Monday, 25 July 2011

Day Four in the Big Brother House...

...and the inmate is bored, bored, bored, bored, BORED! He's stayed quiet enough to remain turned out, which is good, but the swelling's almost vanished, he's sound and he can't understand why he's restricted to a 10m by 10m square of grass when there's a WHOLE FIELD to eat!

I did at least manage to wrangle him into a rug this morning. When I tried on Saturday night (because there was rain forecast) I had to give up after all three attempts to do the front straps up resulted in him pinning back his ears and lunging at me with bared teeth. It had just started to rain this morning and he was distracted by the new bit of grass (I'd just moved his fence), so he didn't object at all.

September 16th seems a very long time away.

Friday, 22 July 2011


Well, that's it, Merlin is officially retiring.

On Wednesday the two horses in the empty croft next door were bombing up and down because their owner had come and taken away the mini Shetland which had been in with them. It wound Merlin up and I stood and watched from the gate as he raced down the field on the other side of the fence to him. He looked slightly unlevel in trot and when he broke into canter his stride was distinctly choppy, but he walked back up the field sound so I made a mental note to loose school him as soon as possible and have a proper look.

I didn't get it done on Wednesday and spent yesterday in Inverness. He was sound yesterday evening but when I came out this morning he was in obvious pain on the right fore again, hopping lame and not wanting to put much weight on it. The vets made me second call of the morning and Guy turned up with his box of tricks. The fetlock had swollen right up again (cold water earlier hadn't helped at all). No reaction to the hoof tester, so Guy had a gentle feel around the swelling. It was an oedema (fluid swelling) and underneath it the larger of the two tendons in that part of the leg was quite badly swollen.

So I have an initial five days of very strong anti-inflammatories and a prescription of two months TOTAL rest followed by six months of near-total rest and the advice that I can probably forget about riding him again. Guy has agreed that we can try keeping him out on a very, very small sectioned off bit of field, but if he starts bouncing about when it stops hurting then he's going to have to go on box rest for the first two months which will not make him a happy chappy. We'll make a decision about scans and x-rays once he's more sound - there's a portable x-ray machine which can be brought out here, but the portable scanner isn't high-resolution enough for horse legs, so we'd have to take him to Thurso for a scan. He's insured for up to £3,500 of vet bills anyway, so whatever the vets recommend he needs, he'll have.

He seems a little more comfortable this evening (he'll have his second dose of AIs in a couple of hours), I'm just crossing everything I have that we can get him sound enough to enjoy a long and happy retirement pottering around our fields.

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

A visit from the horse listener

This isn't something I would usually spend money on, but my down-to-earth, sceptical, crofting neighbours were having her out for the third year in a row and said she was uncannily accurate, so I thought I'd ask her for a session with Merlin and the dogs. This is what came out.

She started by pressing gently along his back and he nearly collapsed underneath her, which was a big surprise to me because I do the same thing regularly to check there aren't any sore spots and he's never even flicked an ear at it. She explained that it was to do with her energy and that he has a strong memory of having a permanently sore back, he's not always had saddles which fitted.

She got images of lots of other horses pulling things, lots of circles, endless circles, trees without tops, just trunks, endless featureless blue outside them - this kept coming through over and over again and she couldn't work out what it was. Then she got someone standing on his back and a horse doing fancy steps and we worked out he was trying to communicate a circus! He had a horribly severe bit and a saddle Isobel didn't recognise, there were donkeys there too and grey horses with huge necks.

He was gelded without anaesthetic. He says I'm soft with him and he doesn't mind me riding him but if he's not in the mood for doing something he won't (true). He doesn't like doing circles (true). There was a dark horse who wouldn't leave him alone, ever (Mac, last summer) and a grey pony he likes (Corky) that parades up and down the fence. There was a sad grey horse at the dealer yard (true, his best friend there was a grey who died).

He doesn't like children much. The postman likes to gossip with me (true!). He had two long journies of 12 hours or more (true). A needle got stuck in his neck and he span around in his box (Isobel said the vet looked like Keith from the Inverness vets - trying to check on this) and he'd had a lesson in an indoor school (Isobel says possibly James Gunn's place in Halkirk) where a girl fell off over his left shoulder, but it wasn't his fault (checking this with previous owner). He bucked with previous owners (true). He doesn't like jumping, he does like hacking but only on grass (true, the one bit of our failed beach hack he was relaxed on was when we were on the grass track heading inland). He doesn't like any pressure on his mouth (true).

His back feet sometimes get sore and he doesn't like gravel (true). He doesn't like being in his shelter, he prefers to stand behind it (true), and he doesn't like rugs (true) though appreciates that they're sometimes necessary in winter. He LOVES food (true). He can't always be bothered standing to have his feet picked out (true), but some days he just wants to be pampered (true). The farrier is nice but slow (true - he has an apprentice with him at the moment who's very careful). The dealer yard was busy and his stable had a drip in it.

