Lunging in the wind

Confession: This is my second attempt at this post. Yesterday’s had a lot of words. They even made sense, mostly, but they didn’t read nicely. So I started from scratch. This will have fewer words but more point. I hope.

On Monday it was really windy here. As I sat in the car at the traffic lights I could see them waving in the wind, which showed me that it was perfect weather to get on a large animal that doesn’t like the wind. Not.

OTOH we have an indoor school, so it will all be fine. However, when I got to the yard I discovered that there was to be no riding indoors that day. This did not make me happy. Following a near fall at the weekend (involving a car wash and a big spook) my bravery levels are a bit lower than usual and riding outdoors in the wind was not going to happen. Weighing up my options I decided to lunge in the little outdoor school (leaving the big school free for riders.*) Again, this didn’t really make me happy, the surface in there being very waterlogged during the winter, but at least I had a plan.

Since lameness receded I’ve only lunged him off a headcollar, because I’ve either been doing it to show/see how he moves or because I’m not well enough to get on and ride (and therefore want it to be minimum effort). In this wind that was not going to happen, so I put the bridle on him, threaded the lunge line through the bit ring on one side, over his head and clipped on the ring on the other side. If he did try to take off I’d have that little bit more control. Also, for the same reasons, in recent memory he hasn’t been in any side reins or pessoa to lunge. Although he’d be fine to reintroduce those now, high winds are not the time to try stuff that might be a challenge, so we skipped the artificial aids.

We headed out. He was unimpressed with the weather so I sang him a song as we walked to the school. I like to keep sounds coming out of my mouth when he’s bothered about the weather. I like to think it gives him a constant reminder that he’s not facing the elements alone, and I do it in hand or in the saddle. It also means I keep breathing even if I’m stressed by the situation, which keeps both of us calmer.

Arriving at the school we began by walking round in hand to check for any scary things before we started. This tends to calm both of us.

Then we started work. Without words and with the least body-language possible I suggested that he start walking a small circle around me. I gave him a soft line that he could take out further as soon as he got brave enough and let him decide on the speed. It seemed to work quite well and gradually he took the circle out and picked up the walk speed slightly. The wind pulled on the line between us, and as it was attached to the bit I think this put strange feelings through his mouth, because he worked with his head down much more than I would expect. He didn’t seem uncomfortable, just focussed on the bit. After a while I decided I really should ask him to trot, but I wanted to do it with the smallest bit of energy I could to avoid him suddenly becoming a crazy galloping monster. So I turned the whip to point slightly towards him and quietly called “And…. Trotting!” Nothing happened, so I did exactly the same again and this time he got the transition. It was a fairly lazy trot but I wasn’t going to get after him in the wind. I let him trot lazily for a while and brought him back to walk. He seemed to be listening quite well, so we repeated the transition. Eventually I got him doing trotting one half of the circle and walking the other with the transitions fairly prompt and responsive. I was still extremely quiet about what I was asking but for the first time in the history of owning this horse I was able to work transitions on the lunge and see the gaits improving from it. Usually he is so resistant to coming back to walk that I just can’t do that. Perhaps because I was being so quiet he actually focussed on what he was being asked to do and did it.

We turned to working in the other direction and managed to repeat the good work with transitions, again with visible improvement to the gait. It was so good, in fact, that I started to think about asking for a canter. On the one hand I have very windy weather, a horse that hasn’t been asked to canter on the lunge for the best part of a year, and was never that great at cantering on the lunge without bucking/galloping at the best of times. On the other I have an obedient, willing horse, ready to step up his work and perfectly capable of cantering circles with a rider now. So I revved up the trot, watching to see if he got worried and giraffe-y about the thought of canter preparation. He didn’t seem to be worried so I went on and asked him to canter.

I was expecting a slightly dramatic transition and I was not disappointed in that, but there was no bucking and no pulling on the line. He galloped about 1/3 of the circle before settling down to a rather nice canter. After only 1 full canter circle I brought him back to trot. That was all I wanted to do, both to reinforce that cantering on the lunge is not a big deal and because I don’t want him doing much cantering on a circle yet. I enjoyed the beautiful big post-canter trot for a bit and then stopped him and turned him back to the first side to try the canter in that direction too. This did mean he worked a little longer on that side, but as that’s his stiff side anyway, that’s the side he needs to work more.

