But why?

I’m pretty sure Drifter’s legs are doing really well. We saw the vet again today. He had an assistant along too which meant there were two of them to see Drifter demonstrate the… slowest… trot … ever on the lunge while completely ignoring everything I asked for. And I didn’t have the energy to care.

The vet agrees he’s sound but can’t really be bothered to do much. [I mean Drifter can’t be bothered, not the vet!] I think Drifter is now so used to being kept to slow paces that he can’t see the point of putting much effort into it. I think the brain is switched off but the legs are doing well. I did notice today that the vet has changed from saying “possible arthritis” to just saying “arthritis” but to be honest that’s what I’ve thought for a while, so it’s nice to be on the same page.

Both vet and I are pleased with how Drifter has managed the change from out-all-night-every-night to only-out-for-a-few-hours-a-day. If Drifter were more interested in trotting, the vet would say start cantering. As it is, I think we’re going to hang around in trot a bit longer. When the day comes that I feel like a have a trot worth cantering from, or D feels like offering a strike off, that’s the day we’ll canter. Again, the vet and I agree on that.

The plan is to keep his legs attached arthritis managed by continuing the wedge shoeing at the back indefinitely (the soft plastic wedges shouldn’t damage his heels) and by carefully managing his exercise. One of the key points I think is to keep it even. No sudden time off, and no sudden boot-camp stuff, just keep him ticking over.

I’m pretty content with the legs. But …

“While you’re here… can you have a look underneath. There’s a skin reaction just in front of his sheath.”

I did not say the word sarcoid.

But the vet did.

No, we haven’t any prior history of sarcoids.* This new, angry, crusty, suddenly quite large growth is our first joyous experience. It’s a lumpy one and not in a great place for treatment.

I knew a few weeks ago he had what looked like an ordinary fly bite reaction, and I was keeping an eye on it, but he can be quite reactive to bites around his sheath so I just thought it was that. Then when he got clipped just over a week ago they caught it with the clippers and took the top off it and when I saw it after that it looked concerning.

Yes I know that cutting a sarcoid is the worst thing and will make it grow aggressively, but it didn’t cross my mind that they’d be clipping that close to the sheath (different person did the clip this time) and of course I wasn’t really thinking sarcoid until after the clip anyway.

So the vet suggests we start with the least aggressive treatments and work up if needed. We’ll be starting on a relatively mild cream. If the sarcoid’s not gone by January we’ll be on the scary cytotoxic “Liverpool” cream that’s so vicious only vets are allowed to apply it, and even for them it’s carefully controlled. If that fails us we’ll be looking at general anaesthetic and laser surgery.

Why did my horse have to find a new way to break now the legs are doing so much better? Hopefully it will respond to the mild(er) cream but, oh, pony, why are you doing this to me?


*For any of my readers who aren’t well up on diseases of the horse, sarcoids are a kind of skin cancer which is not uncommon in horses. It’s a bit mysterious but thought to be triggered by something carried in fly bites. They can range from completely innocuous flat patches of skin to giant lumpy open-sore growths protruding like something from a horror film. Cutting them off tends to mean you just get a more aggressive one growing on the same site afterwards. Treatment is hard and frequently unsuccessful. The only good news is that they don’t usually spread to other organs, just the skin. Unless you’re really unlucky. They can spread across the skin though and once you have one, there are almost certainly more in your future further down the line. Don’t Google it unless you have a very strong tolerance for truly horrible images.



Skirts – an off topic post

On Thursday my last presentable pair of office trousers split down the side seam. So I spent all of Thursday night trying to replace them. I needed a pair of trousers that fit me, preferably grey, preferably pin-striped, but other colours and fabrics would be considered if they were still “office-y” enough.

I went to many shops and tried on over 25 pairs of trousers. Not a single one fit. Eventually I had to give up. Apparently the dimensions of my thighs compared to the dimensions of my waist and hips are now un-trouserable. So I bought skirts. A UK size 12 or 14 skirt seems to have no problem with my waist and my thighs.

I was pretty distraught about not being able to wear what I chose to the office. But I didn’t have much option. So with uncharacteristic foresight I picked up a pair of “lady-shoes” (flat Mary-Janes) to go with the skirts.

Why was I so upset? I think a lot of my early exposure to feminism (although it was never labelled as such) revolved around a girl’s right to wear trousers. I say girl not woman because this was my childhood and such trouser-related conflict was attached to school uniforms, at both primary school (trousers not allowed) and senior (allowed when I was there but phased out as I was leaving). I received the message that enforcing skirt-wearing was bad, and extrapolated that therefore skirts are bad.

