, 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.
As regular followers will know, this has been a particularly difficult year for Florence. She took quite seriously ill in the first week of January, and although she responded to the vets interventions really well at the time, she hasn’t really been right all year. As a result, she has done very little as she doesn’t really seem to want to be ridden. We’ve tried all sorts of interventions, from treating her arthritis, to looking at her tack, feed, supplements, teeth, you name it, we’ve tried it. We’ve had a few little glimpses of hope along the way, but no real progress beyond a certain point. Our gorgeous girl is trying to send us a message, but we just can’t hear what she’s trying to say. It’s frustrating, soul destroying, and heartbreaking in equal measure. Florence is the absolute centre of my universe, I adore her; she challenges me teaches me, and validates me on a daily basis, sitting on her back is my happy place, and when I’m riding her I feel invincible.So it absolutely destroys me that we haven’t been able to find a solution for her.
Florence is quite an old lady now, officially 20, but only she really knows how old she is. Her passport was drawn up before they were compulsary, and her date of birth is a ‘think of a number’ guestimate. Only Florence really knows how old she is, and like any true lady, it’s a closely guarded secret.She owes me nothing, and, if she’s not right by the New Year, or even beforehand to be honest, then I’m OK with the idea of her hanging up her saddle and retiring. However, before we do that, there’s one more avenue to go down.
OK, if you just look at Florence, and don’t take any of her behaviours into account, she’s not a classic Ulcer candidate. She’s a big heavy cob, who is a very good doer, and who, at the moment, is scarily obese. She has a light work load, does not compete, and lives out most of the time. However, recent research has shown that any horse can get ulcers, apparently some studies have shown that even ferrel and wild horses show some sign of ulcers on post mortem examination. Also, Flo is a very sensitive soul, and a bit of a worry wart. Her behaviour sometimes includes some classic ulcer related traits; girthiness , sensitivity to touch, mild colicky signs like pawing the ground, which is something she never used to do, refusing to be mounted, and generally being grumpy. Some of you may remember that a few years ago she had two unexplained bouts of colic. She also has Cushings (PPID).
So today we have started a 28 day ulcer protocol to see if it makes any difference. Normally a horse would have an endoscopy to see if there are indeed any ulcers, and whereabouts they are exactly. Differently located ulcers need different medication. However, we would need to take Florence to the vets to have this done, as the equipment is highly sensitive, and does not take kindly to being transported around, and we do not have our own transport yet. So, after having a conversation with my wonderful vet, he decided that we could run Flo on both medications for 28 days to see if it makes any difference.By the time this is done, we should have our own horsebox (there’s a whole new blog post coming about that soon), so if it’s made a difference, then we can take her to be scoped and find out where the ulcers are, and then continue treating with just the most appropriate medication. However, if there is no change, then that’s the end of Flo’s ridden career. Luckily there are no serious side effects of the medications she is on, so this approach will either make a difference, or things will just stay as they are. However, if we all survive the next 28 days it will be a miracle!
This intervention isn’t simple. Both meds have to be given on an empty stomach. This means that Florence has to come in over night so she has nothing to eat for at least 8 hours before. Having her meds; and, because of Flo’s seperation anxiety, the boys have to come in too. This will be a massive challenge for Mayo, who is not used to being stabled overnight, and who is just that little bit claustrophobic. The boys don’t have to be starved though, so it’s not all bad news. Next, one of the meds cannot be given with food. It has to be delivered via aural syringe like a wormer. In the very nearly 4 years that Florence has been with us, worming has always been a battle royal; and now we’ve got to do it every morning for 28 days! It’s going to be a long month!
