False Start

I chose the first Saturday of the year as the day I would formally bring Florence and Breeze back into work after their extended winter lay off. In prepraation for this I had arranged for Amy to come and clip Florence on the 3rd. Only Florence, as I’m still not sure how much work Breeze is going to be doing, and this is where we hit our first snag. Poor Amy was mortified, but her clippers jus wouldn’t go anywhere near Florences thick, yak like shaggy coat!She did get one shoulder and half her chest off, then the clippers threw up their hands in defete! Florence is now rocking that ‘Game of Thrones’ look, you know, the one where the women walk around with one boob hanging out! These things can’t be helped, and it’s was definately not the end of the world, so we agreed to try again when the clipper blades had been off for sharpening. After all, Flo was only going to be doing some in hand work for the next couple of weeks, so she shouldn’t get too hot and swety, should she?

Saturday dawned full of promise, and with a plan in my head for both horses, Hal and I set off to enjoy a bit of long overdue horsey fun.

Oh dear!

The best laid plans of mice, men, and short , fat, blind, horse owners…

Florence has always, as long as I’ve had her, had issues with her wind. She coughs and wheezes at the slightest provocation, and really seems to be allergic to everything. I had hoped we had a handle on most of her triggers now though. I’ve never seen anything quite as bad as ‘florences heaving laboured breath on Saturday morning though! As I waited for the vet to arrive, am not ashamed to admit that the thought crossed my mind that Florence might actually be dying! David, the vet, got to me really quickly, and I think even he was a bit taken aback by how much Flo was struggling to breathe. Honestly, I’ve never seen a heave like it. Itmust have been very painful too, because, when I gently laid my hand on her side, she went to kick me. However, Flo wasn’t running a temperature, so David was reasonably confident this was not anything infecteous. Well thank goodness for that, afteral, both Tony, the farrier, and Amy and her dodgey clippers, had been all over Florence only a few days earlier, so if it was catching, they could have been spreading it like the plague.Not only that but, Breeze would have got it too.

David took bloods, and administered a plethora of drugs, including, horror of horrors, steroids. He also left me with 4 different meds to give her, comprising of antibiotics, bronchodilators, expectorants, and, yes your’ve guessed it, more steriods. So why am I so fixated on the steroids? Well, as regular readers will know, Florence is and elderly lady now, is already over weight and an extremely good doer, and has PPID, all things which predispose her to getting lminitis. Unfortunately, one of the known potential side effects of steroids is a higher risk of contracting laminitis! She’s doomed! Luckily I have an excellent relationship with my vets, and feel very comfortable when it comes to voicing my concerns, so I was able to have an honest chat with David about the risks and advantages of giving Flo steroids. His opinion was that it was a Catch 22 situation, yes, there was a real risk of Flo getting Laminitis, but if we didn’t give her the steroids she may not fully recover, or at least take longer . He assured me that he had rarely had a patient that did get Laminitis while taking the specific drug he was prescribing, and that he was giving her the very lowest dose possible for a horse of her weight, but that if I thought she was even thinking of getting it, I should immediately stop them. Thankfully, by the time Daivid left, Florene was already responding to the injections he’d given her, and was already breahing more easily. I was really impressed when he phoned me that evening, remember this was a Saturday, with her blood test results! Everything looked perfectly normal. This must have been a massive allergic reaction to something.

I had the girls both booked in to have a dental 2 Wednesdays after this, so it was agreed that Florence would be reassessed then, unless of course I had called them back beforehand, and of course, Flo was on R&R for the time being. Thankfully Florence is your typical greedy cob when it comes to food, and has no concept of turning her nose up at anything, so getting 4 different meds down her was no problem. However, the antibiotics were really difficult to handle. They came in the form of a mousse type solution which had to be accurately measured out with a syrringe. Well, thre was no way I could do that myself, as I couldn’t see the markings on the syrringe. Mind you, Hal found it hard enough, the stuff was really thick and gloopy and got everywhere, except inside the syrringe of course. It smelt delicious though, a bit like Butterscotch Angel Delight.

Except for one morning when I thought Florence might be on the verge of colicking, until she had the biggest, stinkingest poo I’ve ever witnessed, there were no nasty side effects from the medication. In fact, some behaviours, which I thought were just Flo quirks , even went away, and she appeared to be brething perfectly normally within a few hours of starting the regime.

