Today

Being pregnant is not a process I find enjoyable. Being unable to do stuff because of it sucks. Paying a fortune to keep a horse I can’t ride sucks, especially when I barely have the energy to see and groom him once a week.

But…

At 28 weeks and 5 days pregnant, today I had a nice time with my horse.

I didn’t feel great today, but as Sunday morning is now the only time I see Drifter, I got on with it anyway.

I drove to the yard and got out, taking my lightweight folding chair out of the boot. I walked down the yard with my chair, and immediately realised that because I’d stood up, the toilet needed to be my first stop. I knew pregnant women needed to pee a lot; I never realised how much time it seems to take out of your day when you can’t do anything without it making you need to pee!

Business there concluded, my chair and I proceeded down the yard. Various other liveries wanted to ask how I was, so I unfolded my chair and sat on it while they wanted to talk to me. I have learnt the hard way that without somewhere to sit down the entire ration of energy I brought to spend with Drifter gets spent on standing up for a handful of very similar conversations about how I/baby/Drifter am/is doing, and them observing that they don’t see me that much now. It’s nice that they want to talk to me, but it’s not actually what I came for!

Obligatory small talk done, I made it to Drifter’s stable door and sat down on my chair again for a rest! I realised he wasn’t visible over the door, so eased it quietly open and he was lying down asleep. Adorable. And it was great to have an excuse to sit a bit longer before breaking out the brushes … which I hadn’t yet picked up from the tack room.

Quietly and carefully I moved my chair inside the door of his stable and sat within touching distance. He was aware I was there, but not fully awake and we spent many peaceful minutes doing nothing until he felt like getting up. This horse used to scramble instantly to his feet if anyone caught him lying down, but now I’m allowed to share that time with him.

Eventually he decided to get up, so I went to fetch the brushes. The walk to get them was pretty tiring so I sat down and brushed any bit of him he’d let me reach from my chair. This was playful. He let me get the left side of his face easily, but not the right. The only way to get the right at all was to turn my back and feign disinterest until he came closer again, then I’d get a swipe or two in before he backed up. It was not efficient grooming, but I think we both found it entertaining. We did his front legs in much the same way.

By then I’d got some energy back and stood up to do his mane and tail. His tail is exhausting for me, in part because it’s so thick, but also because it’s only getting done once a week so it’s a mass of tangles. So I did some, sat down, and then got back up to finish the job.

After another sit down I did all the rest of the body and legs. His winter coat is pretty thick but I’m going to hold off getting him clipped if I can – when he has to stop going out every night I’ll get staff riders to hack him, but I’m hoping that being ridden in the middle of the day by staff will mean his coat is more manageable than in previous winters (when I rode at night and couldn’t get him dry before bed if un-clipped). I guess a lot will depend on the weather and how het-up he gets about being ridden by staff. At least I hope to get by with fewer clippings than usual.

So now I had a groomed horse. I went for a wander to check out which schools were in use. The big outdoor had some jumps set up, but enough space at one end for lungeing, so I chose that one. After a conversation about someone’s passed driving test, and another sit down to recover, I grabbed lunge whip, lunge line, headcollar and bell boots, visited the toilet again, and took the items to Drifter. He considered them, and started offering his “yoga” stretches, suggesting that he’d far rather do tricks for treats. This availed him little, as we always do work first and play later, and I hadn’t cued the stretches so there were no treats to be earned. I put the boots and headcollar on before picking out his feet. I’ve always expected him to lift the feet, but now I expect a higher lift so I don’t have to reach down as far. This is easier for him on some legs than others. At last we headed out to the school. He suggested that he would rather be turned out to graze, and I gently overruled.

Once in the school, we walked around and between the jumps. There were a few ground poles and one angled raised pole as well as the jumps. If there are titchy crosspoles we walk over them together, but today it was all far too substantial, so we just went between them. I had him on a line, but aimed to control him as if we were working at liberty, with my body language and just a finger gesture to steer. We did some nice tight figures of eight around pairs of obstacles, and his accuracy in going over the parts of the poles I requested was very good. I was too tired to want to put any but the minimum energy into asking for anything, so every gesture was tiny and any correction just a tiny touch on the line and disapproving noise.

