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

Winter Draws On

As I was feeding the dogs last night I heard the phone ring. Like Hal and I, my Dad had just seen Country File, and, like me, . Had winced when the Weather Man said the S word, and then went on to say that snow showers could potentially occur as far South as the Moors of the far South West.

Gulp!

No, OK, we aren’t actually on the Moor here inn Shebbear, but we are invetween Dartmoor and Exmoor, in an area known as Ruby Country. We don’t actually get much snow here, but we’ve already had more than our fair share back in March. I truly think that if we do get a lot of snow this winter it might just finish me off! If you want to know why, please read my post from 2nd March this year entitled “Blind Man’s Fog”.

Dad really wanted to know if we’d brought the horses in. Yes we had! In fact yesterday was the big day. The change has now been made from Summer to Winter routine, a whole 25 days later than last year – and we’ve actually still got some grass left.

Usually the decision is made based on how wet and boggy the ground has become. This year, while the ground is a bit wet, it’s down to wind chill, and Vreeze struggling a bit. Poor Breeze, she was very stiff yesterday. Not exactly lame, but definitely not sound. It was like all her joints needed oiling. Mind you, she’s not The only one. I’ve never really been convinced the weather does have an effect on my arthritis, but, oh my word, am I having a flareup at the moment!

Thankfully this morning, whilst the wind can’t be bothered to go around you, there is no snow around here. Long may that last. I’m hoping for a short winter. I personally don’t mind it being cold and dry. In fact I love cold frosty Krispy mornings, kind of morning when I imagine everything is sparkling like diamonds. Pleased though, no snow!

Three Years of Joy

It’s Florence his third Gotcha anniversary today! It feels like she’s always been with me.

Florence came to me when I was going through an extremely stressful time. In all honesty I really should not have even been thinking of buying a horse just then. I was taking part in a clinical research trial, and sadly things have gone slightly wrong for me, and Hal and I were making the journey from North Devon to Oxford on an almost fortnightly basis, I ended up having four surgeries between September and February At the same time we were also being filmed for a television programme. An experience which I never want to repeat. I had been told earlier that summer that my beloved Magnum had a serious heart problem, and therefore could no longer be ridden, so I started window shopping for horses as a distraction. My friend Amy sent me a link to an advertisement on the website pre-loved for a 16-year-old piebald Cob mare that she thought might be eminently suitable. As the horse was not particularly far away from us we decided to go and have a look. The rest as they say is history.

Although Florence arrived in the November, because of the ongoing problems with my eyes, more surgery, an absolutely appalling weather, I didn’t actually sit on her until the beginning of March the following year. O’Boywas that leap of faith! Florence was amazing though, if you didn’t know, nothing in her behaviour would have told you she hadn’t been sat on for four months. It’s fair to say that up to that point Florence and I had not been getting along particularly well, and there had been more than one occasion when her bags had been packed and she was going back to her previous owner. However, every time Hal talked me down and convinced me to give her another chance. Poor Florence

, it must’ve been extremely difficult for her to move from her secure home of eight years, into a completely alien environment, with an owner who seem to keep disappearing and reappearing, and who must have been radiating stress, anxiety, and unhappiness like the Sun radiates light and heat. I truly believe that she could either here or smell the implant that I had in my I, and was very very aware of the problems that I was having, because she kept trying to bite my face. Believe me when you can’t see it coming, The snapping together of huge great horse teeth just millimetres away from your face is quite alarming! My theory about this was backed up by the fact that, as soon as I had the implant removed, in the middle of February, the attacks on my face stopped. Another problem we had when Florence first came to me, what’s that had not appreciated that she has extremely sensitive skin, and is extremely ticklish. She is a great big enormous hairy gypsy cob, but underneath all that black and white fur she has a thoroughbred skin I’m sure.

I’ve always believed that, Magnum, being a very old and wise horse, New that his time was coming to an end, and understood that Florence and come here to take over from him. I am quite sure that he explained the situation t her to look after me. You see, on what was probably the hardest long weekend of my entire life, we had Magnum put to sleep on the Friday, and had the implant removed on the Monday. From the moment I got home from hospital Florence and I began to build and understanding and bond. . I am so glad that Hal convince me to keeper. I trust Florence completely, I know she has boundaries, and I respect that. She does not have a nasty bone in her body, but she does not give her trust automatically. Yes she can occasionally be rude and pushy when handling her on the ground,

but when I’m sat on her back there are no limitations,? The world is ours too own. Florence is an extremely intelligent horse. She has the ability to read her rider, and adjust her way of going accordingly. This year she has carried my extremely capable writer niece Hannah, 11 year old Ven, my 87 year old Dad, Hal, and me, and been a total lady with us. She hates being on her own, and gets terrible separation anxiety. However, she has always been the bottom most ranking horse in my herd. She hates water,really hates having her legs touched, and can be a little bit girthy. Florence is completely unflappable, and extremely nosey. She is the kind of horse who would rather investigate something instdad of run away from it. She can be very impatient though, and doesn’t like standing around. Florence is quite vocal, and has an endearing way of wickering and snickering to me. Someone once connected that they thought Florence spoke to me like I was a foal. I just adore her!