On the second side I had to put more energy in to get the transition without him falling straight back to trot, but after a few false starts we got that circle of canter. And none of the transitions or near-transitions included galloping or bucking, hurray!

As he cooled down I realised that this was the best lungeing session I’d ever had with him. It was ridiculously windy, it was dusk, he hadn’t been turned out that day and the footing was soggy, but it was really good work. Why was it so good?

He gave me his attention and his obedience. Was that because he was looking to me for reassurance in the wind? Was it because I was keeping everything low energy and not asking with any more intensity if he ignored the first ask? Was it because I asked for the right thing at the right time?

I certainly think it helped that at the start I gave the absolute minimum instruction. I just asked him to go around me to the left and let him go at his own pace with a length of line pretty much of his choosing. I didn’t insist he be brave from the start. I think it helped that I went out with very low expectations – exercise but don’t let either of us get hurt. I think that keeping all my instructions very small and quiet made him work harder at obeying them.

I really hope I can take some lessons away from this session and improve our future work. I was so blown away (pun intended) that the session I was initially so grumpy about turned out to be such an eye opener.

*The teens are all very accomplished riders and bounce better than me in the rare event that they do fall, so while some were edgy, no one else decided they weren’t riding.

Diet changes

While we haven’t actually seen the vet since I last posted, we have of course kept in touch. All of the tests the vet ran on Drifter all came back slightly off, but not enough to point to anything specific, so the only option was to treat the symptom (diarrhoea). It seems likely that some specific event upset his gut balance and it hasn’t been able to fix itself although the cause is probably now no longer around. The probiotic hasn’t had a chance to re-populate the good gut bacteria because of the great speed at which it travels through the horse and into the muck heap!

So the plan was to slow everything down. While this could have been achieved medically, we would rather try doing it as gently as possible, so instead of an anti-diarrhoeal we are changing the diet, as you probably guessed from the title of the post.

We needed to go to a molasses-free chaff, so we switched from the ordinary Dengie Hi-Fi that he gets free as part of his livery package to Dengie Hi-Fi Molasses Free, which involved an exciting adventure to the feedshop, where I also remembered to purchase a bin to put it in.

The probiotic dose he was already on was doubled.

To soothe his stomach we are adding vegetable oil. While the vet would like him to have a cup-full in each feed, he knows most horses will reject this, so we started with a tablespoon-full in each feed and are increasing it every few days.

The final addition to his feed is charcoal. This is to slow the gut down and absorb toxins and he’s getting 3-4 tablespoons per feed.

Apart from the oil, everything else changed on the same day and Drifter was not at all sure about it. On the first day I wasn’t there at feed time but the staff said he spit the charcoal on the floor and overturned the bowl, but I was there for the next feed and he ate it fine. Perhaps he needed to learn that he wasn’t going to get his usual feed just because he rejected that one or perhaps it wasn’t well mixed, but since then he’s been OK with it. As a precaution I’ve asked that he doesn’t get his haynet until he’s finished his feed.

A few days on and I’m cautiously optimistic. [This is your Too Much Information warning here….] His bowel movements still begin with a flush of liquid, but the stools that follow are a much better consistency. They hold their shape, are a more uniform colour and the fibre within them looks much more broken down than it did before the diet change. While they’re still not as well digested as those produced by other horses on the yard (yes, I’ve spend a lot of time analysing the contents of the muckheap) they’re definitely a vast improvement.

He also seems to have more energy, and I’m hopeful he may put a little weight back on soon. He has lost quite a lot, which is not surprising. His saddle fit is pretty poor because of it, so we’ve borrowed a prolite pad from a friend until we can get our own. I don’t want to have a saddle fit until his weight settles down a bit though, as it’s too expensive to need another one only weeks later. Hopefully though, if this feed change continues to show benefits, we’ll be booking that saddle fit soon.

Despite the not-so-great saddle, he’s been doing very nicely in the school. We can walk and trot in a great shape, working well without worrying that we will overdo it. I don’t worry about anything in walk or trot now, and although we are still doing very little in canter, when we do canter, it is no uglier than it ever was! Today we had 20 m canter circles on the bit on both reins – the first time we’ve had that since pre-lameness, back in the early summer. The right rein was a bit motor-bike-ish, but still better than I had thought it might be.

