Seasons Greetings

Regular readers will know that for Hal and I 2018 has been a truly horrible year. I had so many hopes and plans as we waved a fond farewell to 2017, but right from the get go it became clear that things weren’t going to go our way.

Viruses, coughing horses, lameness. Extreme wet weather, storm force wind, snow! losing Leonie, Stella, Hal’s Dad, my Mum. Nearly losing Ripley. Having a very sick Tabitha. Falling off the tandem and damaging the ligaments in my knee. Having to replace a leaking oil tank, defunct fridge, broken dishwasher. Finding out Breeze is going blind.Yes, it does seem to have been a year of lurching chaotically from one crisis to another. No wonder we both feel so wiped out!

To be fair there have been some good bits along the way. Our Niece Sarah’s wedding, veing given an award by the Riding Club. Increasing support for this Blog, support for Blind Riders UK, my business getting stronger. Having lessons on Florence. Doing more talks for Guide Dogs. Doing some PR for Retina Implant.

Personally though, New Year’s Day cannot come quick enough for me. New beginnings, A fresh start, A blank sheet. I have of course got lots of hopes and aspirations for 2019. Poor Florence isn’t going to know what hit her! Neither is Hal for that matter. In the meantime though thank you very much for supporting this blog. I hope you have an absolutely marvellous Christmas and a happy horsey New Year

Do Horses Get Charles Bonnets Syndrome?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Does Breeze have what?

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

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

day 20 – All Wound Up

Gone 2, Oh My Word! What is wrong with Breeze today? She’s behaving like some idiot Thoroughbred, not a sweet little elderly Cob. Florence is a bit wound up too. Granted, Breeze is quite an anxious soul, but things have hit a whole new level today.

Things seemed perfectly normal when I went down to check them first thing. Yes, they were both all over me like a rash, but this is not necessarily unusual behaviour. It was another one of those lovely silent mornings, just me the horses and a solitary owl in the whole wide world. It was a bit cool and clammy, foggy in fact, which is something that doesn’t really exist in my world, but there didn’t seem to be anything unusual going on. So what had changed by 11 o’clock this morning when we came to catch them in?

There was nothing untoward going on whilst sorting the stables out. So perhaps it was my fault for asking Hal and Ben to catch them in by themselves, while I went back to the house to use the loo. Whatever it was, by the time I got back down to the yard all hell had broken loose. Florence was dripping with sweat, and Breeze was behaving like a complete tit. Apparently Breeze had gone into one while Ben was leading her up. Then Florence decides to play silly buggers when Hal tried to get her in quick so he could take over from Ben. I had planned to hack out with Helen, Benz mum, this afternoon, and the idea was that Ben and I would get the horses clean and ready to tack up, while Hal worked with Steve, Who was coming to do more tree pruning. Yeah right. We couldn’t groom either of the horses, Florence was absolutely dripping, and Breeze was barging and stamping all over the place. Every time somebody opened her stable door she would try to barge out through them. I tied her up outside with a hey net, as she much prefers this, but no, that wasn’t good enough either. We gave up and put the kettle on at this point as I didn’t want Ben getting squashed

Steve didn’t get to us until, which cramped our style somewhat. So while he and Hal tackled the Blackthorn, I tackled the grooming. Florence was a bit shamefaced at her earlier behaviour. However, although not being so silly and rude, Breeze was still very much on high alert. So, as time was marching on Helen took Madam into the school, and they did some really nice work.

It’s on days like this that I wish I could speak fluent horse.

Day 12 – PANIC!!!

The first named storm of the season is upon us, it’s only just gone 6a.m., and all my triggers have already been activated.

The wind is howling, and I can hear all sorts of things moving around out there. Opening the garage door to going get my wellies, the door caught in the wind and all but wrenched my arm off. As I stepped onto the back lawn, A strong gust of wind lifted the heavy wooden walking staff, that I carry when I’m outside with the horses, off the ground, and I could feel it trying to move my legs. It is also pouring down with rain, and I have to find my way down to the bottom field to check the horses, all by myself. This is one of those mornings when, despite me valuing this private time, I’d would really have preferred to have somebody with me.