Normally I don’t bring my horses in over night until at least the middle of November, and later if I can possible do it. Last night we brought them for the first time, and started the ulcer regime. Everybody was fine until we went to check them last thing. Mayo barged out of the stable 3 times in the process of trying to give him a hay net! Bless him, he really doesn’t understand the need to be shut in. Perry though seems to be taking everything in his stride. Honestly, as long as there’s food, I don’t think he minds much to be honest. No early in the morning visit from me today, which felt really wrong; but I neither wanted to start a riot by given the boys hay and not Flo, nor did I want to be flattened by a forced exit from Mayo. However, Hal and I went down later and gave Flo her meds, and the boys some hay. Actually, Hal gave Flo her syringe medicine, and she took it really well. The other med went into a small feed half an hour later. That didn’t touch the sides! Once again Mayo came out of his stable like a cork from a bottle as soon as the bolt was taken off the door. It’s not nastiness, he doesn’t have a nasty bone in his body, he just doesn’t understand, and he probably doesn’t feel all that safe being shut in. Let’s face it he hasn’t been here 3 weeks yet. I’m sure he’ll get the idea. Perry though was as laid back as you’d like. He might be a monster, but he knows which side his breads buttered.
They’re all turned out for the day now, in the Old School Paddock (left hand side as you go into the bottom field) which neither Mayo nor Perry have been in before. We took the boys down together first, and they both walked down really politely. Then Hal went back and got Flo while I stayed in the field to monitor things. The boys both had a really good gallop around, with some bucking and leaping in the air for good measure. Life apparently is good. However, by the time Florence joined them, they’d already got down to the serious business of grazing.
Let’s hope the next 27 days pass as smoothly.
Sunday was very hot, so when we caught the girls in, and Breeze was breathing a bit hard, I didn’t think much of it. She was hot and bothered and just suffering with the heat. While Hal did some Brush Cutting down in the bottom field in preparation for Florence and Breeze to move down there for a couple of weeks, Ben and I had a sort out day in the takc room. As we worked Ben commented on how fat Breeze had become, and we joked about her being about to have a foal. Ben of course thought that it was highly likely that a random stallion had junped into the field, and then disappeared, leaving both mares in foal. He claimed both foals as his, but not until they were 4, when he would break them in and turn them both into champion show jumpers. It was a good day.
On Monday Hal and I, with Quincey, ventured to the other side of Barnstaple, to Barnstaple Equestrian Supplies, which is a place we had never been to before, to buy me a new, competition legal, riding hat. What a brilliant place,and what great customer service! I can’t recommend them highly enough. There was no rush, and a wide selection of hats to try, a bowl of water for Q, and a cuppa for Hal and I. I left with a brand new Gatehouse hat, and a feeling that it genuinely mattered to them that I bought the right hat for me. We will definitely be going back. Monday was also a good day…
Until Monday evening that is.
When we went to do our late night checks on the girls we found Breeze in a bit of a bad way. Breathing hard, and reluctant to move, I suspected colic or laminitis. We brought both horses up into the stables, which was a real struggle for poor Breeze, so enter the emmergency out of hours vet. He commented on how fat she was, but couldn’t find any sign of Laminitis or colic, instead he was worried by her breathing, which had turned into a proper heave. Suspecting some kind of allerggic asthmatic reaction to whatever plant was in pollen down the bottom he administered intravenous steroids, anti spasmodics, bronchodilators etc and left me their oral counter parts. Now, having experienced exactly thisscenario with Florence a couple of times over the years, I was confident that I’d find a happy relaxed pony in the morning, so I was a bit concerned when, on checking her at 6ish on Tuesday morning she wasn’t really any better. Still fat, still heaving, and still reluctant to move. I left her with a small breakfast with her meds in and carried on as normal. Even though he hadn’t left us until twenty past twelve that morning, David the vet phoned me before 9 to ask after Breeze. When I reported no change he sounded concerned, but told me not to worry as the meds were cumulative, and that the intravenous meds could take up to a day to work. However, he said to call back if there was no inprovement. He also advised me to leave her in, as he was sure she was readting to something in the field. So, off I went to Melissa’s to have my last lesson before Nationals, which went extraordinarily well. As we drove home I have to admit that I was buzzing with excitement for the forthcoming weekend.Sadly my joi de vive was short lived. When we got home Breeze was not better, and hadn’t touched her breakfast.
