Thursday, 30 September 2010

British Driving Society moronic comment

Christopher Berry
Ide have a guess that it was you? Driving ponies/horses are in the main cool calm and collected. There are some that are a little more exciting. This is to do with the nature of the beast that we drive. Ideas about harness types, vehicle co...nfigurations etc are all reliant on understanding not only by the horse but also by the driver. I am a country smallholding reader and have read with interest the articles about the saddle chariott which I understand is one of your designs. You claim that any pony/horse will drive in the saddle chariott within two hours! You claim that the pony need not be broken to harness! Or at least that is my understanding of your claim? I think that you are incorrect with these statements as the horse must first understand what is going on behind him. As we have recently proved, not all horses allow something behind them. The saddle chariott is something that you stand on, probably the most unstable position to drive from! on two wheels? Not only can the horse kick your teath out before you can release the release cord, but he can also put you off ballance, and if you go forwards? God help you???? I hate to think about it! I drive to what I consider a good standard having been well taught, so think I understand the way that driving ponies work. I dont understand how you can market something like this, with a web site like which indicates that 'this is the way it is done NATURALLY'. What by the horse or the driver? It's certainly the naturall way to loose your teath if thats any good! Give it up before you kill somebody.
The RDA do an amazing job under the conditions and restrictions that are imposed on them. If you can do better, get on with it and stop bloody moaning about it!
just putting this up to kleep track of the insults.

To see some of my marginally more organised rants, try these links. If all else fails, try hitting them with whips. It works with horses, doesn't it?

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Forced incest

Please go to , my new website covering the saddlechariot/iBex and it's uses. This is where you will also find links to all my articles on training, safety, vehicle design and even the weird stuff on cooking and politics.
My new contact details are
and my phone number is +44 7510 736 518



Forced incest

Incest is not an easy topic to write about. When discussing most sports which involve children, incest isn't anywhere on the agenda. Nor is cannibalism, ritual sacrifice.... loads of topics just don't get mentioned because they have no possible bearing on the sport concerned.

But incest is an integral part of Equestrian activities. The weird world of horsebreeding still discusses the virtues and benefits of mating father to daughter, mother to son, brother and sister. In the pursuit of breed purity, they will force horses to mate on lines that are illegal in every jurisdiction in the world, that are offensive to every religious group in the world,and that go against the natural behaviour of the animals concerned.

Horses avoid incest as carefully as we do. The incest taboo operates across the animal kingdom which makes it truly sick to force an animal to mate with it's daughter. To then boast about it is extraordinary. Should organisations with such very strange beliefs be allowed to work with children.

Breed organisations aren't just riddled with illegal and offensive sexual practices, the reasons they encourage such revolting practices are just as nasty. Breed purity, aristocratic bloodlines, separation of groups on the basis of appearance, an obsession with colour, hair type, facial shape........... does it ring a bell.

Racism, combined with snobbery, based on incest. Not a pretty mix. and the results aren't good animals. Yes the best of breed look pretty flashy, but the ever increasing numbers of congenital abnormalities and the ever increasing number of foals with those congenital abnormalities is a frightening cost to pay, for what is at best, snobbery and racism.

Horses are Equus caballus. Ponies are equus caballus. The progeny of any pony or horse and any other pony or horse, is Equus caballus. The same is true with Homo sapiens. The progeny is Homo sapiens. The parents may differ in skin colour, or blood group, or height or body mass index, or all of them, or none of them, and the child will be Homo sapiens.

Equus caballus produces equus caballus. Yet children are taught about the breeds, and how to identify them, by their colour, or by the way their hair grows, or the shape of the eye. And they are taught that incest is worth while if it produces these marvellous animals that are well bred.

This is the most absurd concept. Do the hereditary peers in the House of lords provide videos to show how well they were bred. It might enliven proceedings. Does well bred really mean that you have forced a father to mate with his daughter. Do we want people with these beliefs anywhere near our children, or our animals.

To see some of my marginally more organised rants, try these links. If all else fails, try hitting them with whips. It works with horses, doesn't it?

Safety versus traditional cruelty

Animal training has come on in leaps and bounds, predominantly as the old negative reinforcement systems have been swept away in a tide of positive reinforcement. To the traditionalists, this is bribery, but then people don't complain at the end of the week, or month, that their employer has bribed them. Lawyers don't haul you off to the police station when you give them money and press charges of bribery, they thank you for paying their bill.

So animals are entitled to rewards, just like people, unless of course they are horses. Horses need whips, spurs, bits and a level of discipline that Guantanamo Bay would find excessive. You take your dog for a walk, and it can pretty much choose where it puts its head, feet, whatever. But a horse needs to be directed exactly how to hold its body, at what angle its head is carried, which order its feet touch the ground.

And the reward is that they don't get hit with a whip, the spurs stop digging into them, the pressure of the bit on the mouth is reduced slightly. Walk a dog down the street, the way a horse is walked across a dressage arena, and you would be arrested. Racehorses are hit, repeatedly, and the Jockey Club claim this is in the interests of safety. Dogs race without whips. So do people. We hit horses with sticks, we kick them in the ribs, we stick metal spikes on our boots so we don't have to kick them in the ribs so hard, we tie their mouths shut on bars of metal so we can haul their heads around. The violence of horse training is endemic, and as such, nobody sees it any more.

