Wednesday, 22 June 2011

A spot of gardening on horseback....

I have enjoyed a couple of jumping lessons with Sandra Low Mitchell since my last post. Took Garth my experienced horse and Amelie my home bred youngster for her first ever lesson off the place last week. Garth was fresh and spooked every time we went past a new filler that looked like three giant psychedelic liquorice whirls. I sort of saw his point. Every time you looked at it it seemed to move and swirl around. Was enough to make me feel dizzy, however he soon settled and jumped well with his usual enthusiasm.

Garth relaxing in the field with his buddies Jerry and Reuben in the background.

Amelie takes things in her stride
Amelie delighted me by loading and travelling like a pro and when I took the ramp down she was nonchalantly chewing hay. Mounting I expected her to revert to her alter ego as a giraffe, but she was a star and took everything in around the strange school, including the full set of bright jumps, she even ignored the liquorice whirls and coped with a horse beside the school that trotted with us in a sort of pairs dressage every time we rode up the long side. I was thrilled.
I haven't really jumped this horse yet as she was tricky for a while on the flat (see older post). Sandra started us off with a small cross pole - no bother, so we graduated to an upright followed by an upright with a Scottish flag filler - after an initial look she put in a massive jump. Then onto an oxer and, as she was growing in confidence, we finished by stringing it all together into a small course with a scary fish filler fence to finish. No real hesitating just lovely bold brave jumps. I couldn't have been more chuffed.
I took her back again for a second lesson last night and she was even better. Happily popping the scariest fillers, she even jumped the huge 4ft wide water tray full of rainwater. I caused much amusment by nearly ending up sitting in a large muddy puddle yards after the water tray when Ams swerved violently to avoid getting her feet wet.
As the mare is very enthusiastic in front of fences and still has a tendency to throw her head up Sandra made me sit light but very upright into each fence, so that I am not tempted to push her over them at all with my upper body - holding onto a neck strap a few strides out from each fence also helps as I can use that as well as my reins to ease her up a little. This helps to take any pressure off her mouth so she learns to stay relaxed about her jumping, and helps me sit even quieter when she takes a huge leap. We just need to concentrate on trotting quietly into each one until she learns that we don't need to speed up to jump.
My friend Julie shared this last lesson with us on her handsome TB ex- racer Jerry. He is a lovely horse and she has done a fantastic job of bringing him on during the time she has been on the yard. He used to ride like a hollow board of wood but is now soft and supple with beautiful paces. He also  hacks out happily now (he used to go backwards as fast as he went forwards) and enjoys gallops on the beach. However he is still pretty suspicious of scary fillers and tonight Julie did a great job of sitting very tight until he was popping more confidently over everything.
Julie and Jerry the ex-racer looking good in a dressage test.

Ams earned a bite of the good grass.

My new sport - gardening on horseback...
Amelie and I also managed to do a little gardening together this week. I had tried a few times while riding Garth to break off some low hanging branches around the school but he was having none of it  - shooting off the minute I so much as shook a leaf. So I though I would try on Ams. She stood stock still under each tree even when I stood right up in the stirrups wrestling like a demented Alan Titchmarsh with some bigger branches. Nor did she move a muscle when the branches brushed her sides when I let them drop to the ground. Now that's what I call unflappable.

Modetia wondering where her next haynet is coming from but she is much sounder and doing well.

Modetia doing well
Modetia is ensconced on her beach bed of sand and is much sounder with her new shoes on. She is not out of the woods yet, but she appears to be doing ok. She will be rescanned in approx five weeks and that will be critical - if the scans show the pedal bones haven't rotated anymore she will have two more months inside on her road to recovery. Luckily she copes brilliantly with being in - she has always liked being stabled especially if she can hear rain on the roof and as long as she is tucking into some hay she is fine. She is not particularly keen on the hay being soaked for 12 hours (this remove most goodness to keep any weight off) but appears to have philosophically decided that it is better than no grub at all.

The road to Rowallan
I had hoped to take Garth to Rowallan last weekend to compete however he managed to wangle a few days off by giving himself a small nick on in inside foreleg. Although he was sound on it there was some heat and a little swelling and a tendon boot would have rubbed so discretion meant cancelling even though he was all washed and my clean tack was hanging up in the truck. I consoled myself with taking my two boys down to our local farm shop for a coffee and huge cream scone. Oh well!

Coco before she left - Fergus is sitting in the background wondering when I am going to stop hugging horses and get him his tea!

Onwards and upwards
This weekend I am looking forward to some lessons with Ernest Dillon who is up on his monthly visit, I am also looking forward to hearing how Coco is. He bought her from me recently, she is a beautiful four year old I bred out of Modetia by a Selle Francais stallion, LS Napeny. I am really going to miss her, as I hate selling my horses but it is time for her to start her career and she has gone to a great home where she will  have every chance to reach her full potential. As the weather is so wet at the moment we are decamping for this weekends lessons to an indoor school not far away. I am taking both Amelie and Garth whose leg is fine now. Hopefully we can get to a show the weekend after.
On Sunday the family might troop to the Highland Show as long as we don't need to wear waders all day! Is summer ever going to come to Scotland this year?

