Day 11 – To Rug, or Not to Rug..

, How things have changed over the years. When I bought my first horse 30 years ago, when it came to buying rugs for him there was very little choice as to style, , weight, fabric or colour. For turn out it was a green, canvas, New Zealand Rug, and for the stable, a Jute Rug with a separate roller. There was also a string vest style sweat rug. If your horse was cold, you put a bed blanket under the rug. If your horse was wet, you put the jute rug on inside out, and thatched him with straw under the rug. I remember there being nothing more heavy and difficult to handle then a truly soaking wet, mud plastered, New Zealand Rug.

Fast forward 30 years

and the choice of rugs is mind blowing . The equine clothing industry is a multi billion pound sector which seems to be going from strength to strength. However I do wonder how much of this is actually Led by fashion, and owner shaming, rather than the actual needs of the horse. Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t go back to using a heavy, difficult to handle, old-fashioned New Zealand Rug if you paid me. However I sometimes wonder if all these different rugs are strictly necessary, and if the basic animal needs of the horse are being forgotten.

Last year I did a quick count up, and was really shocked to discover that I had around about 40 rugs. Okay, i’ve owned horses for about 30 years, and in recent years I’ve had as many as four at any one time. I also have a tendency to keep hold of the Quitman, even when I have no real need for it, just in case.

. My attitude towards rugging has really changed since we moved here and have been doing it all ourselves

When I kept my horses on full livery I was very much influenced by what the yard owner said I needed to do. By and large, they were the ones who were actually handling my horse on a daily basis, so when they told me I need a particular rug, off I would toddle and buy one. After all, they were the expert here, Who was I to question their judgement? It wasn’t until I bought Magnum, and ended up having to keep him and Sapphire more or less on a do-it-yourself basis, that I started to question things. The actual Yurika moment came courtesy of the woman whose land are used to keep Magnum on, and who, at the time, had Sapphire on loan for one of her daughters. It was June, admittedly it wasn’t a particularly nice June, but it wasn’t what you would call cold.

I can’t remember where we were, but it would’ve taken us about an hour to get back to home. Suddenly my mobile phone rang, and when I answered it I was met with a very shouty voice, which informed me that I had to get to the field NOW! That it was raining, that I had to put a rug on my horse NOW! OR ELSE!!! When we did eventually get back to the field, it had stopped raining, and the Sun was shining. I found a comfortable and content Magnum stuff in grass like it was going out of fashion, in the company of four extremely uncomfortable ponies, all wearing rugs, and sweating profusely. Why has she shouted at me like that, and why was she letting her ponies suffer through being too hot? It wasn’t very long after this that I decided to try and move Magnum two other quarters. It was when I told her that I had found another billet for him, that she suddenly decided she didn’t want Sapphire anymore..

In recent times I have read a lot of articles written by vets and equine physiologists, which question the need for horses to be rugged except in the coldest conditions. Thereseems to be a lot of evidence now, that horse is a very good at regulating their own body temperature, and, in general, are perfectly comfortable

In temperatures between 5 – 25 degrees. This means that just because we’re cold, it doesn’t mean our horses are. Since last winter it has been my policy not to rug umtil it’s 5 or below, or under 10 if it’s hammering down. It’s fair to say that they are hardly wasting away.

Day 4 – Haygain

Our expensive new toy arrived yesterday. . I’ve been kicking the idea around for a while now, but finally we’ve done it. We’ve bought a Haygain hay steamer. We’re both childishly excited about it, and can’t wait to steam our first bale.

Florence has always had trouble with her breathing. Dry hay is an absolute no no, even dryer Haylage can set her off wheezing. She does a really good Darth Vader impression . Up until this year I would’ve said that Breeze didn’t have a problem. However, back in January she developed a really nasty cough. Steroids, antibiotics, anti-inflammatories, Ventapulmin, several vet visits, soaked hey, and it didn’t really go away until she was turned out full time.

I hate soaking hay, it’s a real faff. This year, the unusually cold weather we had in March made hay soaking a massive problem as the hay nets froze in the soaking bin. . Good quality, moist Haylage is at a premium in these parts, unless you are buying proprietary brands, and they are rediculously expensive!

So enter the Haygain. Hopefully both horses will breathe easier this Winter.

