Feeling better? Possibly too much detail about our health

I think I am finally free of the nebulous virus that’s been sapping my strength. Mr Sparrowgrass and most of my office have also experienced it and it’s manifested in such various ways* that it’s taken us all by surprise and it’s hard to be sure if it’s really gone, but I am feeling better and that can’t be bad!

Oh sorry, you wanted to hear how D is? Well thanks to all of you who kept your fingers crossed for us, we saw the physio this afternoon. Hurray! Even better, she was running late and I got out of work early so I was able to be there during his appointment, which I though might not be possible. (It also saved me £5 because staff didn’t have to trot him up or hold his lead rope while he was treated.)

I even had time for a quick groom before she got there. I didn’t expect to have to do too much as I had bathed him the previous day. However, his back legs were gunky on the inside again. His “gentlemen’s area” seems to be slightly swollen which I think is a mixture of fly bites and the heat, and I think as a result we have an increased gunk production compared to normal. I will keep an eye on it and give it a rinse regularly but I’d be interested to hear from anyone experienced in the ways of geldings as to whether this is usual in periods of extended hot weather or not. It doesn’t make me think “infection” as it is normal gunk, just more of it. Maybe if there is irritation it might make sense for the body to produce more natural lubrication?

So I quickly scrubbed off what I could and apologised to the physio for that which remained on his legs!

We began by walking and trotting up. D is not a fan of trotting in-hand, but as he’s not been ridden he was full of energy and quite cooperative. The physio did not comment on his movement, which I imagine meant she agreed with staff that there was nothing you could spot. We headed in for the massage. Here his energy was less useful, but he is not a troublesome horse, so while he needed reminding to stand nicely, reminders were all that was needed. He did flinch from her attentions more than in previous visits, but we knew he was sore and she was unlocking the muscles. I think that horse and human alike we flinch from the soreness of muscle work while at the same time feeling that it’s a positive pain working for good in that spot that’s been nagging at us.

Originally I thought his issues were in a front leg; later my opinion shifted to it being back legs. Verdict from the physio: two sore withers and one sore hamstring. So that would be 3 out of 4 corners of my horse that were sore. I told you we had a problem! There was also tightness through his chest and neck as a result of the other issues. She said that in addition to the fall the pattern of soreness was exacerbated by the hardness of the ground – she is seeing a great deal of soreness in similar patterns in many horses at the moment. While I don’t ride on hard surfaces the turnout is rock hard at the moment, and as we know, he did go crazy in the field when the mares wound everyone up.

So what should I do with him, after the session?

Rest day tomorrow, to recover from treatment. Then 10 min very light ridden work followed by 10 min of in-hand work over raised trotting poles. Gradually, day by day, increase the ridden work and as that takes over cut down the pole work until it’s only once a week. He’s to see the physio again in a fortnight and we’ll review his progress then. The point of the pole work is to keep him free through all four corners of his body.

I was really pleased that a) I was right – he was sore and needed help b) he got help and c) we had a “back to work” plan. Not so pleased I’ll have to lug poles around in this heat, but if that’s what it takes then that’s what I’ll do!

So she left, and once I’d faffed around with the anti-fly-malarky I turned him out. Usually he is very calm to turn out, but sometimes if he’s very keen to get to the grass, he will turn around straight away and trot purposefully to a preferred grazing area. Today was a purposeful trot day. Very purposeful. In fact, as soon as he was a polite distance away from me, he channelled his inner bronco. He bucked his little socks off with the release and joy of feeling better. I’ve never seen him buck like that. The happy bucks and kicks turned to  a gallop, turned to a canter, a few more little bucks, a bit of a trot and oh there’s my grazing zone, head down, grass in, satisfaction.

At first I was flabbergasted and then I was delighted for him. Obviously he got so much value from that session. It really made my day.

His pasture companion did not get beyond flabbergasted. If horses could speak that one would have being saying WTF? His pasture companion is rather a grumpy old man, who pushes D around only because D never answers back. Suddenly D was cantering towards him with limbs flying. Of course D didn’t come into his space, but honestly this horse looked as surprised as a human would if their cat spoke to them. It was hilarious.

