The Rug


Over Murphy’s stable door is a rug, a thin navy blue quilted rug. That’s odd, I think, where is his navy and green checked rug, he wears underneath? Or maybe Jeanette just wants this one on?

I go into the stable and heave off Murphy’s turnout rug and throw on the thin quilted stable rug. As I carry on round the yard, I start to shiver. The afternoon is getting colder. I send Jeanette a text to say is it just this one rug, she wants him to wear?

I get no reply, so go and hunt for Murphy’s navy and green checked rug. After much searching, I locate it. It is lying on the floor behind the door of the empty stable next door to Murphy.

I go back in to Murphy, take off his quilted stable rug and start again with the rugs – navy and green checked, followed by the quilted stable rug.

He looks pleased, if not a little perplexed at my doing his rugs for the second time in one afternoon.

I carry on changing rugs and picking out feet. Larry needs stable bandages on and Gemma needs her foot tubbing with salt water, the horses that live out still  need feeding, there are waters to refill, more hay and feeds to put round.

Then I get a text from Jeanette to say ‘just his quilted rug’.

I say ‘are you sure. It’s freezing?’

‘Oh yes, he’ll be fine.’

I know Murph is chunky but he’s clipped and it is icy.

So I go back into his stable for the third time and pull his rugs off and put just the thin quilted one on.

He’s just warm enough with the navy and green check and the thin quilted one: his teeth are going to be chattering in just the quilted.

I feel so bad about taking it off, I even check Jeanette’s list of when she’s going to be in. It looks like she’s in the following morning so I can’t ignore the only one rug request!

In one afternoon I’ve been in to do one horse’s rugs three times and feel I am caught between a rock and a hard place!

Note to self: don’t ask next time!


Bisto has gone


Bisto pops the jump in the arena, clears the five bar gate (normally opened and closed for horses to enter and leave) and trots back to his stable.

We all look at each other.

Ollie shouts “Did you record that?” and then runs after Bisto.

I have to say, this colt is mighty sporty!

Leaving the arena and splashing through the mud back to the yard has turned Bisto’s white bandages the same colour as the rest of him. He is now all Bisto. Not such a good look for You Tube.

Having jumped out of the arena, Bisto clearly feels he has done enough.

I think he’ll just need to do a small planned jump and leave the arena with us rather than on his own and that will be his work for today.

However, he’s going to do a bit more and my job is now to be gate monitor as he is no longer heading for the herd (Justine and I in the middle) but trying to make a quick exit! And I am to wave a lunge whip, should Bisto dare to come close enough to the gate to escape.

This would not be so bad apart from Bisto is quite fearless and lunge whip waving has to be enthusiastic enough to make him stop and not leap out of the arena, but not enough to scare the living daylights out of him!

Each time he screeches to a halt just in front of me!

When he has done the jump he is supposed to jump and cantered to me, my job is to collect him back up and give him back to Ollie.

There must be a better way to film young horses, in fact any horses.

I wonder if Ollie has tried standing in the middle with a lunge whip with whoever is recording standing at the edge of the arena?

Getting a video of Bisto may not be as easy as originally thought. It could take a few weeks of loose schooling over small jumps.

That said, if you want an eventer, watch the footage of him leaving the arena: he makes the five bar gate look like a cavaletti!







Frozen pipes


“You’ll be okay doing the pump won’t you?” asks Ollie. “Be careful not to fall in!”

Heights are not my thing at the best of time, neither are depths!

I look at him and give a half smile, which translates as ‘are you having a laugh?’

Ollie translates this as ‘of course, no problem’, thanks me profusely and says, “See you next week!” jumping in his extreme vehicle and giving me a wave, the snow spraying behind him as he heads off piste towards the drive.

With ‘Ding Dong Bell, Pussy’s in the well’ going round my head, I slide to the well. The area surrounding the iron cover is sheet ice and snow. The well is, I don’t know how deep, but from the cover to the water surface is at least 8 feet. There appears to be no way to climb out and call me a pessimist but in sub zero temperatures I think you’d die of hypothermia within the first ten minutes of falling in!

But the tap on the main yard is frozen, as is the tap in the tundra tack room and the outside toilet. In fact, there is not even a drop of drinking water on the yard. We had drinking water last year, so it must be decidedly more arctic, either that or the drinking water has been turned off by accident. Using the pump to get water out of the well is the only way of getting water to the yard. Fine when it is all rigged up, but rigging it up or putting it away is a job in itself requiring strength and mental fortitude.

