Trug Hunting

I hate to keep banging on about it, but one of the most frustrating aspects of being blind is the amount of time you waist searching around for things that are, or at least should be, right under your nose. This activity is made even more interesting when the thing you are trying to find is on the floor of an enclosed space that also contains a large, over friendly, quadruped, and several samples of said animals excreta. Something I find myself doing 8 times a day, 4 breakfast bowls, and 4 teatime bowls, while the horses are in overnight during winter.

In their natural state, horses graze at ground level, and intermittently browse from shrubs, bushes and trees. They also tend to move, walking slowly, whilst grazing. You can watch them doing this in the field. . It’s not really possible to replicate this behaviour when shut in a 12 X 12 wooden box, but our girls certainly like to try. Which keeps me entertained.

We serve the ‘hard feed’, a feed balancer, and whatever supplements and medication each individual happens to be taking, In shallow, round, rubber trugs. They are reputed to be made out of recycled tyres. I don’t know about that, but they certainly smell foul when they’re new. It always amazes me that a horse doesn’t get put off it’s food by the smell, but I’ve never had any complaints. The Beauty of the trugs is they are both flexible and strong. They can stand up to a lot of punishment, and don’t seem to be bothered by extremes of weather. That said, both Leonie and Breeze hand each killed a trug this winter. Luckily, they’re not too expensive either.

So, picture the scheme. It’s roughly 10.30p.m. Hal and I are checking the girls last thing. Hal is topping up the waters, and I am hanging fresh Haynes, and, theoretically, removing the empty feed trugs. It goes like this;
Open stable door and immediately stand on, or trip over trug – ideal!
Hang haynet, then do a fingertip, or, more correctly, boot tip, search of th stable floor, squelching through pee and poo, and occasionally walking into a horse that keeps moving in order to more easily see the fun, and who is sniggering away whilst saying “Cold – getting warmer – no, getting colder – ooh, red hot!”. Eventually I find it. Either it is;
Exactly where I put it, I’ve just managed to step over it 4 or 5 times,
No longer in the stable as Hal has already moved it,
Or
Directly underneath a now hysterically laughing horse, who has spent the time I’ve been looking for it, very carefully positioning herself so the trug is directly under her central point.

Sometimes, just to add variety, 1 of the girls will land a poo in their trug. Leonie’s speciality is turning it upside down, and then standing on it! Never a dull moment.

Oh well, it keeps me off the streets.

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.

Boys and Girls

It’s incredible to think that tomorrow Peregrine has been with us for a month!

Yes, I know; but it’s true.

It’s also 2 weeks yesterday since mayo joined us..

So that’s roughly only 6 weeks since losing Breeze.

OK, so it’s understandable that Hal and I are a bit wiped out right now, especially if you factor in Nationals and Hannah and Sam’s wedding as well. So you’d think that all this disruption and chaos would be having a really detrimental effect on Florence and her 2 new field mates.

Not a bit of it.

Unless I’m missing something here, as far as the horses are concerned, things couldn’t be going better. Yes, there’s some jostling over who’s in charge; but actually, not as much as you would imagine. They all seem to be very comfortable in each others company, and although there is some bickering, there hasn’t been any really nastiness. In fact, without wishing to anthropomorphise, they all do seem to like each other.

There is one thing that i wasn’t prepared for though

Horse play

I’m not used to geldings. I have nothing against them, it’s just that, for some reason that I don’t really understand, I seem to be drawn towards mares. Mayo is the 12th horse I’ve owned (13th if you count Bell the Fell, who was never officially mine), but he is only the 5th Gelding. In fact, until Peregrine arrived I’d only ever had 3 boys over the years, and the 1st 2, Jigsaw and Oliver Twist, who were my 1st and 2nd horses respectively, were both only with me. For less than a year. It wasn’t until Magnum entered my life that I really had a proper relationship with a gelding; and, although I’ve had several mares at once, I’ve only ever had 1 gelding at a time.

Geldings play really rough!

Perry and Mayo are like kids. they really enjoy a good bit of rough and tumble. One minute their chasing around, bucking and kicking, the next they’re up on their hind legs sparring, and trying to bite each others faces, the next they’re are mutually grooming, or grazing next to each other. In the meantime, Aunt Flo is keeping a beady eye on them, and stepping in to split them up when she deems things have gone too far.

Apart from Leonie, who, let’s face it, was different, none of my mares have ever played this rough. It’s quite unnerving when you first see it. Poor Ben was quite worried when he saw Mayo and Perry up on their hind legs play fighting the other evening. I’m not sure he belived me when I told him they were just messing around.