So I think he’s feeling better!

I did have one other high point in my day which doesn’t fit in with the rest of this post at all, but I wanted to share anyway. So if you prefer a well-edited post you should stop reading before you read this paragraph. Oh. Too late, huh? Well doesn’t that just prove my point – it’s badly edited!

It was our annual work afternoon social event/BBQ. They often have some games of some sort. In previous years there have been pugil sticks, inflatable sumo wrestler suits, etc. This year there was crazy golf and … a mechanical rodeo bull. I have always wanted a go on one of those. Yay, I get to play on the bull! No. Because I am wearing a dress** and I have a policy about not showing my underwear to my co-workers, and especially not to management who might have some say in my career progression. Maybe I could go on despite my policy because I really want to play on the bull. Maybe not.****

And then, a bolt from the clear blue sky: I came here in my car and my car usually contains… jodhpurs!

So, transformed from my starting outfit of work-chic girl in my formal-yet-cool black dress, I returned to the party wearing two-tone blue jodhpurs, a purple tee-shirt and a big grin.

Previous bull riders had issues getting on. Good grief people! it’s in the middle of what is basically a bouncy castle – bounce on! It was so much easier than getting on a horse although I did consider the lack of stirrups might be worth noting. I also noted that rather than the pleasing concavity of my saddle, the back of a mechanical bull is ever so slightly convex, so as to afford minimal purchase.

And off we went. It was very interesting. Never have I focussed so much on feel and on which of my seat bones was taking more weight at any given moment. I lasted 42 seconds. I’m sure most riders could beat me, as my calm horse gives me so little practice in sitting to unexpected movements, but my 42 seconds was 1 second better than the previous best for the day so I was delighted. Also pleasing was that I sat about 3 sudden movements after I knew I was slightly off-center and would be off soon. My eventual dismount over the bull’s suddenly dropped “shoulder” was graceful and comfortable – would that all falls were onto bouncy castles!

Part of me wanted to try again later, but I squashed that feeling. I was happy with how I’d acquitted myself and I was glad to leave it on a high note. Also, I suspect that operators of mechanical bulls make it harder for those they know can sit reasonably to the more gentle movements, and I had no desire to try any more extreme settings ;)

Quite a few high level managers were indeed watching me, and congratulated me afterwards, so it was just as well I remembered about the jodhpurs. Managers like people who participate and those who do well. And those who come prepared with jodhpurs in their car ready for unexpected costume changes? Well that surely can’t be bad!


*For those who like symptoms, different people have had various numbers of the following, with no two people displaying the same combination:

Inexplicable fatigue
Runny nose
Sore throat
Hot flushes
Sore arm-pit glands
Digestive upset


** This is not usual behaviour for me, but it is very hot. Especially in our office which could hardly have been designed to catch more sun.*** Hence use of dresses.

***Ironically it’s always freezing in winter.

****I hear that at least one woman in a skirt did show her knickers to all and sundry and didn’t seem to care. Perhaps not everyone has the same policy in this matter. Or perhaps alcohol overruled her policy. Who knows. I wonder whether unexpected rodeo bulls are sexist because men don’t have to worry about costume changes. I wonder if feminist theory would say it is a woman’s right to show her knickers if she wants to go on the bull, and how the situation relates to laws about public decency, and how they relate to men with their trousers at half-mast showing most of their underwear. I wonder too much. And sometimes that is the only thing I’m sure of.

Three crochet mini-projects

Well I did you warn you there might be a crochet post in the pipe-line! And with extra time in my day from no riding, and the reduced horse-related cleaning (it’s rather nice not needing to clean tack, saddle pads, etc. and the reduction in jodhpur washing is also appreciated – here is the silver lining I’d been looking for) I have been trying different things with crochet. I’ll describe them in chronological order.

Mini-project 1


A few weeks ago I had no idea that scrumbling, or freeform crochet even existed, but if you search the internet for it you’ll see that people make some beautiful random creations out of crochet. I’m not linking to any because a) these images belong to people and I wouldn’t always be sure I was crediting the right person and b) my stuff will look rubbish beside theirs!

