This weekend brought with it September’s beautiful mix of the last days of summer and the first of autumn, newly yellowing leaves on the trees and the odd one floating down already.
Bringing Charmer in on Saturday morning, after catching up on some mucking out and barn tidying, I decided to take him for a little bit of time in the sand school.
At the moment he’s not meant to do any forced exercise of any kind, and I feel a little hesitant even leading him as he’s often reticent and worried about where he’s placing his feet, but I thought in there with his headcollar off he could decide himself exactly what he felt comfortable with. We’ve used the space for games and join-up and ambles before, and when I took his ropes off and started just having a wander around myself, I found I had a very happy follower. ❤️
It was really, really lovely. I’ve missed even just walking in hand with him and know he has too, and it was so lovely just to move around together and to know he was only doing what he felt up to. He found plenty to explore and investigate, and when I got him in to his stable afterwards he was exhilarated and happy-looking just for having seen something ever so slightly different!
It was a lovely morning, and so enjoyed finding new ways to have adventures with my boy. ❤️
Earlier this week, Charmer and I had another visit from our vet to see how we were getting on with his wee old legs. We’re seeing him feeling a little better and comfier on his feet around the yard which is great, and have some more plans in place to try to help him further – so all is looking more positive and I’m starting to feel very optimistic now about seeing him comfortably enjoying his life.
However, we did agree that now is the time to bring his working life to an end. To be most representative, “working” should really be in inverted commas, as over the years we’ve really done nothing more than playing. When we were very young, the odd local show, a little dabble in jumping, but it’s generally just been a life of exploring the countryside around us at a very leisurely pace!
And it’s been a wonderful one. I have absolutely loved all these years of rambles and ambles and have pondered some of the biggest moments of my life from my seat up on my boy’s back. I’ll never forget steadying rides on the mornings of my graduation and my wedding day, all those autumn hacks through stubble fields and crunching leaves, wintry ones all wrapped up with our clouds of breath in the air, and summertime canters along bright green verges here and there in all our homes over the years.
When he was first diagnosed with arthritis in 2011, I was completely happy to bring the riding to an end if it helped him. Somehow though we got another nine years of adventuring, only putting a stop to the jumping; – although even then not quite as the photo in the woods below was taken much more recently – just a fallen log we often came across in our local woods that he absolutely loved to pop over and, taking the lead from him as always, I was happy to let him occasionally just to see his burst of happiness at flying over it again. ❤️
I really never expected to ride again after I’d had my second daughter so the fact that we got even just the three little rambles we did this summer with him so strong and so loving it was incredible – they were just a bonus, one I loved having and know he did too.
So now we’ve hung up the tack for good, and it’s a very happy retirement to my boy – I have no doubt he’ll have no trouble at all in enjoying the views, watching the world go by and keeping an eye on all the goings-on! ❤️ xx
The last few weeks have been very focused on trying to get Charmer more comfortable and get a handle on his arthritis again, and have been a bit of a rollercoaster of steps forwards and back – but we’ve just been taking it one day at a time, making breakfast and dinner a cocktail of supplements, using his new magnetic bands and trying everything we can – and I’m now very, very hopeful that we’re getting some real progress!
After starting on a new supplement Nutraquin+ at the vet’s advice a few weeks back, in addition to his usual Danilon at a slightly increased dose, and going back on turmeric back then too which he had been on in the winter last year; in the last week or so we’ve also started No Bute at a recommendation from a friend and also switched the turmeric to Turmeraid, with added black pepper, at another’s recommendation – all of which seem to be contributing to a comfier boy.
I’ve always been glad to have the support of others with more experience than me throughout my life with Charmer, but have never been so grateful as now for friends at the livery yard. In the last few months, especially with juggling the littlest baby at home and lockdown schedules, I’ve had a lot of practical help from Charmer’s fieldmates’ owners, managing the bringing in and turning out, who have been wonderful; and there are also a few of us on our lovely yard with horses at just exactly the same age all of whom are navigating arthritis, and some of the things that have worked best have been recommendations from them or other friends either at the yard or who I’ve known from the past. It’s wonderful being able to share ideas and try out new things and when Charmer was struggling most and I was so upset, the kindness of the people we share the farm with was overwhelmingly lovely and such a big help as we moved slowly forwards.