On Wednesday last, Justine came out to do the dentals and assess Florence. She was very pleased with Flo, although she could hear what she called a slight Plural Rasping, so she said there may still be some inflammation. At this point, we hadn’t quite finished the course of steroids, although everything else had gone. Justine suggested that I finish the steroids, give Florence a 24 hour break, and then put her on a short course of Bute to try to resolve any residual inflammation. Apparently you need to leave a gap because you can’t give steroids and non-steroidals at the same time. It’s a bit like mixing matter and antimatter I think. Justine also said I could start very gently bringing Flo back into work.

While Justine was doing Breezes teeth I asked her to give her a quick check over. Breeze is very stiff, especially through her off side hock, and although supposedly the same age as Florence, does come over as being a lot older. Funnily enough, Justine herself asked how old we thought Breeze was because her teeth appear to have stopped errupting, and are actually quite worn. She also pronounced Breeze as lame, rather than just stiff. We discussed varous options, and so Breeze is now on perminant Bute. Or at least that’s the idea, Breeze, unlike her bigger friend, is a little more discerning where dining is concerned, we are now going through a period of her behaving like we are trying to poison her!

I have given them both a few extra days off, just to let the new medication regimes set in, but they have both done one short session of in hand work in the school now. Florence was an angel, and apart from trying to scoff the grass that is growing aroung the edge of the school, you wouldn’t know it’s been so long since she did anything. Breeze on the other hand was on extremely high alert. She spooked violent and tried to tank off when a pony, which was on the lane on the other side of the valley, and so a long way away spooked and tanked off itself. Poor Hal tried to hold onto her, and ended up with a massive rope burn. She also lay down in the school to scrath her legs! I don’t know whether to laugh or cry sometimes.

All of this has given me pause. I adore Florence, and Breeze, for all her foibles is a sweetheart, but they are neither of them getting any younger. Is Flo really going to be up to doing all the things I hope to do over the next few years? For now we are enjoying having 2 lovely horses who are a delight to handle and look after, and who we both trust completely. Should I start formulating a long term plan though? For now I am hoping it doesn’t snow so I can get on with the fitness plan I have for them both.

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

Do Horses Get Charles Bonnets Syndrome?

Last night we had a strange, and worrying, experience with Breeze. . Breeze is the sweetest pony, but she is extremely nervous. Last night however she surpassed herself, and gave me a few more grey hairs along the way.

Doing our usual bedtime routine, carrots for Florence, apples for Breeze, debrief on the day, hay, water, skep out, check all is well, it soon became apparent that all was not well with Breeze.

it is not unusual to find Breeze on high alert, but last night she took it to another level. I had heard her snuffing a bit, but just thought she was commenting on the dogs. However, when I went into her stable with a full haynet, only to be ignored, alarm bells began to ring. Normally I would be in for a full-scale mugging, breeze usually starts off by trying to eat out of the net as I take it in and try to hang it, and if this doesn’t work, she turns her attention to my pockets. Last night though, Breeze just stood there transfixed. Head held as high as she could get it, ears erect and straining forward, eyes bulging, nostrils flared, heart racing, and, I realised as I laid my hand on her shoulder, trembling. This poor pony was frozen to the spot with Fear! At what though? Let’s face it, what ever it was, it wasn’t bothering Florence. Yes it’s true, Florence is of a much more Sanguin disposition than Breeze, but she isn’t stupid. Had there genuinely been anything that frightening anywhere in the vicinity, Florence would definitely have mentioned it. However, despite only being in the adjoining stable, in stark contrast to her companion, Flo was the picture of relaxed contentment. It did cross my mind that she might be tying up, or have colic, but this wasn’t the stance of either a tied up horse, or a colicky one. Not only that, but Hal had just cleaned some very healthy looking poo from the stable. When it comes down to flight, fight., freeze, this was absolutely textbook freeze. She was staring up towards the house, but neither Florence, either of the dogs, Hal, nor I, where aware of anything untoward. Florence was perfectly happy and content in the nextdoor stable, The dogs have gone off down the field on their own private nose lead missions, and all I could hear was a distant owl. Absolutely nothing obvious for a horse to be scared of.

Thankfully Breeze did begin to relax after a while, but she was still unsettled by the time we left her. I find the whole situation a little worrying, and it’s made me begin to wonder about something. Is it possible that Breeze could be suffering from hallucinations?