Another thing, which I was prepared for, but has quite disturbed Hal and Ben is the way the boys like to relax things from time to time. It really doesn’t bother me, probably mostly because I can’t see it; but poor Ben was, well, quite shocked when he was grooming Perry the other day. I’m not sure he was really prepared for a relaxed gelding displaying his wares to quite that extent. Ben has only handled mares before, as he didn’t start coming here until after Magnum left us. He’s certainly been having an education over this last few weeks bless him.

What a Month!

It’s just occurred to me that it’s a month ago today that I rode at Nationals. Really! Where did that month go then?

Honestly we just haven’t stopped. Once we got home we went straight into the whole rehoming process for Peregrine. The car knows it’s own way to the Mare and Foal Sanctuary now, and naps in that direction every time we pass the junction. We’ve also been down to darkest Cornwall several times to view potential new horses, and get Mayo vetted. Then the weather did the dirty on us, so Mayo’s delivery day had to be brought forward. Not that I’m complaining, any extra time spent getting to know a new horse has got to be time well spent, but it did mean we had to suddenly prepare things, rather than having a few days to play with. Since we’ve only had 2 horses for a while, the third stable has morphed into an unofficial storage shed. Let’s face it, the tractor lived in there last winter!

In between all this, we’ve been up to Shropshire to celebrate our neice Hannah, and her lovely man Sam’s wedding. We’ve had the outside of the house cleaned, and we’ve ordered a Horse Box!

It’s no wonder we’re both so knackered!

Today though I finally feel like things are slowing down and becoming more relaxed.

Florence came home exactly a fortnight after we lost poor Breeze, and Melissa took her over to Kingsland. Peregrine came home on the same day, and Mayo came home on Thursday. It’s early days; but all of them are now turned out in the same paddock, and all really does seem to be going incredibly well. I’ve never had such a smooth, or quick introduction of new horses.They all seem totally relaxed about everything. In fact this is the most chilled I’ve ever seen Florence; she really does seem to be warming to her new found status as the matriarch of the herd, and is being remarkably tolerant of having a small pony almost perminantly welded to her side. She called to the boys the other day when I had her out, and called to them both yesterday when they were being worked in the school and she wasn’t. It really couldn’t be going better really.

So now we can relax again and start having fun. I’ve just booked my first lesson since Nationals and I have a plan to try and get Florence hacking out again, I’ve got lots of plans for Mayo, and Peregrine is beginning agility and beginning to walk out in hand. All three horses are far too fat, so are, along with their equally porky owners, officially on boot camp, well, OK, more like comfy slipper camp really, but we all need to be fitter and slimmer.

So now we’re waiting for some concreting to be done. Yes folks, Digger Man Pat is returning, and for the Horse lorry to be built, then the world is our lobster, as Arthur Daily would say.

From where I’m sitting the future is looking very positive indeed.

Welcome Home – and – Welcome to Your New Home

Today has been the best.

Florence is home!

But before Florence could come home, we had to find her a new companion – so…

Introducing Peregrine

Peregrine is a rather gorgeous 3 year old Welsh type gelding who we have rehomed from the Mare and Foal Sanctuary, a horse rescue, rehabilitation, and rehoming charity, who whilst they act on a national basis, are based here in Devon. Peregrine (I haven’t quite made up my mind whether that’s Perry or Pip in reference to Peregrine Tooke, one of the Hobbits in the Lord of theRings), was taken into the Sanctuary under the Animal Welfare Act, as part of a groups of ponies who were found abandoned on public land in Wales. He was then only 12 weeks old, and was not with his Mother. Honestly sometimes I’m ashamed to be Human. The Sanctuary have obviously done a brilliant job with him though, as he’s a very healthy and extremely confident little chap. He’s grey and white, and looks very Welsh Sec B, although he obviously doesn’t have a pedigree, and nobody really knows his breeding or parentage. He currently stands at approximately 12.3hh, but that’s at the front. He’s considerably bum high , so it’ll be interesting to see where he tops out. Obviously I can’t see him, but I’m told he’s absolutely stunning. He’s not yet backed, but in all honestly, when he’s matured a bit there’s no reason why he shouldn’t be, but he’s only here to be a companion for Florence. That’s all he really has to do, is just be there. However, he’s obviously a very intelligent, and very inquisitive pony, so we might try him with some agility, in an attempt to keep his mind occupied.

He travelled like a dream, a bit cautious loading, but as cool as a cucumber, and perfectly calm on arrival. You could almost hear him say “Travel Smavel – You seen one horsebox, you seen them all” as he walked off the lorry like a true pro. He didn’t even work up a sweat in transit, and it’s ridiculously hot out there. He was a bit reluctant to go into his stable, but it must have seemed like a cavernous black hole after the bright sunlight outside, and not only that, but, even though we’ve cleaned it out, it probably still smells quite strongly of Breeze. However, once he was in, and he had checked every corner out, he soon settled down. Despite the fact that our neighbour’s gardener was out with all his power tools, Peregrine didn’t seem at all bothered, and soon fell asleep, occasionally waking up enough for a bite of hay, lick of his salt lick, or to play with, rather than drink, his water. We hardly knew he was there.

