On Saturday morning, having been unable to sleep longer because I was stressing about when would the physio come out and what would I do with him in the meantime, I arrived at the stables at 7.00, hoping to be in time to ask them not to feed him yet (officially fed at 7.00). Unfortunately for me, keen staff had started early (what is the world coming to?) and his head was already in the food bowl, so I would have to wait an hour for his breakfast to go down before I could exercise him. Ah well. I had decided to give him a very gentle lunge without any side reins or the new lunging aid to see how he was moving by choice, and just to get him out of the stable and moving his legs. I groomed slowly and managed to fritter away the hour quite easily. One of the other liveries was also there early and we got chatting and he decided to lunge as well, as it was raining, so that we could both go in the indoor school. You’re not allowed to ride and lunge in the same school, but you can have 2 horses lunging in the same school. With my usual fear of the new I was a little worried about how exactly this would work, but it was absolutely fine and his (often grumpy & difficult) mare took no notice of us.
Unfortunately Drifter was not moving very well. On his good rein he was happy to walk and trot, but on the right rein he didn’t want to trot. As I mentioned in the last post this is a horse whose default gear is trot on the lunge, so for him to only offer a step or two of trot on that rein before dropping back to walk was not a good sign. So we did lots of walking on that rein and a bit of trotting on the other to let him get some energy out, as he seemed quite comfortable going that way.
Afterwards I asked after the elusive physio, who hadn’t returned my messages, but there was as yet no date set for her visit although they were hopeful it would be soon as there were so many horses waiting for her attention. I decided that for the next two days, when he had turnout, I would not ride or lunge him and hope that a rest would help.
I had noticed when I was grooming that there were tell-tale greasy stains on the inside of his legs – tell-tale that is, that his masculinity could do with a clean. However he was being very coy about it so I thought it would have to wait.
On Tuesday I was to have my first ever chiropractor appointment. Mr S & I had signed up with them a few weeks ago when we saw them manning a stand in the supermarket one weekend with information and discount vouchers, so he with his back pain and me with my wonkiness both signed up. Unfortunately then I’d been ill, as you know, and had to postpone my first session until this Tuesday.
Unfortunately, Tuesday is a day when Drifter need exercising. Well I could go after the chiropractor, although it wouldn’t be ideal. Oh no I couldn’t – the appointment was at 5.30 and then at 7.00 there was a free back care class Mr S had signed us up for. Oh.
So I booked the afternoon off work 🙂
Arriving at the stables shortly before 3.00, my heart sank when I realised today was the day they were resurfacing the schools. But quickly lifted when I realised a) it was the only nice day of the week, and b) hacking involves walking in straight lines – good exercise for him with his current limitations. So we’d hack. I rounded the corner to our new location, and saw the farrier set up. And my heart sank again. Maybe the farrier had already seen him? I checked his feet. Nope – dull old shoes and no pedicure. So I spoke to the farrier, asking if he was about to do Drifter. “Oh I won’t get to him until tomorrow” he replied, so we were back on for hacking. A side note on our farrier – he is marvellous. Touch wood, but in almost 3 years of hanging around our stable I’ve only once heard of a horse he’s shod losing a shoe. Unfortunately you never know when he’s coming, so it’s prudent to put your horse on the list for shoeing early as although he’s supposed to come weekly, sometimes he’s not seen for ages, so you wouldn’t want to wait until you’re desperate for shoes to put him on the list and then find the farrier didn’t turn up for a while. But I refer you back to the being a marvellous farrier thing, so he gets away with it.
So I groomed, tacked up and adorned the pair of us with many hi-vis trappings. He wasn’t in a particularly cooperative mood, I noted, but I didn’t have time for him to prevaricate.
And off we went on hack number 3. Again I rejected the 30 min. hack through the village because the 1 hr-ish one by the golf course is so much nicer. I’d rather do that hack and turn back after a bit if he seemed sore/wiggly.
The beginning of the hack did not go smoothly. Cars came at inopportune moments so we had to trot to passing places, at which he was fidgety and concerning. In one of these trots his knee boot fell down around his ankle which he found very worrying. I managed to get him to stand long enough for the car to pass before getting off to sort out the boot. Drifter was very much of the opinion that he was going home now, but eventually I had him re-booted, pointing in the right direction and I remounted (with some difficulty as he had little intention of standing still if he had any choice in it). His determination to go home steeled my resolve to carry on. Thankfully although he had stepped on the boot at some point the clips were not broken.
We continued with fewer issues and we both began to relax, until I realised the other knee boot was working its way out of place. I think the problem may be his woolly winter legs. I read somewhere someone saying they never used boots with a lower strap because their cob’s feathers catch on that and drag the boots down. This was the first time we’d used them with his winter coat. I dismounted again and tightened both and fiddled with the lower straps and they held for the rest of the hack. Back on board and forwards.
He was mostly settled and calm now although I kept standing up to look at his knees over his shoulders. As he’d been not great about the passing places at the start of the hack I instigated a training session of random stops at passing places and verges to a) get him in the zone of pulling over and waiting patiently when asked and b) show him his boots wouldn’t fall down everytime he was in a passing place. This was going well and when a car next came he behaved perfectly and waited nicely. The car passed and we were about to continue when what I can only describe as a terminally ill wood pigeon half walked and half flopped out of the hedge right in front of him. I can only imagine what it smelled like to a horse nose, and adding that to the sickening way it was lurching, I am not surprised that Drifter took exception to it. After a brief conversation during which he strongly asserted his belief that we needed to head back the way we came, he calmed down and I was able to make him walk past the area and on our way.
