Monday, 8 September 2014

A Turning Point.

So, I moved yards in December to give Hillary the turn out I felt she so desperately needed. The new place was fab, but unfortunately, it was not meant to be. I am not a fan of moving horses a lot, and any decision to move is taken very seriously with Hillary's best interests at heart. She settled in well, and I made some fab new friends. Then came her eye update.

Hillary had experienced a few flare ups over the past few months, and I was increasingly worried that these could have an effect on her cataracts. Again, her behaviour had deteriorated (something the vet warned us about) and I felt as though we needed a cataract check to make sure everything was ok. It was arranged and I waited patiently at the yard for the vet to arrive.

As usual, he took a good look in her eyes and dilated the pupils to help see as much as possible. He asked about behaviour and I answered honestly. She had become more spooky. More "dangerous". Again the vet mentioned going to Leahurst the horse hospital. Again, I brushed it off. This time he was serious. Her eyes were deteriorating . He felt she would be a perfect candidate for cataract surgery. As much  as I didn't want to accept that it was happening, I had to accept that things weren't great. I asked for some details, and said I'd think about it.

For anyone who loves their horse as much as I do, just having them healthy and happy is the most important thing. Riding doesn't really matter when it really comes down to it, but it's a bond inexplicable to the non-rider, a trust built upon a silent language based on equality and working together. For me, not long having beginning to get this back, I didn't want to lose it. Yes, I'd look after her and keep her forever ridden or non-ridden, but that bond, that willingness, that communication to work together, to ask and answer questions of each other without force, was something I'd be devastated to lose. I talked it over at home with my partner Ric, and eventually we decided to go to Leahurst .

We set off on the 10th April before 9AM. The wonderful lady who provided transport chatted to us all the way and made us feel as at ease as we could. Despite not knowing what would happen, I prepared for Hillary to be staying over and having surgery. I'd even got little freezer bags of feed ready, so that she'd have exactly the same as at home. We arrived and checked in. They checked paperwork and sent us back out to wait for someone to come over. When they did, I pulled out my notebook which contained information about everything to do with Hillary. The student vet commented on how well I'd remembered everything. Doesn't everyone?

Hillary was taken into a rubber matted room. There were six vets, a mix of qualified and unqualified, and they all looked into her eyes. For a lot of it, Ric and I didn't know what was being said, and I tried to ask questions. All the way through the exam, Hillary was amazingly calm and quiet and didn't even need sedation for the ultrasound of her eyes. I felt like a proud mother; particularly when the vet noticed she was looking to me for support, and invited me to come to her and stand close by.

After what seemed an age, the vet began to explain what he had seen. Hillary's cataracts weren't severe, she could see pretty well, and despite having some vision loss, this would not explain the behaviour we had been experiencing. There was no surgery. Nothing. I almost felt stupid for coming. Ric asked for clarification as we both felt as though we had been hit by a bus. What next? Why was she deteriorating in her behaviour ? What do I do to get her back to the sane horse she once was? There were no answers, and we were popped back on the horse box and sent home.

The week before going to Leahurst if made the huge decision to move yards again to somewhere where Hillary could retire as the vet had suggested she would if surgery was not an option. The present yard had massive fields full of grass; no good for a retired good-doer. Now we didn't know if we were retiring or not! We had to mace again whether we wanted to or not as her stable had been promised to someone.  I felt as though things were falling apart.

I went home bewildered. I didn't cry; I didn't celebrate. I didn't know what to do. Then finally the warmth came over me as I realised I could still ride my horse. Maybe her behaviour would improve with more riding.... Maybe I needed some medication to help me. I texted Claire my instructor to book a lesson, and the very next day I got back on.  I was only on board for five minutes, but that was five minutes of happiness and relief.

A week and a half later, with new found hope and determination, we moved yards to a tiny place. A turning point had occurred, and I was more than ready for it.

Thursday, 2 January 2014

New year, new start.

Ok, I am sorry that I have not updated this in a while. Lots has happened in my life recently, including getting a new job and buying our house; this has led to a lack of input on here. I apologise.

So May saw the show, and everything was pretty quiet then, until August, when we attempted our first dressage test. I opted to try a test through 'Interdressage' an online site whereby you complete a designated dressage test in your own ménage (or section of field etc) film it, and upload the video to YouTube. You are then judged by along with everyone else who has done the same test. I wanted to do a walk trot test with it being my first ever attempt, so I asked my wonderful instructor Claire to film us. It took three attempts to get it as good as I was willing to upload.