I heave the pump out of the water. Slowly, slowly it comes up to ground level. The freezing water drips out of it as it comes higher. Then the hose comes off it. I am left holding the hose and the pump splashes back into the water. Good job the pump is on a piece of baling twine tied to the fence or else it could be good bye pump!

I heave the pump out of the water again. The water drips off it. I get it to ground level and squeeze it through the gap between the side and iron cover.

My heart beats faster as I move closer to the edge. The ground is slippy. I grip the freezing iron lid and heave and heave, finally dragging it into place.

I lean against the wall and breathe.

When is the big thaw due?





When I was little I loved the snow. Snow meant no school, a snowman in the garden, rosy cheeks and drying off in front of a roaring fire. Lovely!

Well, it wasn’t a real roaring fire, it was a gas fire that if you lay too close to it, made the sleeve of your jumper change colour. But the thought of it still gives me a warm, fuzzy feeling.

Now, I still love the idea of snow, but it fills me with trepidation on a number of counts – that I won’t be able to slither down our track to the main road to get to the stables in my car, that I will crash the car on the way to the stables, that having arrived I will not be able to slide down the drive to the stables without going through the fence, that I will not make it back up the drive on the way home without going through aforementioned fence, that I will crash on the way home and that if I don’t crash on the way home, then I may not be able to get the car down the track to my house.

This is without thinking about the resident horses and what they think of the snow. These are not cuddly, ride once a week horses but lean, mean exercise machines who are addicted to exercise. If they were people they’d be gymaholics who run before cycling to work, go the gym in their lunch hour and that is before cycling home and going out to play squash till ten every evening.

However, with the exception of Ollie and Becky, everyone has been hexed by the Snow Queen and are noticeable by their absence. Their horses meanwhile, have been transformed and not in a good way!

Dessie, the most predictable horse in the yard has turned into a rearing psychopath whose athleticism is quite remarkable. I didn’t think a horse could go from the field all the way to the stable block on two legs. She clearly has been hit by the Snow Queen and now thinks she is in Dancing on Ice. My experience of hanging onto the end of the lead rope while she danced on two legs was terrifying. The Snow Queen’s spell only momentarily being broken by the haybarn where Dessie glimpsed the haylage. This gave me chance to breathe and made the last part of the skate back to the yard slightly more bearable.

Meanwhile, Idris has taken on the mantle of Little Ted (the meanest pony in the paddock before he changed yards). He has been vying for this role for some time, but today out in the snow has been crowned the most evil by the Snow Queen.

I know he didn’t want the bit in his mouth which was still cold in spite of my best efforts to warm it, but rearing and lashing out with his front legs has not endeared him to me.

So now, when I see it snowing, I still initially think no school, snowmen and the glow of the fire and get a warm fuzzy feeling and then I think of crashing my car and dealing with hexed snow horses.

Funny how life changes!

Two Socks


I squidge through thick mud, the colour of chocolate mousse with the consistency of custard. It must be nearly lunchtime as even the mud is making me hungry! My next thought is, there must be something you can put down to make field entrances less boggy, and there is, rubber matting especially for field entrances, but there isn’t any here, or if there is, it has been submerged under the mud.

I look up at Socks, a giant of a horse, whose head and neck obscure my view to the right completely, We are heading back to the main yard, just the field entrance to negotiate and the road.

However, this proves to not be so straightforward as we wade through the mud. Socks doesn’t like the mud any more than I do.

It would appear that I am sinking, and sinking! Socks keeps walking and I would like to keep walking with him but as I take another step forward my foot leaves my wellie behind, almost forgetfully, so now I am hopping. With a horse giant in one hand, my wellie stuck in the mud about three feet away, I struggle to keep my socked foot in the air.

If I can stop briefly on the wooden boards at the field entrance, I may be able to hop to my wellie. Yes, I can hop to my wellie! This idea might have gone according to plan, had Socks not decided that he was not going to walk on the aforementioned pieces of wood that Becky had put down especially for him earlier in the day in the field entrance. Not only will he not walk on them, but he won’t go anywhere near them.

So I hop, trying desperately to reach the boards before I put my socked foot down in the mud. Meanwhile, Socks avoids the boards with the same determination as me, but where I want to reach the boards, Socks is trying desperately to avoid them.

Socks strides on. Meanwhile my socked foot hovers in the air and…misses the boards and splidges into the mud custard.

Socks stops and turns, giving me an odd look as I hop, wellieless with a dripping, muddy sock.

I heave my wellie out of the mud and put my muddy socked foot inside my wellington boot. It squelches.

This is not a good feeling!






Bucked off


As I sail through the air, blue sky, more blue sky and more blue sky, I think this is slow motion or one mighty big buck…

and then thud. I land in the sand, upside down, kind of on my head and do an unconventional forward roll.