Not the relaxing hack I’d been hoping for, I have to say. But from that point on, once our adrenaline had dropped, we relaxed. And realised it was a very pleasant afternoon and that he was moving rather well, by which I mean he didn’t feel like he was trying to protect any sore places. We continued without any further drama for the remainder of the hack and there was only one more incident of note: a car came, we got over into a gateway, it passed us, I touched my hat to thank them for slowing down and made eye contact with the passenger, who was having a good laugh at us. While I may be wrong, I got the distinct feeling that they were laughing at the geeky hi-vis of us – not in a nasty way but in a pleasant “look at the horse wearing skateboarding knee pads and reflective anklets!” kind of a way. “Well,” I thought, “you saw us, didn’t you?!” and continued back to the yard with a smile on my face. Maybe they think I’m an overprotective safety obsessive or maybe they just think it’s funny to see a horse dressed like that – either way they got pleasure out of seeing us and I got pleasure out of that.
We got back, and I began removing tack & hi-vis when I saw … my horse-boy was letting it all hang loose. Time to attend to intimate hygiene! Quick! Grab a sponge and get cleaning while you see it! I keep an empty plastic water bottle in my brushes bag and, while using one hand to keep him unfurled, used the bottle in the other hand to get water from his water bucket so I could wash it. This was surprisingly satisfactory and by the time he retracted the organ I was fairly satisfied with its cleanliness. But there’s a reason they call it sheath cleaning … and that would be the sheath. Unfortunately this was much more unpleasant, I have to say, and the sponge I used will never be the same again, but the job was done and he had taken very little notice. As I left the stable with the disgusting sponge he sniffed it, thoughtfully turning his lip up in the flehmen response to fully savour the aroma. Yuck! Thankfully during the cleaning process no one dropped by to talk to us. Far more embarrassing than doing this job would be having to hold a conversation while I was doing it!
In case anyone is interested I clean this area only with water because I would not want to risk him reacting to any cleaning agent, even one specifically designed for the job. I do believe that it needs cleaning occasionally (ref. sticky yuck down back legs) but do not believe in interfering otherwise. I have done my research and am aware some vets advocate never cleaning while others are in favour of regular cleaning with strong products. This is my response – a balance between the two views. Before I got him I thought I might be too embarrassed/worried to do this job and I know some ask their vet to do it – I had thought I might be one of those. Now I have him, the bottom line is that it’s a job that needs doing, so I might as well get on and do it. But now I’m going to change the subject.
Once I’d washed my hands in very hot water I came back and removed the hi-vis leg bands he was still wearing and put the tack away. There was just time to get home and showered before it was …
Time to go to the chiropractor. Again, my wariness of new things was in full flow. I knew Mr S had had x-rays on his first session, so I might have to be ready to strip off, don a gown and strike a pose for the bone cameras, but other than that I didn’t know what to expect.
Mr S and I had back-to-back appointment times and the chiropractor invited us to come up together and sit in on each others’ sessions. He asked me all about why I was there and got quite excited to hear that I wasn’t in pain, unlike the vast majority of people who first go to a chiropractor, and was very interested to hear about my violin/viola playing past, which is in my opinion the reason for my wonkiness.
Following the comedy part where he had several goes at taking my blood pressure with a non-functioning cuff and eventually gave up, he told me there was no need for x-rays as he thought my issues were all postural. Good. I hadn’t been looking forward to that part!
So he looked at me standing, touching my toes, standing again, touching my toes and announced that my wonkiness corrects when I touch my toes. Interesting. I lay on my front on his couch and he prodded and leant on parts of my back, announcing that one portion felt like a brick wall. “How does that area feel?”, “Err, like a brick wall”. His words summed it up so well I couldn’t have put it better. That section of my back is immobile, unyielding and not massively into sensation either. (Not in a numb way, just an “I don’t ever move so the brain stopped listening to me because I don’t tell it anything new” kind of way.) Apparently that’s not normal 😉 That part is to the left of my back, just below my shoulder-blade. Apparently there’s a lesser compensatory area of slight brick-like-ness right at the bottom of the right of my back.
The most dramatic portion of me was my neck, which turns 90 degrees to the left, but only 45 to the right. So I sat on the couch and he squished my head down in various angles. And now it turns nearly as far to the right. Magic!
I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed the whole process. It helped that the chiropractor was fun, interested and non-threatening, and my husband was there to laugh at me too, but really I enjoyed the process of being poked, prodded and squished. I hadn’t realised at the time that any of what he was doing was treatment rather than assessment, but afterwards I felt movement where before there had been none. I felt differently balanced and, well, better. Mr S thinks its psychosomatic. I think Mr S is wrong.
It was interesting to hear that my areas of interest to the chiropractor were the section at the top left of my back, near the left shoulder, in my neck and a minor area at the right of the base of my spine. Drifter’s areas according to the physio are the left shoulder, the right hindquarter and the neck. Notice any similarity? How much have my issues been affecting his? I don’t believe that my physical issues are the entire cause of his, because he felt wonky so early into my owning him (although I didn’t understand that at the time) but I do believe we’ve probably been aggravating each others’ issues. Hopefully as we’re both getting treatment we’ll be able to both improve, but it’s unfortunate that our weaknesses mirror each other because it makes it harder for me to help him.
While there were other things I had thought I might include in this post it is already overly long, so I’ll end it here. We’re hoping the physio will be seeing Drifter this afternoon, so no doubt I’ll be posting again soon. Unfortunately the farrier failed to come back on Wednesday, so he remains sans-pedicure, but fortunately I hadn’t left it until the last minute so he can get another week or two’s wear out of the shoes he’s in without issue.