The only rules are … there are no rules! Anarchic crochet.

Common themes are spirals, three-dimensional effects and using up the random bits of yarn left over from other projects. So I had a go at making a little scrumble of my own.

early crochet projects 012


I glued it to pale purple card for a thank you letter card, which is why I had to keep it quite small. Also, as a new crocheter I have a limited supply of random yarn ends!

I have to say I found it thoroughly enjoyable to just make it up as I went along and I definitely want to do a lot more scrumbling. To that end I visited all of the charity shops in town looking for odds and ends of wool. I didn’t find nearly as much as I expected – I seem to remember that charity shops always used to have wool but when I looked I found so little. I realised the reason for this when I went on eBay – these days so many people can sell it on the internet when in the past they would have given it away when they had no use for it. So I bid on some mixed batches perfect for scrumbling and will not bother with the charity shops again.

Mini-project 2

To be honest this barely deserves to be called a mini-project, but it made the post title easier.

The biggest thing I felt my scrumble skills lacked was some ruffle techniques. At the time I didn’t manage to find any free instructions for the kind of ruffles I wanted, so I just decided to experiment. The plan was to make a one-piece ruffle, worked in the round, that would take me towards a the fullness of a sphere-like shape.

I managed this:

early crochet projects 014I don’t think it’s bad considering it was all experimentation and no knowledge! I began by chaining 6, making a loop and filling it with as many single crochets as possible. In hindsight a smaller loop might have been advisable. Then in the next round I increased once in each stitch. Then I got impatient and increased twice in each stitch in the next round, making my ruffle mathematically inelegant. I now know I should have stuck with the same factor of increase throughout. But by that point I had this much rufflyness, which was, after all the point of the exercise, so I changed colour and added a single crochet in each stitch for the final (now very wiggly) round.

You can squash it about so you can see the initial loop like this, or leave it “bouffant” as in the first image. I think it’s interesting, although ultimately useless. Still, now I have the skills and experience to try ruffling again in a scrumble or just for its own sake.early crochet projects 017

It turns out that what I was attempting to do was hyperbolic crochet. Mathematicians were all tied up in knots by trying to physically create models of hyperbolic planes, when in the late 1990s one mathematician who could crochet realised crochet was the solution.

If you want to learn more, try http://mathandfiber.wordpress.com/2012/03/19/introduction-to-crocheting-hyperbolic-planes/ You can also find instructions there.

Another term worth image-searching is the Hyperbolic Crochet Coral Reef Project. That is some seriously impressive crochet!

I will definitely try some hyperbolic crochet at some point because the end results are fascinating. Maths+crochet = far cooler than the sum of its parts!

 Mini-project 3

I’ve recently started following http://elvirajane.wordpress.com/. Her sculptural crochet patterns have been intriguing me since I stumbled across her fairy mushroom pots patterns. She recommends her sculptural pot as a good starting point so I gave it a go. As usual I didn’t have exactly the right yarn or hook to hand, so I improvised. I used an 8 ply cotton yarn (originally bought for a pony-hat before I decided I didn’t want a cream ear-bonnet on a horse with a black and white face) and picked a small hook to make it easier to keep the tension tight. Having begun with the wrong tools, I then made copious counting mistakes! It being the first time I’d worked in continuous rounds, it was somewhat of a learning curve. It wasn’t until I got to the final couple of rows that I realised how much accuracy was important in the early rows! I also have a feeling I threw in a whole extra row at one point… probably not advisable! Anyway I have to say considering everything I think it’s OK for a first attempt.

early crochet projects 035Although the shape is not perfect I find the texture and stiffness fascinating. Perhaps because I used cotton not wool/acrylic, it feels and sounds somewhat like papier-mache and I find I can’t stop handling it. Turning it over and tapping the bottom it’s like a tiny tactile drum.

early crochet projects 043


It seems so opaque but when you hold it to the light…

early crochet projects 039 I’m fascinated by it, despite my inability to follow a pattern correctly. Mr S also seems to find it oddly alluring.

On the other hand I’m not sure I want to make another one. Keeping the tension this tight is physically stressful and I actually have a crochet blister from making it! Also I suspect that patterns which require lots of counting might not be my strong point.