I wanted to take animals into inner cities, and into the nice areas where the rich people don't live. To do this I needed a training system that I was happy to introduce to kids from a tough background, in what is considered to be a tough area, though I have only ever experienced kindness and consideration in what are termed the tough areas of cities. Just avoid the smart bits is my tip.

But my preconceptions meant I was worried about introducing more weapons into the area, and also finding a way to control the use of weapons. Schools don't try to get kids to use knives gently on each other. They don't have lessons on gently spraying nightlclubs with Uzi's. They ban weapons.

So I developed a training system to take into inner cities.
No weapons. No sticks, no bits, no spurs, no knives, no guns.
Nobody is allowed to deliberately frighten the pony.
That is all you need.

There are hundreds of things ponies like, being scratched in different places, being brushed, different foods, going to new places, and it is fun for the kids to find out what the pony likes.
When you know what the pony likes, you have a reward, and can persuade it to do what you want.
That's training without violence.

The most important advantage is that the animal will turn to its handler when frightened, for security, for reassurance, for safety. But if you are the the creep with the whip, the guy who boots me in the ribs with spurs, the girl who hauls my head around with a bits and curb chains, I won't see you as security, as safety, you are the problem, and I will run away.

Kindness is safer. In times of trouble do you run to those who hit you, or to those who give you a cuddle. If you seek comfort when you are scared, what logic dictates that a horse will do the opposite.

All the horse organisations, starting from the Pony Club teaching ten year olds, insist on carrying a whip. The Jockey Club say it is there for safety. I have mentioned this before, and I will mention it again and again, until the Jockey Club produce one shred of evidence to back up their claim. I have driven a wheelchair enabled pony drawn vehicle across England, Exeter to London, without whip, bit, spurs or any of the traditional nonsense and NEVER felt the least need for a whip. On two occasions, Obama the pony, was terrified, and on both occasions turned to me for safety.
Would he have turned to me if I was armed?

Weapons don't make you safer. Even Lion trainers have given up the whip. Why do the horse world retain it?

Because it is in their interests to keep horsemanship dangerous. It keeps the common people out.
Access to legal risk is one of the great class divides of the modern age. If you have your own land, you can teach your kid to ride a pony pretty much how you like. If you don't have land, or friends with land, you have to do it the way the establishment tell you to, and the businesses providing it, have to pay ruinous insurance because the risks are so high, thus keeping out common people. If you let common people do it, would the children of the rich and famous get to the top?

So the dangers make it elitist, but the elite make it dangerous. They insist on attaching lumps of metal to the horse's feet. They aren't necessary, and they are clearly dangerous. They insist on children carrying whips, yet there is no evidence anywhere that they make horses safer. There is clear evidence they make horses dangerous.

Every dangerous animal, ie innately dangerous, killer whales, lions, etc is now trained with positive reinforcement to make it safer. The horse, a placid herd living vegetarian, bred for thousands of years to get on with people, is trained with weapons that would be illegal if used on lions, and surprise, surprise, it is dangerous.

The danger is deliberate. Look at me, aren't I brave controlling this fiery steed, this mettlesome animal, this high couraged horse, and all the other euphemisms that say, I had a nice animal and I have turned it nasty and I can still control it.How sick is that.

The general public will never be able too enjoy ponies while the elite are allowed to make them dangerous. If you did to any other animal, what is done to horses, you would be arrested. What has the horse done to deserve this status?

To see some of my marginally more organised rants, try these links. If all else fails, try hitting them with whips. It works with horses, doesn't it?

Monday, 27 September 2010

The end of an era.

 For two years, ish, I have kept a fairly low profile, trying to see if there was any nice way to get the saddlechariot safety concept into the wider world. World Horse Welfare's well timed and vicious attack on me stymied last year's attempt, and I realise there is just no point expecting the Equestrian Establishment to treat me like a human being.

I have been helped by bikers, travellers, scrap dealers and engineers, hippies, Big Issue sales people, drug dealers and addicts, alcoholics and dropouts. The lunatic fringe of the horse world accept me, but I don't want them to go through what I have been through so I am mentioning no names.

I am not going to waste any more time pretnding to myself I might be acceptable to the Horse world if the saddlechariot works. It is depressingly clear I can only succeed if I destroy the people who are blocking me. Since this won't win me any friends, and means my friends are taking a serious risk associating with me, I am switching to Revolutionary Mode.

Revolutionary Pony Access is my new website. It will offend many, but it wasn't written for that purpose. It is tragically, the truth.

The Horse world is snobbish, arrogant, vindictive, racist, elitist and cruel. Their contempt for safety is why they loathe the saddlechariot and have done their best to destroy me. (Good try chaps, just not quite good enough.)

The damage they have done to me over the last 10 years is going to be repaid with totally honest expose of their stupidity and arrogance.

So to all those who thought I was a nice guy, bye bye folks.