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Bad times for Modetia


Bad news this week for my gorgeous 17-yr-old mare Modetia. She came down with what looked like a colic and or a urinary infection just over two weeks ago. Although my vet and I were suspicious of laminitis there were no symptoms other than an odd stiffness to her gait to substantiate this. There was no pounding digital pulse, no heat in the feet and the whole of her body looked stiff - like an extreme azoturia. So treatment was conservative, antibiotics to clear up the coca-cola coloured urine and a big dose of Danilon twice a day for pain and inflammation relief. She had two sets of bloods taken over the next week which were all normal, apart from slightly raised liver levels in the first one, which had returned to normal by the second one.
We decided that daily turnout on a short grass paddock was easing off her joints so I continued with this for a few days. Unfortunately she suddenly got incredibly stiff and lame again so I called the vet and he decided to bring in another local vet who could come and X-ray her feet as the spectre of laminitis loomed again.
To my dismay these showed that her front feet are both showing signs of pedal bone rotation with the right fore being particulalrly bad with a greater degree of sinkage.
It means that the next few days are critical for her. We need to stop the pedal bones from any further movement. Both vets are also think that this is a possible case of EMs or a metabolic laminitis as the mare was semi-fit, not fat or overfed and working right up to the time of this attack.
It was recommended that I put her on a sand bed so yesterday my friend Tom got up at 7am and took his tractor to the local quarry and came back with four tons of sand. He managed to reverse straight into her pen and then Julie and I, in a work out worthy of any gym bunnies, smoothed it all out to make her a bed that is at least 6" deep of cool sand.
The special Imprint shoes fitted

Working with the farrier
My fantastic farrier , Dougie Crawford came this morning and fitted her with a pair of heartbar Imprint shoes. He was sent a set of her X-rays so the shoes could be expertly fitted to give her maximum relief. Dougie recommends that I leave these shoes on for upto 10 weeks, as he knows the mare's feet are incredibly slow growing and thinks that the longer we can leave them on the more chance her feet will have to start healing.
Hopefully there will be no more dramatic deterioration over this time and then she can be x-rayed again to make sure that we have stopped any further pedal bone rotation. If the pedal bones have stabilised then all well and good we keep on with treatment of box rest and she will then be fitted with metal heart bar shoes. So as long as her pain levels are controllable and there is no further dramatic pedal bone rotoation then there is hope for  her.
Modetia in her specially bedded sand box. The sand supports her feet at all times which is very important.

More tests
Last night I starved her for 12 hours so the vet could take more blood samples - these are going to Liphook Equine hospital where they will be tested for things like diabetes and other metabolic upsets. They are also going to test for Lymes Disease as she had a tick bite a while ago which left a large lump under the skin and I have read that this can be a cause of founder in horses, so we may as well cover all bases. Obviously I am hoping to find out the cause of the laminitis as otherwise it will be difficult to control long term.

Modetia is my horse of a lifetime. She is 17 now and I have had her since she was a just broken five year old. She was imported from the famous VDL stud as a youngster by the Low Mitchells from Balcormo Stud. She is by of a stallion called Highline out of a mare, Godetia. I had a horse for sale at the time who had grown too big for me and the plan was to buy a new youngster once he had sold. Then Sandra Low Mitchell called me one day and said, 'I am sitting on your horse why don't you come over and ride her'. Now when Sandra says that if you do go over - you better have your cheque book ready as she is rarely wrong about the sort of horse that will suit you as a rider.
Modetia showing how careful she is over a fence.

They don't come along like this everyday 
When I arrived she was riding this beautiful sparky little bay mare - about 16.1 and sharp as a tack. I took one ride on her and that was that, I couldn't resist her. She is one of these horses that makes you feel a little more alive just by sitting on them. Always sharp and spooky she was scopey with a great line in 360degree spins, she was fabulous. The Low Mitchells had imported her after a visit to the VDL stud. Modetia went onto win the inaugural Scottish Sports Horse 3-yr-old loose jumping, held at the Royal Highland Show and went on to be broken and show style and scope over a fence.
I went on to forge a great partnership with her and we jumped courses together I never in my wildest dreams thought I would jump.  Then when I had my children she had two foals for me.
Once I got back to jumping again Modetia came back into work and proved to have lost none of her old enthusiasm, it is awful to see her in pain and reduced to pottering around the box like she is. So here's hoping that the vets find something concrete in those bloods that we can work with in the future.

Friday, 10 June 2011

Ponies and pipedreams...

Life is never dull around horses - you will have ups and downs and sometimes these all happen at once. Since my last posting Garth's splint has firmed up and he is working hard again and ready for his first show in nearly 8 months this weekend, so I am really looking forward to that, I will start by jumping a 1.05m and then the 1.15m, if all goes well. I gave him a pop in the school the other night and he is feeling great. I am one of these riders that can't resist show jumps in the school. I have to behave and not jump whatever is up everyday when I am working in there otherwise that's pretty much all I would do.
When I was a little girl my friend Linda and I used to make jumps out of any old thing around, wood, road cones, pea sticks  (granddad used to have to find more to rescue his wilting peas and beans) and I have abiding memories of the two of us in the dusk at the end of a long childhood summer day, cantering, galloping and jumping around the field on foot as the sun went down behind the Welsh mountains.
Brook - the little Welsh Mountain pony my Granddad bought for me for the princely sum of £4.