Last Sunday I had a lesson booked but didn’t feel well, so once I’d warmed him up in walk my instructor got on. That was really interesting. Drifter looked very nice, of course, being ridden by an excellent dressage rider, and the comments were useful as well as seeing what he did. Of course Drifter gave him plenty of forwards, and made him work hard to contain it into something useful. The main thing the instructor articulated, which I sort of knew but it’s always good to have someone else verbalise it, is that he prefers to just go forwards rather than listen to what you’re asking, particularly if it’s something he didn’t expect. You have to really make him wait, almost stop him, before you ask for something hard or different from what he expected. He also agreed that we need to work on straightness and getting him equally responsive to aids from both sides. When I first got Drifter, Drifter kind of trained me to do everything with my weight or the left rein, because he’d ignore the right rein, leaning on the left, and just rush off like a giraffe if I touched him with either leg. As time’s gone on he accepts the leg better but has never responded equally to either leg because of stiffness issues and his preference for going only off the left rein. These days I can get him into both reins, but he’s still not even in his acceptance of the leg, and easily forgets to be even in the reins if I’m not on his case the whole time about it.

It was really nice to see that my instructor couldn’t get him to leg yield in both direction. One way he did achieve, but every time he tried on the other rein Drifter gave his “sorry I’m too busy rushing forwards” response and didn’t/wouldn’t/couldn’t do it. I don’t think he understands that a rider can ask him to move in that way or that he could actually do it. It made me feel so much better to see that he doesn’t have a pre-programmed button for leg-yield in that direction – it’s not just that I can’t do it! I know I ought to try programming it from the ground, but our ground-work has ground to a halt since I can’t use any treats because of the dietary restrictions. I know I could do things without treats, but since we’ve begun the whole clicker training and positive reinforcement process, I’m reluctant to go down the negative reinforcement route, and to be honest apart from food I can’t positively reinforce in a way that interests him! He doesn’t really like scratches or pats, and while voice praise is nice, it’s not enough for him without something to back it up.

So for the moment I’m just going to keep trying from the saddle, and accept that this is not an easy thing for him to learn, so it’s not going to just happen. At some point in the future I’m sure we’ll be allowed treats again and we’ll resume clicker training. Until then, work in the saddle is pretty exciting and we have plenty of challenges!

Another week, another vet post

Apologies for the samey content, but we had another drama on Friday.

For those not in the UK, the temperature dropped at the end of last week and we have had frost or a little snow for the past few days.

Turnout was restricted a lot lately due to the fields being flooded. On Friday morning we had a text message saying “The fields are frozen hard. If you want your horse out it is at your own risk as the hard ground will increase the risk of injury. Please advise.”

I asked for him to go out. Not many people did want their horses out – in the morning slot there was only 1 livery. They put out a pony to keep him company, but the pony decided that he needed to try to jump the fence so he came in and they put Drifter out in the field next to the 1 livery horse to be calm company. Yay extra turnout for Drifter!

So that was fine. Then when the afternoon slot came round it was time for his companion (S) to be put out with him. They did some galloping. The owner of S and a member of staff decided to get some pony nuts to distract them from their galloping.* When they returned a few minutes later S had D pinned in a corner and was beating him up.

They broke it up and got them both in, but D came in squeaking. Various staff members have described it as squeaking or screaming. All staff present hadn’t heard a horse make a noise like that before. Every few steps he’d squeak and raise his lip. They put him in his stable while they tried to reach me (I was unavailable) and he stood “funny” and trembled and rolled his eyes. They changed his rug and he squeaked some more as soon as they went near him. He was completely uninterested in his haynet.

Failing to reach me, every staff member agreed a vet was needed. They phoned D’s usual vet, who was not very close and tied up, so he said he would be a couple of hours.

Some time passed and the physio turned up as she had an appointment with D anyway. Obviously the staff explained the situation – that he clearly had severe pain but they weren’t sure where. They asked the physio to have a look at him walking to see if she could spot the problem. She agreed but said she wasn’t going to do anything more with him without the vet coming first.

So they got him out and walked him… and he was totally fine.

The vet came after that and did walking, trotups and a battery of flexion tests, all totally fine. I arrived just after the vet and agreed that he seemed perfectly normal.