A friend some 5 years ago tried to get the BHS to look at my saddlechariot. He told them that if they weren't talking to me seriously, the BHS wouldn't last 10 years. I hope to beat his timescale.

To see some of my marginally more organised rants, try these links. If all else fails, try hitting them with whips. It works with horses, doesn't it?

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Exeter to HydePark, wheelchair enabled pony drawn vehicle. 3

A day by day account of a journey is pretty boring. Got up, moaned about my back, my feet, my legs, the weather, lit Kelly kettle, drank tea, loaded vehicle, harnessed Obama, hitched up, walked, when knackered took a break. Walked, looked for place to stop for the night. Stopped, lit Kelly kettle, ate food if available, moaned about feet, legs, the weather, contemplated half inch of bedroll and realised that the next morning the litany would start again, moan about my back....

Camping is camping, if you've done it, you know the issues, if you haven't, don't read about it, do it. Camping with a pony just increases some problems, and reduces others. Weight is no longer such a critical issue, as long as you avoid the serious hills, and don't listen to your pony when he is pretending they are too steep.

Obama got me pulling up most of the steep hills, which I didn't really mind. What I didn't like was his attitude. The minute I took hold, and we were working level, his head was snaking round, teeth bared, saying "pull harder you sod!" I am never completely convinced by people who claim to understand their horses, but the minute you are pulling next to them, the language is crystal clear, and mostly rude. I found Obama and I settled down quickly to walking in step.

If I didn't the body language got a lot nastier, but however hard I worked, and I swear to God we went up some hills with Obama being pushed by the bloody breeching, Obama was consistently swearing under his breath at me. What is odd, is that if I left him to do it on his own, I got no such insults, though by the end, he had developed a definite tendency to stand at the bottom of the shallowest gradient until I lent a hand.

Obama settled down wherever we stopped, and although there were times where he wasn't too impressed, he never really complained. With 8 electric fence posts I could give him a reasonable stretch of grass each night, and as long as I was around, he stayed calm. What did surprise me is the extent to which he needed my company. By the end of the journey, it was really difficult to leave him anywhere unless I was in sight. Collecting the van and trailer to pick him up from Perivale, really worried me, even though I was leaving him with a friend, in a well fenced garden with the remains of an orchard. When I put him in, it was in a well fenced garden with an orchard, but Obama decided that the smaller apple trees, once denuded of their fruit, were there to provide him with entertainment, so he flattened them.

The minute I left him on his own, he worried and started calling me. The bonds you build travelling are strong, but of much greater importance is the stress level on the animal. Obama didn't like London, and the bond which had been rather a compliment at the start, had become a matter of concern by the end. The bond had kept us both safe, as Obama would do almost anything to stay close to me, and when things went pear shaped, he wouldn't run, but stayed close, as he proved during the final crash.

An animal that feels secure when you are present, can't be trusted if you leave him, and there's the rub. The last three days, I could only eat if I could find a shop where I could see Obama, and he could see me, while I shopped. There aren't that many shops in London that allow this. I found one. It was a hungry three days.

Returning to Brecon, to Nick Sander's place, was as much for Obama's sake as mine. I knew I could put him straight out in a field with Tiki, and as I expected, he didn't give me a backward glance as he set off to join his friend. In fact the next day he was pretty snotty about being caught, and decidedly uncooperative about virtually everything. I just fed him treats. He'd earned the right to be snotty, my main concern was whether he would go back in a Saddlechariot.

After a full check over for any injuries, bruises or whatever, I put him back in the Saddlechariot in front of Nick, who pointed out that Obama wasn't worried at all, but I was clearly terrified. Depressingly true, not that I was terrified of getting hurt, I was terrified I had damaged a pony to whom I owed so much, but he seems genuinely unconcerned by the whole thing.

I am settling down to retrain him pretty much from scratch, partly for my sake, but mostly for his. He needs, and deserves, a more relaxed time, learning to behave again with children, sorting out his issues going over bridges, getting rid of his problem with flocks of birds round his head and introducing him to the joys of driving through the surf.

I have shown what Obama and I can do, it is time now for him to chill a bit, and lead a semi normal life, working in a happy low stress environment, maybe taking a someone in a wheelchair across Dartmoor, but nothing strenuous.

Because in the spring, I fancy a little travelling, nothing major, just from Troy to the Tigris. It's only 600 miles as the crow flies, and it shouldn't take long to drive Obama in the Bannedwaggon to Turkey. Then it's only 600 more miles.

To see some of my marginally more organised rants, try these links. If all else fails, try hitting them with whips. It works with horses, doesn't it?

Exeter to HydePark, wheelchair enabled pony drawn vehicle. 2

Rereading the first essay, it is clear that this is a project doomed to failure, and also that the author has no clue who actually went. Enrique is clearly being trained, yet Tiki seems to have gone. But relax, it gets more confusing. Enrique transmogrified into Winston the Mule before even I realised that he wasn't going to make the trip. I could handle him, and I believe I could have got him most of the way to London, but this would mean Lee taking Obama with an insanely complex, and experimental vehicle, along some lethal roads.

