Diary of an Equine Mum

Saturday, 3 January 2015

Let's Get Blogging...If I Find Time!

Zeb's Caricature by Emily Cole for Haynet
I'm meant to be cleaning the house today, I meant to be doing some food shopping, I meant to be answering some work emails BUT I'm not doing them now - I am writing a long overdue blog post!

As we have entered 2015 I have been reading some super equestrian blogs and are slightly envious how up to date they all are. My blog however is not.... So if I make one New Years resolution (forget the diet, save money (yawn) it is going to be MAKE TIME. This is one factor of my life that I seem to struggle badly with. I think my time management is a bit pants really. I'm great at faffing about, looking busy but not actually achieving all the goals that I dearly want to accomplish.

Miles and Billy - September 2014

So what is my news? 2014 was in general an OK year, nothing melodramatic on the family front thankfully. The boys are now pretty much adults. Billy is now an apprentice legal financial assistant which he is enjoying. It has come hard to work from 9-5.30pm on an apprenticeship wage, but he has grown up immensely for it. Miles is in his second year of his BTEC engineering diploma and is planning to stay on another year to complete levels 4 and 5. He has recently passed his driving test (yes the worry has now doubled) and is working part time for Waitrose. It's great getting the discount and all the much reduced food that he brings home.

Stephen is well. He had an ankle operation in February last year and now he is fitter than ever walking miles with Harley pups!

Harley having some Christmas pet humiliation

Some of you that have taken the time to read my blog or be in on Haynet may know that I have had a very turbulent year with Zeb's health. Thankfully his very bad arthritic pasterns have reacted brilliantly to the turmeric I have been feeding him and he is so much better. I have to confess that I have barely ridden in the last few months. Again I have to use the age old excuse of time. Luckily a friend of a friend is riding out most weekends with him so he is getting out and about. With the change in turnout, he is lucky that the fields can take him being out as much as he can but of course he has to come in when the weather takes hold.

The Lovely Zeb
The mud fever has been kinder this year. He seemed to get it in November with a vengeance and I was dreading seeing how we were going to manage through this winter dealing with it. Thankfully with a couple of new products I have tried, it has cleared up. With washing his legs just once a week in an anti-fungal shampoo and using Equimins Mud Slide Lotion, he seems pretty clear. Luckily the fields aren't too muddy at the moment with the weather being much kinder this year than the incessant wind and rain we had last winter.

So yes my goal is to get motivated and get back in the saddle more which benefits not only him but me too. With the amount of money he costs me, I need to have the "it's worth it" feeling again!

Haynet has been going great through 2014 and again I do not give it the time it deserves. I have plans for the next year with extra help which is so needs. I have some fantastic members and work with some brilliant people through the site.

I end on a very sad note. I wasn't going to mention it, but I feel we have to put life into prospective sometimes. We lost on Monday a very lovely man who is a family friend of ours in a horrible car accident. Dan sadly lost his life while going off to open his butchers shop and lost control of his Land Rover on a lane covered in sheet ice. He was only 25 and sadly leaves his young wife a widow and his lovely four week old baby girl without a father. It has been a somber New Year for everyone that knew him and also a numbness on how can it happen. His wife sadly lost her sister in a car accident two years ago too, so the pain is immense. 

So let's grab life, stop moaning, make time for what you want to do in life and make the most of it. If that can be my New Years resolution please! Now shall I clean the house??

Sunday, 10 August 2014

The Golden Light Of Hope!

So from my last post about the old dude, Zeb was diagnosed with arthritis in his cannon bones, pasterns and soft tissue swelling in his coronet band. As you know, he was terrible on daily bute turning him into a zombie and I really feared for his future at that time.He was so poorly there was the awful  nagging thought of whether to put him through a winter, with all these painful ailments he was having.

After the vet's visit, I decided to put his shoes back on and see how he was to hack out, seeing as he was brighter being off the chemical painkillers. The farrier told me it would be a few days before he could get to me, so I had to wait. In the meantime, I had been reading on Haynet where a lovely member told me a while ago about the benefits of feeding turmeric, especially for arthritic horses. I decided to join the Turmeric User Group on Facebook and then had a good read up on turmeric which was used for a variety of conditions in horses, dogs and humans. There was so many success stories and being a natural substance, what was there to lose in trying it?

So when my 5kg bag arrived just over a week ago, I hot footed up the yard to feed it to him. I mixed it with some olive oil and freshly ground pepper which was the advice from the Facebook group. I made it into a paste and added it to his feed. Well he took two mouthfuls and then threw his feed bucket across the field.......Not to the greatest of starts then! I decided not to make the paste and just sprinkle it in his feed with a smaller amount. This worked a treat and he ate the whole lot. I then increased it each day and he now has a whole heaped tablespoon and he licks the bowl clean. 

