28 Days to Save the World

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.

Gastric Ulcers.

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.

Welcome Home – and – Welcome to Your New Home

Today has been the best.

Florence is home!

But before Florence could come home, we had to find her a new companion – so…

Introducing Peregrine

Peregrine is a rather gorgeous 3 year old Welsh type gelding who we have rehomed from the Mare and Foal Sanctuary, a horse rescue, rehabilitation, and rehoming charity, who whilst they act on a national basis, are based here in Devon. Peregrine (I haven’t quite made up my mind whether that’s Perry or Pip in reference to Peregrine Tooke, one of the Hobbits in the Lord of theRings), was taken into the Sanctuary under the Animal Welfare Act, as part of a groups of ponies who were found abandoned on public land in Wales. He was then only 12 weeks old, and was not with his Mother. Honestly sometimes I’m ashamed to be Human. The Sanctuary have obviously done a brilliant job with him though, as he’s a very healthy and extremely confident little chap. He’s grey and white, and looks very Welsh Sec B, although he obviously doesn’t have a pedigree, and nobody really knows his breeding or parentage. He currently stands at approximately 12.3hh, but that’s at the front. He’s considerably bum high , so it’ll be interesting to see where he tops out. Obviously I can’t see him, but I’m told he’s absolutely stunning. He’s not yet backed, but in all honestly, when he’s matured a bit there’s no reason why he shouldn’t be, but he’s only here to be a companion for Florence. That’s all he really has to do, is just be there. However, he’s obviously a very intelligent, and very inquisitive pony, so we might try him with some agility, in an attempt to keep his mind occupied.

He travelled like a dream, a bit cautious loading, but as cool as a cucumber, and perfectly calm on arrival. You could almost hear him say “Travel Smavel – You seen one horsebox, you seen them all” as he walked off the lorry like a true pro. He didn’t even work up a sweat in transit, and it’s ridiculously hot out there. He was a bit reluctant to go into his stable, but it must have seemed like a cavernous black hole after the bright sunlight outside, and not only that, but, even though we’ve cleaned it out, it probably still smells quite strongly of Breeze. However, once he was in, and he had checked every corner out, he soon settled down. Despite the fact that our neighbour’s gardener was out with all his power tools, Peregrine didn’t seem at all bothered, and soon fell asleep, occasionally waking up enough for a bite of hay, lick of his salt lick, or to play with, rather than drink, his water. We hardly knew he was there.

Enter Florence

Florence arrived at about 2 O’clock. Just as when she left, she travelled really well, although she was unsurprisingly very hot on arrival. Poor Flo runs hot at the best of times, so this extreme heat is really uncomfortable for her. She’s been on her best behaviour over at. Melissa’s, and I’m surprised she wanted to come home. She’s been having far to good a time. There’s beensome squealing , all Florence, as she and Peregrine beginto get to know each other. She does make some terrible noises, but so far there’s been no nastiness. Flo doesn’t do nasty, she’s quite a naturally ‘don’t want any trouble, just leave me alone’ kind of horse, but she is extremely touch sensative, and also when she’s in her stable, that’s her space and don’t you dare stick your nose in here thank you very much, but it’s only because she’s scared of being bitten.

Now, normally, when introducing a new horse to a herd, you do t very slowly. You turn the new horse adjacent to the established horses, and when there’s no argy-bargy over the fence, you start slowly putting individual members of the established heard in with the new horse. I would normally do this. This time, I’ve just turned both Peregrine and Florence out together. Florence is of course the established horse here, but I was worried that if I did turn them out seperately, she might just go through the fence because she didn’t like being on her own. So there’s been a bit of marish squealing and bad language from Flo, but nothing nasty. Peregrine has had a good belt round the paddock, tipped the water bucket over, and learned that if you bite the electric fence you will get a shock. He’s also learned that you have to know Florence a hell of a lot better before you attempt to scratch your head on her bum! There’s been no nastiness though, and all seems peace at the moment. Peregrine is calling a bit now, but there’s a pony who has recently been re-homed from the Sanctuary on the other side of the valley, so I expect they are comparing notes.

As I’m typing this I’m sittingin the living room with the French Windows open listening to the peaceful evening sounds. The occasional snort from one of the horses, and an even more occasional call from Peregrine. I haven’t heard Flo squeal for a few hors now. I love beingable to sit and hear the horses.