This message that skirts were bad was strongly enforced by my peers in the years around and just after puberty when hormones decorated my legs with copious amounts of hair. By the time I was old enough to choose my clothes and attire without adult influence I was a confirmed skirt-avoider.

In my first jobs I continued skirt-avoiding and believed that dressing in a more masculine way was dressing for success. Working in the library, a female dominated environment, I was rather surprised to find that there are women in senior positions wearing skirts. I didn’t know that was a thing (outside of television). There is even a woman in a position of seniority in IT who, while she does wear trousers, also wears pink ruffly things and big silver arty jewellery – decidedly feminine. Most unexpected for me.

So now in my mid-30s I am plunged into skirt-wearing against my will. And the world has not stopped turning. Yes, in the two working days of skirt wearing so far I have fielded many, many comments about the sudden appearance of my skirts, but they’ve all been well-intentioned. No one has suddenly stopped taking me seriously, told me to make the tea or inspected the quality of my leg-shaving. It would appear that wearing a skirt to work is not that dissimilar to wearing trousers. In fact, I’m learning that it’s far more comfortable to sit in the office in a skirt than in badly fitting trousers, which have been the only kinds I’ve had in recent years.

I feel like I ought to rant about trouser making and retailing. I feel like I ought to rage that they’re forcing women into a mould that doesn’t permit them to have muscles – this is true of course (although don’t let me kid you that my thighs aren’t also carrying plenty of fat). But, you know, I haven’t the energy for that and it wouldn’t do any good.

I feel like I ought to stand up and shout that this is significant, that I am one woman among many who must be having this issue, but I’m losing the will to care. Feminism is not globally set back by me wearing a skirt and wanting to wear trousers. If I excel in a skirt, that’s a good thing. If I am forced to get over my skirt-avoiding and find that actually there’s nothing wrong with skirts that’s a good thing too. Oh yes, in a perfect world I’d be able to get beautiful trousers, with drape and tailoring and fabulousness, that didn’t let cat-hair stick to them and automatically laundered and pressed themselves, but in a perfect world I’d never have become a skirt-avoider in the first place. I’d never have got the message that skirts were bad. Maybe I’d have tended towards the trouser anyway, maybe I wouldn’t.

In the big picture it’s not a big deal. So the trousers don’t fit. If I truly needed trousers I’d find a way to get some tailored. Why waste energy on that? If you want to get angry about clothing, there are so many more important battles to fight. While boys still can’t wear skirts without a fight, us women have it pretty good in the clothing department.

Trot on!

I’ve been holding off on telling you that we’re trotting again, because I was still holding my breath about it a bit. (Remember that last time we were told we could trot it ended up setting us back to square 1.)

But I’m cautiously optimistic.

On Saturday we went on our first solo hack since all this lameness started almost 6 months ago. It was fabulous – we did not have one moment where we were nervous. He didn’t like the big lorry thing that was pumping something in front of a house, but I was not worried so he got over it without issue. I didn’t like the red Landrover passing us that close and fast, but he wasn’t phased so I got over it. This is exactly what I hoped would happen as a result of our in-hand walks on the roads – we’re both more confident so we’re not each making the other anxious about things that are not actually an issue.

On Saturday night it was his first night of winter routine – which meant the first night without overnight turnout.

On Sunday morning we schooled and re-introduced trotting around a corner/curve. We’ve got another few days before we can try a circle, but the corners seemed to go OK. And between being allowed to trot with a bend and the extra energy he always has when he’s first kept in at night, we were able to get some very nice work done. As he was working into my hands, we could work on his tendency to lean on the left hand side of the bit and not really take much contact on the right. For the first time in months instead of a rehabilitation focus I was able to put a bit of a development aim into the ride. For the first time I had the buzz that comes with a horse with the health, will and energy to work forwards and listen and learn. Most of our work was still done in walk, but it was challenging and interesting and fun and tiring.

It helped that he was shod and saw the physio both last week, but this one ride has made me so much more optimistic that he could be sound through the winter.

The initial proposition for this year’s winter turnout for all horses on the yard was ca. 3 hours, 3 times a week (weather permitting). Following debate and some upheaval, we are now all on ca. 2 hours everyday (weather permitting), which is much better news for me and Drifter. Obviously it’s still far from perfect, but with daily turnout I have a much better chance of keeping his joints moving over the winter and much less pressure on me to do it all with exercise. It is a great relief.

He’ll be having his 2nd clip of the year next week because he’s too hairy for a horse who’s allowed to trot – he can barely walk without sweating on a warm day!

Still in walk

Drifter and I are still in walk. The vet didn’t want to see us last week as originally planned because while I’d been sick Drifter hadn’t been “doing his homework” and the vet wouldn’t see us until he’d done 7-10 days consistent work. Well we hit that target at the weekend but now the vet is proving difficult to get hold of. Still I’m hopeful that when we do manage to see him we might get permission to trot again.