So has there been a difference? Well in my opinion a huge difference. He is so much perkier and upbeat and has been seen cantering around the field this week - yes cantering! His shoes were finally put back on Friday and yesterday I could not put it off any longer - I needed to see if he was fit to ride. I was dreading it.... Dreading it because what if he was still lame after all the rest, care and attention I have put in over the last three months to make him better?

He pulled his usual faces when the saddle came out and played with the bit when putting on his bridle - these were very good signs as this is the normal 19 year old Zeb that I know! I hopped on asked him to turn in a large circle, which he was totally at ease with. I hacked out with my friend Sue and Zeb's buddy Flick for a straight, flat walk for about 20 minutes. I tried to keep him at a slow pace, but he was marching out. Totally forward going and on a mission. This is truly unbelievable - he has been so poorly over the last few months so it must be the turmeric?? It was a joy to be back riding him and I have had such an emotional and turbulent few months worrying about him. 

I will hack him out this week, giving him a few days off in between. So for now, we have hope. I have read up so much about arthritis and I am now armed with this information to make him as comfortable as I can. He is not a horse to be retired and he does suffer in the winter. However, we are now staying at our summer grazing home which has more acreage which means he can be turned out far more through the winter than previously. Keeping him moving is vital.

So with turmeric and better turnout, I hope this will keep my Zeb happy, sound and out of pain. Long may it continue!

Sam and Zeb

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

The Latest On Zeb

I finally have an update on the old boy's health which I have been waiting for a few weeks now. (Sadly my vet is going through some health problems at the moment, hence the delay).

About ten days before the xrays were due I decided to take him off the daily dose of two sachets of bute. He really wasn't good on the drug - very down, lethargic and really no life in him. He hung round the gate with very little enthusiasm at all. I was putting this down to the fact he was in pain and the bute just wasn't working. Since taking him off the bute he is so much brighter and better!

So the xrays were done 10 days ago and the vet thought he was marginally better but was concerned about the puffiness of his coronet band. I had the results this morning and they were pretty much what I thought. He has arthritis in the coffin joint and pasterns in both front legs. They are not chronic but there is a fair amount there which is not going to get better. After a long pragmatic chat about his situation and upon her advice, I have decided against steroid or cartrophen injections.

So what am I going to do? Well I've decided to get back in the saddle with him this weekend and see how he is riding out at a slow, short hack. He has had about ten weeks rest so I am hoping he will be better and if he can be ridden out gently, then this is what I will do. So if he is sound with gentle exercise and turnout and showing me no real signs of pain, then I have decided to see him through the winter. The only problem I worry about is the mud fever.... He cannot come in for weeks on end, which is what happened the winter just gone. BUT I will do all I can to make him comfortable and keep him going without being in pain, with plenty of turnout. However if he is hopping lame, miserable and in pain, then I think the decision is made for me.

I have put him on Devils Claw and trying out some oils in his feed. Zeb is only 19 which I know is no age for a horse. However, his hefty workload in his younger days as a Grade B show jumper have come back to haunt him as this form of arthritis is very common in show jumpers later in life.

So hooves crossed he get's a bit sounder with some gentle exercise and his daily dose of Devils Claw keep his pains at bay. Positivity for the future - I will keep you posted.....

Saturday, 21 June 2014

I Will Do My Absolute Best For Him


My poor old Zeb has not been right for quite a few months now. I moved him in April for some summer grazing as the fields at the farm where he has been for over 7 years have really been trashed by the awful winter we had last year. Unfortunately for Zeb who always suffers with mud fever, he had to come in for 10 weeks or more as the fields were liquid knee high mud. This box rest though is detrimental for his legs also as he then suffers from edema. He has such a large frame being 17.2 with short boxy hooves so his confirmation is really not good, especially now he has reached his veteran years. This year it was bad though and he was really stiff and swollen. No matter if he had gentle exercise in the school, rode him out or just turned him out in the school  for a run about, the other 23 hours a day being in was doing him more harm than good. I've tried everything to reduce the swelling from bandaging to using magnetic boots but it didn't really help. His swelling was so bad his poor little winky was nearly hanging to his knees! He is a huge big old boy that needs to move.