As well as the feed additions we’ve built his magnetic bands, which I started him wearing a couple of weeks ago, up to full use, so he now has these on while he’s out, about 16 hours a day, and just has them off while in his stable for his 7-8 hours in. Got him on a new routine at the moment of coming in for breakfast at 11ish with his fieldmate, having some hours in, and then when I arrive at either 5ish or 8ish in the evening (depending on whether pre- or post- bedtime here at home!) he has his second feed, and we walk back out. It’s always hard to know how to play it in terms of time in and out as I know he does better out for keeping moving and not stiffening up but with needing two feeds at the moment for the staggered Danilon didn’t want to have him walking in and out twice, and he seems to enjoy some downtime in the stable at the moment and not seem too stiff when it’s kept to under 8 hours or so – so going with it for the moment, although I hope maybe when I see the vet next week we might be able to combine everything in one feed and then he could be in for a shorter time.
Walking back out to his field has been the most difficult thing to manage over the past weeks – we can either make it a very short walk straight from his barn to his field gate, but on a slight slope which he seems to find really difficult, or a longer walk around the yard but more on the flat. He definitely seems to prefer the long way, but although some nights he’s managed fine, others he’s been really struggling whenever on the concrete, although managing fine on grass – and managing absolutely fine on the grass in his field too. One of the other owners at the farm had suggested Scoot Boots hoof boots for him, and my lovely friend let me borrow hers to see how they worked out. After two nights of using them to walk back out I’m very very hopeful we might have found a bit of a breakthrough for him, as they seemed to make the most incredible difference to how he felt – basically just letting him walk with shoes on without the trauma to his legs of being shod.
Still want to stay just cautiously optimistic as I know we’re battling a difficult thing here and it’s taken a long time to see the improvements we have but I’m absolutely over the moon to see some (sometimes quite bouncy!) strides forwards in the last couple of days. As we walked round to the field last night he almost broke into a trot to follow my friend walking a little ahead with an apple, and was ears forward and happy all the way – such a welcome sight!
He seems to be doing well and be comfy at the moment both in the stable and in the field and he’s otherwise in such good health for his age, so it’s just the movement between we’ve got to master, and I really hope we’re getting there.
As a postscript to yesterday’s ramble on my boy’s health, still taking every day one at a time, but was delighted to see much, much better movement this morning and a definite brightness back in my favourite fluffball’s eyes, so a good Saturday here for us!
The last couple of weeks have been very mixed in life with Charmer. Back at the end of July I celebrated 20 whole years of life with him, making a fuss of him and giving him a few extra treats – enjoying some time with the whole family joining in – his junior groom busy sweeping up around him and the littlest member of the family stretching out her tiny hand to get to know him for the very first time ❤️❤️ – and some of my favourite times, just me and him, too.
As always, I was thinking how very lucky we were still to have him so well and so healthy, loving summertime life and feeling good, but unfortunately just a few days later he was suddenly struggling a bit walking in and out between his field and the barn, and within a day or two was practically refusing to move from his stable at all, which is so unlike him. Called the vet out and they were wonderful as always and were able to say and show that it was definitely his arthritis (it was so acute all of a sudden that I hadn’t even been sure if it might’ve been an injury or if he was ill and just not feeling well enough to move) and that it was below his knees that was causing the problem rather than his knees as last time, and believed coffin joints – which definitely made sense as his last X-rays a year or so ago showed arthritic changes moving that way. The vet said it was hard to tell really whether it could just be a flare or further degeneration that will be the new normal; but either way needed to get on top of it quickly. He’s had his anti inflammatory upped slightly in the short term, but with the caveat I totally understand that we really are at pretty much the maximum he can have long-term at the moment without risking too much damage to his kidneys. He’s also started on a new supplement I really hope might help and was recommended to have front shoes put back on, which he’d had off since last year, with a rolled toe to try to help his movement and reduce any impact on the joints in his front legs.