Then came the nail-biting 48 hours waiting to be judged.

When the score came up, I was amazed: 69.75% I was overjoyed.

There were 33 in my class and I came either 12th or 13th (can't quite remember). I was so happy to find something we could do together. The score qualified us for a championship in the September, however, Hillary started to show signs of a sore back, which when checked, told me that her lovely saddle no longer fit her. It took me quite a while to find something to fit, and now own a Heather Moffat Phoenix saddle. This is a soft tree saddle, and is quite different to ride in, however, it fits and she is comfortable. It works.

Hillary spent the summer out, and did very well from it. She loved being out, and despite my worries about her eyes, she was fine.

Finally, the winter has arrived. As we all know, due to the cold nip in the air, decreased turn out, and darkness, our beloved horses are a little sharper. I was prepared for this. Last year, I did well keeping her working, however this year, she seemed to struggle with the darkness more. She began to spook but then not calm down; the more I rode, the more worked up she became. I asked Claire for her opinion, and it was the same. It seems that Hillary is really struggling with the dark. Despite ménage lights, she still finds it incredibly difficult to concentrate without worrying.

So my anxiety began to rise again.

The problem was that with me working, the only was to exercise her was in the dark. And there was another problem: turn out. The yard where she was didn't seem to turn out if it was raining or windy.
For me, this did not meet Hillary's needs. Due to her leg, she needed to be out as much as possible. It was a very difficult decision, but I decided to leave. She must always come first.

The new yard is brilliant for turn out and she is out before 9am. Everyone is lovely and we both feel completely at home.

2014 Is an unknown, and as with all unknowns, you can't begin to predict what will happen. I hope to do another dressage test, and take part in the yard show. One thing is not an unknown: I will continue to love, care for and treasure Hillary, and I will always do right by her. I am on the up again anxiety wise, and am looking forward to keep improving :)

Saturday, 1 June 2013

Catching up...

So it's now May 2013, and I haven't posted since November! So much time has gone by, but when balancing work, family and a horse sometimes its hard to find time for other things. 

The picture above shows Hillary on Christmas day having a roll in the menage with her young friend Lucy. Hillary is a really good 'nanny' to the youngsters; kind, but not up for any messing about! Yet here she is having a really good roll, with the little one looking on. 

January brought on the buying of a 4X4. Not one I'm able to tow with, but one that will hopefully mean that I can get to the farm even in the most severe of weather. Another of my life goals achieved (horse, 4x4...) Sad I know, but that's just me. Just days after I got the car, the snow came with attitude, and I was able to try out the new motor. The lane to the farm was horrendous, full of huge drifts and yet my little 'minibeast' Jimny took it all in its stride, and got me there safely. I can't praise this car enough. I love  it. 

February brought about the last scan of Hillary's leg to be paid for by the insurance. After a couple of 'final' scans, I felt worried that this scan would still not tell me that she was as healed as could be, and that I'd have to find the money to fund another scan myself. However, as I often do, I told myself that if that's what she needed then that's what she'd get. I am not materialistic, and in fact the majority of my money goes on the horse; I do not particularly relish buying clothing, but believe I am in heaven when buying rugs... 

Hillary's scan was brilliant. She is as healed as she can be. Her leg is as strong as a leg as damaged as hers could be. I felt so happy, so proud, so relieved. It had taken a lot of hard work, but now it would mean a lot of building up. Eight months off- there was a lot of muscle loss. 

Next, came her eye check. The vet checked her eyes after dilating the pupils, to see the development of the cataracts. In short, the right eye had deteriorated quite significantly; the left, not as much. Both though, had gone through changes, and meant that vision had been lost a bit more. I felt so happy about the tendon, but for what? If she couldn't see... 

That was February, and I must admit, I don't get as low now. I know lots of people don't think of animals as family members, but I really don't see my animals as anything other than family. If any of my animals is poorly then we move as quickly, and with as much love as we would for a person. My Oli, the tabby cat I rescued ten years ago is allergic to many things, and we have to 'manage' him, but how could you not? 