Then we moved to lungeing. At first he wasn’t clear that I was changing the scenario from close work to working at a distance. I think this is because he has to switch brain gear from the intimate signals he and I have developed together for in hand work, to the traditional lungeing behaviour he learnt as a youngster. But once it clicked, he went into lungeing-brain and carried on. He was pretty lazy about it but I didn’t care to put any more energy into the process, and he mirrored my low energy level. I let him potter on, changing between lazy trot and walk quite often. I was aware that there were people observing us, and in their eyes I would be letting him get away without working properly, but it didn’t bother me. We did 5 minutes and then changed the rein. On the second rein after a few minutes I started feeling the watchers’ eyes again, and thought maybe I ought to ask for canter, as much because it was expected as because I wanted it. I thought about it for a while, and then suggested it to Drifter. I kept the request tiny because if he was going to get anxious about the canter I wouldn’t ask again; with a spooky horse lessoning in the next school I didn’t want a trot-buck-buck-gallop-canter transition. If I’m that low energy about things, I expect to get a few “no thank you” answers where he trots a little faster and declines to canter (often because he needs to set up a trot he can canter from, finding the transition hard on the lunge) but today he promptly arranged his legs and got into a no-fuss canter at once. After a single circle I brought him back to trot. Interesting. That was good enough to reward, so I brought him to walk and then halt. I would have stopped there, as I think 5 min on each rein is really enough for his joints, but having cantered only one way, I changed back to the original rein and popped him back up through the gears. Again my canter ask was a mere suggestion, and this time he seemed to consider the option of a buck or gallop, but at my quiet disapproving noise we he went straight to a lovely canter, which I praised and after a single circle, brought him back down through the gears again.

We finished the session with a return to the way we started it, walking over and around obstacles using our “at liberty” language despite him not actually being at liberty. It was easier for him to come from lungeing to liberty brain-mode than it had been to go the other way.

When we were done we headed back to the stable. I had another little sit down; he had a long drink from his water bucket. Once I felt recovered I took his boots off and put everything away… except the carrots.

This time when he offered stretches I was happy to cue the ones I wanted and provide treats for stretches 🙂

Since getting pregnant we haven’t done any clicker training, because he finds it very exciting and I am not prepared to risk handling an excited horse, even if I had the energy. However, the clicker training from the past prepared the way for the relationship we have now. It prepared him for the idea that we can be playful together, and that although sometimes he has to do strictly trained traditional horse & rider things, at other times I might ask him to try something new and unexpected and that there might be something in it for him.

I drove home realising that the morning I’d had was exactly what I’d dreamed of before I bought him. I dreamed of a horse that would pick up on my tiny cues, and do what I asked without fuss. I dreamed of sitting by the side of a snoozing horse, just being together. I dreamed of a partnership and a friendship and a relationship of mutual respect. Of course I thought about doing dressage and maybe jumping, but it would be hard to say how much of that was my own desire and how much peer pressure and social expectation. Yes I do miss riding, but it was never the be all and end all for us.

Both Drifter and I are fat and unfit at the moment. We both have our health issues and I can’t tell what the future holds for us, but today I realised I have my dream horse, and I think he had a good day too.

 

 

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Getting on with waiting

Drifter has now seen the physio and the saddle fitter since we last “spoke” here. He is sore in the withers.

It probably was the saddle fit that caused the problem. Although I used a pro-lite and a fat saddle pad to make up for the size difference caused by the diarroeah it seems that the saddle must have been rocking forwards. Everyone thought he’d be OK in that set up, but it was clearly not OK.

