Tummy Ache

You know that feeling? The one when you have been out for the most amazing meal, eaten far too much, had a couple glasses of wine. You feel fat, full and contents, and go to bed feeling good about the world. Then, about an hour after you’ve gone to bed, your digestive system catches up on the evenings events, and you spend the next 30 minutes locked in the bathroom while your body goes through a fully automated emmergency evacuation procedure. Well, that was me on Wednesday night. So, when my alarm went off on Thorsday morning, I resolved to have half an hours lie I n. Ripley had other ideas though. He must have been listening for the alarm, because, no sooner had I turned it off and snuggled down, , than he started a song and dance act, whining and marching about on the laminate, right outside the bedroom door. I’m so glad he did!

So, having been forced from my slumbers by an elderly Labrador, I set about my usual routine, feed cats, spend and feed dogs, check and feed horses, tea and wake Hal. Usually when I arrive on the yard there are 4 hungry heads hanging over doors, Leonie is kicking the door, and Florence is wickering and snickering away, telling me all about it. On Thursday though something was a miss. It was a bit too quiet. Leo was certainly giving her door the usual abuse, but there was no commentary coming from the end stable. Asleep perhaps? Walking up the yard, saying good morning, and gibing everyone a rub in that special place on the forehead, , I was disturbed when Florence was still lingering at the back of her box when I got to her door. Had Sapphire kicked the partition down in the night, trapping Flo at the back? Cautiously I stepped into the stable to check. No, the partition was fine. Which wasn’t the case for Floremce. Stood stock still, sweating heavily, and panting. Please don’t let this be what I think it is! Giving everyone their breakfast haynet , my fears were confirmed when Florence’s only reaction was to let out a quiet groan.

Colic!

Head collar on, walking a remarkably compliant Flo up and the yard. Phone emmergency vet. Phone, and wake, Hal. Get called by vet. Keep walking. Please don’t try to roll. Hal comes out, opens gate for vet, and takes over walking. Vet arrives a remarkable 30 minutes after my first phone call.

Temperature fine. Heart and respiratory rate elevated. Gut silent. Rectal examination normal.

There’s nothing for it, she has to be flushed!

The problem was that Flo had to be sedated, but the vet couldn’t find a vein. However, once this was sorted, and a sedative and anti spasmodic administered, the procedure could commence. A tube was passed up Florence’s nose and down into her stomach. The vet having to be very careful to time this with swallowing so as not to pass the tube into her lungs! Then, some plain warm water was gradually poured I’m. After a while some electrolyte was added to the water, and the procedure repeated. The tube having been removed, , we were told to keep Flo in, with no hay, until she did a poo. Then she could have a small hay net. We arranged to check in with the vet again at about 3.30, it still wasn’t 9.00 when the vet left us.

We turned Leomie and Breeze out, but left Nurse Sapphire in to keep Florence company., and retired to the house for breakfast.
Florence was very obviously feeling better, and wasn’t vest pleased about being confined to barracks with no food. Unfortunately, she appeared to have no intention of having a poo! By 3.30 Flo was getting increasingly cross, but still hadn’t delivered the goods. The vet suggested letting her graze for an hour to hopefully stimulate the gut. So Flo and Sapphire spent a happy hour on the lawn. Worryingly though, still no poo by 4.30. So the vet came back and flushed her again!!

This time, as the tube was removed Floremce sneezed and farted violently 3 times. That had to be a good sign didn’t it?! The vet suggested a small haynet might stimulate the gut. However, if nothing had happened by 8.00 to let her know. She also left me with a tub of probiotic which I was to start feeding Flo immediately.

Thankfully, when I went to check Flo just before 8 I found her standing over a fresh pile as if it were a new born foal! What a relief! A quick text exchange with the vet, and I was able to leave Florence tucking into a small feed.

I can’t tell you how glad I am that Ripley wouldn’t let me go back to sleep. I dread to think what might have happened if I hadn’t gone down to the yard when I did. I’m delighted to say that Florence is as right as rain again now.

That was really scarey. I don’t want to go through that again please.

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.

False Start

I chose the first Saturday of the year as the day I would formally bring Florence and Breeze back into work after their extended winter lay off. In prepraation for this I had arranged for Amy to come and clip Florence on the 3rd. Only Florence, as I’m still not sure how much work Breeze is going to be doing, and this is where we hit our first snag. Poor Amy was mortified, but her clippers jus wouldn’t go anywhere near Florences thick, yak like shaggy coat!She did get one shoulder and half her chest off, then the clippers threw up their hands in defete! Florence is now rocking that ‘Game of Thrones’ look, you know, the one where the women walk around with one boob hanging out! These things can’t be helped, and it’s was definately not the end of the world, so we agreed to try again when the clipper blades had been off for sharpening. After all, Flo was only going to be doing some in hand work for the next couple of weeks, so she shouldn’t get too hot and swety, should she?

Saturday dawned full of promise, and with a plan in my head for both horses, Hal and I set off to enjoy a bit of long overdue horsey fun.

Oh dear!