Sadly a few months ago we discovered that Breeze is very gradually going blind. She is an old lady, at least 20 years old now, and has recently been diagnosed with age related pigmented retinopathy. Yes I know, whilst a horses eyes are different to humanise, The name of this condition, and indeed the pathology of it, are similar to retinitis pigmentosa )RP), which is the condition I myself have. However, as RP is not an age-related condition in humans, whereas age related pigmented retinopathy is and age related condition in horses, I prefer to think of Breeze as having the equine equivalent of age related macular degeneration )AMD). Basically she is a little old lady who is losing her eyesight. . There is absolutely nothing we can do about this, it’s not a treatable condition, and the vet has been very calm about the diagnosis. We have been told to carry on as normal but to be vigilant, and be led by Breeze as to what she can and cannot do. We have not even been advised to stop riding her, although I have decided that I wont ride her myself from now on. I’m actually too heavy for her anyway at the moment, but I think its better for all concerned if at least one of us has a fully functioning pair of eyes. As an aside, I recently read the headline of a research study which took place in Australia, which concluded that a high percentage of aged, defined as over 17 years old, horses have some form of eyesight problem, but this is usually not known about by their owners, and rarely has an adverse affect on the horses ability to carry out ridden activities

Until they are near total blindness. Symptoms like stumbling and spooking are invariably put down to other things. Back to Breeze though, , and I wonder if last nights strange behaviour was down to her failing eyesight. As a result of the Retinopathy, does Breeze have Charles Bonnet Syndrome

Does Breeze have what?

Charles Bonnet Syndrome is a little understood condition that causes people who are losing their sight to have visual hallucinations. These hallucinations are only visual in nature, no sound,smell, or taste, but can vary from patterns to detailed and lifelike representations of animals, people, events or places, which can be static or moving. According to the NHS there are known to be approximately 100,000 diagnosed cases of Charles Bonnet syndrome in the UK, but there could be many more undiagnosed cases. Whilst it affects people who have lost most of all of the site in both eyes, The real mechanism behind it is not fully understood. However it is believed to be down to the brain trying to make sense of, and filling in the gaps in, The incomplete message being received by the visual cortex. The macular society believe that half of people with AMD will experience symptoms of Charles Bonnet syndrome at some point. These hallucinations are only related to sight loss and have no link to mental illness or any form of dementia in any way

So, whilst there are of course differences, horses and humans are both mammals, and mammalian eyes and brains do vary from species to species, there are also a great many similarities. What I am curious about is, given that Breeze has a condition which is not unlike a condition that humans get, could she also have another condition, which is often associated with the human variation of the condition she has? In other words. Can horses get Charles Bonnet syndrome? Is the reason that only Breeze was so frightened last night, because it was only Breeze Who could see what she was so scared of? I guess we will never know, but I’d love to hear the opinions of any vets, ophthalmologists, other experts who might stumble across this post in the future

Day 18 – โ€˜Ere! Who are You Calling a Pumpkim? ๐Ÿ˜ˆ

It’s fair to say that I have never carved a pumpkin In my life…i don’t even remember doing it at school. Mind you, , growing up in Plymouth, it would have been a turnip anyway.

Now I live in a village which has the dubious responsibility of ensuring that the devil does not walk this earth anymore,, and the whole business of Halloween and the subsequent turning of the devils stone, which takes place on the 5th of November, is taken very seriously indeed. Trick or treatingis a very serious thing in these parts. However, even the most ardent sugar addict will not knock on a door that doesn’t display a lit pumpkin. For the first few years we lived here we scrounged pumpkins of people, but last year we got our own. Well actually we got a pumpkin shaped lamp, but it sends out the same signal. Treats available here!

Actually it’s been pumpkin shaped things that have been worrying me lately. I’ve alluded several times over the month to Florence is excessive weight. I haven’t been very well, nasty cough, and post viral fatigue, so Florence has had more or less six weeks off. Hardly ideal. During this time she has had her blood taken to test her ACTH levels. Something I have done every six months as Florence has Cushing’s and is medicated. This time though, my vet was so horrified by the size of her she also took blood to test her insulin levels. Thankfully every thing came back within normal parameters. However when I did try to get on Florence roughly 10 days ago, she felt really wrong. Not lame, but as though it was as much as she could do to put 1 foot in front of the other. No heat in her feet, I couldn’t feel a radial pulse, mind you, I doubt I would find a radial pulse even if it was sending out a Cyran tone , vibrating ,,and shouting I’m over here, no strange stance. Eating, drinking, wee, poo, all normal for Florence. She definitely wasn’t herself though. I decided to take her for A walk in hand, and if she was still struggling the vet was going to be coming. Struggling! She walks off full of her usual enthusiasm, down to the Village Square, , A quick look at the devils stone, and then back up the hill to home, Hal guiding me, me leading Florence. There is nothing wrong with this horse! She is huge though. have had to dig out one Magnum’s Girth’s for her. Magnum was a 16 three Irish draft horse, Florence is a 15.2 Cob.