So in a moment of insanity I agreed to take Tiki instead. Tiki is sweet, better with people that Obama, rock steady in traffic, but on the downside, terrified of Saddlechariots, and contemptuous of fences. I knew his problems with Saddlechariots. but not their cause, or their severity, i didn't know that he treated anything less than cleft oak fencing with contempt. By the time we reached Bradford on Avon, we had the Saddlechariot on him so he might at last beome an asset, rather than Obama having to pull Tiki's Saddlechariot as well as the Bannedwaggon. This explains the truly insane fivewheel articulated rig we were trailing across country.

But a pony that escapes, apparently just to explore the local nightlife, totally ignoring its friend and companion, is no animal for this sort of journey. First night on the canal, Tiki ran through the fence as I was connecting the electric, and set off at a brisk trot down the Towpath. He wasn't frightened, just a typical teenage boy determined to get out and see what was available. I am sure if I had left him to it, he would have staggered back at some ungodly hour of the morning, or rung expecting to be picked up from some distant hostelry, but my nerve wasn't good enough, so we spent a happy day in Bradford on Avon sorting out a rescue plan for Tiki who was very kindly picked up and looked after by Mark of Natural Horse magazine.

So Adele is looking after Winston/Enrique the Mule, and Mark is looking after Tiki, while Lee and I carry on down the Kennet and Avon Canal towpath with just the Bannedwaggon loaded to the eyeballs with assorted camping gear, computers, cameras etc. And of course a wheelchair. That after all was the point of the trip, to drive a wheelchair enabled pony drawn vehicle round Hyde Park.
So we finally look at the vehicle. I have spent years trying to get a wheelchair enabled pony drawn vehicle to work. I have had working prototypes for five years ish, but none of them has really done what I wanted. July/August 2010, I build 2 in quick succession that do exactly what I want. The first was ugly and a fractionally too narrow internally but by rearranging the chassis, I made the Bannedwaggon wider internally and narrower externally, while improving the looks. Today, I rebuild it again to make it lower, lighter, sexier, and hopefully this will be the last rebuild before the production version hits the streets.

The Bannedwaggon as we set out, had one fault which I knew about. Hitting large steps with an animal pulling caused the back end to flip up. Attaching a saddlechariot as a trailer cured this fault, so I forgot about it till we left Tiki and the saddlechariot behind, and then we flipped the backend up by dropping a front wheel into a hole in the towpath. Obama was unimpressed and accelerateed, I pulled the ripcord and fitted a pice of string to stop it happening again.
And that is the history of the problems with the vehicle. It is totally mindboggingly good. I did an equivalent journey last year with the Mark10 Saddlechariot and trailer, driving from Brecon to Birmingham. At the time, no other vehicle could have done the journey. I always said the Saddlechariot was the best vehicle around. The safest, the kindest to the animal, the most fun, and the most adaptable. This isn't arrogance, this is honesty. I don't build vehicles to be the second best.

Inventors have a pretty miserable life, and tend to die, unrecognised, bankrupt, alcoholic, frequently by their own hand. I am a pariah in the horse world, considered mad by many, and have lost everything I care about. You don't do that for second best. You don't do that because you think you have a pretty good idea for a middle of the road, pony drawn vehicle. You do it because you believe it is the best.

The Saddlechariot was the best. The Bannedwaggon is better. Not in every way, but in enough. Most importantly, the Bannedwaggon is wheelchair enabled as standard. This isn't a conversion as a sop to the disabled, this is no aftermarket afterthought, this is a vehicle that as standard allows reasonably mobile wheelchair users to drive their wheelchair straight on, on their own. It also takes most mobility scooters and powered wheelchairs.
If anything goes wrong, and with ponies or horses, something always does, you pull the ripcord and let the pony or horse do whatever it wants, you and the Bannedwaggon will roll to a stop, safe, and can wait for help.

This trip, Exeter to Hyde Park, had only one aim, to prove this point, and it has. If you are interested in all terrain access for those with mobility problems, the Bannedwaggon is the answer. The rest of this journal, series of essays, whatever, may be interesting, may give you a laugh, but if your interest is mobility across challenging terrain, or indeed any terrain outside the house, the Bannedwaggon has a lot to offer. Contact me, on 07928 785220, or Nick Sanders or on 07870765018 and we can arrange a demo.

After 16 knackering, scary days, with a rig that weighed around quarter of a ton fully laden, I reached Hyde Park, slung all the luggage that was in my way, over the back of the wheelchair, thus further upsetting the balance, and with my weight bringing the rig back up to around quarter of a ton, drove down Rotten Row, on my own, bitless, whipless and in safety. Obama was trotting freely, and willingly at the end of at least eight hours in harness and I was grinning from ear to there.

The Bannedwaggon gives the disabled a degree of freedom and independence that no other disability vehicle comes close to. And it's bloody good fun. And it has undergone one of the toughest tests of any horsedrawn vehicle and come through with flying colours. It is definitely worth a look.
And by the way, it can be easily adapted to able bodied use, from single seat insane all terrain versions, load carrying two seaters, brat carting four seaters, two seat touring, or the version I am currently building, the long distance camper. But every format reverts to the basic wheelchair enabled system, and they all feature instant pony release, the only safe way to drive a pony or horse.