The vet took a blood test in case there’d been some muscular event he should know about, but Drifter was definitely fine. He suggested keeping him in the next day, I think just so it would be easier for staff to notice if anything recurred, but otherwise business as usual.

The only thing we can think is that it was a combination of the existing gut issues and the attack by his companion. That either a bite or kick landed on his gut (there are a row of bite marks down his side between ribs and hip) or that the gut stimulation that would be normal for a horse getting beaten up was more than his already strained digestion could take. That would explain why the pain was so severe and then disappeared if a problem section of gut relaxed or gut contents moved on past the problem. According to the wisdom of the internet a colicing horse may well raise its lip a lot.

So, as he was fine, the vet left and the physio got to work. This was great because as well as him getting a (mostly) relaxing treatment, she was already going over most of him, so finding little injuries fitted in well. In terms of fresh injuries we found 1 bite to the face (skin missing in a small patch), a series of bites down one side, mostly just welts/bruising, but one again with skin missing (this through a heavy-weight turnout rug), a tiny cut on one back leg and a sore stifle on the other. In terms of her original purpose for being there, he was quite tight and sore in both withers (not saddle related) but everything else was not particuarly worth mentioning. It was interesting to see that his traditional stiffness at the back legs and pelvis was not really there – clearly the way we are working is good for that region. Considering that both back legs have been lame this year I’m really pleased to hear he’s not built up any stiffness by favouring one or the other.

We’re not going to separate D & S on the strength of this one fight. Whenever the fields are next OK for turnout they will be put out together and watched. They’ve been fine together since the summer – this is the first time there’s been even any tension to speak of. If there were spare fields and they could have one each that would be great but there aren’t so if they need to be split up other pairings will have to be changed and reworked.

I can’t believe what a roller-coaster ride he gave me though.

The next day I gently rode him (as recommended by the vet & physio) and he didn’t want to do anything at all, so we had the slowest walk in the world on the buckle of the reins. Then on Sunday we had a lesson booked, so we turned up, not knowing if I had a lesson-worthy horse, and from the get go he  was forwards, working into my hands and moved beautifully without any hitches or wonkyness. We even cantered!

I’m starting to wonder if my horse has separation anxiety. Not from me or from another horse, but from the vet!

 

*Well meaning but mildly concerning because Hello? Have you forgotten that the vet has taken D off pony nuts because of his exploding bottom? Sigh. Maybe they weren’t going to give D any… but maybe he’s getting a lot of snacks he shouldn’t from people who know full well what the vet has said.

Seriously? Another vet post?

Mr Sparrowgrass was on the yard last night while D and I waited for the vet to finish with one of the other horses on the yard and he said to me “Is that the vet?” I was a bit surprised because they’ve met before and Mr S doesn’t usually have a bad memory for people, but it turned out he was checking because the vet has lost so much weight since he last saw him in the summer that he didn’t recognise him. I had not noticed because I have seen the vet so very often that this massive weight change gradually happened under my nose. How has it come about that I see the vet so often that I don’t even see him!?

Let’s recap what’s happened since early summer.

Leg 1 (left fore). Super lame, suspected broken pedal bone, but found to be merely congenitally  misshapen  and the lameness to be soft tissue damage. But the box rest caused…

Legs 2 & 3 (hinds) both lame. Left got sorer with exercise, right got less sore so investigated left. Fetlock and suspension ligament issues. Glucosamine. Joint injection. Wedge shoeing on hinds. Improved and came sound on all legs although constant and consistent exercise needed to stay sound.

Digestion round.  1. Diarroeah city. His butt was a fountain of misery. It got better, vet didn’t find it interesting.

Sarcoid. Found, identified, treated, dropped off.

Digestion round 2.  Return to Diarroeah City. Didn’t go away. Didn’t improve with prescribed prebiotic. Ruled out colitis, but trace oddities in blood and stool samples. Diet changed to no effect.

Weaving. Started. Bars went up. Mood of horse went down. Can’t use food based boredom breakers because very plain diet for diarrhoea.

Legs 2 & 3 struggling with no turnout for a few days due to flooded fields but not yet lame.

I think that about covers it up until my last post.