Enter Florence

Florence arrived at about 2 O’clock. Just as when she left, she travelled really well, although she was unsurprisingly very hot on arrival. Poor Flo runs hot at the best of times, so this extreme heat is really uncomfortable for her. She’s been on her best behaviour over at. Melissa’s, and I’m surprised she wanted to come home. She’s been having far to good a time. There’s beensome squealing , all Florence, as she and Peregrine beginto get to know each other. She does make some terrible noises, but so far there’s been no nastiness. Flo doesn’t do nasty, she’s quite a naturally ‘don’t want any trouble, just leave me alone’ kind of horse, but she is extremely touch sensative, and also when she’s in her stable, that’s her space and don’t you dare stick your nose in here thank you very much, but it’s only because she’s scared of being bitten.

Now, normally, when introducing a new horse to a herd, you do t very slowly. You turn the new horse adjacent to the established horses, and when there’s no argy-bargy over the fence, you start slowly putting individual members of the established heard in with the new horse. I would normally do this. This time, I’ve just turned both Peregrine and Florence out together. Florence is of course the established horse here, but I was worried that if I did turn them out seperately, she might just go through the fence because she didn’t like being on her own. So there’s been a bit of marish squealing and bad language from Flo, but nothing nasty. Peregrine has had a good belt round the paddock, tipped the water bucket over, and learned that if you bite the electric fence you will get a shock. He’s also learned that you have to know Florence a hell of a lot better before you attempt to scratch your head on her bum! There’s been no nastiness though, and all seems peace at the moment. Peregrine is calling a bit now, but there’s a pony who has recently been re-homed from the Sanctuary on the other side of the valley, so I expect they are comparing notes.

As I’m typing this I’m sittingin the living room with the French Windows open listening to the peaceful evening sounds. The occasional snort from one of the horses, and an even more occasional call from Peregrine. I haven’t heard Flo squeal for a few hors now. I love beingable to sit and hear the horses.

Got my girl back. Got a new pony to enjoy.

Tonight life is good.

Feeling Down

What is wrong with me!? I should be feeling like a kiddy on Christmas Eve. I’m in a really unusual, and, what should be very exciting situation. Not only have I qualified for the RDA National Championships (Who’d have thought?); but I am officially looking for a new horse, one that I will continue to do RDA Dressage with, and that I will be able to do some of the brilliant things that the Riding Club do with, and, unusually for me, I’ve got what feels like a massive budget for said horse. Usually I’m buying in the cheaper range, and I’ve been stretching my resources to do that. Not this time. You’d think I’d be like a dog with two tails, bursting with excitement, like a kiddy who’s been told they can have anything they want from the toyshop regardless of it’s price. What iactually feel is – well – nothing much to be honest, and I don’t really understand why. Don’t get me wrong, It’s not that I don’t want another horse, I really do, and I am thoroughly enjoying my newfound RDA Dressage success. I should be buzzing with enthusiasm, but frankly what I feel is flat and a bit down. Somebody take me out and slap me please! I’ve been trying to work out why I’m feeling this way, and I can only imagine it’s for one of the following reasons.

1. It’s not the prospect of having another horse that’s actually the problem here, it’s the act of finding one. I do find the process of buying horses extremely daunting. I miss the days when you buy your local Newspaper on a Thursday or Friday, turn to the, extensive, Horses for Sale section at the back, and read through all the adverts, circling all the likely candidates, then phoning the seller and havinga proper chat with them before deciding to go and have a look at said beast. OK, so, nowadays I wouldn’t be able to actually read the ads myself; but now things have gone on-line even finding horse ads is challenging. Yes, there are plenty of websites where you can buy and sell horses, but they are none of them particularly accessible. Face Book used to be a useful place to look for horses, but they have just banned selling animals. It’s all a bit problematic really. However, that’s just the beginning of the problem, once I find a suitable sounding horse , I’ve then got to go and see it. The act of going to a strange yard, with strange people, who have their own preconceptions about blindess, or who, despite my careful explaination of my situation, may not have fully comprehended that I am blind, and then having to get on a strange horse, that may or may not have been honestly described, and so may or may not be as safe as it’s been cracked up to be, makes me feel very uncomfortable, and extremely vulnerable. I’ve had some, erm, interesting experiences over the years to say the least.

