Time Flies

Wow, where has the last 6 weeks gone? Time has just flown by. Strangely, it feels like we’ve been so busy that we’ve been running to stand still, and struggling , sometimes almost literally, to keep our heads above water. We don’t actually seem to have actually achieved much though.

Colic & Cushings

Back at the end of January Florence had a second bout of colic. It presented slightly differently from the first one, and thankfully she only had to be flushed through once. It was still scarey though! Because we have no idea what is causing Flo to colic, our lovely Vet Gemma ran a whole load of blood tdests. They all came back normal, except one. Cushings Syndrome, or more more correctly PPID, is caused by a benign tumour on the Petuitory Gland. It causes the body to make excess Adrenal Cortical Trophic Hormone (ACTH). This leads to reduced immunity, , increased inflammatory response, increased thirst, excessivd urinatination, excessive sweating, muscled waist img, fat deposits in strange places, heavy, sometimes curly coat that doesn’t shed, and, frighteningly, a predisposition to laminitis. A horses ACTH level should be 28 or less. Florence’s is 39! ! Cushings is actually very common. A vet once told me that the majority of horses over the age of 15 have it to some degree. . Back in the day thdre wasn’t much you could do about Cushings, except manage the symptoms as they arose. Nowadays there’s nedication. . Fantastic!

For the last 6 weeks Florence has been taking 1 tiny tablet a day. They really are small. It controls the ACTH. On Monday the vet will return to take more blood to check if Flo’s ACTH levels have dropped. I’ve definitely noticed less wee, and also less sweating. So fingers crossed.

Grumpy Pony

Florence isn’t the only one who has been causing us some concerns. Quite frankly Sapphire is being a right royal pain in the neck! As well as being intermittently lame, she is being a complete misery. She swings from sulking and doing the full on ‘I want to be alone’ routine, to the full on aggressive bully. The vet can’t find a cause for the lameness, and a full blood screening came back with everything showing as normal. We did put Sapphire on a Tim amount of Bute for a while, but all that happened was that she escaped, and it took Hal and I an hour to catch her!

Sapphire has been so horrible towards Florence, that she kicked the partition wall between their stables out of position. No sooner had Hal mended , and reinforced it, she did it again! We’ve swapped them around now, on the hope she’ll kick it back. No luck so far.

Sweet Freedom

We’ve actually turned them out over night now. It’s a bit wet and cold still, but they all seem happy with the arrangement.

So that’s it. We’ve all survived another winter. Here’s to summer!

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.

Day 30 – a Trip Down Memory Lane

As today’s Blogtober Challenge prompt is another photographic one, I thought I would go off piste and tell you about the horses that I have owned over the years.

Jigsaw- when I first started having lessons I rode a little skewbald pony called Jacob. He was one of those steadfast classic riding school ponies, he was a difficult pony to instil a sense of urgency into, but he was completely unflustered by clumsy novice nervous children. I am absolutely sure it is because of this I have a little bit of a thing about coloured horses. So roll-on several years from when I first threw a leg over Jacobs back, and we meet my first horse, Jigsaw. Bought from a dealer in Honiton, Jigsaw was only the second horse I ever looked at, and he was totally unsuitable for me, but I had to have him! He was a heavyweight Cob, was only three, and although he was broken in, was greener than the lushestField! Whereas, I was 5ft3in , weighed 7stone wet through. Registered blind, and had only ever ridden riding school horses. . Jigsaw was skewbald though, and he looked like a bigger version of Jacob. It was not a match made in Heaven! In all honesty, there was absolutely nothing wrong with Jigsaw. He was just a young Cobb, and totally unsuitable as a first horse for a nervous novice rider. I sold him to the riding school where I learnt to ride, and kept him on livery. He was subsequently bought by a local family and went on to have an lilustrous pony club and hunting Korea.

