Nat's blog: Dressage Champs, Sick Notes and Rodeo

It's not been an easy month for the Diva or the Hooligan. Here to explain what's been going on is their long-suffering owner, Nat

As you're probably starting to realise by now, life with the Diva and Hooligan is anything but boring. 

I do sometimes the long for the day where I'll own equines that don’t come with a whole host of physical or emotional baggage, but where would be the fun in that...?

Anyway, the last few weeks have been no different. 

As I write this, both horses are booked in to go to ‘horsepital’, within four days of each other. 

My vet has already joked that, at this rate, I should receive an invite to their Christmas night out. 

Given that I’ve had more appointments up there over the last 20 years with my horses than most people do in a lifetime, I’m actually surprised I haven’t had a wing at the hospital named after me.

The (not so) merry month of May

May started well enough. The Diva had qualified for a local dressage championship on the 1st, which was to be her Intro swan song, before moving up to Prelim. 

Unfortunately, the approach to the date didn’t quite go to plan. 

Last October, I'd called the vet about her excessive breathing during work, and we'd put it down to a combination of being a little bit portly and a potential muscle problem. 

A change of diet massively helped these strange mini tying-up episodes, but the breathing problems have remained. 

The run-up to the championships involved a very breathless Diva, every session involved her crawling along like a walrus with a heart complaint, so we abandoned the schooling and turned to hacking, meaning we never actually got one complete run-through of the test. 

I seriously considered withdrawing and had already made my mind up that the vet needed to come back out, but I decided that, as it was only Intro, we would head up there to do our three minutes in the arena and see what happened. 

She tried her best, despite losing a bit of suppleness on the three-loop serpentine (gawping at the gallery, as usual), but the noise she made underneath me, for the tiny amount of work she was actually doing, wasn't normal. 

We managed to place 2nd, with 72.39%, and she had her first taste of a prize-giving. 

The Diva had decided that the applause in the gallery was solely for her and relished every second of it. 

Our lap of honour, which my Dad caught on video, was less dressage pony and more ostrich, as we trotted around to a load of clapping, with her ears planted firmly up my nostrils.

Fast forward a few days later and I'm stood in the manège, lunging a hairy and excessively noisy steam train, while the vet looked on with puzzlement. 

We managed to keep her going for 15 minutes, and by the end of it, she looked and sounded like I do when I run up the stairs, although granted, I’m usually the colour of a cherry tomato and clutching my chest. 

Bloods taken before and after exercise showed that there was no obvious muscle involvement, so the next step is to take her in for a procedure called an over-ground endoscopy, which she is having during the last week of May. 

This will look at her airways while she's being ridden by me, so the vet can see if there's anything going on in there that might be causing the noise. 

If nothing's found, she'll have a tracheal wash to see if we could possibly be dealing with some form of COPD or allergy. 

So that’s where we are with regards Florence. She's enjoying light duties in the meantime, which suits her down to the ground, but isn't ideal given that it’s Spring time and I'm battling to keep her weight down. 

Not that I’m much better. The pair of us could be high contenders for ‘rear of the year’ at the moment. 

I'm trying to remain positive and hope that this is something that can be sorted out, but given my tendency towards having horses diagnosed with career-ending ailments, I can’t help but feel slightly devastated about the whole situation. 

I've found a fantastic way of cheering myself up, but it involves donuts, and this is causing a hindrance to my fastening of pants.

Not one to be left out

The Hooligan, never one to miss out on the drama, threw some of his own fun into the mix. 

The vets and I had agreed to start him on a course of Danilon to see if it had any impact on what we assume is some form of hock arthritis. 

He has had a draggy hind toe for as long as I have known him but in recent months it had gotten a little more noticeable. 

Anyway, the Danilon appeared to have very little effect and he developed what was potentially the early signs of colitis (because, of course, Tobi can’t do anything by halves), so we had to bring him off it. 

On top of this, his new found 180° spin trick was being made even more exciting by the addition of a whirling rodeo act. 

I’ve long admitted that this horse is a complete idiot, but he has always been extremely polite with it and never once has he purposefully tried to remove me from the saddle. 

The two times I've been removed from his back in the last six years, I've simply been the victim of collateral damage. 

Granted, one of those times involved me torpedoing head first into the ground like some sort of WW2 missile, but he did genuinely seemed devastated about what had happened and spent the majority of the next week batting his eyelashes at me sorrowfully as I limped about around him. 

So, after another discussion with the vet, I'm sending him in for back x-rays, as I have a horrid, niggling little doubt in the back of my mind that his hock issue may well be stemming from something else and that this might also be the cause of his change in behaviour. 

Needless to say, he now has a sick note until I know categorically that he isn’t in any pain.

I’ve done my best to keep my spirits up, as no-one looks good wearing misery. 

I volunteered to do some writing for the dressage judge at a local venue last weekend, which was great fun and taught me a lot (if you haven’t done it, and you like dressage, do it!). 

The free bacon butties and coffee’s went down a treat too!

Hopefully I'll have some positive news for you in the next blog, but if you could all keep your fingers crossed, that would be great…

‘Til then,

Nat x