So here’s to the next three years – Big beautiful black and white horse

Day 25 – Throw back Thursday – Ophelia & Brian

Below is the post I wrote on 25th October last year. What a contrast! We had just lost my little Section D , Sapphire, who had been with us for 13 years. Sadly we lost Leonie, who was only 8, this March.

Things have been pretty quiet around here since Sapphire left us. At first Leomie, Florence, and Breeze were very subdued, and stayed unnaturally close to each other. One horse, three heads! Kowever, things are pretty much back to normal now. There is a little bit of a power struggle going on between Leo and Breeze over who takes over the lead of the herd. It’s all academic though. The job belongs to Breeze.

Hal has been keeping himself extremely busy repairing and reinforcing the stables. Sadly, two years after having them built, it is evident that our so called Stable Stables are actually anything but. Yes, my lovely little Welsh girl was quite destructive, but really! Last Tuesday I scrubbed out with disinfectant, and then Hal jet washed, the three actual stables, and then bedded them down for winter. Leomie has now moved out of the tack room and into Sapphire’s box, and with bedding and hay In the barn, and rugs washed and proofed, we are winter ready.

Just as well really, because the weather has been appalling. Last year I brought them In overnight on 15th November, or thereabouts, and considered that early. They are already in this year!
My dislike, well, total terror, of strong wind is no secret. So you can imagine how I felt when I heard Hurricane Ophelia was heading straight for us. HURRICANE!!! Everybody talks about the Great Storm of 1987. Weather Man Micheal Fish’s fated words, “No madam, there is not going to be a hurricane”, thousands of fallen trees, structural damage, lives lost. However, I don’t remember it being that bad in Plymouth. What I remover, and what I think is significantly responsible for my wind phobia, is what happened in January 1990. It happened to be the day that I advertised my then, second, and totally unsuitable horse, Oliver Twist, for sale. Bad timing. Believe me, nobody in Devon and Cornwall was reading horse ads that day. My memory starts with standing with a group of colleagues, in a 1st floor room of a four story office building, with my eyes out on stalks and my heart racing as the metal framed windows bowed inwards, and my companions described the roof tiles flying off the houses opposite and the street lights being bent like rubber. We had just been told not to leave the building because the cars were being blown round the car park, the cladding was falling off the building, and the flat roof was peeling back like the lid off a tin. I have never been so scared! That wasn’t the end of it though. When, the next day, I managed to get to the little Riding school where I kept Oliver on full livery, it was to discover that one of the stable blocks, a 5 box wooden unit, not unlike our stables here at Albert’s Bungalow, had been lifted clean off it’s concrete base and deposited 20 foot back behind where it had been. It was pure luck that there were no horses in any of the stables at the time. They had been turned away for a weeks winter break. My blood still runs cold when I think about what might have happened otherwise. I think some people think that I am weird, cruel, or stupid, when I keep my horses turned out during extremely windy weather. I think they would have a different opinion they had seen that stable block as I did on that day. None of the usual resident horses would have survived if they had been shut in.

As it happened, Ophelia, down graded to an X hurricane, changed her course slightly, and did most of her damage over Ireland. Yes it was windy, but we have definitely had worse. What was incredibly strange though was how Hot it became on Monday, and how strongly everything smelt of smoke. The Internet and social media Full of colour of the Sun & sky. Of course I couldn’t see this, and when I asked Hal, Who had been working on the stables all day, about it, he said he hadn’t noticed.

Feeling very relieved that we had got a way with Ophelia so lightly, imagine how I felt when I learnt that storm Brian was coming straight at us! Not even a week in between! As Brian was forecast to be bringing a lot of rain with him, Hal persuaded me to bring the girls in. Mow, it just so happens that that over the summer we have been trying to teach the horses to bring themselves in. Breeze Has obviously done this before, and Florence is getting that idea, but Sapphire and Leomie never really got idea, and would go off in all directions. On Friday afternoon, with Brian already beginning to make his presence known, and the way out of the paddock but the horses were in almost impassable, Hal suggested he let the horses out to bring their own way up to the stables. All I heard was the thundering hooves, and thought to myself that they were coming up rather sharpish. What was actually happening though, was that while Breeze and Flo were slowly working their way up to the yard, stopping every now and then to craft a mouthful of grass, Leo, God love her, had The wind well and truly under her tail, and was galloping around in excited circles, bulking and kicking like an idiot. On one of these circuits, she managed to side swipe Hal, and catch him with her back feet as she bucked. He ended up sitting in one of the water troughs, on the other side of the fence. Luckily, although he is extremely sore, and has some lovely bruises, he has not been seriously hurt. This could have been so much more serious. We won’t be doing that again in a hurry.

As it happens, Brian seemed to be much worse than Ophelia. The wind was much stronger, and oh boy did it rain! The horses seem to be quite content in the stables. Both oh philia and Brian, came from the south, so we were relatively sheltered in both cases. I read on the Internet yesterday, that we are expected to have another 11 storms that are strong enough to be named over autumn and winter here in the UK. Another 11! We’ve already had two and it’s not even the end of October yet.

It’s going to be a long winter

Day 18 – ‘Ere! Who are You Calling a Pumpkim? 😈

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.