To see some of my marginally more organised rants, try these links. If all else fails, try hitting them with whips. It works with horses, doesn't it?

Exeter to HydePark, wheelchair enabled pony drawn vehicle. 1

Rebecca Cassidy's Horse People provide the perfect precedent for my pony drawn trip from Exeter to Hyde Park, London. Rebecca, an anthropologist, wanted to study the arcane beliefs, strange practices and interactions with the animal world, of remote tribes, but without the huge airfares and extended journeys by dugout canoe that are traditional in anthropological research. She realised that almost all lost tribes can be found today by following the trail of gap year students desperate for an even uniquer good deed for their CV and chose instead to do her research on the truly weird tribe who live in Newmarket and worship the Thoroughbred.

The discovery of a genetically different, but behaviourally almost identical, tribe, living is Lexington, Kentucky, equally devoted to the worship of the Thoroughbred, gives a fascinating international flavour, without requiring more exotic travel arrangements than Virgin's cheap seats.

My journey had all the right travel tale ingredients, the kindness and the cruelty, the horrors of Death Valley, (the A361 into Glastonbury) the stretches without food, the vicious attacks by remote tribes cut off from civilisation, (Maserati owners), the insect bites and the ludicrous rules still imposed by the petty local rulers (grazing regulations in Royal Parks) and finally the return to civilisation, which can come as no surprise, as those who die or end up prisoners of the strange rulers they upset, don't write books or blogs.

So, don't bother reading with bated breath to see if I made it. I did. And don't start looking for the chapters on planning. I wanted to drive the Bannedwaggon round Hyde Park. The reasons I wanted to drive the Bannedwaggon round Hyde Park, and a description of what the Bannedwaggon is are definitely part of this book, the planning involved llooking at maps to see the least hilly way to get to the flattish bit with London in it.

I knew the Kennet and Avon towpath ran to the Thames towpath and that it was no distance from Eton, on the Thames, to Slough and the Grand Union canal into Paddington, so it was just a matter of getting to the Kennet and Avon, except that I didn't really go that way, which is lucky, because I found out on the way back that the Grand Union canal towpath, built for horses, has been modified to be impassible to horses, ponies, double buggy pushchairs, wheelchairs etc with the laudable aim of stopping motorcycles upsetting golfers.

So planning, involved asking Adele Norman if we could spend the firsat night with her near Samford Peverel, finishing the vehicle on Sunday, photoshoot with Country Smallholder Monday, load vehicle Tuesday morning and set off.

The team was larger at the start. John Hammond, who was with us for the first day,is marginally nuts, seventy plus, an enthusiastic walker habitually buried under a huge rucksack full of the Lord knows what, and innocent in the weirdest way. He appears to have no concept of what might go wrong. And somehow, he survives, possibly because Fate hates to disillusion him, and show him just how nasty the world can be. The first day he photographed us with enthusiasm, and tried to make the traffic behave like civilised human beings, but this is something only the innocent would attempt.

His signals to oncoming traffic fascinated the drivers to such an extent that when they reached Obama, Tiki, Lee and I, they were still watching John's antics and completely ignored us, brushing past as if we didn't exist. John's innocence is laudable, but it makes teaching him about real life a challenge.

Obama still bites him with monotonous regularity, in the most predictable way, yet John appears unable to work out why. Obama isn't evil, but he doesn't work on the milk of human kindness, he doesn't work on goodness, he works on what suits him, or what amuses him. I can pretty much predict when he will find it funny, or necessary to clamp his teeth on me, as can Lee, and we can avoid it. John just seems endlessly surprised that something bad can happen.

I couldn't do the journey with John. I know the bad is going to happen, and I want to be between Obama and the bad things.

Lee is a different kettle of fish. Under thirty, an ex body builder, dreadlocks and peircings give an impression of hard man, and the overlay of fat means the muscles wouldn't get on bodybuilder magazines any more, but they are still there. He skipped school and was what the Daily Mail would probably call a feral child, though not I suspect, to his face. He has done most things, alcohol, drugs, crime, philosophy with the Open University, and although not innocent he is a gentleman.
I watched him with dogs, and then with Obama, and he is gentle. I know of no other qualification needed to be a good horse, or pony man, so agreed to take him along for the trip to London.

Sitting as you do, on a traveller's site, barbecuing broad beans on a converted potato bagging hopper, and discussing life, liberty etc, I mentioned my intention to drive a wheelchair enabled pony drawn vehicle to London, and Lee asked to come along. The fact that this guy was clearly a fruitcake didn't worry me. No rational person would even think of coming along for the ride, and Lee wanted to learn about going horsedrawn.

Coincidentally, EMW the rescue organisation who had given me Obama to work with were pressuring me to take on a mule. I don't like mules, but I had a soft spot for Enrique having met him the year before at Nick Sander's yard in Brecon at his brilliant Whole Horse Weekend, a magic opportunity for alternative horsemen to meet up and bitch frantically about each other.