Oliver Twist. After selling Jigsaw, only 4 months after buying him, I set out to find myself another steed. I wasn’t going to make any stupid mistakes this time, and set out to find something older, more experienced, and smaller. After trying and rejecting several likely candidates, I bought Oliver Twist

From a man in Lanivet. I think it’s no exaggeration to say I was had! Oliver was not the Schoolmaster and ideal first pony he was advertised as. 14.2hh, bright chestnut, part bred Arab, I truly believe that he had been doped when I went to try him. Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but I watch him being ridden, and handled, and rode him myself, including over a bridge over the main A30, and the man he was selling him racing up behind me in a car and honking his horn.

. If you were riding in a school he was indeed a good teacher. He had obviously been very well schooled, both on the flat and jumping. However, by the time I got him at 12, something very bad must have happened to him. He had no truck with the human race whatsoever. He bit, he kicked, you couldn’t catch him in a stable, let alone a field! I took him away from the yard where I was keeping him, because he couldn’t set foot on open Moorland without bolting. Then I discovered that he was completely unreliable in traffic. I had one of the worstfalls that I have ever had when Oliver took off with me and started jumping bushes. It’s because of Oliver that I have a front tooth that is a ceramic implant. Frankly, by the time I gave up and put him up for sale, eight months after buying him, I was absolutely terrified of him.

Surprise. Beautiful little horse of my heart. Bought from a private home near Liskeard, I had no intention of buying Surprise. In fact, with my confidence crushed by my ,so far, disastrous horse buying experience, I didn’t know if I should try again. . I went to see her out of pure politeness . An acquaintance New her and thought she would be eminently suitable for me. 14:3hh, part bred Arab, chestnut mare, and only 3! In what way suitable? An unplanned, unexpected foal, by an Anglo-Arab stallion out of an Arab x Exnoor mare

. Surprise was the worst put together Horse you could meet, hi withered, ewe necked, swaybacked, slap sided, bum high, cow hocked, and lop eared. She was the kindest, gentlest, and bravest little horse. From the very first day I went to see her, kindness just oozed from her. She was a real people person, and the only horse I had ever met up till then who would actively cuddle you. I trusted her completely. We went for miles together over the moors and even had lessons with the marine instructors from the local barracks. I adored her. Sadly, I lost her to suspected black thorn poisoning when she was only 8.

Bella. . 15.1hh Palamino cob mare, Bella was a little bit of a local hero. She had originally come to the area as a very young horse, alongside a great many other equines, as part of the entourage for a film called Revolution that was being made in the local area. Apparently the film was a box office flop, but lots of local horse enthusiasts benefited from them selling off the stock at the end of filming. Bella was one of those horses who could turn her hoof to anything. She became the range keeperrs horse, responsible for clearing the ranges when the army were firing on the moorBella was ride and drive, and took many a bride to their wedding. She gave many a local teenager the first taste at pony club, and hunted regularly throughout seasons. Endurance riding, dressage, Forest clearance, moorland pony drifts, showing, The only thing that nobody ever remembered Bella doing was carrying a sidesaddle. . I was still struggling to get over the death of Surprise when I was offered Bella on loam. She was about 17 or 18 then, and I shared her with my dad, Who had started to learn to ride when I had Oliver. We had years of fun with her, and Bella and I won many rosettes in the show ring. We lost her when she was 28 to Cushing related laminitis.

Maisey.. Because Bella was very old I decided to look for a younger horse before we lost her. The result was a 10 year old, 15.1hh blue and white heavyweight Cob mare. Funnily enough Maisey came from Lanivet, same place is Oliver, but not the same yard. She was spoilt and very much the apple of her owner’s eye. This was a very reluctant sale. . . It’s fair to say Maisie could be a bit of an old bag. She could be a little bit handy with her teeth, but actually there was just something very special about her. Unfortunately, Maisie was extremely wide, and, as the result of a stupid accident I had with surprise, I had damaged my left hip, and as I began to do more and more with Macy, I found her increasingly painful to ride. My left hip became so painful that I was finding it difficult to walk, and even dress myself. I was referred to a rheumatologist, Who advised me to stop riding until they worked out what exactly the problem was. Sadly after only having her for 18 months I made the difficult decision to sell Maisie on. I’ve always regretted selling her.