.

When I got down to the horses, my already high state of alert was thrown into overdrive. I couldn’t find Breeze!

She had to be there. If she wasn’t, Florence would have been in full on melt down. So where was she? Dead? Injured? Unable to move due to laminitis, colic, or AM? Biting down the wave of panic that was threatening to engulf me, I resisted the urge to phone the house and wake Hal. If there really was a problem Flo wouldn’t be Calmly trying to go through my pockets would she?

This is where not being able to see is a real problem. Usually I can hear where the horses are, even if they are quite some distance away from me, but with the wind howling I don’t stand a chance. Everybody else can just look across the field. Yes I know, it was a dark morning, and Vreeze is dark bay, but she does have three white legs and a blades, so something that I’ve shown up.

After calmly, yeh right, walking back up to the house, and gently waking Hal, he could confirm that breeze was indeed in the field, upright, and eating. Turns out she just can’t be bothered with me this morning.hal also told me that the roof has come off the Shed of Doom overnight. Well that explains that particular noise then.

I’m going back to bed where it’s safe

Day 7 – 10 things I love about Autumn(?)

Hmmm, today’s Blogtober Challenge is to list 10 things that I love about Autumn. The thing is though, and you better sit down here, I’m not sure that in the grand scheme of things, I am particularly fond of Autumn.partly it’s because, as regular readers will know, I am frightened of strong wind, and Autumn is usually when the storms increase. Partly it’s because hunting and shooting, and the arrogance and rudeness of people on both sides of the argument upset me.. mostly though, it’s because of living with Retinitis Pigmentosa. One of the earliest symptoms of RP, and one which I personally had since birth, is night blindness. So for people in early stages of the disease, who can see pretty well thank you very much, during daylight, or good indoor lighting. But are rendered blind from twilight onwards, the Autumnal Equinox means less hours of useful eyesight, and less independence. Nowadays I am well beyond the point where it makes any real difference to me. However, I well remember how frazzled I used to get when it did. I know several people living with RP who suffer from crippling depression and anxiety at this time of year.

I do like to try to look on the bright side though. So here are 10 things I do like about this time of year.

1. Cooler weather. Being an overweight, fair skinned, freckle Celt, I am not built for heat and humidity. In fact it can make me feel quite poorly. So when the temperature drops below 20 I am much more comfortable.

2. Frosty mornings. A rarity in these parts. That crisp, clean, clear air that makes you feel really alive, and makes it feel as if the whole world is sparkling. What’s not to like?

3. Less flies. Daddy Longlegs (shudder) not withstanding, there are noticeably less flying, buzzing, biting, stinging, irritating pests around.

4. Silence. I refer you to my earlier post, the Sound of Silence.

5. Fallen leaves. OK, I know all about the dangers of sycamores , but you really have to be made of granite if the inner child in you doesn’t enjoy kicking through freshly fallen leaves.

6. The smell of somebodyelses wood smoke. We don’t have an open fire or a wood burner ourselves but plenty of folk around here do. , and I love the smell of woodsmoke, especially when it’s cold outside.

7. Being Able to take the dogs to the beach. Woo hoo! The holiday season is over, and so on the punitive restrictions placed on dogs being allowed to go on to Devon and Cornwall speeches. I mean it’s not as if there are any families who have both children and dogs is it? I’m going to stop now in case I go into full frontal rant mode. Hopefully though, if we do manage to get our own trailer, riding on the beach might be a realistic possibility next year.

8. Quieter roads. Both as a pedestrian who lives innan area with few pavements, and as a rider who lives in an area with zero off road riding, I really appreciate it when the tourists have gone home and the roads are a tiny bit quieter.

9. The West Country Christmas Equine Fair at Westpoint Arena. OK, as it takes place in December it’s really a Winter thing, but it’s my 1 guaranteed horsey day out each year, and I really look forward to it.