Since April he hasn't been 100% sound. He became lame in his near fore which I thought at the time he had twisted it as he was in a new field in new surroundings and high jinx was to blame. After cold hosing, equine claying and using a boot with some bute too, he became better. Not 100% sound but better. When riding him though(only gently) he just felt not right.... Although this leg seemed to have improved he felt off to ride. Then a couple of weeks ago he became very lame in his offside front leg. I did the same treatment initially but was thinking that this cannot be an injury or tendon as why would it replicate into another leg?? Then navicular came creeping into my head.... So it was time for the vet who came out this week.

After a thorough examination, a trot up and lunging on both legs my vet is pretty sure he has degenerative arthritis in his front legs. I have decided to pay for some x-rays which is being done in a couple of weeks to see how bad it is. We had a long pragmatic talk about the condition and how it will affect Zeb considering his problems that he faces with his legs in the winter. It really isn't ethical or financially viable to pay for long term painful steroid injections with the chances of them not 100% working on a 19 year old horse. We have decided to put him on daily bute for now and see if he comes sound with this. I just want to immediately get him comfortable and out of pain. I have put him on Cortaflex and an oil with his feed also to see if this makes a difference to him.
My worry is not now but for the up and coming winter and this is the concern of the vet too.... The fields are potentially likely to be bad again unless we have no rain from October to March (unlikely) so he will probably have to come in off the fields because of the mud fever. The vet and me have agreed that we are worried that his legs cannot cope with the edema again, especially with the arthritis now added to the mix. I could try and find a big barn turnout but they are few and far between around where I live and it's the practicalities of him being moved again (he's not good without his buddy and that's another long story). So........ I am going to have to think very carefully about putting him through another winter....

I am hoping the bute will work and I can try and keep him out as long as I can, it's just what the winter will bring. I am going to be positive about it but I am putting my level head on about his future and what is right for him. The thought of him in pain, swollen and stiff as a board is heartbreaking. But then it is heartbreaking of even thinking of life without him.Tough times ahead I think....

Saturday, 8 February 2014

So Long Blue: Why These Animals Grab Your Hearts

It was a very sad day in the Hobden house yesterday, as we have lost our beloved little Blue cat. We carry on in our lives for years on end with these furry bundles of fluff, just always being there... They sometimes drive us mad but they make us laugh too however when they suddenly depart, life doesn't quite seem to be the same....

I have never intentionally gone looking for kittens, they always seem to find me through friends.  Quite a few of my friends over the years have had kittens and I end up going round for a cuppa, and a coo and arrr over the kitties and then those fateful words come out of my mouth..."Oh go on then, I'll have one".

Blue came into our lives just like that. My friend Sally had a lovely sandy coloured cat called Blossom who had the most beautiful litter of kittens back in 1999 when my boys were three and four. Sally had seen Blue's dad (a big grey cat) all too briefly in her garden having a dalliance with Blossom and then if I remember rightly five kittens then turned up several weeks later. Sally's daughter who was three at the time, couldn't quite grasp the concept that they were not keeping all of Blossom's kittens and screamed the house down every time someone would come and collect the kitten to take home. She was the same with Blue, even though promises would be made that she could see Blue any time she liked. Ashleigh is now seventeen and we have reminded her on several occasions about this story!
Blue Always In The Festive Spirit

I haven't got any wild tales to tell you about Blue as she was generally a quiet little soul, never really giving us any trouble at all. She was a toughy though and would put up a fight if she needed to. I have had many cats over the years, some always up to something or trip to the vets, but not her. She was always, just there. She had just one visit to the vets that I can remember and that was an allergy to flea treatment. We changed the product and she was well again. Now that is fantastic for her 14 years! My son Billy adored her and she was always with him. He cannot remember life without her. She slept on his bed almost every night. 

You Sit Behind Me Harley!

Queen of Sheba

She would stand her ground as she was the quiet boss. Any new cat or dog that came in the household, she would put them in their place, and they all bowed down to her. 
You can sit there Diz but keep a distance!


She had recently been getting a bit doddery coming down the stairs and I was thinking that age was catching up with her. This week though she was bombing through the house like she was a kitten again! She was still fussing over her dinner as Stephen had bought the wrong flavour when he went shopping last weekend and she followed me round the house until I gave in to her. I then hot footed out to the shops and bought her favourite Purina Senior 7+!

The day Dizzee kitten arrived..not impressed!