Tosh carries on bucking and rodeo-ing round the track in such a crazy way I have to put my hand up and wave at him from my spot in the sand to make him change direction and not gallop over me.

Dazed, I pull myself over to the fence.

After three lunatic laps, Tosh comes to a halt in the corner of the arena: his reins tangled but not badly as he is wearing a martingale.

I catch him, get him to step out of his reins and walk him round the arena twice in hand and then climb back on.

Springing  back up on this 16.2 hh from the ground isn’t a problem. I must have more than the usual amount of adrenaline coursing through my veins.

I walk him round, hop off, straighten his pad and numnah and go and get on the mounting block to do it properly and finish on a good note.

I can’t help thinking, ‘what a shame!’ This is the best he’s gone. Admittedly, I’ve only sat on him about five or six times. He’s always been stiff on the left rein and tried to evade in left canter, but to think he even struck off on the correct leg for several left canters and this was my last ask before cooling him off. He even cantered a few strides before he got rid of me.

Am I asking too much of him? He’s a retired race horse and not a youngster. Would he be happier just hacking out? I’m sure if I ride him a few more times I’ll get what he’s trying to tell me!

However, I’m not overly looking forward to schooling him again. I can’t remember the last time I came off on the flat!

Sand does make for a soft landing but even so, I am getting through a goodly amount of Arnica and when any one comes near my back I almost scream.

I can’t help but feel there is something not quite right with this horse. Is it really just the thoroughbred in him? Or does something hurt? Apparently he’s been seen by a back lady and his back is fine?

I ponder the ‘have you got a body protector?’ question posed before I got on him the first time. And think this doesn’t sound like his first handstand!

Note to self – Google body protectors and make sure there is an infinite supply of Arnica, Deep Heat and Radox in the house!

Now, just how much are those inflate on impact body protectors?

Larry has Mud Fever


Larry has mud fever, weeping crusty scabs on the back of his pasterns.

Not surprising as the relentless October rain makes for poached gateways, muddy paddocks, muddy tracks, and water filled potholes – the perfect conditions for mud fever, so what is it exactly? What causes it? And how do you beat it?

What is mud fever?

Clinical signs of mud fever are sores on the lower legs, especially round the back of the pastern. It can range in severity from a few small scabs to a lame horse with swollen, scabby, bleeding legs needing antibiotics and painkillers.

Signs include matted areas of hair and crusty scabs; reddened area of skin; small circular ulcerated moist lesions some with scabs; some discharge – can be orange goo to thick, yellow pus; scabs may remove hair in clumps; deep cracks in the skin – these are often horizontal; hair loss leaving raw looking areas which may bleed; horses with mud fever can have swollen legs; mud fever can lead to lameness.

What causes mud fever?

A bacteria called Dermatophilus congolensis, which is found on the skin of grazing animals, is the culprit. Usually, it is not a problem but if the skin is compromised it can cause problems by invading vulnerable skin and causing an infection. Skin is damaged by getting wet or scratched by thistles or sand. Pink skin under white legs seems more prone to mud fever.

How do you combat mud fever?

Keeping the skin of the legs clean and dry is key, which may mean the horse needs to be stabled for some time.

There are many conflicting views on the treatment of mud fever. Some vets are keen on using hibiscrub, picking off scabs etc. My experience of hibiscrub used on people and in hospitals is that it is harsh and irritates the skin, so if you opt for hibiscrub, use it sparingly and dilute it a lot. I would also err on the side of caution re picking off scabs –  in a hospital environment, you would never pick off a scab in the treatment of people unless the wound was necrotic. Generally a scab forms and healing goes on under the scab. Picking off scabs causes bleeding and increases the risk of bacteria entering the skin. Yes, the cream you are applying needs to get to the infection, but you need to be very careful about how you go about this.

If you are applying a cream to treat the mud fever from your vet eg Yellow mud fever cream, the area should be clean and dry. If it is not clean, wash with a mild disinfectant such as diluted dettol, extremely dilute chlorhexidine (hibiscrub) – extremely dilute as this is nasty skin drying stuff and can aggravate skin and make skin worse. Vets sometimes recommend pov-iodine wash or a medicated shampoo eg Allermyl. Don’t get the legs too wet, too often and if they are wet, dry them carefully. Pat them dry with a soft towel.

Dry the limb thoroughly before any creams are applied. You must dry the legs very gently so that no further trauma to the skin occurs.

There are a lot of creams on the market and your vet may also prescribe a cream with antibiotics and corticosteroids. For very bad cases antibiotics and pain killers may be necessary.