It started today. I actually woke up feeling much better this morning. My farrier has been, and unprompted by me, declared quite loudly how good Florence’s feet are looking. When I told him how relieved I was to hear that, and explained how worried I was about her getting laminitis, he couldn’t have been more reassuring. After he’d gone I scrambled of bored and went for a short. Florence was back to her old self, and practically skipped along with a great big smile on her face. Phew!

Mind you, when it comes to needing to lose weight I have no axe to grind, i’m pretty dam huge myself at the moment. It’s a good job that Florence is it chestnut, and I no longer have my orange fluorescent coat, or from behind we look like a pair of pumpkins stacked on top of each other.

Day 4 – Haygain

Our expensive new toy arrived yesterday. . I’ve been kicking the idea around for a while now, but finally we’ve done it. We’ve bought a Haygain hay steamer. We’re both childishly excited about it, and can’t wait to steam our first bale.

Florence has always had trouble with her breathing. Dry hay is an absolute no no, even dryer Haylage can set her off wheezing. She does a really good Darth Vader impression . Up until this year I would’ve said that Breeze didn’t have a problem. However, back in January she developed a really nasty cough. Steroids, antibiotics, anti-inflammatories, Ventapulmin, several vet visits, soaked hey, and it didn’t really go away until she was turned out full time.

I hate soaking hay, it’s a real faff. This year, the unusually cold weather we had in March made hay soaking a massive problem as the hay nets froze in the soaking bin. . Good quality, moist Haylage is at a premium in these parts, unless you are buying proprietary brands, and they are rediculously expensive!

So enter the Haygain. Hopefully both horses will breathe easier this Winter.

The Dilemma

, So, it’s Saturday afternoon. You bought your horse in from the field at about 10:30 that morning, but decided not to ride until late because of the weather being too hot. When you bought her in she was perfectly sound, but now you’ve tacked up, mounted up, taken three strides, and can’t ignore the fact that she is hopping lame. So now you have the dilemma. .having gone back to the stable, untacked, and done a fingertip search of her legs and feet, it’s clear that she’s very lame, but there’s no obvious cause. You think you should get the vet out, but it’s coming on 5p.m., now, it’s Saturday, and your vet is on emergency call outs only. What should you do?

Is this really an emergency? Yes, there’s obviously something wrong. However, your horse is bright, interested, eating, and full of cheek.

Just very, very lame. All those magazine articles that you have read, and all those Vet Talks you have attended over the years, in which the message is very clear, “if in doubt get the vet out”, run through your mind; But then though, you vividly remember the times you have been stood in the stable with a desperately sick horse watching the clock till the vet arrives. This is not one of those times. What to do for the best?

You could turn her out, and observe her, then call the vet out on Monday if she’s no better. She is very lame though, so something is definitely wrong. After all this is the first time she’s ever been lame since you’ve had her, and she must be in pain. What if you leave it until Monday, and the vet says, you should’ve called us sooner, we could’ve done something then?

This was the quandary I found myself In yesterday with Florence. I did call the vet to ask their advice, expecting them to tell me to do something to tide us over and that they would come and see her on Monday. In fact, because she was lame in walk, they decided it would be a good idea to come and take a look at her Then . However, The poor emergency weekend duty vet, was having such a busy day, that she didn’t actually get to us until gone 10 o’clock last night! She was exhausted!

The vet is of the opinion that Florence is lame on her front right leg. However, like me, she was unable to find an obvious seat of pain. Therefore, she has prescribed a short course of anti-inflammatories, and asked me to keep her on box rest for a few days. Hopefully that’ll do the trick. This means that, as Madame gets very upset when she’s left in the stable on her own for any length of time, Breeze is confined to barracks as well. .

. Mind you, when I went to feed them first thing this morning, there couldn’t have been two more content horses.

I had a lesson booked on Tuesday, and was planning on entering my first ever on-line Dressage competition next week.

Oh well, the best laid plans. So long as it really is nothing serious.