Enrique wasn't easy, and trying to get Enrique to accept people without kicking, biting or running for cover, and to accept traffic ditto, wasn't going to be easy in the narrow time frame we had. Lee had a fortnights holiday starting in early August and Sam, his girlfriend had a few things for him to do in the time scale as well. This of course meant I couldn't really risk any detailed planning as it would become depressingly clear that we weren't going to make it to London in the alloted time if we actually knew the distances involved.

To see some of my marginally more organised rants, try these links. If all else fails, try hitting them with whips. It works with horses, doesn't it?

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Hip Hip Hooray

I really thought I couldn't find a better Hip pun than my brilliant definition, Hippochondria, the depressingly common delusion that your horse is suffering from an expensive veterinary problem, when in reality, like its owner, it needs to get out more.
But the truly ghasty pun, Hip Hip Hooray pretty much sums up the history of the Instant release system which I invented for the Saddlechariot, and have been road testing with the Bannedwaggon.
The first Hip reference is to the very start of the instant release system when I was driving an early saddlechariot in North Devon on a 15/16hh animal. In those days, to release the Saddlechariot took two, maybe three seconds, but you had to be next to the animal. It made it the quickest vehicle release system available, but that wasn't saying much.
Ditto it was the safest horsedrawn vehicle available, and again that wasn't saying much.
So I am driving a green animal, in shafts that were too short and narrow, in a snaffle, because I hate Liverpools, blinkerless, and I have been assured that the animal concerned is the most complete slug. So I shake the reins and it is trotting, cross over the sand school to the other rein and it feels the shafts touch its bum and it is cantering.
At this stage I try the brakes, totally zilch. I could have stepped off really easily, that is after all the point of the Saddlechariot, but the horse's owner was standing watching with a cheque book in his pocket, and "I'm all right mate, not sure about your horse!" isn't one of the great sales pitches. More importantly, I feel guilty getting a horse into a dangerous situation and stepping off to safety and leaving it to sort it out itself.
Now guilt is a perfectly treatable problem. Hundreds of shrinks will queue up to reassure you that it is someone else's fault, or that abusing animals is perfectly natural, you pay your money, you get your absolution. But there's the rub, money. Saddlechariots don't make money, so paying a shrink wasn't an option, and they won't let you run up a tab either. So there I am, staying on a Saddlechariot behind a rapidly accelerating horse, careering round a sandschool, giving a damn fine impersonation of Barry Sheene until finally centrifugal force took over and I flew elegantly into the fence.
In that brief moment between leaving the Saddlechariot, and hitting the fence, I had my Eureka moment, and the instant release system was absolutely clear and solid in my head. Unfortunately, baths are a less painful location for Eureka moments, than sandschools, especially those where railway sleepers have been used as fence posts.
By a stroke of luck my hip hit the first post, the luck was not in hitting the post, the luck was that my head hit the second post by which time I was going a lot slower. It is a crash that still replays in my dreams, but I walked away, the bruises faded, the haematoma shrank and the horse had one small graze on his leg.
Over the next few years the instant release system has been gradually improved until 2009 when the Mark10 Saddlechariot appeared. The combination of internal swingle tree collar, all round rip cord and the instant release embedded in the HDPE shaft tips looked pretty cool so I left it alone and concentrated on the Bannedwaggon, the wheelchair enabled version.
The Bannedwaggon shares the Saddlechariot shafts and harness, and this summer I decided to drive a wheelchair from Exeter to London, and drive solo, in a wheelchair, pony drawn, bitless, whip free etc round Hyde Park. The reason for driving to London was that I couldn't actually afford to get there any other way, so with a friend, Lee, a pony that needed training, the Bannnedwaggon and a standard Mark 10 Saddlechariot, and all our camping gear, we set off for London.
At Newbury, Lee had to head back to Exeter, and I needed to attend Ryan's Ryde, a brilliant biker's rally near Birmingham so I took a weeks "holiday" and Obama and I stooged around the country, and then returned to Thatcham, and the final assault on the Capital.
We got there, drove round Hyde Park, and were heading back down the Grand Union Camal when the second Hip featured.
The towpath, not far from Perivale has been shut to motorbikes, pushchairs, wheelchairs and incidentally ponies and horses. This is the path that was built for ponies and horses.
So I loop back, and try to find an alternative route, and exiting the towpath by a narrow alley, and not really concentrating, I let one wheel climb a wall, and flip the vehicle. Obama was deeply unimpressed, and was sufferning from the stress of driving too damn much of Central London.
He freaked and all I could see, as he dragged me off my feet between a vehicle being dragged at high speed on its side, and a block wall, was his backside exploding with power. Stupidly I hung onto the reins. letting go would have let the ripcord pull itself, but as long as I dragged level, the ripcord didn't pull, but I managed to give it a tug, and within twenty feet, Obama had gone from terrified, to standing looking at me, wondering what on earth I thought I was doing.
Mostly, I was contemplating a low blockwork wall which no longer looked vertical or straight, and wondering why my arm still worked since my left arm appeared to have done the damage. The gravel rash up my arm and across my shoulder certainly hurt enough, but given the state of the wall, it shouldn't  have functioned.
But when I got into a shower I found that, yet again my hip, the left one this time, had taken the strain. It was nothing like as bad as the first time, the bruising only localised, not going the whole way round my waist, and no massive haematoma, either. And as an added bonus, I can walk pretty normally as well.
So the first Hip, gave me the instant release system, but the second Hip has given me something better, a live test of the system in extremis. I would never push a pony into a crash like that, but to see with my own eyes, a panicking pony stop, and relax when the ripcord releases him, proves the system works.
Now I can leave the instant release system alone, knowing I can trust it, that others can trust it. I can get on with the Bannedwaggon, and find stupid ways to see just how far you can take a wheelchair enabled, one  man, pony drawn vehicle. Across Dartmoor is irresitible, and across France is tempting. Across Europe would be fun.
But first, I need to spend some time getting Obama to chill, and relax, so I think blatting through the surf will be our next challenge. Obama is scared of water, especially waves, but the great thing is that I can take him to the beach, let him see the waves, and back off, bring him back and retreat again, and work at a pace Obama can cope with.
In London, there was nowhere to retreat, and I asked far too much, but I had nowhere to retreat to, no safe refuge, so we had to keep going on. Now I know the system works, I will never put Obama under that sort of pressure again, and I think he will go Hooray.