Sapphire. From here on in all the horses I have had have featured in this blog since the beginning of it. Once I had been given the all clear, and had experimentally Saturn a few friends horses to see if it would hurt or not, I set out to fill the horse shaped whole in my life. The result was a 14hh 5 year old, dark bay Welsh Section D mare called Kissamie Sapphire. She came from Truro, and was being sold by the proprietor of a stud farm. The lady had bought Sapphire through Abergavenny Welsh pony sales, when she was only a two-year-old, with a view to using her as a brood mare. However, she bread much larger Section D’s, and little Sapphire just didn’t grow that big, so she sent her to a friend to be broken in and sold on. . It’s fair to say that Sapphireand I did not always have the easiest of relationships. She didn’t have a nasty bone in her body, but oh boy did she want to have everything her way, and didn’t she throw a tantrum when it didn’t happen! I’ve learnt over the years that many of sapphires quirks, are fairly typical characteristics of the breed. When Sapphire and I were working in harmony, well you couldn’t have a sweeter little horse, but, when she said and no she meant it, and when she didn’t like something everybody knew about it. My history with sapphire is well documented throughout this blog. Sadly we lost her the age of 17 last year. With been together, on and off, for 13 years.

Magnum. The horse that changed everything.16.3hh, grey, ID, gelding.bought/rescued from a not particularly nice riding school on the outskirts of Plymouth. I ha d reluctantly given up horses, or so I thought. Hal is very ill, I had left work and gone back into full-time education, Sapphire was out on what I thought was permanent loan. I’ve never been so miserable in my life. So I decided to start going to a local riding school once a week or so, to try to mitigate the horse shaped emptiness inside me. The horse they put me on was Magnum, and soon as my bum touched the saddle we had a meeting of minds. Had I been looking for a horse, there is no way that I would’ve looked at anything so big. However, he came up for sale, and when I went there one date for my weekly ride, I caught them in the act of putting his saddle on top of an open, infected sore. I refused to ride, which they thought was very peculiar indeed. My dad was with me on that day, and by the time we had got back home, we had formulated a plan as to how we were going to buy him. The rest is history. He gave me five years of absolute joy. It is because of Magnum that Hal and I live where we do now, and live a wonderful lifestyle. Magnum was put to sleep on 12th February 2016, here at home. We don’t know exactly how old he was, but he was riddled with arthritis, had navicular disease, and was in heart Phalia. I hope you was happy with us. I still miss him terribly.

Leonie. 14.3hh 5year old black Irish Cob mare. Leonie actually belonged to Hal. She was his first horse, and the story is very well documented throughout this block. She was bought from a dealer at Tedburn Saint Mary near Exeter. Sadly she was put to sleep at the age of eight in March this year. She is the reason why I believe indiscriminate breeding should not be allowed, and why I would always strongly advise anybody to have a horse vetted before buying them. We like to think we gave her a good life in her last few years. However, she is the only horse that I’ve ever bought with out a prepurchase vet check, had I insisted that Howe had her vetted, it would’ve saved us both awful lot of pain and heartache.

Florence. The absolute centre of my universe.15.2hh. Heavyweight traditional, piebald, gypsy cob mare. She will officially turn 20 on the 1st of January. Bought from a private home near Launceston, I will have had her for three years on the 15th of November. She is a real character, A bit of a bossy moo when she’s being handled on the Ground but the safest, most reliable, cause when being written. I trust her implicitly, and she makes me feel as if I can take on the world. She is the most vocal, talkative horse I have ever met. I think she is also one of the most intelligent. I really hope that I can keep her sound, well and happy for a very long time into the future.

Breeze. She actually belongs to Hal. . 14.2hh black Cob mare. She is now 20, and we have recently learned that she is beginning to lose her eyesight. An ex-trekkingpony, bought from a trekking centre near Okehampton that was closing down. The only horse I have ever met who is frightened of cats! She is a sweet little soul, full of cheek, but she is extremely nervous and has a will of solid iron. We both adore her.