It’s unfortunate that it took me several more rides to understand him than it usually would have done – I was having some emotional stuff going on with family, and also to a certain extent at work and I knew I was bringing baggage to our rides. You only get out of a ride what you put in, so I saw his unwillingness to work and put it down to my bad riding and emotional unavailability. Also, whenever we’ve had a saddle problem in the past, it’s been a too-small saddle, not a too-large one. I thought that I knew his saddle-related tells, but I failed to realise that they’d be different, so I was looking for the wrong signs.

When the saddle fitter came I asked her to bring my old Ideal saddle, which she’s had listed for second hand sale without success since I got the Bates. I thought that the narrower Ideal saddle I bought to fit the skinny rail of a horse I bought originally from the dealer, might be a good fit for the same horse now he was skinny again. It was too big. He’s even thinner now than he was then – it just doesn’t show as badly because he has more muscle in his neck.

The Bates came into it’s own again and (£50 of inserts and new gullet + the time of an experienced saddle fitter later), the same saddle looks and handles completely differently. Testing it out, I was suddenly in a balanced position, with stability in all directions. We made a few tweaks and retested, but I’m delighted with it. It’s unfortunate that we’ll have to do it all again in a few months as he puts on weight, but how much better than having to buy a whole new saddle, and then know it won’t fit again soon.

As his spine is pretty prominent (although better covered than it was a few weeks ago) the saddle fitter also suggested a sheepskin half-pad, particularly for longer rides. Before I could buy one, a friend on the yard offered a selection of her unused ones, and sold me a high quality one for a very low quality price, which was lovely of her. I offered her more but she wouldn’t accept it.

Unfortunately all this doesn’t make the soreness go away, so we just need to give that one time. My plan is to give him a few days off riding, with turnout and/or hand-walking, then get on for a test ride. If he still seems sore, then another few days off.

It’s a real shame we’re still not clicker training but I’m only very cautiously introducing treats again. His digestion seems to be handling everything I give him fine now, but I don’t want to give him multiple treats in one session yet, which kind of rules out clicker training.  It was very exciting the other day when I declared he’s officially allowed carrots again  – in moderation of course 😉

 

 

 

In which Drifter defecates beautifully

I could have taken a picture, but I managed to restrain myself from being that person who takes a picture of their horse’s poo and raves about how beautiful it is to anyone who doesn’t run away fast enough.

Honestly I’m sure you can imagine it well enough. It looks just like the poo that comes out of every other horse with reasonable digestive health and I could not possibly be more proud. I thought they were looking good last week but this week they are so much better!

Thus it was that when another livery asked us when we were seeing the vet next (because they wanted to share the callout fee), I was able to smugly state we had had no need to book another appointment for any of his various complaints.

[I totally understand this is tempting fate, but still had to communicate it to you.]

Of course we haven’t competely dumped the vet – I had text communication with him last night regarding the diet going forwards. The plan is that we drop down to normal dose of the probiotic, continue with the vegetable oil for another fortnight before stopping and, once the molasses-free feed is running out, gradually transition him back onto the feed that we get as part of our livery package (the molassed version of the same feed).

If we were on a package where we provide our own feed I’d probably stay on the molasses free version, but we aren’t and I don’t think the small amount of molasses will do him any harm in the normal run of things now his gut has been “reprogrammed.” Obviously if we see ill effects when we start easing back onto the molassed feed I’ll re-think that!

So that’s the good news stories. The not so good is that half the yard disappeared overnight so the future of the yard is a bit unsettled. There were 3 horses that we knew were going, for a variety of reasons (proximity to home, change of owner’s job, intensive dressage schooling), which was a tiny bit worrying, but then 2 more owners decided to give their week’s notice – one with 2 horses and the other with 2 ponies. A total of 7 horses’ worth of income walked off the yard in a fortnight – just short of half of the livery horses on the yard.

For the meantime we still have a yard. Some staff will be leaving, and some staying on reduced hours, which is sad, but of the people that are affected I believe no one is distressed or in financial difficulty over it, so it could be a lot worse.