So we know there is a problem in D somewhere between where hay goes in and where it comes out again. One possibility that’s relatively easy to check is the teeth. So we bought Drifter’s dental appointment forwards a month and he saw the dentist on Thursday with the goal of checking for anything that might be causing him to eat without chewing.

I couldn’t be there for the dentist but she emailed and left a detailed card/invoice. In terms of the chewing teeth there was nothing unusual, so he just had his usual float. But one of his bottom front teeth has died. I might want to get a vet to look at it.

WTF?!

In the 7 months since he last saw her, a tooth has died. A tooth that should be continuously erupting for the rest of his life is dead!? How did this happen without him showing any signs of an issue eating or accepting a bit? Certainly there’s been no trauma to his mouth that I’m aware of. Getting kicked seems most likely but without external swelling or bleeding or something? It could have been an infection but even so I’m completely thrown by how it could happen without any sign something was wrong.

I feel worse for not knowing because as soon as you open his lips it’s so obvious. He used to have such pretty teeth and now it’s pretty hideous. (Apologies for bad photo but it’s not easy to use one hand to hold the lips while taking a photo with the other, in the dark.)

image

As you can see the gum has receeded a lot from that tooth.

So the vet came and looked. He agrees with the dentist that at the moment there is no infection or pain. He advised that I be vigilant with it and watch for food getting under the gum or signs of pain or infection. It seems likely it will need extracting one day, but not now as it is firmly attached and not causing a problem.

So instead of finding a solution to the digestive issues we just found a new problem. I am probably disproportionately upset by this.

But the digestive investigation must go on, so D is getting his gut scanned on Monday.

If my horse was a child someone would be investigating me for Munchausen’s-by-proxy by now.

Riding

I’ve updated you on the vet visit, the inside of my head and on my holiday, but not what I am doing in the saddle.

In part this has been because I haven’t wanted to jinx it and in part because although I am working purposefully with him I haven’t really articulated even to myself why it is that I’m working this way.

In early December I told you that “I want to have a horse who is able and willing to let me control any leg/shoulder/quarter in lower gaits before I ask for the canter.” That’s the heart of the matter. Examining it I find I want the whole dressage shebang before I even ask for that canter: obedience, suppleness, straightness, connection and strength (yes I know that last isn’t a dressage buzzword but without strength in the right muscles you can’t do anything properly). The classical dressage goals of longevity of ridden life and training of the athletic horse are exactly what I want for Drifter. While we may do another competitive dressage test one day that’s not a target, so whether we ever master movements required at different levels is irrelevant. I want to train my horse to be strong, well and sound, if the fates will allow. Other things are of limited relevance.

So that’s the goal, but how am I actually going about it? In walk, mostly. Walk is where we’ve spent so much of our ridden time in the past years, between my health and his, but there’s a wealth of things to do in walk. The great gift in walk is time. Time to correct, time to react, time to breathe. We are working on doing everything correctly in walk. I have never worked walk like this, and I wonder if D ever has either. We do a lot of shapes in the school in walk but the most useful one is a walk spiralling from 20 m inwards and then out again. How small we end up varies from day to day – some times neither of us is on our A game – but we’re working it hard. It is hard to explain how difficult we find it to do this properly. For starters it is years since anyone asked him properly to work this way and he’s coming back from being lame in 3 legs (although not all at once) so doing this hard thing the way I suggest is a bit hard to understand as well as to execute. For my part I have never trained a horse before this one, and have only previously ridden this exercise not-particularly-well on this horse or on wonky school horses. While I can sometimes feel what’s wrong, I don’t have experience of what it’s supposed to be like.

We’re also having lessons again! We had one on the dressage instructor’s first teaching day of the year (Sunday) and it was fab. Being a bit nervous of doing anything too far off D’s working routine I only booked a 30 min lesson but from next time we’ll go for the 45 min. (which is officially the only time slot this instructor offers). As I started out by telling the instructor my mission statement we mostly worked in walk, with a little bit of (very nice) trotting at the end. We worked on halting (which was still awful because it’s one thing I never work on) and then on leg yield. Drifter tends to rush off forwards, barging through my hands, to avoid leg yielding, so one of the things I learnt was to try putting him at 45 degrees to the wall of the school and moving along the track like that. He was unimpressed but at least with a wall in front of his face he couldn’t hurry forwards. It was hard but I liked it. Most things I’ve tried with him that I’ve never done before, like riding shoulder fore, he doesn’t immediately get what I want, and then it clicks. More of a rider aid issue than a horse training/ability issue. But with leg yield I feel like it might be a new concept for him as well as for me. But that’s why we need lessons! It might be worth playing with leg-yield in hand to help him understand what it’s about.

