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.

Day 11 – To Rug, or Not to Rug..

, How things have changed over the years. When I bought my first horse 30 years ago, when it came to buying rugs for him there was very little choice as to style, , weight, fabric or colour. For turn out it was a green, canvas, New Zealand Rug, and for the stable, a Jute Rug with a separate roller. There was also a string vest style sweat rug. If your horse was cold, you put a bed blanket under the rug. If your horse was wet, you put the jute rug on inside out, and thatched him with straw under the rug. I remember there being nothing more heavy and difficult to handle then a truly soaking wet, mud plastered, New Zealand Rug.

Fast forward 30 years

and the choice of rugs is mind blowing . The equine clothing industry is a multi billion pound sector which seems to be going from strength to strength. However I do wonder how much of this is actually Led by fashion, and owner shaming, rather than the actual needs of the horse. Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t go back to using a heavy, difficult to handle, old-fashioned New Zealand Rug if you paid me. However I sometimes wonder if all these different rugs are strictly necessary, and if the basic animal needs of the horse are being forgotten.

Last year I did a quick count up, and was really shocked to discover that I had around about 40 rugs. Okay, i’ve owned horses for about 30 years, and in recent years I’ve had as many as four at any one time. I also have a tendency to keep hold of the Quitman, even when I have no real need for it, just in case.

. My attitude towards rugging has really changed since we moved here and have been doing it all ourselves

When I kept my horses on full livery I was very much influenced by what the yard owner said I needed to do. By and large, they were the ones who were actually handling my horse on a daily basis, so when they told me I need a particular rug, off I would toddle and buy one. After all, they were the expert here, Who was I to question their judgement? It wasn’t until I bought Magnum, and ended up having to keep him and Sapphire more or less on a do-it-yourself basis, that I started to question things. The actual Yurika moment came courtesy of the woman whose land are used to keep Magnum on, and who, at the time, had Sapphire on loan for one of her daughters. It was June, admittedly it wasn’t a particularly nice June, but it wasn’t what you would call cold.

I can’t remember where we were, but it would’ve taken us about an hour to get back to home. Suddenly my mobile phone rang, and when I answered it I was met with a very shouty voice, which informed me that I had to get to the field NOW! That it was raining, that I had to put a rug on my horse NOW! OR ELSE!!! When we did eventually get back to the field, it had stopped raining, and the Sun was shining. I found a comfortable and content Magnum stuff in grass like it was going out of fashion, in the company of four extremely uncomfortable ponies, all wearing rugs, and sweating profusely. Why has she shouted at me like that, and why was she letting her ponies suffer through being too hot? It wasn’t very long after this that I decided to try and move Magnum two other quarters. It was when I told her that I had found another billet for him, that she suddenly decided she didn’t want Sapphire anymore..

In recent times I have read a lot of articles written by vets and equine physiologists, which question the need for horses to be rugged except in the coldest conditions. Thereseems to be a lot of evidence now, that horse is a very good at regulating their own body temperature, and, in general, are perfectly comfortable

In temperatures between 5 – 25 degrees. This means that just because we’re cold, it doesn’t mean our horses are. Since last winter it has been my policy not to rug umtil it’s 5 or below, or under 10 if it’s hammering down. It’s fair to say that they are hardly wasting away.

Day 5 – Autumn Essentials

So far this year my hay is untouched, I have far too much grass and to scarily fat horses, and whilst I can’t claim to be entirely free of mud, it really isn’t worth writing home about. Yes, The nights are drawing in, and they are noticeably cooler, but, even though they have now been clipped, The girls are still perfectly comfortable without a rug.

Is it really October? It’s really difficult to think about the autumn essentials when the weather is so mixed up that The local farmers are in the process of bailing silage.In the last five days the land next door to us has had grass cut, turned, and bailed, with the bales being removed yesterday evening. I don’t think I’ve ever experienced such a late cut of silage. It must be a real relief, as after the first cut, which happened oh so very long ago, The grass just didn’t grow again until September.

Usually by this Time of year I am wondering if it is safe to start using the hay that Steve cut back in June or July. Whilst I always try to bring horses in as late as possible, and never until after the 5th of November, normally by now my resolve is beginning to crumble. Usually I am already beginning to run out of grass, monsoon season is in full swing, and the mud is beginning to make itself known.

So, apart from a good pair of wellies and some decent waterproofs, which are primed and ready to be worn in an instant, I think the mot essential thing to have at this time of year is am open mind.

Day 4 – Haygain

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

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

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

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

WinterReady

ow can it be the end of September already?especially when we are still being blessed with such gorgeous weather. This time last year Mark had just finished the school, and the drains around it were running like fast flowing streams. We still had four horses back then, and we were already supplementing hay in the field, as our land was just a barren boggy wasteland. It was so wet that we couldn’t get a tractor on it to cut the hedges.

Compare then to now. Well, at the end of August, the unusually hot, dry Summer had left us with a bit of a dust bowl! The ground was rock hard, and, like last ear , we hardly had a blade of grass to our name. Since then, a smattering of rain, nixed in with lovely warm, sunny days, and cooler, dewy, nights, and, Hey Presto!, a textbook September flush. Now we only have the two horses, both of whom are extremely good doers, I am having to be very careful. That said, I’d far rather be facing Winter with too much grass than none at all.

We have a barn full of hay, a few bales of good quality haylage left over from earlier in the year, and more hay up at Steve’s. leonie’s stable is full of bedding. The hedges were cut on Thursday, and the bigger trees are being trimmed this week. The horses have been clipped. Rugs washed and ready. At the moment, our land is lush, green and dry under foot. I think we are as ready for Winter as we can be.

Let’s just hope it isn’t the four solid months of snow that the local News people keep going on about.