If you have your own horses, or you’re anything like me, you’ll have been awake for at least an hour already. The curse of Equestrianism, the day before you get your first horse or pony will be your last ever lie-in. Embrace it. It’s gotten to the point now where even on the days someone is feeding & popping the ponies out for me, I’m up and awake. Early bird catches the worm and all that.
Freddie looked really sorry for himself, stood at the back of his stable at the vets with his head down not even eating his hay, when we arrived yesterday. He knows how to make me feel really guilty, I’m sure. If only you could tell them you’re doing it to help. He’s got thick bandages up his back legs, from his hooves to above his hocks, and a big thick foam pad on his back over his spine. Apparently, he’s taken a disliking to these bandages and keeps trying to rub them off with his other foot. Not helpful when there’s stitches under there Fred. The bandages can be changed on thursday, unless he pulls them before then in which case he’ll need them changing sooner. He can cope 3 days without rubbing them off, right? (Saying that, it IS Freddie…)
His stitches can come out around the 27th of this month for both his back and legs, providing everything is healing nicely. I’ve (unfortunately) had to nurse a few horses with long term injuries, including stress induced laminitis (this pony had something neurological underlying unfortunately), Cauda Equina Syndrome which is a truly awful disease to watch take hold, tendons that have been shredded, a mare with crippling arthritis that needed the usual in hand walking, and that one time Freddie got spasmodic colic in the first year we had him. Then there was my first pony Zak who was never lame in the 8 years we owned him and was basically a thelwell pony. Thank you for the only easy time (in terms of vets!) in my Equestrian Career Zak, you stubborn old git.
I put my ability to not panic when something happens down to having dealt with all the above, and my fairly decent knowledge of ‘vet stuff’ down to the fact I wanted to be a vet (after deciding Paleontology wasn’t for me aged 6) for about 10 years so read every book, did all the research and learnt as much as I possibly could. Whilst on occasion when riding I’m a bag of nerves, my knowledge of said vet stuff is something I have confidence in *insert smiley emoji*.
Anywho, my grey beastie did a classic ‘Freddie Moment’ yesterday.
There was one day last year after a show when Freddie decided he wasn’t going to be a fantastic loader any more, and it took us an hour to convince him to go back on. Since then, he’s taken a minute of planting his feet but then wanders on up after a feed bucket. Nothing too dramatic, he just needs to have a moment. Which is fine.
Yesterday, it had just started raining, and the traffic on the motorway was building as it was Bank Holiday Monday (we forgot) so once we’d spoken to the vets and got his prescription (in an actual prescription bag that would make my dad jealous – he’s a man flu sufferer) it was about time we were leaving. I’d brought the usual feed bucket with me, and a lunge line just in case.
We tootle on over to the box, walk up to it as normal, have a stop and a sniff, two front feet up like usual (I’m expecting him to do the usual and walk straight up now) and then…
He went backwards.
Yesterday, the one day we are in a little bit or a hurry, and he absolutely should not be pulling around putting any strain on his legs, he decides it’s a good time to be an absolute drama queen and refuse point blank to on the box. Cheers Fred, you absolute twit.
Now, I’m absolutely not a believer in aggression when it comes to getting a horse to do something – a friend of mine once told me about a study that had been done, that proved horses learn absolutely nothing when they’re under stress, so battering a horse onto a box won’t teach it to go up next time, in fact it’ll make things worse.
So, we tried again. And again. And again. The problem with Fred is, the more pressure you put on him, the more he will not cooperate. If I were to stand there pulling the lead rein, he’d simply say ‘Sod off’ and bugger off. He also despises being penned in (which is why I think he’s reluctant to load into a 3.5 tonne box as he’s fine in 7.5’s) so you can’t use side boards or anything – though this can work with some horses. In the end, he was pratting around on his dodgy legs so much we said enough was enough and just held a lunge line behind his jelly like bottom (with the help of the very patient Mike from Mustang Transport who was picking Freddie up for us) and up he went. Normally, I’d take as long as needed and get him up without any kind of pressure but I simply couldn’t risk him damaging those legs! As usual, he traveled home brilliantly and unloaded fine.
He went straight into his stable where a huge, fresh bed was waiting for him – and peed all over it. He seems happy enough to be home. Today I’ll be hand grazing him for a few minutes but he’s on box rest for the next month before he can start the in hand walking and small paddock turnout. It’s going to be a long slog ahead of us, but at least he’s home! Onwards and upwards from here!