Me and Stephen went out on Thursday night this week for a friends 50th birthday drinks. The weather was foul (as usual) and when we came home, Billy said to me straight away he couldn't find Blue. This was so unusual as she was always in and certainly wouldn't be out in gale force winds and rain. We searched the house and couldn't find her. I said she had probably popped out and would be back, but secretly I was fearing the worse. I woke up early yesterday and she still was not at home. I went and searched the garage and sheds...nothing. I took Harley for a walk thinking what was my next step in the search for her. I decided to do some notes and pass them to neighbours to check their outbuildings.

When we got back Harley went off in the garden and kept going under our thick hedge, then coming out to find me. He then went under the hedge again, and then out to find me. I then knew she was there... When I crept under the hedge there was Harley sitting quietly by her body. She was not curled up and I honestly think she had an instant heart attack. I am pretty sure it was quick and she did not suffer.

We buried her yesterday in bright sunshine in a spot in the garden that I can see clearly from the house. When the bluebells arrive in the spring, I will put some there as a constant memory of her. We are all pretty upset to see her go, especially me and Billy. She was a fab little cat, and one that can never be replaced. We will miss her immensely.


Monday, 27 January 2014

One Hand On The Reins and One Hand On The Cradle

How can you not smile and feel happy for Zara Phillips who became a mum recently to baby Mia. With the nation reading about another royal baby, it is no doubt giving us a lovely feel good factor. With Laura Tomlinson also announcing her pregnancy much has been written recently on how difficult it is to juggle motherhood with an equestrian career.

However what about the “every day” day rider? Zara and Laura will no doubt have a fool proof support network behind them enabling them to ride, school and maintain their horses and career. I have read many blog posts over the past few years where new mums have had to make a heart breaking decision whether to carry on with horse ownership or simply put their beloved hobby on hold while motherhood takes over. If you decide to battle on with having a horse then the so called “juggling act” becomes an impressive display from La Cirque du Soleil!

Having horses is exhausting at the best of times and also a huge financial commitment. Factor a baby in the mix and any normal person would question why you would have a horse in your life! Well it’s because we love them and to give up on our horses would be the absolute last resort. So what is the answer? What if you had to fit in working as well. It would all seem an absolute impossibility, surely? These mum’s are out there and struggling to keep all the juggling balls in the air! Trying to beg, borrow and steal childcare becomes an art and craft. When a few hours has been given then it’s a frantic dash to the yard, muck out, groom and then off on a high speed hack that Frankel would of been proud of… To get some equestrian help is always the answer but it can be difficult to try and find someone trustworthy and reliable to share your horse in time and money.

I decided to enter horse ownership when my boys were six and seven. It was a huge decision which I did not make lightly as I knew the arrival of my horse would make a massive impact on our family life. How was I going to fit in this 17.2 money machine and time taker into our already hectic routine? With two small boys and a business to run, I look back now and I must have been mad. I managed it but only just, with Olympic runs to the yard after work to muck out before rushing back to put a thrown together dinner on the table. My boys (who did not share my equestrian enthusiasm) spent many hours in the car parked at the yard when it was pouring down with rain in the holidays. The little money I had left was spent on magazines and games to entertain them and to stop their moans that they were, yet again, at the stables… I did feel guilty about it, especially exhausting babysitting favours when I had to sort out childcare in order to work or ride my horse. I also felt guilty about the amount of money that was spent on my hobby. It wasn’t just only the weekly requirements of hay, feed and livery it was also unexpected vets bills, rugs that needed replacing or saddles that needed reflocking…. Was I being selfish? That was a question that I did ask myself and I imagine every horse owner mother struggles with. But was it “the battle of the sexes” question, did the husbands or partners give up their hobby when the babies arrive? I imagine most did not. Controversial as it sounds, most woman are expected to give up their identity almost when becoming a mother. You become “Ben’s mum or Molly’s mum“ almost losing your individuality. By having some time away from motherhood and work doing the hobby that you love, works wonders for any frazzled mother psychologically.

So us every day horse owners who happen to be mothers too will battle on with our guilty pleasure. The years do pass by very quickly and my guilt has passed. My boys are now adults enjoying their own hobbies now. They sometimes ask after my horse, but it’s a rare occasion. I now have time to enjoy my hobby without syncing diaries with the school, work or my boy’s hectic social life. I have no regrets about fitting my horse into our family life. It has been extremely tough but worth it. You can continue to be a mother while being a horse owner too, it just needs some clever time and financial management and perhaps a crèche being opened at your local yard!

Please also visit www.hay.net.co.uk

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Harley and Me - The First Year With My Dog

Harley Age 16 Weeks
I was watching Harley scampering along on our afternoon walk and could see a family walking ahead with their children, one on a scooter. I called Harley and he came back to me, not instantly but he then came to heel. This time last year, my heart would lurch and mini panic would set in as I would watch my over exuberant terrier make a beeline for the tiny people, aiming to wipe them out with his excited greeting. Wow, we have come a long way in the last year….

