It's fair to say it's been a tough couple of weeks for Nat, with the Hooligan taking early retirement, the Diva struggling with the heat and Speedy T starting her training. Is she still smiling?
The last few weeks, since the Hooligan's retirement and the Diva’s shock diagnosis, have been somewhat of a whirlwind.
In typical Nat style, I plastered a ridiculous grin (grimace?) on my face and went about life as normal.
Tobi's thoroughly enjoying retirement and has settled in well with his little herd.
It’s a lovely balance of him still being pleased to see me on arrival, usually screaming his head off when he sees my car, but then happily heading off with his new friends once he’s had some cuddles.
I don’t think it does much for his street cred having his obsessive mother slobbering him with kisses, but he puts up with it.
The boredom begins
The first couple of days after her hospital visit, the Diva wasn’t herself.
Having endoscopes down her already irritated airways had left her a little uncomfortable, but a few days later I was back on board and we started to get accustomed to a slightly slower pace of life.
For the first week, I think she thoroughly enjoyed it. We hacked around the farm and up the lane and managed a couple of very short bursts of trot.
Then she got bored. And fat.
Being a typical little cob, Florence only has to look at a blade of grass before she resembles a pregnant hippo.
I normally step the work up considerably at this time of year, both for weight and competition purposes, but suddenly found myself in a situation where I'm unable to ask her for much more than walk due to the narrowing of her airways and subsequent pharynx collapse.
Her boredom has manifested itself in a variety of fantastic ways. Her destructive streak has returned, and I've witnessed her tipping over the field water buckets on several occasions, as well as re-modelling my poo picking rake so that it resembles someone with a bad fracture.
She's been through my electric fencing more than once and enjoys dragging anything she can get her teeth on onto the floor as we head down the barn aisle.
In herself, with her new reduced workload, she's been absolutely fine.
What I need to remember is that this pony has been dealing with this condition all her life, so she really knows no different.
It just seems so much worse now that I know what exactly what it is, but to Florence, nothing much has changed. Until that heatwave.
With the temperatures already ridiculously high by early morning, I found myself dragging a very breathless pony in out of the glare of the sun and the thick, humid atmosphere.
I spent large amounts of time spraying her with water and bunching her long mane off her neck for some relief.
But I’ll be totally honest, there were moments during those few days that I did wonder whether the end had come, and if that heatwave had continued on for much longer, I might have been looking at making a heart-wrenching decision.
There was one particularly worrying evening when, despite turning her out late, she got attacked by a swarm of horse flies and started charging about the field, clearly distressed.
Within a matter of minutes she sounded like a faulty steam train, the noise coming from her airway sounded more horrific than ever.
So, like a human fly swat, I followed her around and batted the things away from her, taking several bites off them myself (the things you do for love…).
I think the whole situation was somewhat exasperated by the fact that I was recovering from bladder surgery and had pretty much spent a week feeling either on the toilet or feeling like I was going to burst at any moment.
It was around that time that cracks in my cheery façade started to appear.
It finally dawned on me that everything we have been working towards had been taken away from us and what I was left with was a horrible condition that no-one really understands, and a pony who really doesn’t deserve it.
And then the breakdown...
Work with Speedy T was coming along, after an initial setback when she was badly spooked and I face planted the floor, but, uncharacteristically, my heart just wasn’t in it.
In just a few weeks she was walking and trotting in a soft contact and standing to be mounted and have her girth done up, instead of dancing around like a four-legged Morris Dancer, but I still felt that her inherent sharpness issues meant that she would need a lot more work before she was ready to go out. And I wanted to go out.
I really didn’t realise how much I was going to miss competing but looking out of my living room window at Professor Plum, my lovely purple wagon, my heart was breaking.
I went to write for the dressage judge at a local venue, and this only confirmed how much I wanted to be back out there doing it, as I gazed sadly out of the car window at people cantering around on their horses in the arena, dressed in their competition clothes. Doing what I had worked so hard for with Flo.
As you can probably imagine, the breakdown happened.
I can only apologise to my poor long-suffering parents for the snot and tears that night (I paint quite an attractive picture, don’t I..?).
I realised that I wanted to be out there now, after so many years of bad luck and set-backs.
Speedy T, as wonderful as I know she will be, deserves to go to someone whose heart is in it to produce her slowly and right now, I’m just not the right person for the job.
So the search is on for a new member of the team, which is already proving to be an absolute minefield (but that’s for another blog!).
Speedy T will stay and continue her education with me until I can find the right person to carry on with her, the Hooligan will continue to enjoy his retirement, the Diva will continue to hack out daily and drive me mad with her antics… and I will hopefully regain full control of my bladder and not need to pull over at the side of the road to pee in bushes..!
‘Til next time,