Dogs to take centre stage at Blenheim Horse Trials

5 03 2009
March 4, 2009
Pooches can look forward to some fun at the Blenheim Horse Trials this year.
The Blenheim Palace International Horse Trials is going to the dogs this year, with a canine competition in the offing and Hearing Dogs for Deaf People the nominated charity.Organisers are looking at the possibility of hosting a ‘Scrufts’ qualifier for the kennel club, and has James Wellbeloved once again sponsoring the dog creche and canine water bowls.

“Many of our visitors have dogs,” said event director Mandy Hervieu. “So getting canine-orientated sponsors and charities involved appeals to our public. When you see a Hearing Dogs display and see how they can train all types of dogs to help radically improve a deaf person’s life, you will be amazed. Having a dog creche and water bowls is much appreciated by dog owners. It’s great to be able to come to a top quality horse trials and bring your best friend for a great day out.”

The event, from September 10-13, is also putting on an extra CIC3* class for eight and nine-year-old equine stars of the future.

The horse trials is supporting Hearing Dogs in several ways. The Charity will be undertaking displays within the Blenheim Attractions Arena and manning the James Wellbeloved dog creche where the team hope owners will make a donation to leave their pooch to have a rest whilst they have lunch or watch the action from the grandstands.

“A hearing dog changes a deaf person’s life on many levels,” said Ruth Dunkin, spokeswoman for Hearing Dogs. “Deafness can be a very isolating and lonely disability; a hearing dog can offer a practical alternative to technical equipment with the added benefit of giving the recipient increased independence, greater confidence, companionship and a feeling of security.”

The dogs themselves vary from the largest, scruffiest mongrel to the smallest pedigree but are all easily recognisable by their distinctive burgundy jacket and lead slips.

Hearing Dogs for Deaf People was launched at Crufts in 1982. To date they have placed more than 1500 hearing dogs throughout England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and the Channel Islands. Whenever possible, the dogs are selected from rescue centres, but they are also donated by breeders and members of the public, with the remainder coming from the Charity’s own breeding scheme.

Hearing Dogs for Deaf People receive no government funding and rely totally on the generosity of individuals and organisations to continue transforming the lives of deaf people.

Of the nine million people in the UK with hearing loss, around 70,000 have been profoundly deaf since birth and communicate using British Sign Language. Many of those who have lost their hearing in later life rely on lip-reading. A hearing dog’s burgundy coat can help break down the barrier to communication as it identifies its recipient’s otherwise invisible disability.



First deaf Miss Universe hopeful is in Birmingham heat

16 02 2009
Siobhan Brindley-Lewis

Birmingham, UK—WHEN contestants for Miss Universe Great Britain line up on stage in Birmingham in the spring history will be made.

Among them will be 22-year-old Siobhan Brindley-Lewis.

What will make her stand out from the other beauties won’t be her long legs, dazzling smile or perfectly-styled hair, but the fact she is deaf.

Siobhan, from Quinton, will be the first profoundly deaf woman to reach the finals of a mainstream British beauty pageant after securing a place as one of the 40 finalists out of 500 entrants.

Like the other girls in the event at the International Convention Centre on May 3 she will show off her perfect size 8 body in a bikini, evening gown and little black dress rounds.

The winner will go on to the Miss Universe final this summer, which is owned and run by American tycoon, Donald Trump. 

But it will be when the eight-person judging panel interview her that she will stand out – relying on lip reading to get through.

Siobhan has been deaf since contracting meningitis at the age of three.

She had a cochlear implant fitted when she was seven to help her hear better, but went to the mainstream schools of Percy Shurmer in Balsall Heath and Shenley Court Sixth Form.

Siobhan trained as a beauty therapist at Walsall College and the University of Derby at Buxton.

Her only previous experience in beauty pageants was in Miss Deaf UK last year when she won the best evening wear category.

“I saw an advert for Miss Universe Great Britain and decided to apply because I want to encourage other disabled people to do what they want to do,” she said.

“Even if I don’t do very well, it will be good experience and hopefully will help with my career.”

To prepare for her stage debut Siobhan is at the gym seven days a week to keep her weight at a perfect 9st 6lbs for her 5ft 6ins height.

“I try not to let my disability stop me from doing anything and have a very positive ‘can do’ attitude to life,” she said.

“My role model and inspiration is Ellie Simmonds who won gold medals at the Beijing Olympics despite being disabled.”