I phoned the vets immediately to give them an update, and another vet, Dan, was dispatched. Dan did the same examinations as David had, checked she wasn’t running a temperature, and tried to listen to her heart, but couldn’t hear it for her breathing. Definately not Laminitis, and definately not colic. He agreed that it must be an allergic reaction to something; but suggested we truned her out as he ws worried that the stable environment might be making matters worse.So we turned the girls back out, not into the bottom though, and while Florence was delighted, and shot off to have a role and eat some grass, Breeze , who found walking down to the paddock really difficult, just stood by the gate looking miserable and getting hot.. By 4.30 Breeze still hadn’t moved. Another panicky conversation with David, and the duty vet was dispatched. Imagine my surprise when my old vet from where we used to live, Keiren, arrived. This straight talking old school vet’s first question was”Has nobody said anthing about this oedema?”. There hadn’t been any oedema earlier, but there certainly was now/ Keiren was concerned that this wasn’t really anything to do with Breezes respiratory system, but actually circulatory. She still didn’t have a temperature, but just in case there ws some underlying infection, he decided to give her an antibiotic injection. However, when he stuck the needle in to her vein, blood spirted out like it was an artery! A lot of blood! Hal had to leave the stable! Blood is not supposed to spirt out of veins, veins are not supposed to be under pressure.
AT 6 yesterday morning, at first I actually thought Breeze sounded like she wasn’t breathing as hard. Perhaps it was wishful thinkingon my part because the oedema had got much much worse. Poor girl, she had a shelf on the frontof her chest, and it ran all the way back to her udder. In fact, her teats were hidden in a groove between two huge swellings.
Vet number 4, Gemma, was sent out. She had been sent to take blood samples; but by the time she got to us, Hal and I had come to the conclusion that poor Breeze was going down hill still further. It did n’t take long for Gemma to come to the same conclusion.
Gemma put Breeze to sleep there and then. The poor girl dropped like a stone. She really was very poorly, and I suspect only staying alive out of pure stubbornness.
Afterwards, Gemma looked at Breeze lying there and suggested that she wasn’t naturally fat. Gemma suggested that Breeze most probably had some kind of tumour , probably in her liver, which had got so big that it was putting pressure on her lungs and compromising her circulatory system. Poor little pony.
Losing Breeze presented me with a new problem.
Florence has terrible seperation anxiety. She hates being by herself. While we were waiting for the man to come and collect Breeze, Florence had a really bad panic attack, charging around the stable, kicking and bellowing. She would only stand still if either Hal or I stood with her. If we tried to move away from her stable door she would start racketing around the stable again. Once Breeze had been collected, we decided to try turning Florence out. At least she could move around more freely, and would be less likely to injure herself in the stable. So she spent the next couple of hours charging around the paddock bellowing.
Mow what was I supposed to do? I can’t leave Florence in this state or she’ll make herself ill, or do herself a mischeif. Not only that, but the whole village must be able to hear her.I’m supposed to be going away on Friday. How can i do that? Amy is brilliant, but she can’t be here 24 -7. Perhaps I shouldn’t go to Nationals. I can’t let everyone down though, a lot of people have put themselves out to get me to this point. Oh God what can I do?
Enter Melissa, who kindly offered to come and get Florence and take her to Kingsland until we get back from Nationals and find her a companion.. What a star! My next concern was that Florence doesn’t travel very well. Well, actually, I’ve only ever travelled her once, when we brought her home. And she really didn’t travel very well then.
I needn’t have worried. Florence loaded into Melissa’s lorry like a pro, and apparently travelled like a dream. Who knew!? Florence has settled into Melissa’s really well, has been turned out with one of her Riding School ponies and they are getting along like a house on fire. She has also come into season, and there is a lot of flirting going on, it turns out that Alfie rather fancies her.
Today I hav applied to rehome a pony from the Mare and Foal Sanctuary as a companion. They seem confident that they will be able to help me.