Got my girl back. Got a new pony to enjoy.

Tonight life is good.

48 Hours From Hell

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

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.

Feeling Down

What is wrong with me!? I should be feeling like a kiddy on Christmas Eve. I’m in a really unusual, and, what should be very exciting situation. Not only have I qualified for the RDA National Championships (Who’d have thought?); but I am officially looking for a new horse, one that I will continue to do RDA Dressage with, and that I will be able to do some of the brilliant things that the Riding Club do with, and, unusually for me, I’ve got what feels like a massive budget for said horse. Usually I’m buying in the cheaper range, and I’ve been stretching my resources to do that. Not this time. You’d think I’d be like a dog with two tails, bursting with excitement, like a kiddy who’s been told they can have anything they want from the toyshop regardless of it’s price. What iactually feel is – well – nothing much to be honest, and I don’t really understand why. Don’t get me wrong, It’s not that I don’t want another horse, I really do, and I am thoroughly enjoying my newfound RDA Dressage success. I should be buzzing with enthusiasm, but frankly what I feel is flat and a bit down. Somebody take me out and slap me please! I’ve been trying to work out why I’m feeling this way, and I can only imagine it’s for one of the following reasons.

1. It’s not the prospect of having another horse that’s actually the problem here, it’s the act of finding one. I do find the process of buying horses extremely daunting. I miss the days when you buy your local Newspaper on a Thursday or Friday, turn to the, extensive, Horses for Sale section at the back, and read through all the adverts, circling all the likely candidates, then phoning the seller and havinga proper chat with them before deciding to go and have a look at said beast. OK, so, nowadays I wouldn’t be able to actually read the ads myself; but now things have gone on-line even finding horse ads is challenging. Yes, there are plenty of websites where you can buy and sell horses, but they are none of them particularly accessible. Face Book used to be a useful place to look for horses, but they have just banned selling animals. It’s all a bit problematic really. However, that’s just the beginning of the problem, once I find a suitable sounding horse , I’ve then got to go and see it. The act of going to a strange yard, with strange people, who have their own preconceptions about blindess, or who, despite my careful explaination of my situation, may not have fully comprehended that I am blind, and then having to get on a strange horse, that may or may not have been honestly described, and so may or may not be as safe as it’s been cracked up to be, makes me feel very uncomfortable, and extremely vulnerable. I’ve had some, erm, interesting experiences over the years to say the least.

2. Over the last 3 and a bit years we’ve lost 3 horses. OK, Magnum was very old, Sapphire had cancer, and Leonie, well, things weren’t good with her, but nevertheless, 3 horses gone in 3 years is a lot in my book. Now we have Florence and Breeze, who, granted are both in their twenties, but Breeze has had to retire from being ridden, and, despite my earlier post about Florence being on the mend, sadly she seems to be going backwards again at the moment. Florence hasn’t been right all year, and I may yet have to retire her as well. So that’s 3 dead horses, 1 going blind, and 1 with some kind of chronic/intermittent lameness/pain issue. Really, am I the best person to take on another horse? I just seem to break them all the time! Is a new horse going to be safe in my hands? I love horses, all horses, but Florence in particular is the absolute centre of my universe. For the last 6 months she’s been trying to tell me what’s wrong, and I just can’t seem to be able to understand what’s she’s trying to tell me. I’ve spent a fortune on vet’s, tess, and treatments, but things are still not entirely right with her. If I bring another horse onto this yard is it just going to end up trying to tell me something that I just can’t hear? Am I really capable of looking after them properly? I’m really doubting my abilities at the moment, and that’s putting me off going out there and putting any real effort into finding another horse.