(OK, got my boy on this blog :)) 

From February onwards, the main priority has been to get Hillary fitter again. I have generally been able to ride six days a week; something I wouldn't have been able to do without the great facilities I have where I am. It's tiring, but seeing her progress is worth it. We now have a regular instructor by the name of Claire, who is amazing at what she does. She is able to push us, but at the same time, is sympathetic to what we are dealing with. I still get pain from my back most times that I ride, and I have to understand that as much as I have issues, so does Hillary. For Hillary, while she is mostly the calm, sensible ride she has always been, she has seemed to become more spooky. I have to make sure that I am ready to deal with this, and that my balance and position has to be in the best place to ride it out. I am so much better in my confidence, however, I am finding that sometimes it is manifesting itself in other ways. For example, I feel that I am always upsetting/annoying people. Whereas most people are able to think rationally about this, I am not, but I feel that this is just another thing to work on; another step to making me the person I want to be. 

Finally, in what has seen a whistle-stop tour of the first part of 2013, I want to talk about now. On the 19th May, Hillary and I did her first show since Aug 2011 (only our 2nd show together).

This picture says it all. We came 4th but we got brilliant comments from the judge. I loved having her in a show- she looked amazing and I felt so proud of her. The next show is in July, and I have every plan to be there. 

I also have every plan to do a dressage test through interdressage this summer. It doesnt matter to me what score we get- the thing that matters is that we do our best and have fun. 

Through everything we have been through, I feel we have become stronger, and now I hope that we are able to enjoy the things that 2013 brings. 

I have nothing but pride in my heart for my little girl, for she brings back the little girl in me. 

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Dark nights

It's November now, and the nights are drawing in. It is confirmation that winter is coming, and with that, comes arguably all the not-so-nice parts of horse ownership. For a start, comes the general cold and dark; that moment when you're looking out of the window of the nice warm car, putting off getting out. For me, I'm always fine as long as I'm wrapped up. It's the dark I don't like. And that's because I'm scared.
As well as the cold and dark, winter brings with it ice and snow, and all the difficulties associated with them. Getting stuck in the car, putting your foot through ice in the water buckets and pulling out the chunks, slipping on the ice, and (of course), mud. I am not yet lucky enough to own a 4x4, so winter is always slightly dreaded to me. I love snow, as long as I  know my horse is fine; otherwise, it becomes my enemy.

A few weeks ago, Hillary had another accident. I noticed that she wasn't opening her eye properly as I approached her in the field, and when I continued to look, and she was continuing to struggle, I began to feel concerned. A call to my vet (about eight minutes into the out of hours emergency-more expensive line) confirmed that Hills needed to be seen.
The vet came and my first thought was how young he looked. Age never occurs to me (I'm 27 next) until I see someone who looks about twelve driving a car. Despite his seeming lack of years, he was very thorough and informative. Hills had either hit herself/been hit in the eye. A week off riding, pain killers, and an eye gel twice a day. I'd be lying if I said I was anything less than totally fed up.

A week later and she was fine. We were back riding and she was off box-rest. We're getting really good at the hacking now, and Hillary is even managing to go through deep puddles- something she's never done! The other week, we saw a pair of Roe deer on our hack; we stared at them and them at us, before they sprung off into the bushes, spooking the horses.

Our schooling is coming along too- we now have a new instructor who is helping us rediscover our balance, and will help us move towards going back to thinking about dressage, and Hills is getting used to being schooled in the dark under the orange glow of the menage lights. I am once again enjoying...loving the riding, and I feel very excited about the future.

After one rollercoaster of a 2012, bring on 2013- I'm ready.  

Sunday, 9 September 2012

Headaches and Highlights

It's been a while since my last post, and a lot has happened. Firstly, Hillary sustained another injury.

It was Sunday morning, and I went to go and turn Hillary out in the field. I approached her stable, and noticed that a part of her forelock looked wet. I didn't think much of it; it had been a little wet in the night, and I assumed she'd had her head out of the door. As I got closer, I realised that the 'wet' in her hair was red, and that there was a few red droplets on her face. Again, I didn't panic- maybe, the flies had bitten her and drawn blood. But the appearance of blood made me decide to check her thoroughly. I tried to move her forelock away, and as she resisted, I saw a cut, and below it, a hole.

My knees buckled, and I immediately felt weak and sick. It was a split second, but I was sure it was a hole. I ran down the yard and found someone. Then I rang the vet.

Photo: :(

Hillary was sedated, and the hole (which can be seen in the above picture ) was cleaned out. It was possible that underneath the huge swelling, there would be a fracture in the skull. I felt so sick. I stayed all day, and began my attempt to clean and put gel on the wound, which would become a routine for the next two weeks.