Any brushes that have been in contact with the infected skin will need to be disinfected.

Interestingly, some people advocate the topical treatment of the affected area with Manuka honey. I have heard of the healing properties of Manuka honey but have never tried it myself. (It’s not just any old honey, it is only ‘Manuka’ honey that has healing properties.)

How to prevent mud fever

Try to ensure your horses aren’t standing in muddy, waterlogged fields. Use electric fencing to fence off muddy areas.

Rotate paddocks to avoid poaching.

Avoid riding in abrasive surfaces eg sand if your horses is prone to mud fever.

Make sure the bedding in the stable is clean and dry.

Don’t overwash legs or groom legs too vigorously.

Consider barrier creams on clean, dry legs prior to turn out eg tea tree oil, aloe vera, honey with vitamin E, dermisol cream, filtabac, udder cream or petroleum jelly.

Some people like breathable, waterproof leg wraps eg Equiwraps.

Keep your eyes open as the sooner you spot mud fever, the sooner you can stop it turning into a costly recovery.

Larry seems to like Yellow Mud Fever Cream! There is a God!

Hello, Good Bye, Wow Wow


Today was a strange day at the stables, marked by the reappearance of Wow Wow, a stripey grey cat with white paws, whose trademark was his loud ‘wow, wow’ miaow.

His arrival was noted mid morning, a crisp or rather more than crisp Sunday morning; his plaintive wowing becoming so loud and persistent, you couldn’t ignore him.

At first he was timid. He stood on a bale of hay and wowed and if you moved towards him, he ran off, but then he waited.

He waited and wowed.

I’ve seen him before, only once. Last weekend I saw him trying to catch a mouse in the long grass. He crouched, waited and pounced. He looked well.

In fact, he still looks well. He is a young, well covered cat.

We watched him for a while Sunday morning. He climbed out of the haybarn, so we could see him, and slowly, slowly he crept forward. He came closer and closer.

I crouched down and Wow Wow smoothed against my jodphurs and purred.

He went to see Lucy and purred.

He was going to make us late.

Having given him lots of love and strokes, we decided we better get on. He followed us and wowed.

Thankfully, when I led leapy about Larry out to his field and Lucy put Punch out, Wow Wow stayed still and waited patiently for our return.

We had half the stables still to muck out and were being followed round by a wowing cat!

Was he hungry? Was he lost? Was he hungry and lost?

One of the dogs had killed a rabbit last week, the remains of which had been found in a stable with cat prints in the shavings. Was it Wow Wow, who had dragged the rabbit into the stable?

Two hours later Wow Wow was still moaning, so we gave him a saucer of milk. I know you’re not supposed to give cats cow’s milk, but we didn’t have anything else to give him.

He lapped it up and then he started wowing again.

Lucy went home at 1 o’clock. Her lift arrived with some cat biscuits for Wow Wow.

Wow Wow ate them, not starvingly and left quite a lot. He obviously wasn’t starving, but he was still very vocal.

Lucy left and Wow Wow stayed and wowed.

Ann and Katherine saw Wow wow and gave him some attention, while they waited for the non arrival of Justine to clip their horse, Ellie. They popped home and picked up a tin of cat food for Wow Wow.

Wow Wow tried it, quite liked it, but clearly wasn’t starving.

I went to feed the horses in the field, and wondered if Wow Wow were microchipped. Should I take him to the vet to see if he was microchipped? Should I wait and see if he lost any weight? How long should I wait? Maybe we need a yard cat?

When I got back, Wow Wow had gone.

Maybe he does live locally after all?

I hope so, he’s too nice to be lost.





Purdy has turned into a kite


Mud sprays and the fillies shriek and gallop. Purdy, Pippa and Toe screech to a halt and slide towards the electric fence. They charge again, up and down the muddy field. The cries of the Egyptian geese roosting in the branches of a dead tree accompany them.

And I think, what…?

The water butt is rolling drunkenly across the entrance to the field.

Purdy, a pretty rain spider of a filly is about to fly – She is trailing a length of vetwrap  She had an abscess on her near side hind foot and has a poultice on it or rather had a poultice on it.

I walk closer.

The removal of the vetwrap turns out to be a time consuming process as I have to wait for all three to stop leaping around before I can go into the field and extricate Purdy from it.

If she moves off too quickly the vetwrap scares her and the scene of chaos starts over.

Why does this kind of thing always happen? The day was going so well!

I get the the three of them to stand still long enough to pull off the vetwrap and what is left of the plastic bag that was keeping the poultice clean.

How do these fillies get into so much trouble? They are the reason for checking your horse in the field!