To see some of my marginally more organised rants, try these links. If all else fails, try hitting them with whips. It works with horses, doesn't it?

Saturday, 11 September 2010

final test, total wipeout

The good news is that the  emergency ripcord system on the saddlechariot and bannedwaggon, works in extremis. The bad news is that the sort of time you really need it is when you are being dragged under a flipped over bannedwaggon into a concrete block wall by a panicking pony. This tends to be painful, the wall is definitely looking the worse for wear, and the bits I can't see, feel like hell. The bits I can see, look euchy.
But the second I pulled the ripcord, Obama was released and went 20 feet before standing and waiting for me to extricate myself.
He is fine and unmarked, the bannedwaggon is scratched.
Photos in the next day or so when I feel keener on life and have got Obama back to a nice quiet field where he can chill for a bit.

To see some of my marginally more organised rants, try these links. If all else fails, try hitting them with whips. It works with horses, doesn't it?

Thursday, 9 September 2010

The end is in sight.

London is pretty stressful, add a pony who doesn't madly enjoy heavy traffic, and the suspicion that fighting the establishment isn't the most sensible policy, and today has not been one of my better days. But I have met some really great people who more than cancel out the horrors you meet. Marble Hill House, English Heritage win prizes for sheer unnecessary jobsworthyness. The creep up Richmond Hill with the 10 plate Maserati is going to need some bodywork done if he drives it any closer to the next poor sod with a pony.
OK I had probably delayed him by seventeen, maybe eighteen seconds, and I am sure his time is money, i would rather deal with people for whom time is to be lived, not bought and sold. And I met a number of them today, builders, policemen, children, adults, who enjoy ponies and appreciate them.
That is what this trip is about. Allowing ponies to bring pleasure to those with restricted mobility. If I can't get the horse establishment to look at the bannedwaggon, I need to get other people to look at it. If driving  a vehicle I invented, in a harness I invented, with a pony I trained, by a system I invented, down Rotten Row in Hyde Park, whipless, bitless, barefoot, in a wheelchair, on my own, having driven the rig from Exeter to London, doesn't deserve at least to be looked at, this country is a sorry place.
But it isn't just me who will suffer, it will slam another door in the face of the disabled to whom I offer mobility, freedom and fun. I realise that keeping horsemanship traditional and elitist is much more important than the rights of the disabled, and expect to get slammed when I get to Hyde Park, which all being well will be noon tomorrow.
If that doesn't get a response I will just have to drive to the House of Commons, and then I suppose give up. But I will have done something memorable. That it is pointless is beyond my control, I have done all i can...

To see some of my marginally more organised rants, try these links. If all else fails, try hitting them with whips. It works with horses, doesn't it?

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Odds and Sods

Odds and sods.
Mary Queen of England claimed they would find  "Calais" engraved on her heart when she died. I will have a vehicle registration plate engraved on my backside. The closer I get to London the scarier the roads get, and the determination of car drivers to clip me as close as they can, is deeply depressing.
But I have a theory. It is very elegant and mathematical, the registration of the car that finally imprints its number plate in my body can be found by a simple mathematical formula. 10 to 1, it is an 01 plate, 9 to 1, 02, 8's 03, 7's 04, 6's 05, 5's 06, 4's 07, 3's 08, 2's 09 and evens on a 10 plate, I am assuming the 60 plate owners don't want gore over their flashy new toy, so I haven't figured out their exact  odds,
Terminal letter plates are out in the 25 to one zone. But I must make it clear this excludes boy racers, who almost always slow down, bikers whose manners are really good, delivery drivers, especially Jewson's, but almost all delivery drivers are courteous.Travellers, scrap dealers and hippies are fine, bus drivers, consistently well mannered, so who are the killers?
Late registration, nice clean respectable cars driven by the sort of people who end up as magistrates and Justices of the Peace. The guy who quite deliberately drove into me was a model of an upright citizen, apart from his belief that the fact that ponies are slow entitled him to drive his car into me. I thought he was a weirdo, but I was wrong. The rich comfortable car drivers are so insulated, they think anything that delays their journey should be eliminated. Which is why I know who will finally get me.
The only absolute rule is that to hit Obama, they have to drive through me.It is depressing the amount of time I spend stepping into the path of speeding cars to make this point absolutely clear to them. I will continue this rant on the way cars have destroyed our country at a later date. I just wanted to share this mathematical insight..