What will happen to the yard in the long term, who can say? So Drifter and I will take it one week at a time and let whatever will happen, happen. Life may have more ups and downs for us just around the corner, but at the moment I’ll carry on whooping and praising him everytime he does one of those beautiful piles of manure.

 

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.

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.

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.

Update on Drifter

Yes, as usual telling you what Drifter got up to while I was away has jumped the queue and beat me to the holiday post.

They tell me he’s been very good … except when he was naughty!

Mostly he’s only been naughty when they go to bring him in from turnout. Suddenly he feels the need to canter away from anyone who wants to catch him. I’m slightly proud of him making known that he doesn’t think it’s enough turnout, but this is probably because I don’t need to catch him myself. I have no idea whether he’d come in for me or not. Currently he goes out in the afternoons, while I’m at work and I ride in the mornings at weekends so I have no opportunity to find out. This leaves me in the happy position of telling myself I’d have no trouble catching him, while never having to find out I’m wrong! Still I’m pretty sure he’d come for bribes, especially if I put my clicker pouch on (because it suggests I have multiple bribes!)

Apparently he was very good out hacking while I was away, including going through the rather full ford without difficulty. That’s something I suspect he wouldn’t do for me. Last time we tried I ended up getting off and walking him through it in-hand. (Luckily I had old boots on!) His staff rider has strong legs, strong will and isn’t slow to put him in his place, so he must have decided it was easier to go through it for her than to have an argument about it and then end up going through anyway.

He wasn’t solely hacked though, there were schooling sessions in there too … during  which I think he took the piss out of his riders and engaged rocket-giraffe mode. I think this because everyone was saying he was very forward and wanted to canter. And since I’ve got back on I’ve had comments from other liveries about how un-giraffe-like he looks with me! At least one of his staff riders is not very experienced and he probably got away with a lot with her but I don’t have a problem with that. Because she’s inexperienced she doesn’t get much opportunity to ride different horses. If I had booked schooling to improve my horse I wouldn’t ask her to ride, but as I was booking it to keep his arthritis at bay it mattered more that he moved than how he moved, so why shouldn’t she get a ride once or twice instead of always being the one left mucking out while others ride? He’s fast when he’s in that mood but he’s still a safe, kind horse. Everyone tells me they think he wanted to canter but from what I’ve felt since getting on again he has no intention to canter – he just wants to trot really fast to get out of doing any actual work. That’s always been his go-to evasion.

In my first few rides since holiday he’s been trying to pull out the giraffe-rocket trot with me and being reminded I don’t accept it. Once I redirect that energy to all work being done in a polite shape, using the whole horse, not just the forehand, he is forward but not rushing. He’s not offering canter and I’m not asking. He’s not ready. When he can keep the nice trot regular and rhythmic whether on a straight line or a bend, that will be the time to think about canter. Before then I want to be able to trot different shapes without falling out of balance. That is what we need to work on. Once 20 m circles and “going large” are easy and rhythmic we can think of tighter circles and turns and more challenging shapes. I want to work towards him having a body we can control, between us. I do not think either of us will be helped by cantering when he is all over the place in trot. 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. We have so much past of cantering without him being able to let me do the fancy things like … ooh, steering! and I will not risk that when we are building strength back up and know we could hit new joint problems if we get silly. Before we canter I want to know we have a useful level of strength, flexibility and obedience that we can go straight in with a nice canter, not a mad gallopy scramble that scares both of us.

In walk we now have consistent good work for all sorts of shapes including in counter flexion and some tiny bits of lateral work. In walk I can ask for all sorts of different things and get them. Now we will work for that in trot. This is all that I need, all that I want for now. The trotting world is our oyster.

Besides, I hear he is doing plenty of cantering whenever they try to bring him in from the field 😉

 

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P.S. Sarcoid treatment has begun with bloodroot ointment. Early days on that. He’s coping; so are the humans who have to apply it. Not much else to say.