Dad with Tyler his Border Terrier (2007)
I have had dogs in my life, but I have had a twenty odd year break from canine ownership. My dear dad was a huge dog lover, although my mum was yet to be converted. Eventually after nearly twenty years, she finally relented and “allowed” dad to have a dog. Within hours almost, Ross a ten week old black and white Springer Spaniel bounded into our lives. It was pure chaos and he was mad as a March hare, but a joy to have in our family. My mum then went on to have her own dog and bought Paddy a Cairn Terrier home to join Ross. I left home, married and had children but I always had cats to keep the family company as in my opinion, a home is not complete without some furry animal cohabiting! I bought my horse ten years ago who has had a huge impact on my life and as every horse owner knows the bond between you is one you can never replace.

Since moving to a more rural location in the last few years, my husband who was very anti-dogs shocked us all and said he thought it would be a good idea to have a dog live with us. Now "live with us" was in his mind, in a kennel in the garden, all year round. He was going to make our dog his new home complete with a run…or so he thought. We had long discussions about what sort of dog was going to fit in with us and we ruled out a rescue dog having two cats already. The dog had to be male and having two teenage sons, he had to be a “manly” dog, no fluff whatsoever! I don’t know what came over us, but we decided to get a terrier cross.

After much searching and researching, we decided on a black and tan Patterdale cross Jack Russell. Harley arrived in our lives about sixteen months ago now and what a whirlwind it has been. The day he came home and jumped on to my husband’s lap, was the day that puppy secured his warm bed indoors.... I had totally forgotten how consumed you get with a puppy and the first few months, my life seemed to revolve around his bowel movements or how many hours it was between pees! We were lucky with Harley that he cottoned on to toilet training well and within about 10 weeks of being with us, he had cracked it.

Harley's Favourite Place - With The Horses
Now walking him was a completely new challenge, mentally and physically. As he long legs grew…yes long legs (He’s parentage has been questioned as he almost has legs likes a whippet!) the more exercise he needed. Come rain, wind, snow and boiling hot sun my daily routine now is a 20 minute walk in the morning with a 45 minute walk in the afternoon. I find the people you meet fascinating when dog walking and how you can meet a total stranger and sometimes end up walking with them telling them almost your life story while watching your dog’s tearing around, doing laps of honour. It also has made me get to know my neighbours since moving to the area, as I’m always bumping into them when dog walking. I barely knew my neighbours in my previous home as I very rarely walked about in my neighbourhood. My fitness has improved no end and I love walking. There are days when I can do without it, but once I’m out I feel better. Harley in general is a super little dog and absolutely loves us to the point he is my stalker. I work from home, so I am around a lot and when I am not about he takes himself to his bed and waits…and waits. On my return I am greeted by him as if I have been to Australia and back!

He is generally a really good boy, but not an angel… We have had a few instances shall we say that left me red faced. Bounding up to a lady dressed all in cream when he has just tried to track a rabbit down in a quagmire of mud springs to mind. Taking a child’s football away and running like a greyhound on the winning straight is also makes the top ten whilst I’m apologising profusely to the parents of the screaming child. Hopping into the builders van at home when we were having building work and eating all their sandwiches – he loved cheese and ham by the way! He has managed to make some epic escapes that Steve McQueen would have been proud of. Thankfully we have blocked these escape routes so he is well and truly locked in his dog proof garden now. Another one of his favourite tricks when meeting other dogs is to literally high five the ones with a stick in their mouths and then hot foot off with the said stick as fast as his long legs will take him. Again the “I’m so sorry” routine comes from me when the pitiful dog looking at me as though Harley has taken food from their mouths.

Harley's First Trip To The Beach
You are probably reading this thinking I should of done some dog training to teach him some canine manners – I did! Honestly I did! His manners have improved and I have learnt to be one step ahead of him, almost knowing what his next move will be when I spot a rabbit ten paces ahead or hear the cluck of a pheasant in the distance. Yes he is gone…. I could have a whole cooked chicken in my pocket but that “value” treat will not stop my errant terrier on a mission!

Life would be extremely dull without him now and I cannot imagine our family with no Harley. I totally understand that dog/human bond and how bereft an owner feels when they are sadly taken from us through illness, accident or old age. I hope that day is many, many years away and I imagine I will have many “tails” to tell about my life with Harley. I look forward to thousands of miles of dog walks and being his companion.