So here I am then. Mourning the sudden and unexpected death of Breeze, who until this week, was the least of my worries. Not knowing quite what to do with myself because, for the first time for 5 years there are no horses here at Albert’s Bungalow. tomorrow Hal, Quincey and I are off to Hartbury and on Saturday i will compete in the biggest competition I have ever taken part in. I should be excited, but I’m actually just very tired and upset.
Sorry, but I couldn’t resist 😉
Things are in a good vein at the moment. Florence is very definitely on the mend. Although I wonder if her shoulder is a bit sore whre she’s having the injections (she really bit me hard when I was picking her feet out on Thursday, and tried to bite Tony the farrier on Friday), on the whole she is noticeably more free and flexible in her movement. in fact she actually passaged, or as Hal put it “Doing that big ponsy trot” up to get her tea on Friday evening, and seems to have changed shape slightly.
Yesterday I had a totally new, and as it turned out, completely mind blowing, experience. I took part in a Mechanical Horse Clinic which was run by Ruby Moor Riding Club. I signed up for this along time before I started riding with the RDA, and had no real idea what to expenct. It was just something I could do that didn’t mean I had to have a rideable horse, and I never really thought I’d get so much out of it.
It was amazing!
So, Millie the Mechanical Horse is a strange beast. Standing at around 14.2hh, with no head or tail, and riding. like a much bigger animal, she does not have any kind of a motor, but instead responds to your body movements.You sit in a conventional saddle, but have no reins, so everything you do is down to your seat and core. The instructor, whose name I didn’t catch, but I think was called Emily, not only knew her stuff about how horses move, but was obviously well versed in Human Biomechanics, and was a brilliant communicator.
At the beginnning of the session Emily asked about my riding experience, what I was interested in working on, and if there were any particular areas of concern. I explained that I am blind, explained about my arthritis, and hip problems, and that I am currently carrying a shoulder injury. I also told her about my riding career to date, that I hadn’t ridden much this year because of Florence not being sound, and that I was just starting out on my RDA Dressage adventure. I told her that my present lack f physical fitness combines with carrying to much weight was compromising my ridng, and that, partly because of this, and partly because of my blindness, I felt that my balance was not very good. I also explained that I didn’t get the chance to canter very often and that my trot to canter transition was appalling. Emily than got me to use my seat to push Millie into a walk, and immediately picked up that I was using my shoulders rather than my lower back, seat and core. As she gently held my shoulders to make me aware of them, she got me to put my hands on my hips and feel where the power should be coming from. . We then had a discussion about whether or not I could feel where each leg was. Now, I have to confess something here. I have been getting this wrong for years! Whilst I can feel exactly what the legs are doing, I was misinterpreting what I was feeling. I always believed that when my hip came forward in walk, it was being pushed by the corresponding back leg. No actually. It turns out that when my hip comes forward, it is following the corresponding shoulder, and when it goes back, that is when the corresponding back leg is coming forward. Who knew?! Soon I was walking without involving my shoulders, and accurately saying where each leg was (or would have been if Millie actually had any).
Moving into trot it soon become clear that I have been putting too much weight into my stirrups and not using my seat, back and core enough. Sitting trot without stirrups got me thinking about using my seat to control the trot, which , once I had stirrups back, lead into risng trot, and controlling the trot through controlling the rise. Think of the rise and sit as a squat, don’t drop back into the saddle by force of gravity..
On to canter! My weakest pace, as, I rarely do it. It’s difficult for me to canter, except in a school, as I rarely ride out with another rider. Usually Hal walks on foot with me, and bless him, he’s very good, but he just can’t run that fast! Actually, around here, it would make very little difference to my cantering opportunities if I had perfect vision and could ride independently, or had an army of hacking buddies,as there is absolutely no off road riding to be had. It’s all lanes or arenas around here. Historically my trot to canter transition has been a really messy affair. I tend, unintentionally, to throw myself forward. I also have trouble sitting to all but the smoothest of canters, and tend to bounce rather alarmingly. On Millie I was encouraged to feel the circular motion of the canter, and to engage my pelvic floor as well as my seat accordingly. A revelation! Let’s hop that when I do get to canter next I can do it as smoothly as I was doing on Millie yesterday.