Tidy Tack Room, Tidy Mind? #HorseBloggers#ShowUsYourTack

Anybody who knows me will tell you that I am pathologically incapable of being tidy. A place for everything, well yes, this I can do, but, everything in it’s place – yeh right! Don’t get me wrong, it’s not intentional. I am always impressed, and to be honest, reassured, by a tidy, well organised house, office, yard, tack room, etc. I just can’t do it myself . I’d like to, I just don’t have that kind of mind.. the problem is that, whilst I fully intend to, for example, take the empty joint Aid pot up to the house to be recycled, or slip the dressage test sheet back into the folder, something always distracts me before I do, the item I am supposed to be dealing with will be put to one side, my intention being to come back later and finish the job – but then…

Hang on a minute! I hear you all shout. Aren’t all blind people inherentally tidy and well organised? Don’t all blind people have a built in ability to remember where everything is with millimetre precision? Erm, no actually. I wish we did, after all, I’ve blogged before about the amount of time I’ve wasted over the years frantically searching for stuff that’s directly under my nose. . Sadly though, it’s just a myth born of over sentimental fictional representation of blindness. Yes, there are indeed some blind folk out there who are obsessively tidy and well organised, and genuinely know exactly where everything is, but this is due to their personality, not their blindness, and I am definitely not one of them.

There are two areas of my life where, despite appearances, I really do make a supreme effort to try to be tidy and organised. My work, and my yard. I am highly conscious that, , in both these environments, my disorganised muddle could potentially impact on the wellbeing of others. Not only that, vut,i worry about being judged as incapable or incompetent.. just as I want my clients to feel that they are in a safe pair of hands, so I want any professionals who visit the yard to feel that my horses are. Oh my word it’s a struggle though! Where work is concerned, the focus of my attempts to be tidy is my stock cupboard. When it comes to the horses, it’s the Tack Room.

Ah,my tack room, so much more than a place to store saddles and bridles. . It is the hub of the yard, a place to make plans, a place to dream about the future and recount adventures from the past. The Tack Room provides a haven from the extremes of the Devon weather, and a space to drink tea and chew the fat. Many a tear has been shed there , and many a joke shared and prank pulled. Oh yeh, I also keep all manner of tack , rugs, and equipment in there, as well as using it as my feed room.

from brand new additions like Florence’s Gallop Equestrian ride on fly rug and Ellico memory foam girth, both of which I love, and will be making it to the Poo Picking Recommends page, to old favourites such as the wooden storage box that was made by my Dad’s colleague Bill vack in 1988 that actually used to stand in Oliver Twist’s stable because there was no storage on the yard. , it’s all there.

The only problem with my Tack Room is that, because it is actually a wooden stable, it gets damp, so I don’t always keep the saddles and bridles in there all the time. Most of the time they live in the house. Effectively I have two Tack Rooms! Our Utility Room douvles up as an auxiliary Tack Room. There are saddle racks and bridle hooks, and two enormous shelves, built by Hal, which hold all my spare rugs.it’s where I clean my tack, and it’s where it lives in damp weather. The trouble is that this means having to carry the saddles between house and yard, something that I find challenging to say the least.

. I haven’t actually dropped a saddle yet, but I dread doing so. I often wonder if getting some kind of tack trolly would. Something I could push, or even better, pull along , that I could sit the saddles on would make life easier for me and the saddles alike.

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In the meantime though I need to clean my tack. Now, where did I put the…?

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The Dilemma

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Crisis! What Crisis?

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

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

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

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

They Also Break Hearts

As many of you will know, Hal’s horse, Leonie, Leo, has always had problems. Damaged left eye, covered in scars, intermittent ataxia, neurological problems, suspected Wobblers Syndrome. Over the last few months her symptoms have worsened, and she developed a head shaking issue. Her behaviour has become unpredictable, at times challenging sometimes dangerous. Hal has had some frightening near misses while handling her. Our Vets have done a lot of work to try to get to the route of the problem, and see if there is anything that could be done for her. Sadly though

, while Leo seemed to be getting worse, all the tests were inconclusive. After a long and difficult discussion with our Vet we decided that enough was enough. Leo was put to sleep yesterday morning.

This has been so hard. She was only 8, and, as far as we can tell, we were probably the longest home she had ever been in. I also have the sneaky suspicion that her problems were , whether imtemtionally or not, as a result of human action, and The view that a horse is just a thing, not a sentient being with feeling and needs. We will never know the truth, but I don’t think Leo had a good life before she came to us. I hope she felt safe and loved here.

Whatever she was, Leo was no shrinking violet. . She was first at the gate, followed you around, a knocker over of poo ladies wheelbarrows, a grabber of hoses, a biter of bums, and a door banger. There was something about her though that everyone liked.

In Memory

Leonie

15hh Black Irish Cob mare. Passported in Newry, but could have come from anywhere. Exact age unknown, but approximately 8. Taken far far too young.

Very much loved

Next time it thunders, don’t worry, it’s just Leo banging on the gates of heaven because she’s not getting enough attention,

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!