I breathe a sigh of relief at managing to get the trailing vetwrap off and ponder how on earth I’m going to get water down here without a tractor!

I put their feeds in the field, which is what I had been going to do before Purdy’s kite flying display, and I watch them eating.

All is calm.




Larry is lame


Larry is lame, hopping lame. Well, not hopping lame today, but he was after eventing on Monday. Today he is limpingly lame… He’s got a splint on his nearside fore.

And looking at him, having a splint appears to be pretty painful.

What is a splint?

A splint is an inflamed area on either the inside or the outside of the canon bone. There may be a swelling and heat, and the horse will try to keep weight off the affected leg when trotting.

The front canon bone has on either side a smaller splint bone, and these smaller splint bones fuse into the canon bone as the horse matures, but in a young horse ligaments hold the splint bones to the central canon bone.

The upper two thirds of each splint bone is attached to the canon bone by the interosseous ligament (dense fibrous tissue). The lower section flares away from the canon bone and is connected to the surrounding structures by soft tissue.  The lower end of the splint bone has a small pea like button, which can be felt through the horse’s skin.

As the horse matures, the ligaments ossify and all three bones become one. Usually by the age of four the splint and cannon bone will be one bone.

Splints are more likely to occur in young horses, as the ligament is still flexible.

If you feel along the sides of the canon bone outside or inside, you will find a very sore spot that indicates the inflamed area. Heat and swelling may be present and the swelling may start to feel hard as the ligament calcifies. Because of how the leg bones are angled, it is more common for splints to develop on the inside of the leg. It is also possible for a horse to develop multiple splints.

There is also a type of splint that you can’t feel called a blind splint. In a blind splint the bony reaction happens on the inside border between the splint bone and the canon bone, where it cannot be seen and it cannot be felt. With a blind splint, the swelling can impinge on the suspensory ligament.

What causes a splint?

Direct trauma

Direct trauma is a common cause of splints. The periosteum is damaged by the trauma and new bone is laid down in the injured area. Splints caused by trauma are often seen lower down the leg than those caused by strain.


Working a horse on hard surfaces increases the concussion received by the interosseous ligament, which causes tearing. Splints caused by concussion are usually found on both front legs, most commonly on the inside of the leg a few inches below the knee.


Overworking young or unfit horses at speed or in tight circles may cause splints. The uneven loading of the limb in tight circles places excessive force on the medial splint, which can cause it to move excessively relative to the canon bone.


Horses with ‘bench kneed’ conformation can suffer from splints due to excess loading of the medial splint bone

 What is the usual treatment for a splint?

The usual treatment for a splint is a short time of box rest, turnout on soft ground and reduced workload for 1 – 3 weeks, cold hosing and your vet may prescribe medication to reduce inflammation and prevent excess calcification.


DMSO with other drugs in it may be prescribed.  DMSO acts as an anti-inflammatory, but it also has a property, which will enable it to also carry other drugs through the skin to the affected area.

The area where it is to be applied needs to be clean and free from dirt as the DMSO could also carry dirt through the skin of the horse.

DMSO is a solution that you paint on the splint with a brush if you have a patient, ‘good will to all men’ kind of horse.

Larry is not that kind of horse. He is more of the ‘take no prisoners’ kind and if he sees you’ve got the bottle of DMSO or smells it, he runs round his stable and turns his hind quarters on you before you can even get a head collar on him.

To be fair to him, it is lethal stuff and you have to wear gloves to apply it as it is quickly absorbed through your skin; If you do get it on your skin, you will smell like rotting asparagus; worryingly, you mustn’t touch it at all if you’re pregnant – it must be bad; you need to seek medical treatment immediately if you get it in your eyes and it can cause neurotoxicity;  I’m not quite sure how come it is used so liberally in horses?

I can only guess how DMSO makes his leg feel – suffice to say, he leaps about after it has been applied!

Applying DMSO in Larry’s case, it’s easier to catch him by surprise, and wearing gloves run a small DMSO soaked ball of cotton wool quickly over the splint, or your chances of getting near him are limited. You mustn’t soak the area of the splint however, just brush it over with the solution, so a quick wipe with cotton wool will do.

Wear rubber gloves rather than vinyl as DMSO is horrible stuff and it permeates vinyl gloves and your skin very quickly. Getting the gloves off without getting it on your skin can also be a challenge, especially as there are only a handful of gloves on the side in the tack room.

DMSO needs to be applied twice a day – a source of great joy to those with the task of applying it!

The morning application is not too bad. I think Larry is still half asleep. It’s the afternoon application, when you are ready to go home, where Larry runs round his box like the clappers.

All I can say is, I hope his splint is soon better!