The vet came two days later, and suggested that there may still be a fracture. It was like a nightmare. Back on painkillers, Hillary still didnt like being touched on her head. It was a difficult task trying to get the prescribed gel on, but eventually, she gave in.

I then went on holiday- my first real holiday in nine years, and my first plane flight. To be honest, I didn't think I'd go away with Hillary being ill, but her head began to heal well, and she was able to go out.

Prior to her head being injured, Hillary had become stressed, and felt uncomfortable when ridden. So, my holiday, had become a way for her to be a horse again, without any ridden work. I too, felt a relief to be able to have a few days away, and to be able to switch off (with daily updates on her general health, of course!)

When I got back, Hillary's head had become a closed up bald patch- the beginning of a scar.Whilst her head was healing well though, she still unfortunately felt very stressed. So I began to look for a calmer for her. In my opinion, she was struggling  with a new place,with her decreased sight. By putting her on a calmer, I hoped to take the edge off the worry and give her chance to chill.

I found epsom salts, and give her some for a few days. She finally began chill out (this is my opinion, knowing my horse, and doesn't in any way intend to publicise this product!).

Also at this time, I made a new friend, and with her horse recovering too, we decided to hack out together.

I have been on several hacks now, and with several different horses. Hillary has been amazing, even coping with a set of 8/9 stairs in the country park. She has followed quietly, and even led. She has proved that despite her ailing eyes, and her recovering leg, she is a trusting, trustworthy partner.

My confidence is growing non-stop and our bond is amazing. There is no-one in the world that even comes close to the way I feel for her. She is my best friend, and my everything.

Life is great.

Thursday, 26 July 2012

A Fresh Start

So much has happened since my last post some two months ago; most notably, we have moved yards.
This move was not something I ever thought I'd do, I'd always been so happy where I was, but as with many things, change happens.

The new yard is closer to home, and Hillary will be able to have the longer turn out she now needs. It was a difficult decision to move, but I felt that it would suit Hillary more, and so I went, crossing my fingers all the way.

Hills has settled well, and is able to go out for longer periods of time. She has two little 12hh field companions, and within about five minutes, she had established herself as herd leader in charge of everyone else. Her stable looks out across the moors to one side, and the neighbouring towns to the other- she has amazing views!

She has had to get used to living where chickens run free though, and where tractors are at work; she isn't particularly bothered though, and it seems like she has been here ages.

Yesterday (24.7.12) the vet came to see her. They were meant to do yet another scan, however the machine is broken and so they had to cancel. So instead they came for a check up. Hills is now off all pain killers, on a feed balancer and glucosamine, going out for between two and four hours, and being ridden for twenty minutes a day as many days of the week as possible. She is looking well, and moving much better. The increased turn out means that she is moving more, and at her own pace which helps the tendon heal. This is something we hope to build up even more.

The vet has noted that for the first couple of trot strides, Hills is quite stiff, and therefore not sound, however, after these few strides, she is looking a lot better. This is great news and I feel so thrilled that she is very nearly sound once again. He then went on to say that in light of this, he recommends stalling with the cancelled scan, and having someone look at her again in six weeks. If she is still stiff then scan again, however, if she is sound, we may have done it, and the scan probably wont be necessary. This adds to the amazing news, and I feel so happy that finally, we may be able to canter and do some proper lessons. But more than that, I feel so happy that finally Hills is almost better, and back to her normal self. I can't wait to put this behind us.

Hills eyes have also been checked, and they are showing no progress since March. This is another brilliant piece of news. Finally, after 2012 seeming so challenging and 'unfair', I'm feeling things are picking up. I hope this continues and hope that after all our hurdles, we can finally get on with strengthening our bond, and enjoying life together.

Here's to new beginnings, fresh starts looking forward to new horizons x.

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

A Good Day

A very brief post here, inspired by the picture....

This is the image I see every day when I arrive at the farm, and it is without doubt the most happiest part of my day....

Hills spent twenty minutes in the menage today, eating her hay in the sunshine. She had the sun on her back as she munched, and I sat quietly watching her, happy that she was outside in the open. After a roll in the sand, she put in a couple of bucks, and had a little canter whilst throwing her head about with happiness and joy.

Better news yet, when I brought her back up to the yard, I left her ten minutes to chill whilst I did a couple of jobs. After those ten minutes there was only the slightest bit of heat in the leg. I keep having to pinch myself to let me believe we're on the up. Soon I'll be on her back and we'll canter happily together in our own world.....