The first couple of days after the vet visited last Monday were pretty bad, and he actually seemed worse every night and I really thought we were approaching a time of having to make a decision for him – although with his level of discomfort just shooting up so suddenly and him having been so sound and so well just a couple of weeks before I really wanted to give everything a chance to help. Thankfully towards the end of last week he started to improve and had a few good days walking almost like his normal self again.
Spent a lot of time watching him in the field to see he could get around ok, still lie down and get back up and was very relieved to see he could.
The farrier came out on Wednesday to see about putting the shoes on. He was also wonderful – as ever I’m so grateful to have such dedicated people working to help Charmer and do what’s best – but he was reluctant to put shoes on knowing the trauma it would involve to his legs. He did say Charmer’s feet were very even despite his leg tending to turn in a little due to the changes and in very good shape which would already be giving him some good support, so instead as a first try trimmed his feet with a rolled toe trim rather than shoeing with that.
Having seen him since Wednesday I’m very glad we didn’t go for the shoes just now, although it might be they would really have helped in the long run. Even just with holding his feet up for the most careful trim and the least time possible and even with some extra pain relief he was much worse again yesterday which was a shame after a few days’ progress but have to hope it helps longer term.
This morning, visiting him in the field, he seemed comfortable enough and was enjoying grazing with his fieldmate and watching the younger horses over the fence careering around with interest, which is all I really want for him. Obviously we’re off riding at the moment and that may be for good this time, but I know that wouldn’t phase him as long as he can definitely be comfy enough enjoying his field, stable and routine he’ll be happy.
Hopefully he’ll get back on the mend again very quickly, but I have never been more aware that we don’t have all the time in the world and I really want to enjoy every minute. Times in the barn with him quietly companionable, grooming him or reading a pony book while he takes his time with his dinner, or standing side by side out in the field are my most special moments. Last night as we left the lights of the barn and took our slow steady walk to the field there was such an autumn-like wind and it was dark for the first time all summer heading out. I love watching seasons change with him and just enjoying the stillness.
Keeping everything crossed for him over the next few days and weeks, and taking each day as it comes. Wishing you all a lovely weekend x
We’ve definitely transitioned from spring well and truly into summer here, and all the usual summertime pony adventures have begun, from ragworting to sunny hacking.
Despite loving autumn and winter so much, and definitely with horses too (the routine of nights in, wrapped-up hacks, hot chocolates in the barn ❤️); there is something so special for me every year about summer at the farm. This is the time of year I first got Charmer, and a life with horses came alive for me. The smell of citronella in the air, the dry ground in the fields and the spray of a hose to cool down – it all reminds me so much of that magical time and I love it just as much all these years on.
Summer does keep us on our toes too, Charmer in a variety of different fly rugs and masks, and all the sprays and bottles of the season tried and tested we try to keep his sweet itch at bay and enjoy the sunshine.
This year he’s done very well for the most part, although he did have terrible itch on his face a month or so ago that saw him with a lockdown vet visit and a steroid cream which thankfully cleared it right up as quickly as it came – he’s some boy for just going crazy itching now and then so had lost a lot of the hair on his face practically overnight, but thankfully the cream did a wonderful job of healing it up in no time, and with a good mix of barrier creams, sprays, rugs and fly tags we’ve managed the rest of the summer so far no problems at all – particularly enjoying his latest fly rug (which the toddler definitely loves!!!).
We’ve managed out for a couple of little early morning wanders now and it’s been absolutely wonderful to be back in the saddle and to take in the beautiful views we’re lucky to have around us through my favourite pair of floppy black ears. ❤️
For his part, Charmer seems to be enjoying being back to our adventures just as much as me and it’s been lovely exploring with him.