Long Welsh summers
In fact it was my fantastic Granddad, Cyril Hughes who lit the horse bug properly for me when I was eight. I had always had horses galloping around in my head but he started a lifetime's passion for me by buying two Welsh ponies from the local gypsies for the sum of £8. One was dapple, steel grey and the other a palomino. I called the grey, Brook after my grandparents house and the palomino Lightening - fine names for ponies I thought.
To my parents horror Granddad told me I could keep one and he would then sell the other. They were wild and unbroken, straight off the hills and I spent hours sitting quietly in the Orchard field with them waiting to see if they would come and sniff me. In the end I choose to keep the grey whose cheeky character I liked and Lightening was sold to my best friend Linda who lived next door to my grandparents old Welsh smallholding.
As I lived in Scotland from then on I lived for my holidays when I could get back down to Wales and spent every moment I could there. The ponies were semi-broken by a local girl and then I, in those days before the cloak of Health and safety settled over the world's shoulders, merrily got on a rode my pony. For the first year we didn't posses a saddle - not that it bothered me - I learnt to stick on and go anywhere at any speed. We were surrounded at the time by common land - big stretches of beautiful wild shrubby, gorsey heath with tracks, trails and ponds dotted throughout that anyone could use use. It was possible to ride for miles from village to village then - and that's what Linda and I did. We would meet in the morning at 9am and that's the last anyone would see of us until teatime at 5pm - can you imagine letting your 9-yr-old daughter do that now!
Brook in the old shed that was his stable - note the lovingly painted stable nameplate
We finally bought an old saddle and I have marvellous memories of hacking, with my grandpa walking, to small local shows where I would take part in the gymkhana games and then we would walk home again. I had no idea that me and my pony had no proper tack and we must have looked a funny, scruffy pair together in the ring - although I always made sure Brook gleamed, I washed him so much.
Hopelessly outgrown this is the very last time I ever sat on my beloved pony.

Over the years I grew far too big for my beloved pony but as long as my grandparents were healthy Brook stayed with them and I still went down every single holiday for years to look after him. Eventually my adored grandmother became ill and my granddad had too much to do so my dad drove down to Wales with a borrowed trailer and bought him up to Scotland where I gifted him to Ian and Elizabeth Comrie at the marvellous Housten Farm where I enjoyed weekly riding lessons for years (a whole other blog post). Brook never took to life as a riding school pony and eventually after he had reversed a whole circle with a poor child when she wanted him to go forwards, he went locally to a private home.
My Granddad Cyril at home with me and Chrissie his dog, not long before he died.
I never would have thought back then that I would end up owning and breeding some fabulous horses and running a livery yard  when I got older. I will never forget my grandparents and Brook. Sometimes, in my dreams if I am lucky, I am transported back in time I am riding my pony; my granddad is walking beside me and we are chatting together - a tall thin girl on a scruffy grey pony and an old man with a limp got from marching across Italy during the war. Although they are all long gone they remain a treasured part of my life - a time when it was just me on my pony galloping over the Welsh mountain as careless as birds in the sky.

Me and my fabulous mare Modetia competing here at Blair.

Horse of a lifetime
As I mentioned at the beginning of this post - life with horses has its ups and downs - this week my beautiful mare Modetia is struggling with a mystery illness. Over a week ago she presented with vague colicky symptoms that have since turned into what could be Azoturia or a weird un-symptomatic laminitis - she is stiff all over and unwilling to move. Although there is no heat in the feet, no temperature and nothing to show in blood tests my vet and the vets at the Dick Vet School are puzzled so we have decided to go for general x-rays on Monday to see if we can pinpoint what this illness is. As I write this she is in her stable, to all intents and purposes eating and drinking normally but pretty much unwilling to move so keep your fingers crossed for her she is my horse of a lifetime and as time goes on so the worry increases.

Bob the shire having a word in his mate, Flyer's, ear, at the farm here last winter.
Welcome home
Bob is back! Another horse on the yard a massive gentle giant of a shire, Bob, is hopefully on the mend from a nasty kick to a hock. He left here on what was hopefully to be a long term loan but due to an unfortunate set of circumstances got kicked in the field there. The vet was worried that the leg could be fractured, however his owner Pam managed to get him back to our farm and he is in the field slowly making what we all hope will be a full recovery. The hock is still very swollen and obviously causing pain but he is putting weight on it which we are all taking as a good sign.

Beach bums
Oh and I took Garth and Julie on Jerry, her ex-racehorse, for her first ever gallop along the beach. Garth and I cantered along behind her as Jerry stretched his long thoroughbred legs along the sand. When I asked her if she enjoyed it she grinned and said, 'It was brilliant all I could hear was the noise of his hooves and the wind' - result.