I have to tell you, we have now cantered on several occasions. Never more than about 20 m on each rein in any single session, but it was quietly good. My rule for him is that he’s not allowed to work in trot until the walk is excellent, with hind legs stepping under, with straightness and obedience and feeling totally warmed up and focussed. Then we trot, and it’s usually great because all the right muscles are already working and he’s in a lovely shape and we’ve established that falling in/out is not acceptable and that he has to have contact in both reins, not just his preferred left. By the time we trot, I feel like we’ve already done the hard work and everything is just beautiful. This was confirmed in the lesson, where the trot immediately got compliments from the instructor who isn’t the time to give a compliment for nothing. The trot is so easy to ride when the walk work was great. We aren’t doing a great deal of work in trot, almost just enjoying a little as a break from walk work and then going back to walk. Except when we canter. And because the trot is great, the canter depart can’t help but come from the right place, so we have a very brief controlled canter and stop. Perfect for building up confidence. For now, that’s all we need.

So the plan for the immediate future is to work at walking all the things and learn to leg-yield in walk; to trot for fun, beauty and lightness, gradually increasing the duration there so we get a little cardio; to pop into canter briefly to remember that it exists.

And I’m pretty excited by it. The trot that we’re getting by not working in trot is the best trot I’ve ever ridden. The canter is really not bad, considering our track record there. And the walk holds all the challenges we can think up.

Another post involving the vet

It feels like this blog is as much about the vet as about anything else lately, so it won’t surprise you to hear that we’ve had another expensive and busy visit from the vet. I booked the appointment because as far as I could see the sarcoid had dropped off, so I stopped treatment, but wanted to check with the vet that he agreed with me it was appropriate to do so. He’d been treated with Newmarket bloodroot ointment daily for 5 days, had 5 days rest from treatment and then another 5 days of ointment. By the end of the second session of treatment there was very little left that hadn’t dropped off, leaving clean skin underneath, and by the end of another 5 day rest everything had gone.

The vet agreed that it was looking really good, and in fact he now wonders if it was a sarcoid in the first place as it responded so well. My thoughts on this were that it wasn’t any kind of healthy growth and didn’t look like other warts so I’m still going to think of it as a sarcoid and be vigilant for it returning or cropping up elsewhere. But it’s a great result and I’m delighted.

In the days while I was trying to get the appointment, D’s diarrhoea returned. First seen in force in September, the poo dreadlocks in his tail were back. Not as quite bad as they had been, but back nevertheless. So this time we’d take the probiotics please. Between September and this month there had been the occasional day of non-optimum digestion, but it never went on for more than a day or so and was never as watery as in September. This time by the time we got the vet it had been almost a week and it was quite liquid. In fact while the vet was there it was so liquid as to give him problems in getting enough solids for testing it. Just as the vet was about to give up, D managed a more cow-pat like sample. The vet ran tests on that and on blood, some of which we’re waiting for, this not being the best time of year to get test results back. Colitis has been ruled out, and small traces of red and white blood cells were found in the stool. We got the probiotic, but after 1 week on double doses of that, I can see little difference. Scoping for ulcers was mentioned as a possibility, especially as he’s always been girthy.

Trouble in the tummy was causing reluctance under saddle, so we had to trot him up to double check that it was tummy and not a recurrence of lameness. I told the vet I didn’t think it was lameness and after seeing him trot, he agreed. We got some more glucosamine to keep the legs going. I have read that tummy upsets can be the most common (albeit rare) side effect of glucosamine, but the vet does not think it likely to be the cause here. Also we rather like him being sound, so we’re hoping it isn’t!