I took a lot of positives home with me yesterday.
I do not sit crookedly
I have good feel, I just have to engage my brain
My balance is actually quite good!
What a week it’s been. I’m feeling very positive about everything at the moment. Now all I need to do is fan the tiny spark of self belief that is igniting deep down in my soul, into a little flame.
Wow, what a great week this has been so far.! Things have really taken off in all the right ways. And I couldn’t be happier.
Firstly, Florence is very definitely on the mend. At long last! She’s having a course of injections that are designed to lubricate her joints. Cartrofen they’re called, although I’ve most probably spelt that wrong. It doesn’t matter because, regardlessof how it’s spelt, this is truly a miracle drug. She’s got to have a course of 4 weekly injections. She had the 2nd one on Wednesday, but even after the 1st the difference in her was obvious. I’ve got my girl back! What a relief.
In the meantime, my RDA experience couldn’t be better. In fact on Tuesday, having only ridden at Lakefield 3 times, I entered the dressage arena for a competition for the 1st time in approximately 16 years! I know. Honestly, if you’d told me even 6 weeks ago that I’d be doing a competition at the end of April I’d have told you that you were bonkers.
So, there I was, in a borrowed jacket, a shirt that used to belong to my late Father-in-Law, a pair of beige jods that I could hardly breath in, on a horse I’d only ridden 3 times, and for a total of 1 1/2 hoours before, doing a test that could potentially qualify meto ride at RDA Regionals. Coach Mark had told me it was going to be a low key affair – I’d hate to see his definition of high end. The venue was absolutely heaving! There must have been representatives from every RDA group in Cornwall in attendance, and the atmosphere was just brilliant. I never heard anyone having a stroppy, or witnessed any unsportsmanlike behaviour. Just good hunour, camaraderie, and genuine support for each other. Lot’s of people, of all ages and abilities enjoying horses in the, not too warm actually, Cornish sunshine.
So, how did I get on?
Well, I’m really chuffed. I got 68.75% in my test. I’m not sure, but I think this the most I’ve ever achieved in a test in all the times I’ve attempted Dressage in the past. Beginners luck or what!
The next bit sounds a bit weird, but I’m feeling so happy that I’m prepared to roll with whatever happens.
I have absolutely no idea where I was placed. I have absolutely no idea if I’m going to Regionals or not. I haven’t seen myscore sheet.
Because I’m completely new to all this, and because it’s all happened so quickly, I didn’t know how the day was going to be organised. I was told to arrive half an hour before my round, but that was all. It turned out that for the seniours, which of course I am, the prize giving wasn’t held until the end of the day, which was around 5.30. My round was at 1pm, and we’d left the dogs at home alone, and hadn’t made any arrangements for them to be let out, so we couldn’t stay. It matters not.
I came out of the whole experience feeling bouyed up, and more confident about my abilities in the saddle than I have for a long time. Yes, I do need to take the time to learn how things run as far as RDA competition is concerned. I also need to upgrade my wardrobe. For now though, I’, just happy to go with the flow, and take every experience as it comes. Just bring them on!
As a big juicey cherry on the cake. Ben, who had yesterday off school because of the annual Great Torrington May Fair celebrations, hacked Florence out . Hal and I walked with him, but honestly, he’s doing so well with his riding that he didn’t really need us. He only went down to the village square and back, because it’s only the 2nd time Florence has been ridden out this year, but it couldn’t ;have gone better. Flo was positively skipping along with a big smile on her face, while Ben’s smile could have wrapped around the world!
Tomorrow I’m going to have a completely new experience. I’m taking part in a mechanical horse clinic which is being organised by Ruby Moor Riding Club.
Don’t look now, but it looks like things are on the up.