10. Strictly Come Dancing. I love it! From September to Christmas it’s like having a big glittery panto party in your living room every weekend.

The Dilemma

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Crisis! What Crisis?

Oh dear, this year is really testing us. . It’s already May, and, while I had so many plans, all I seem to have done so far this year is lurch from crisis to crisis. . To be honest, Florence and Breeze are the least of our problems, but I’d really like to be doing a lot more with them. . The weather has, of course, been, and continues to be, a major problem, but that’s the same for everyone.. .. I did manage to get them turned out overnight. A couple of weeks ago we had a brief spell of unseasonably warm sunny weather, and they were increasingly reluctant to come in in the evenings. . So, even though we had hardly any grass, on Friday 13th April they stayed out. So now it’s gone cold, wet, and windy again.

Sadly, last week, we lost Hal’ sDad. It wasn’t really a huge shock. He was 92 and had been ill for a while. It’s still a big thing for Hal and his sisters to contend with though, especially as their Mother died a few years back.

We have also had a very poorly dog on our hands this week. On Thursday night Ripley, my 12-year-old retired guide dog, was very very sick in the night. I discovered this by that tried and tested method known to all blind people who own cats,dogs, and small children, The world over, I stood in it! Now, Ripley being sick is not actually that big a deal. He is half labrador, and generally has the Constitution of the cast iron dustbin , and some of the most disgusting eating habits. Usually he is able to throw up royally, and then say to him self, “that’s better, what’s for dinner?”. Unfortunately though, this time it hasn’t gone that way. He kept dry heaving, and throwing up bile, all day on Friday. So I didn’t feed him all day. On Saturday morning I offered him a scrambled egg, which he refused and then started heaving again. Q trip to Vets on Saturday morning, where an initial examination could find nothing wrong. He was given an anti-emetic, which did stop his trying to be sick. However he was extremely quiet, and again refused food on Saturday night. He was extremely quiet all day on Sunday, and again would not eat. In fact he just seem to be getting weaker and weaker. No change by Monday morning, so back to the vet, where he had x-rays, blood test’s, mouth and throat examination, and a rectal examination, nothing showed up as abnormal. In fact he has the profile of an extremely healthy dog. When we fetched him back from the vet on Monday he was still very heavily sedated, and so, whilst The vets helped us get him into the car, we had extreme difficulty getting him out again at home. We managed to actually get him out, but he collapsed in the heap behind the car in the garage. So there we stayed, One very poorly elderly retired guide dog, and one very worried dog owner, between the back of The car and the garage door, for about two hours, while he gathered together enough energy and compus mentis to walk into the house, and I convinced myself he was actually in the act of dying. It’s been a very hard week. In a strange way Ripley being ill has managed to distract from dealing with the death of Hal’s Dad, but it has been all encompassing. I have not felt able to do anything other than watching him like a hawk. I’ve been on absolute tenterhooks in case I need to rush into the bet or in case he made his final journey before we could get him there. I’ve hardly been near the horses since Thursday, and haven’t been able to concentrate on anything. There is good news though. He does seem to have turned a corner, and started taking in very small quantities of food. He is still very weak and wobbly though, is being extremely quiet, and he does seem to have become very old dog overnight. Hopefully though he is taking his first steps towards recovery. What is really concerning and confusing though, is that we can’t seem to find what is cause the problem. He hasn’t been anywhere Quincy hasn’t, Quincy is absolutely fine. The best money is on the fact that he may have eaten something that has disagreed with him, but what, and where did he get hold of it? It’s all very strange.

So that’s bad weather, Snow, trying to resolve Leone’s problems and then losing her, my mum having to go into care, losing Hals dad, and coming very close to losing Ripley. Somebody wants told me that God doesn’t send you more than you can cope with. I don’t personally believe in an . all-powerful divine creator, but if I’m wrong and there is a God, I really think he may have got me mixed up with somebody else. I’ve had enough now. Please can I just be left in peace to play with my ponies? Preferably in some nice sunny weather.