2. Over the last 3 and a bit years we’ve lost 3 horses. OK, Magnum was very old, Sapphire had cancer, and Leonie, well, things weren’t good with her, but nevertheless, 3 horses gone in 3 years is a lot in my book. Now we have Florence and Breeze, who, granted are both in their twenties, but Breeze has had to retire from being ridden, and, despite my earlier post about Florence being on the mend, sadly she seems to be going backwards again at the moment. Florence hasn’t been right all year, and I may yet have to retire her as well. So that’s 3 dead horses, 1 going blind, and 1 with some kind of chronic/intermittent lameness/pain issue. Really, am I the best person to take on another horse? I just seem to break them all the time! Is a new horse going to be safe in my hands? I love horses, all horses, but Florence in particular is the absolute centre of my universe. For the last 6 months she’s been trying to tell me what’s wrong, and I just can’t seem to be able to understand what’s she’s trying to tell me. I’ve spent a fortune on vet’s, tess, and treatments, but things are still not entirely right with her. If I bring another horse onto this yard is it just going to end up trying to tell me something that I just can’t hear? Am I really capable of looking after them properly? I’m really doubting my abilities at the moment, and that’s putting me off going out there and putting any real effort into finding another horse.

As it happens, there is a real lack of horses out there anyway, or at least, if they are there, I’m not seeing the adverts.I keep reading that we are in the midst of a horse crisis, too many horses, not enough people who want, or can afford to take them on, so where are they all then? So far, I’ve only really seen one horse that I would have wanted to go and view, and that sold within a week of me first seeing the ad. Now, I know that I have quite specific requirements, but really, all I need is a safe,responsive, weight carrier. What I actually want is a younger Florence, perhaps one who is more comfortable travelling, and who is a little bit less bitey ,but neverthe less, Florence, her personality,attitude, and build, is just right for me. They must be out there somewhere, but all I’m seeing advertised is ex racehorses (I’d snap a Thoroughbred), imacculately bred, high powered warm bloods and Sports Horses, ponies, or horses that sound ideal, but nap, have an injury, aren’t safe on the roads, or have never been in a school. I keep seeing the same horses on every site, or I think I’ve found a good one, but it’s in Ireland, or is being listed by a Dealer, who is regularly mentioned on the Dodgey Dealers listsNot only that, but this purchase is dependant on the sale of Hal’s late parents hous. Well, that’s going well, not. Today is the day we were supposed to be completing. Yeh right. We’ve just been told that the buyers, who were supposed to be cash buyers, hence why Hal accepted such a low offer. haven’t quite got there mortgage sorted yet! So now they are screwing us around and apparently can’t complete until 1st July. That is of course if they are actually going to complete and aren’t some kind of fantasists. Let’s face it, it’s a long way from cash buyers to can’t get the mortgage sorted. So there probably isn’t going to be a new horse anyway. So wht am I worried about.

Peace

.and breathe.

Florence and Breeze are finally out over night. Yes, we’ve made it through another winter! Actually, this winter hasn’t been too bad. Only having the 2 horses has helped, but also, well, compaired to last year, the weather hasn’t been to bad either. There’s been minimal mud, they’ve hardly had a rug on, we haven’t used nearly as much hay as in previous years, and we’ve got shed loads of beddin gleft. Result! We never even completely ran out of grass this winter and haven’t had to supplement hay in the field at all.

You may remember that last Autumn we invested in a Haygain hay steamer. What an investment! Yes it was very expensive, but I’d highly recommend it. Apart from when she was ill back in January, Florence’s breathing has never been so good. It’s much less hassel that having to soak hay, and not once did I have the problem of having to deal with a frozen block of icey hay first thing in the morning. There’s also something truly lovely about the warmth and delicious smell of freshly steamed hay – Gorgeous!

The girls being turned out overnight corresponded with Hal an I having having to make our annual pilgrimage to Oxford to see the Eye Boffins. It’s been a very long couple of days. As far as the eye situation goes, nothing has changed, and so, unless anything dramatic happens I don’t need to go back for 2 years this time. Really though, Maundy Thursday is not the day to have to travel back towards tha West Country. Oh My Word! We had a very long day yesterday, and a total pig of a journey home. Oxford is such a noisey, polluted, and frenetically busy place. Going to check the horses first thing this morning was the perfect antidote to the 2 days of noise and rushing about we’ve just had. Yesterday I awoke to traffic, beeping horns and sirens. This morning, birdsong, sheep, and cattle. The woodpecker was hard at work, a Ewe had lost her lamb somewhere, and the noisiest things were the geese down on Alberts Lake squabbling as only geese can. I was greeted by 2 happy relaxed and content horses, and the air smelt of grass. Perfect!

I certainly know where I’m happiest.