I have begun a couple of larger projects, but it may be some time before I have pictures to share of either of those, particularly if I keep getting distracted by mini-projects!


Quick update on D

Unfortunately when I last got on Drifter he didn’t seem any better.

That was the ride where I warned you I was getting on in a dress. The verdict for dress-wearing riding is that it was a) uncomfortable but b) educational. My stark white legs against my black horse and saddle were very visible in the mirror!

We began with meandering around on the buckle. I’d usually start on a long rein, but not that long. He seemed reasonably happy with that, so I reduced the reins to something more like I’d usually start the ride with and the difference was immediate. He was not happy walking on the ordinary length rein. I felt a lot of change in the back end, although I couldn’t tell which side was the problem. I understood that he wanted to go round with his nose in the sand to get as much weight off his back legs as possible, and as soon as I asked him to shorten slightly it impeded that. Still with very long reins I asked for a little counterflexion on a circle each way, to try to diagnose which back leg was the problem and on the right rein he just couldn’t do it. I got off.

Back on the yard I had a bit of a massage of his quarters and to be honest he seemed flinchy on both sides. But I think that his recent issues have begun in the left hind quarter. So he put more weight on the right hind quarter (that he always used to get sore in), with the result that now both sides are sore.

Clearly resting is not solving the problem, so I’m trying to get him an appointment with the physio. Unfortunately she’s a very busy lady. Please keep everything crossed for us and there’s a chance he might be seen this Friday.

Blog makeover

After over 200 posts I thought it might be time for a new look. However, it’s not me that has to look at it, so I’m interested in what you think. Are there other changes you would like to see? (But do bear in mind I’m using the free design packages, nothing that costs money, so I am somewhat limited by that!)

I kept the links and widgets on the right-hand side to assist tablet or mobile using readers and have added some “share” buttons. In the past I felt it was arrogant assuming people might want to share my content, but since joining Pinterest with my crochet hat* on I realised some people might find it more convenient if I had them.

At some point I might look again at what exactly I have in my sidebar, but for now I’m off to do something else with my time, as a mixed load of wool I bought off eBay has just arrived and I’m eager to examine it. At first glance it looks much nicer than I was expecting from the seller’s photo, which is always a pleasant surprise.

Feel free to feed back if you have any opinions on the new look of the blog – otherwise I will be forced to take your silence as approval! :)


*Currently a metaphorical crochet hat but one day it will probably be literal.


I’m doing lots of sighing.

After the ride I posted about when D was doing better, the next time I rode he was dreadful – worse than he had been so far. Trotting under saddle was not an option although he still looked fine when trotted in hand. The girl I was riding alongside, who rides the (very) dominant mare who goes out in the adjoining paddock said that the previous night in the field her mare had wound everyone up until every horse in sight was cantering like a lunatic including D, so we assume he set his recovery back then.

So more rest required. I’m going to have another tiny ride to assess him tonight but am assuming it will be so short as to not be worth changing into jodhpurs. As it is exceedingly hot today I intend to ride in a dress hiked up with shorts underneath. And paddock boots. Now there’s a feminine look ;)

Also, I have a cold. Well at least he and I are out of sorts at the same time.

And this month’s show is cancelled as well (lack of entries again plus staff holidays making it awkward). It was supposed to be this Sunday. Obviously D is in no shape to do any tests but I’d hoped to volunteer to scribe for the dressage judge. Also disappointing that I won’t get a chance to wear the stock tie & pin I got for my birthday. :(

So horse-wise and health-wise things are somewhat “meh.”

I’m doing quite a bit of crochet though, and getting quite into it. I even have projects on the go that are not pony-hats! You may all be subjected to pictures of my projects at some point.


*Sorry, I lack inspiration and imagination for a better title.

Update on Drifter

I have actually no time to write this post, yet here I am… so please excuse if it’s not as well proof-read as you might hope.


Drifter has had a lot of rest

I sat with him in his field for a few sunny afternoons, trying to squash flies on his tummy and wondering which of us was strange as he sniffed and groomed my boots

and has seen the farrier.