To see some of my marginally more organised rants, try these links. If all else fails, try hitting them with whips. It works with horses, doesn't it?

Friday, 3 September 2010

Maps, what a brilliant new concept.

Hey, there are these amazing new paper things, they are called maps, and I've just looked at one. They could be really useful if you are planning a journey, so all you potential adventurers, see if any radical new thinker is selling maps of where you want to go.
Actually I knew I wanted to do the Kennet and Avon canal, and I thought Glastonbury would be cool, but I think my pink crocs were just too alternative, so to where I am was pretty much preplanned, and in roughly the right direction, but from Thatcham, my base camp, to the summit, Rotten Row, Hyde Park, was a bit I hadn't really looked at.
So any suggestions. I was going to go Reading, Thames path, Eton Slough, Grand Union to Regents Park and through a bit of traffic at the end.
But I've been to Eton and didn't much like it so I'm looking for alternatives. Straight across to Bracknell and through all the green bits looks attractive, though I suspect a wheelchair enabled, one man (wearing pink crocs) pony drawn vehicle, is going to go down like a lead balloon in all those smart parks, and I can't see the bunch in the big house at the end of Windsor Great Park giving me a great big cheer, given the Patrons of the British Horse Society, British Driving Society, Riding for the Disabled, Pony Club, World Horse Welfare, and the rest of my adoring fan club, all live there.
 So any ideas, anyone fancy coming for a walk on the wild side?
PS Is Rotten Row in Hyde Park, or am I going to have to check that on a map as well?

To see some of my marginally more organised rants, try these links. If all else fails, try hitting them with whips. It works with horses, doesn't it?

Thursday, 2 September 2010

Not whips again.

Not bloody whips again. OK I 've only done 150ish miles of a 200 mile trip, the reason for the doubt about the distance is that I never actually measured it on a map, so I could lie to Lee who accompanied me the first 150ish miles, about how far we had to go. Since neither of us had done any training at all, this was a wise precaution.
Some may think it eccentric, not to measure the distance, or to take someone with no horse experience on a journey of this nature, but I'm not eccentric, just a couple of flakes short of a bale, as us horsey types say.
Lee's great virtue, apart from being strong, tough, cheerful and used to living rough, was that he has no horsey tendencies. He can't understand using a whip, and after seeing someone using one in traditionally horsey fashion, can't see why he should want to learn.
Maybe in the last 50 miles, a blinding light will appear in the sky, and I will fall to my knees, promising to hit horses evermore, but I doubt it. If it happens, I assure you, I will give full details in my blog and publicly apologise to all whip users who I have slagged off over the last couple of years.
Of course, if at the end of 200 miles, with a rig weighing the best, or from Obama's viewpoint, worst, part of quarter of a ton, across incredibly varied terrain, I find that there is still no reason to carry a whip, I will be driving down Rotten Row, on my own, in a wheelchair, behind a pony with no whip, no steel shoes, no blinkers, no crupper, no bit and I will be doing it in safety, in comfort, and so will Obama. At that stage I will ask just one question. If I don't need a whip to get this rig from Exeter to London, why do all these brilliant horsemen and women need whips.
Maybe I am just a stunningly good horseman, maybe my vehicle is totally brilliant, or if you don't subscribe to these two theories, maybe whips are the problem. Maybe anyone can do pretty much anything with ponies and horses if they stop carrying whips.
Lets make whips optional in racing. At present they are compulsory. Lets make them optional in BHS exams, at present they are compulsory, lets make them optional in Pony Club tests, no forget it, allowing people to  teach kids to hit horses is sick.
Whips have no useful function on animals. Ban them. If people want to whip each other, who cares. It doesn't turn me on, but I respect the rights of individuals to thrash each other if BOTH PARTIES CONSENT.
If I haven't changed my mind about whips by the time I get to Rotten Row, I will be getting a Facebook site together to ban the filthy things. I fully expect my account to be suspended for abusive language, like "DON'T HIT HORSES WITH WHIPS!"
I know it is a deeply offensive attitude to lots of people, but I have a strong suspicion that the horses won't be complaining about my campaign. So all you whip enthusiasts, pray for a "Road to Damascus" (conversion of Saul of Tarsus from whipping Christians, to being Saint Paul......maybe not such a good analogy for conversion to whipping the innocent)  moment for me, when a huge blazing horse appears before me and starts singing Ian Drury's "Hit Me!"
Grammar's gone to pot as usual, but I think you get the gist. Try the carrot, forget the stick.

To see some of my marginally more organised rants, try these links. If all else fails, try hitting them with whips. It works with horses, doesn't it?