As it happens, there is a real lack of horses out there anyway, or at least, if they are there, I’m not seeing the adverts.I keep reading that we are in the midst of a horse crisis, too many horses, not enough people who want, or can afford to take them on, so where are they all then? So far, I’ve only really seen one horse that I would have wanted to go and view, and that sold within a week of me first seeing the ad. Now, I know that I have quite specific requirements, but really, all I need is a safe,responsive, weight carrier. What I actually want is a younger Florence, perhaps one who is more comfortable travelling, and who is a little bit less bitey ,but neverthe less, Florence, her personality,attitude, and build, is just right for me. They must be out there somewhere, but all I’m seeing advertised is ex racehorses (I’d snap a Thoroughbred), imacculately bred, high powered warm bloods and Sports Horses, ponies, or horses that sound ideal, but nap, have an injury, aren’t safe on the roads, or have never been in a school. I keep seeing the same horses on every site, or I think I’ve found a good one, but it’s in Ireland, or is being listed by a Dealer, who is regularly mentioned on the Dodgey Dealers listsNot only that, but this purchase is dependant on the sale of Hal’s late parents hous. Well, that’s going well, not. Today is the day we were supposed to be completing. Yeh right. We’ve just been told that the buyers, who were supposed to be cash buyers, hence why Hal accepted such a low offer. haven’t quite got there mortgage sorted yet! So now they are screwing us around and apparently can’t complete until 1st July. That is of course if they are actually going to complete and aren’t some kind of fantasists. Let’s face it, it’s a long way from cash buyers to can’t get the mortgage sorted. So there probably isn’t going to be a new horse anyway. So wht am I worried about.

Problems Problems Problems

Oh dear it’s all going a bit wrong at the moment. Florence and I have hit a major problem, and I worry that it might be an unsurmountable one. I am convinced that she has some collateral damage from her recent breathing troubles, and is still experiencing pain in the chest, thoracic spine, ribs and intercostal muscles, or even in the lungs or Plura themselves. She is no longer coughing, is not in any way wheezy, and there is no heave., but something is definitely wrong. For the first time since I’ve had her, she will not stand up to the mounting block! Florence, The worlds safest and most reliable horse, The horse that anybody can ride, and who anybody can mount, no matter how stiff they are and how much they have to scramble, The horse that loves hacking out, and will try her damnedest in the school even if she doesn’t really see the point, won’t stand up to the mountain block! Something is very wrong.

She is happily allowing me to tack her up, and can’t get the bit into her mouth quick enough, but as I lead her down into the school she becomes increasingly tense, A worried expression replacing her a bitch your smile. She walks towards the block and then once I start stepping up onto it she just rushes off, or if Hal leads her in , with me already in situ, she just rushes past!

It’s not a one off thing. I first tried to get back on board last weekend, on Saturday and Sunday, and the same thing happened. So, in order to try and rule a few things out, Flo has had this week off again, and has been taking a low-dose of Bute to ward off any evil spirits. I had hoped that this might counteract any residual inflammation, or ease any soreness in the muscles around her chest. That might have been caused by coughing and heaving. Sadly though, this morning was no different to last week. I’m very worried. The last time a horse of mine suddenly decided they didn’t want to be mounted after being 100% reliable, it was Magnum, and it was the first sign that his heart was giving him trouble.

Of course I will be speaking to the vet on Monday, I’ve already left a message with the Sadler, and I will try and book a Masterson Method treatment for both horses, and then potentially a physio appointment for Florence. They only had the teeth done a couple of weeks ago, so that shouldn’t be the issue.

Breeze is also being a little bit tricky. We know she has quite extreme arthritis in her Hocks, and is slightly lame in her off side hind because of it. We suspect this lameness is now a permanent thing, but the vet has suggested we run her on Bute permanently now, this will make her more comfortable, and she may even come sound. However, Breeze being Breeze, she won’t take the Bute! Oh no thank you very much. If it’s a question of taking beaut, or starving to death, Breeze is on a serious diet!

So here I am, One permanently lame pony Who refuses to take her medication, And one seemingly healthy horse, Who is behaving completely out of character, and for some reason doesn’t want to be mounted. The reality is that neither of my lovely girls are in the first flush of youth. They are both officially 20, but in both cases this is only a guesstimate age. Florence has a date of birth the 1st of January 1999, and Breeze the 30th of June 1998, but we know these are not actually the days on which they will fold. In Florence’s case it is standard practice to give a horse a birth date of the 1st of January. Where as I have been told that, in Breezes case, 30th of June is actually the birthday of her old owner. Apparently if a horse was bought to work in the trekking centre didn’t have a passport, it was always given the 30th of June as its date of birth. In reality, whilst Florence is most likely 20 or thereabouts, of the smart money is on Breeze actually being a lot older. When she had her teeth done recently we were told that they had stopped erupting.

I don’t like the thought of either of them being in pain, but I am really worried that flow may never be able to be ridden again. Both of then have a home here for the rest of their lives regardless, but I am itching to get back in the saddle, and right at the moment I can’t afford another horse.

For once I would just like things to go my way a little bit

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