The final thing I had to mention to the vet, and also to you, is that he’s started weaving. This is not going to do the (already dodgy) leg joints any good, so we need to get some anti-weave bars up, but it isn’t happening as quickly as I’d like. There are 2 sets of anti-weave bars at the back of the storage area of the barn but getting them out would be the work of 2 people for several hours. At the moment, with Christmas staffing and the maintenance man just having left, the yard can’t spare anyone to help me get them out. If I manage to get them out I’m not allowed to put them up myself and again we run into the issue of the maintenance man just having left. I really want weave bars up, but it just looks a bit impossible at present. The vet was not that interested in the weaving and didn’t think it was likely to be related to the physical problems. Personally I think it’s related to the diarrhoea, if only indirectly, but I can’t really say why I think that. It’s not a whole body weave, just the head and neck, although I’m sure it’s a slippery slope once a horse starts.

By the time I’d finished with the vet I felt like I’d interrogated him on every bit of my horse! And then another horse’s owners sprang upon him while he was on the yard. They’ve just realised their horse is having vision issues on one side. The vet confirmed that he has something growing on his retina on that side and he’s going to send them a specialist. Just as I felt like everything was wrong with my horse, I see that there are plenty of things to be grateful for. Following that initial diagnosis, this horse and his owner have been exercising outdoors to stop him spooking at the mirrors indoors. My heart was in my mouth for them a couple of days ago when they were schooling outdoors and a heron flew over the school at rider head-height; I expected an explosion, but maybe in this case the vision impairment helped because the horse didn’t register the enormous bird getting close to them at all!

Anyway, my point is that although we see (and spend) far too much of (on) the vet of late, we have lots to be grateful for. The legs are all managing to stay sound, and exercise is gradually being built up without issues. The digestion is a problem, but it’s not stopping him doing anything, he’s not losing condition so far, and he’s still fine in himself. The sarcoid is unexpectedly marvellously gone, and the weaving can be managed with bars, which we will get up at some point. It’s all going to be just fine, somewhen.

Happy New Year

It seems somewhat obligatory to do some kind of self-assessment at this time of year. Mine was influenced by this website, but I didn’t follow all the steps or do it “properly.” As is normal for me, I evaluated it and used it to inform my own interpretation of the process, paring the product of the process down to the essentials.

Result:

1 New Year’s Resolution (Apply to all years of life):

Learn from previous years of life and act on what has been learnt, with the goal of making this year happier and healthier than it would be otherwise.

I am aware that this falls down when measured against S.M.A.R.T. goal setting. It is not Specific or Measureable. On the other hand it is Achievable, Relevant and Time-limited, and I think A and R are the most important parts, so I will not be adjusting it to make it SMARTer.

So what have I learnt, in my 34.5 years so far?  Whoops, that question was far too broad. Let’s try again.

What have I learnt so far that is relevant to the goal of being happier and healthier? I think the most valuable relevant lesson is that my brain and my body have an unwritten user manual that is very different from “Everyman’s” manual. And not only because I am not a man!

I have learnt many different things that help me understand my secret user manual. There are chapters labelled Introvert, Menstruating Female, Detail Focus, Complex Feeding Requirements and Sleeping. There are other chapters where I’m starting to see the text, but don’t have a handy heading to put on it yet. The lesson here is that instead of quoting Everyman’s manual, and stating for example that as I put 8 hours sleep in I have achieved the requisite number, I need to look at my own manual and read the cross-references and scribbled notes in the margin to see that my sleep need will change based on physical exertion, mental state, menstrual cycle, etc., etc., etc. I also have to accept that the manual will change as I go through life. I don’t have all the answers, but thinking about my user manual being unique to me is a very powerful tool that I can use to my advantage. Once I understand that my needs are different from other people’s I can act on them, communicate them and advocate for myself to ensure life is a little healthier and a little happier for me.

The biggest new chapter I revealed this year is to do with sensory sensitivities. I discovered that there is a new shop in town with florescent lighting that makes me feel physically sick because it is so bright and harsh. I feel like I will throw up if I stay in that shop for even the shortest amount of time. Seeing other people able to happily shop in it helped me to see that this is an area where my manual differs from theirs, and so to ask where else in the sensory ranges I differ from them? Thinking about sounds encouraged me to try some Active Noise Cancelling headphones, which are fantastic for cutting low frequency background noise. I am now wearing them around the house (sadly they would not be considered office-appropriate) and my down-time is so much more positive for it.

So I head into this new year armed with a single resolution – to make good use of my imaginary secret user manual and other things I have learned to make 2016 happier and healthier than it would otherwise be.