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.

Flight Fight Freeze

Firstly, let me apologise for the slightly grumpy tone that may come across in this post. I am beginning to run out of the milk of human kindness. Also, I in no way intend this to criticise anyone else for the way they keep their own horses. . However, I am completely fed up with people who know nothing about horses, and care even less about them, telling me how to look after our horses.

Horses are prey animals. Their sole job in life is to survive from one day to the next without becoming lunch for somebody else. . As a result of this, over millions of years of evolution they have a deeply ingrained, instinctive response to being frightened. Run away fast! Only stop to ask questions when you are absolutely sure you have outrun the danger. . . . To help them identify potential threats, and escape routes, a horse’s eyesight, hearing and sense of smell are completely different to our own. .. Without going into too many complicated details, they see movement before detail. While they don’t actually have 360 degree vision , they do have have a large field of vision. Horses also have amazing night and distance vision. Those two great big pointy satellite dishes on top of their heads are not only able to swivel around independently of each other, so horses can clearly hear what is going on in 2 different directions. , but horses have extremely sensitive hearing, and can hear clearly at a much greater distance than us feeble humans. . Also, noises that are merely loud to us will be ear shattering to them.. . In addition, lath though not as complex as that of a dog, a horse’s sense of smell is far more sensitive than their own.. .. Being herd animals who have evolved to live in social/family groups, horses are insecure, and vulnerable when isolated from others. In addition, they would naturally inhabit plains, prairie, sevanna, and moorland, in other words, wide open spaces. This is why some horses object to being enclosed in trailers, horse boxes or stables. They feel trapped, thdre is no escape route, they are alone, and therefore in danger, and probably going to die.

All mammals, ourselves included, have the same physiological response to fear. It’s what’s kept us all alive for so long. It’s called the Flight, fight, Freeze Rexponse.
Flight. The first response of long legged herbivores like the horse. Basically, as I said above, run away fast, don’t stop to ask questions.
Fight. Turn round and attack what’s attacking you. Cats and dogs spring to mind here. A horse will resort to this when they feel trapped. Rearing, plunging, bucking, kicking, biting, striking out with their front feet. Kill or be killed.
Freeze. . Those species, and indeed individuals, who aren’t blessed with speed or fighting ability, use a different tactic when vulnerable to attack. They freeze or play dead. This is rare in horses. However, it’s not unheard of for a terrified horse that is exhausted, or prevented from running, to actually drop dead. Thankfully it’s very rare, but it does happen.

So, taking this all into account, why would I shut my horses in their stables, where they are trapped with no room to run, have no escape route, and are not fully able to interact with each other, when I know something bad is going to happen?

I am dumbfounded by the selfish thoughtless stupidity of people who think that it’s going to make it OK , and nobody will get hurt, if horses are trapped in inescapable isolation while being subjected to absolute terror.

I am of course, once again talking about some peoples obsession with Fireworks.

I am completely at a loss as to why, in the 21st Century, it is still possible for your average Joe to be able to buy and handle Firewors. They are after all explosives. Some of the most innocuous activities are so stringently wrapped up in Health & Safety Legislation that they are near impossible, but anyone can walk into a shop and buy what amounts to a box of insengery bombs! Some lack of balance here surely. Fireworks are dangerous! Every year we hear of people being burnt, or even blinded . , killed even, by fireworks. Buildings, cars, trees and hedgerows catch fire. Elderly and vulnerable people , as well as young children are frightened, horses, cattle,sheep, dogs, cats, and all manner of wildlife are terrified, injured and killed.. So far, in the last fortnight, I have heard of 4 horses having to be destroyed as a result of injuries as a result of being frightened by fireworks. Some idiot thought it would be fun to let a firework off in a packed railway carriage – can you imagine!? Sadly, as well as the human casualties, there was a Guide Dog in the carriage too. Meanwhile, here in Devon a little girl has been scarred for life after an accident at a family bonfire party. Fireworks are dangerous.

Perhaps it wouldn’t be so bad if it was only on November 5th. You could make arrangements and take precautions. Sadly it’s a free for all, any time, any place, anywhere, and those of us who are adversely effected are expected to suck it up.

So here we are, it’s 11th November, but we are not expecting peace. Instead we are awaiting another night of torture thanks to people’s strange fascination with loud bangs and bright lights. At least this time we had more than half a minutes warning. I don’t really appreciate the bully boy tactics that were used though. I do not know the people for whom tonight’s display is being held, but allegedly it is as a memorial to a loved one who has recently died. Therefore they genuinely have my sympathy. Whatever gets you through. However, while told in very good time that there would be fireworks tonight, the precise location and time was not known, or at least not shared until yesterday. . This seems strange to me. Why is it not happening at a place that is special to the family? The announcement was toned in a way that that emotionally forced people into feeling they were unable to raise their concerns. The announcement was made on a Face Book page that a lot of people I’m the area have access to, I’ve spoken to several people this afternoon who will be impacted but were completely oblivious… So when several people enquired as to the location, myself included, and got the response. You’ve been given enough warning, shut your animals in and get over it, I wasn’t very tactful I’m afraid. This resulted in me being sworn at, called all kinds of unpleasant names, and generally made out to be the psych-bitch from hell.

We are now on the far side of th salvo of what sounded like antiaircraft artillery. Thankfully we seem to have got away with it. I’d love go be able to say we won’t be subjected to anymore until next November – yeh right.

The sooner fireworks get banned the better

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

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