The best laid plans of mice, men, and short , fat, blind, horse owners…

Florence has always, as long as I’ve had her, had issues with her wind. She coughs and wheezes at the slightest provocation, and really seems to be allergic to everything. I had hoped we had a handle on most of her triggers now though. I’ve never seen anything quite as bad as ‘florences heaving laboured breath on Saturday morning though! As I waited for the vet to arrive, am not ashamed to admit that the thought crossed my mind that Florence might actually be dying! David, the vet, got to me really quickly, and I think even he was a bit taken aback by how much Flo was struggling to breathe. Honestly, I’ve never seen a heave like it. Itmust have been very painful too, because, when I gently laid my hand on her side, she went to kick me. However, Flo wasn’t running a temperature, so David was reasonably confident this was not anything infecteous. Well thank goodness for that, afteral, both Tony, the farrier, and Amy and her dodgey clippers, had been all over Florence only a few days earlier, so if it was catching, they could have been spreading it like the plague.Not only that but, Breeze would have got it too.

David took bloods, and administered a plethora of drugs, including, horror of horrors, steroids. He also left me with 4 different meds to give her, comprising of antibiotics, bronchodilators, expectorants, and, yes your’ve guessed it, more steriods. So why am I so fixated on the steroids? Well, as regular readers will know, Florence is and elderly lady now, is already over weight and an extremely good doer, and has PPID, all things which predispose her to getting lminitis. Unfortunately, one of the known potential side effects of steroids is a higher risk of contracting laminitis! She’s doomed! Luckily I have an excellent relationship with my vets, and feel very comfortable when it comes to voicing my concerns, so I was able to have an honest chat with David about the risks and advantages of giving Flo steroids. His opinion was that it was a Catch 22 situation, yes, there was a real risk of Flo getting Laminitis, but if we didn’t give her the steroids she may not fully recover, or at least take longer . He assured me that he had rarely had a patient that did get Laminitis while taking the specific drug he was prescribing, and that he was giving her the very lowest dose possible for a horse of her weight, but that if I thought she was even thinking of getting it, I should immediately stop them. Thankfully, by the time Daivid left, Florene was already responding to the injections he’d given her, and was already breahing more easily. I was really impressed when he phoned me that evening, remember this was a Saturday, with her blood test results! Everything looked perfectly normal. This must have been a massive allergic reaction to something.

I had the girls both booked in to have a dental 2 Wednesdays after this, so it was agreed that Florence would be reassessed then, unless of course I had called them back beforehand, and of course, Flo was on R&R for the time being. Thankfully Florence is your typical greedy cob when it comes to food, and has no concept of turning her nose up at anything, so getting 4 different meds down her was no problem. However, the antibiotics were really difficult to handle. They came in the form of a mousse type solution which had to be accurately measured out with a syrringe. Well, thre was no way I could do that myself, as I couldn’t see the markings on the syrringe. Mind you, Hal found it hard enough, the stuff was really thick and gloopy and got everywhere, except inside the syrringe of course. It smelt delicious though, a bit like Butterscotch Angel Delight.

Except for one morning when I thought Florence might be on the verge of colicking, until she had the biggest, stinkingest poo I’ve ever witnessed, there were no nasty side effects from the medication. In fact, some behaviours, which I thought were just Flo quirks , even went away, and she appeared to be brething perfectly normally within a few hours of starting the regime.

On Wednesday last, Justine came out to do the dentals and assess Florence. She was very pleased with Flo, although she could hear what she called a slight Plural Rasping, so she said there may still be some inflammation. At this point, we hadn’t quite finished the course of steroids, although everything else had gone. Justine suggested that I finish the steroids, give Florence a 24 hour break, and then put her on a short course of Bute to try to resolve any residual inflammation. Apparently you need to leave a gap because you can’t give steroids and non-steroidals at the same time. It’s a bit like mixing matter and antimatter I think. Justine also said I could start very gently bringing Flo back into work.

While Justine was doing Breezes teeth I asked her to give her a quick check over. Breeze is very stiff, especially through her off side hock, and although supposedly the same age as Florence, does come over as being a lot older. Funnily enough, Justine herself asked how old we thought Breeze was because her teeth appear to have stopped errupting, and are actually quite worn. She also pronounced Breeze as lame, rather than just stiff. We discussed varous options, and so Breeze is now on perminant Bute. Or at least that’s the idea, Breeze, unlike her bigger friend, is a little more discerning where dining is concerned, we are now going through a period of her behaving like we are trying to poison her!

I have given them both a few extra days off, just to let the new medication regimes set in, but they have both done one short session of in hand work in the school now. Florence was an angel, and apart from trying to scoff the grass that is growing aroung the edge of the school, you wouldn’t know it’s been so long since she did anything. Breeze on the other hand was on extremely high alert. She spooked violent and tried to tank off when a pony, which was on the lane on the other side of the valley, and so a long way away spooked and tanked off itself. Poor Hal tried to hold onto her, and ended up with a massive rope burn. She also lay down in the school to scrath her legs! I don’t know whether to laugh or cry sometimes.

All of this has given me pause. I adore Florence, and Breeze, for all her foibles is a sweetheart, but they are neither of them getting any younger. Is Flo really going to be up to doing all the things I hope to do over the next few years? For now we are enjoying having 2 lovely horses who are a delight to handle and look after, and who we both trust completely. Should I start formulating a long term plan though? For now I am hoping it doesn’t snow so I can get on with the fitness plan I have for them both.

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