He says I've been busy lately and haven't had as much time for him (true), but I like to watch him (true) and I like to watch the sea (true). He can't be bothered with humans to a great extent, he doesn't understand what they want of him a lot of the time and he's stopped really wanting to try (true, though this is slowly improving, he's much more of a people horse than he was a year ago). He knows Mick is a little nervous around him (true) and says he doesn't see Mick as much as me (true).

She has suggested trying clicker training with him, he's a horse who thinks in boxes and once he's happy with a box it's difficult to push him through the boundary into the next one (true) - CT may help with this.

By the end of the session he looked far more relaxed and when she pressed along his back again he didn't turn a hair. He's walking out more freely and this morning he cantered up the hill to say hello, which he hasn't done since he went lame.

All in all, if you hear that Isobel Hogton is coming to your area, do book a session for your horse, it's absolutely fascinating. She's based in Scotland but covers the whole country. (And yes, the dogs were just as interesting and both of them slept like logs last night!)

Saturday, 9 July 2011

Hooray for farriers!

As per the previous post, I asked the farrier to have a really good look at Merlin's foot yesterday afternoon and after a lot of prodding he found a tiny compression towards the heel. I did ask if this was farrier-speak for "You're not picking his feet out properly" but he told me not to feel too bad about it, it was so small that if he hadn't been looking out for it and using a knife to clean the foot he might well have missed it himself. He cut it out - even cut out the hole is smaller than a 5p - and said that although it wasn't big enough to have caused the initial lameness it certainly would have accounted for his reluctance to put his heel down first.

It's been caught before the hoof started to crack and before any infection got in - he said that untreated it would almost certainly have gone septic - which is good news. Merlin was very careful about walking back down the field after his trim and I saw him standing in that mountain-goat-on-a-rock position when I checked on him last thing, but he walked out more comfortably and this morning he was only slightly unlevel and happily trotted up to the gate when he saw me :o)

So, fingers crossed, we've found the source of the problem and a couple more days of rest and relaxation will see him right. If this fog clears I'm going to give him a bath this afternoon - the newly shorn sheep are sleeping in his field shelter most nights, so when he goes in there and kicks them out he ends up lying in their mess and he has an enormous stable stain which three days of brushing hasn't got out.

His weight is between the 490kg and 498kg marks on the weight tape, so that's 6kg-ish on in 2 weeks. He's on one of my tiny handfuls of beet, soaked, with a scoop of garlic in the morning and nothing else but grass. I think I'm going to have to man up and start riding him in the school again once he's sound, just to help him stay under the 500kg mark.

Friday, 8 July 2011

Still lame...

...and it's all my fault :o( He was almost better, but last Thursday he had a totally avoidable freak accident and we're back to square one. For the past couple of weeks Merlin has been spending two to three hours a day on the rich grass in the second field before going back down to the short-cropped third field and because he'd much rather stay in the second field he's been tricky to catch so I've been leaving him in a headcollar.

You can see where this is going, can't you?

On Thursday I switched the hose on to fill up the water bath in the third field and as far as we can work out he must have had his head in it at the time and spooked, because an hour later when I went down to check him before taking Mick out for his birthday dinner, I found the bath pulled about 10 feet across the field and Merlin's headcollar dangling from the taps :o(

I was very, very, VERY lucky that other than two small gouged bits of skin where the headcollar dug in and a graze on his shoulder he was absolutely fine - that could easily have been a broken neck.

Matters were complicated by us leaving at 7am the following morning for a 1300 mile round trip to see the Foo Fighters at Milton Keynes, but fortunately my very horsey neighbours were animal sitting and Merlin still had four sachets of bute to go from the original prescription, so I left them a letter authorising them to make decisions on my behalf and agreeing to pay for any treatment they and the vet deemed necessary, just in case.

He had his final sachet on Tuesday morning and 24 hours later was still clearing favouring the left leg over the right. The vet and I decided that the best course of action was another 8 days of bute, which he started on yesterday morning, and then another call out if the problem hasn't gone/nearly gone at the end of that. They've put him on a half dose because they want him to feel it enough that he doesn't go bouncing around the field thinking he's fine, but he does seem a lot more comfortable within half an hour of having it in the mornings.

Watching him today he's happy to take the weight on that leg when he's grazing and is looking a lot more sound on the flat. I'm seriously considering halving the roped-off space in the second field and putting him in there full time, because he's much better on the flat than on the sloped sections in the third field (which needs a rest anyway). He's definitely putting that right fore down toe-first though, whereas the left is landing normally. The farrier is out this afternoon to trim him (shoes have been off since November), so I shall ask him to take a look at the heel and if not then I'm guessing possibly he's pulled something in the back of the leg somewhere when he was dragging the bath :o( No heat or swelling in it though.

Hopefully time and vets will sort him out - whenever I start worrying about it again I remind myself that when I strained an ankle running on softer sand than I should have it took two months for it to stop hurting, so as long as he continues to improve, however slowly, I shall continue to thank whatever gods were watching over him last Thursday.