Even now he’s just been seen his feet aren’t as good-looking as usual so I suspect this summer’s weather doesn’t suit his hooves. But they look a lot better.

I fetched him in yesterday from his field to ride, and see if he was feeling better, and the early signs were good.

He left his field eagerly. But that could be because they’ve eaten all the grass in that field.

The weather was a bit windy, which was not ideal, but at least it would keep the flies away.

It was pony-eating wind, apparently, but he settled OK. Unlike the “challenging” horse in the next school which was displaying “airs above the ground” to an extent that I’ve never seen in person before.

I took a very slow warmup, but after a time, walking seemed to be going pretty well, so I asked for a trot. Again I didn’t expect much or ask for much, but there was definite progress.

He felt much more like himself.

Over time I asked for a little more roundness and I got it. He went nicely on the bit with correct bend in both directions.

He did seem more on the forehand that usual, and not as straight but I didn’t expect a perfect ride.

We kept it really short and cooled down happily. Perhaps we’ll have a little canter today, if it feels right.DSCN5303

Riding & not riding

I think the ridden work has been going quite well since the lesson with the new instructor. Trying to get the downward transitions while keeping movement in my hands is proving to be a challenge, but the upwards transitions are coming on nicely, and we can now get the walk to trot transition while staying on the bit fairly reliably, which is new for us. The canter is really improving in terms of balance, speed and body frame. He even looks like his smaller shoulder has muscled up to be less different from the other than it was a month or so ago.

Too good to be true?


On Monday we were having a pretty nice canter on his happy rein when the front end just went. Replaying it in my mind I can’t understand how I stayed on, but he scrambled up again into a trot and after a few strides where I was completely off-balance I found my seat again and slowed him to a walk while we both tried to understand what just happened. There was no hole that he could have fallen down – the footing in the school was pretty good, so it looked like he’d either got his legs tangled or put a hoof down wrong – the equivalent of a human going over on their ankle.

I hopped off and had a check of his legs to see if he’d done anything noticeable to himself, but found nothing and he didn’t seem to react badly to my touch so I got back on and walked around a bit more, one of my goals being to take him straight back to where he’d fallen to show him it was OK. That wasn’t a problem – he didn’t seem worried about that corner of the school. So I moved him up into a gentle trot and it was … just not right. I hopped off again and tried to get him to trot in hand to see if I could see anything but he wasn’t very cooperative.

I took him out to find an instructor and we trotted him up on a hard surface, but there was nothing anyone could see. If I’d just fallen over running even if I wasn’t hurt I’d want time to recover, so we turned him out to look again the next day.

The next day was yesterday, and again there was nothing exactly to see. I tacked him up for a diagnostic ride, and, taking something of a risk, let him have a little walk at liberty around the yard, so I could see how he moved when I wasn’t leading him. He seemed to be quite cautious about placing his feet but otherwise fine. When turning it seemed like he might be favouring the right foreleg, but it was extremely subtle.

He really needs to see the farrier. He’s seen every 6 weeks, and he hasn’t gone any longer than usual, but his feet look unusually poor. The caution placing his feet could be because his hooves are unbalanced, and that could have caused the misstep that made him fall. I really hope the farrier comes today.

So after letting him walk around the yard a bit, with a hawk’s eye out for anything that could scare him, I took him into the school for a ride. We took it very easy and warmed up very slowly. In walk he felt pretty much like he always does, perhaps with some difficulty bending to the right. So I had a little trot. It still wasn’t quite right – a bit stiff and with a more marked difficultly bending to the right, which usually comes easily to him. Back to walk and I got off.

Today he’s going to have a day off and we’ll see if that fixes him. Hopefully the farrier will see him and, again, we’ll see if that fixes him. I suspect that we have a serious need for a pedicure, mixed with stiffness from the stumble. If the farrier comes today or tomorrow I might ride tomorrow, to see where we are. It’s frustrating that it’s subtle enough I can only gauge it from on his back, because I don’t like getting on if he might be sore.

So I’ve been worrying a lot, but it’s probably all just routine “life-with-a-horse” business.