GPS was clearly the thing that made the difference on this trip, and made following the route a pleasure that required hardly any thought or attention. With a GPS you simply know exactly where you are at any moment and can therefore easily find the correct turnings without checking the landscape or counting junctions you pass and it simply doesn't let you get lost! It is completely stress-free navigation. I had spare batteries with me to last around 10 days at any time, that is five sets. Though I never used more than three of them as we almost always found places where I was able to charge the gadgets. The 1:200,000 map pages I had in Dino's luggage for emergencies were not needed a single time. Instead of dozens of OS maps, we just got away with one small unit that spent the trip glued to my side as my constant reference point. As a little extra, it was of course nice to know exactly how far we had been in a day.