We went for a walk in hand out on the lanes at the weekend. Bearing in mind he’s only doing 25 min walking at the moment, we didn’t get very far. He dragged along unwillingly like a half-dead thing, despite taps, clucks and strong forward body language from me. On the lanes immediately around the yard it is single track with passing places and not much visibility because of the twisting roads and high banks, so being a smart road-user is important and dragging him on was more important than anything else. Once we get past that there are more options for getting out of the way of traffic – verges and field/property entrances. There were quite a few cars here so I took him into a field entrance to let everything pass. We were going to be here a minute or so, so once I had him positioned as I wanted, I let him graze a little while the cars sorted themselves out. Happy pony.

Once they were all gone, we carried on and I found we magically had forwardness again. The horse that seeks grass has a reason to walk somewhere, and no reason to be a lazy lump! Just around the corner, one of the houses had bags of apples on the gate with a “Help yourself” sign. While not letting Drifter help himself, I did get him an apple and immediately he woke up even more. We spent the second half of our walk stepping out like nobody’s business!

This was rather an eye-opener to the fact that I’m not the only one bored by the current situation and that a little motivation will make him give me a lot more at the moment. To that end I’ve started carrying my dressage whip when I ride. I’ve had two rides with it and both have been a lot more interesting. Yesterday I even got a few seconds when he lifted his back a little. So the whip will be coming with us on a more regular basis. I go through phases of carrying it (usually when I’m focussed on his way of going) and phases of not carrying it (when I’m focussing on my hands). I get that my hands are an important part of his way of going, but I have much better hands when I don’t carry the whip!

People on the yard who know my clicker-training ways are sometimes suprised that I use a whip. But I think some people think of a whip only as a hitting stick and not as a tool. I won’t deny that I have on occasion smacked with the whip. But it’s pretty rare, and I’ve smacked while riding with my hand on occasions when I didn’t have a whip. Rearing, however tiny, is not acceptable without extreme provocation. If he rears because he’s terrified, that’s not something to punish with smacking (although if a smack will make the sitution safer I reserve that right). He’s never reared with me for that reason. On the other hand he has reared (very tiny rear) because there’s rain in his face and he hates rain and he wants to stop being ridden. Unacceptable.

Usually though, my whip is there partly because of the oft observed fact that just carrying a whip (even if you never ever use it) makes many horses more forwards and more obedient, and partly so I can reach to tap his back end to remind him that it exists. The cob portions of his (unknown) breeding lines mean he’s built and bred to pull from the front instead of pushing from the back. His back-leg issues contribute to this. Sometimes he needs a bit of a reminder to use those big butt muscles, and a touch on them does the trick. Not a smack but a tickle or maybe a tap. I have had rides when I haven’t had a whip, but wanted that touch and reached an arm back to touch however far back I could reach and had the same effect, but it’s better if I can do it without taking a hand off the reins!

So I’ll be riding with my whip again in the near future. Hopefully if he’s more motivated it will help me think up more ways to work in walk which will motivate him even more. And hopefully we’ll see the vet soon!

Still grazing


Not much to say really. I’ve spent the week sick in bed, or on the sofa for a change of scene. Drifter has not been getting his vet prescribed exercise because of it (and because I don’t trust anyone else on his back while he’s lame-ish). I got on today and he seemed a bit better, I think, despite the lack of exercise, which was a vast relief. He’s due for a saddle fitting and I really need to get that done as he has changed shape massively but as most saddle fits look good on him in walk and then awful in trot and canter, I can’t really book it until we get vet’s permission to do more than walk.  He’s not lifting his back when I ride at the moment, but I’m assuming it’s at least partly the lameness. At the end of our little session today I had about 3 minutes bareback to see if I could get him to lift his back without the saddle. He wouldn’t, so I don’t think it’s the saddle fit stopping him. In the past when I barebacked and squeezed a little his back came up nice and round and I was sitting on the muscle like a happy camper. On the positive side I had expected the lame feeling (which has reduced) to be magnified when I took the saddle away and it wasn’t. He felt fairly good, all things considered, although I was a little more intimately acquainted with his withers and spine than I have been before. The loss of fat and muscle there felt pretty significant from a comfort point of view, but that was one of the reasons I kept it down to 3 minutes only, for both of our sakes! I have looked into buying a bareback pad, but of course the ones that look well designed are expensive and the ones that are cheap have plenty of drawbacks.

He should be seeing the vet again next week and I’ll be interested to hear how he feels Drifter is doing. I think he’s sound-ish in straight lines, but not on curves, but he’s been off for so long that it’s hard to tell.