Of course it’s not always sunny in these parts, even in what’s been an incredible spring and summer so far; and I’m writing this this morning from the barn with my morning coffee and book, the rain pelting off the barn roof with a steady rhythm and a very wet and bedraggled pony munching his breakfast very gratefully! I do really love these moments too though in the midst of warmer days; and whatever the weather, it’s a wonderful time of year with my boy. ❤️
This morning dawned a bright and sunny one, the rain and wind that were headed our way not arriving until a little later than expected. With the weather in my favour – and timings for my littlest daughter’s waking and feeding working out well too – today became the day my boy & I made our riding return, nine and a half months after our last venture. ❤️
So many of my friends with horses have been enjoying getting back to it this week too after a couple of months off, with the British Horse Society lockdown guidance here having shifted slightly; and our yard owners have provided a hacking route on the farm which gives us a wonderful opportunity to safely get back to exploring with our horses a little again. Today though, Charmer & I didn’t get even that far – it was just an amble around the yard, but a wonderful one.
Charmer did really really well, taking it all in his stride as ever. He was quite keen and interested and didn’t even pin the old ears back when he saw the tack appear, quite something for him! It was the first time he’d been ridden in years without front shoes – having had them removed at the end of last summer – and he did pull to the grass a fair bit to walk on the softer ground, but seemed to do ok; and we can either go back to shoes again if need be or see how he goes – most of our little wanders likely to be grass tracks and fields anyway for the time being.
I really didn’t allow myself to hope when I had already been debating retirement for him last summer and found out I was expecting my daughter, that at the end of this time I would be back on him again; – and it felt absolutely incredible today just to sink into the familiar seat and feel him move off, the same as always.
We’ll be taking life at a slow pace for sure, and likely not venturing too far; but it was wonderful to be back viewing the world through those floppy fluffy ears once more, and most of all to see him enjoying it too. ❤️
Wishing you all a lovely weekend, take care and stay safe x
Can’t quite believe how quickly the years seem to be rolling by these days – somehow it’s been a full two decades since I first met a skinny, skittish 4-year-old Fell pony, and I find myself now walking side by side with my distinguished grey-muzzled old man, celebrating his 24th birthday.
I can never quite believe how very blessed I’ve been to have had Charmer the length of time I have – when he first became mine I could barely believe it and since then as life has journeyed on I’ve been so very thankful to have him by my side.
His birthday was actually a couple of weeks back (very bad at finding the time to write here in the last few weeks with home life a little whirlwind! ❤️) but enjoyed a wee extra cuddle and treat on my morning visit and looking at some memories over the years too – this is the first photo I have of us together, back in summer 2000, and this one on his birthday this year…
Plus a few more of the celebrations over the years too that popped up in my memories..
We have just had news this morning that we can begin to ride again as lockdown measures begin to ease very gently here in Scotland; and once again I’m so conscious of how lucky I am. I gave up riding temporarily during my pregnancies with both my daughters, and both times I was very aware that I could easily not get back to riding a 22-year-old and then 24-year-old arthritic boy. Last summer Charmer was struggling with his legs and was really all-but retired and I felt the year off would be likely to be a natural watershed. This year, however, he has done so so well on his daily anti-inflammatories and is currently as sound – and as enthusiastic about life – as he’s been in years, especially since his operation in February. It’s just a joy to see and I can barely believe it but I can see no reason at all why we can’t get back to our usual ambles again for the time being, while he continues to be doing so well. Back in 2011 I thought retirement was upon us, and in 2014 I almost lost him altogether, so to be here in 2020, with my same old boy, now a best buddy to my little girl as well as me and soon to meet my second daughter is truly wonderful, and I’m very grateful.
A belated happy birthday my partner in crime for all these years. ❤️ This is him just the other day fully embracing lockdown life – it’s not so bad with a sea view!