Do you ever have that life changing moment which throws all your aspirations, dreams, theories, morals, philosophies into disarray?
Well I wouldn`t say that all of that happened to me. But recent events have certainly made me reconsider life.
I always come away from Pony Club camp feeling quite inadequate anyway. Not in the teaching sense, but in competitive experience. I mean, it`s hard not to when there are kids in the club who are competing at BE Novice level at the tender age of eleven. Or competing at Medium or Advanced Medium on their FEI ponies. I end up wondering what life would have been like if my parents had been pushy, or had bought me a competition pony. I doubt I would have liked it. I’m not brave enough, and I don`t have that competitive drive to win. Yeah sure, I’m competitive to myself, but I don`t have that extra sparkle to excel.
Possibly watching the Olympics has added to this feeling; who knows.
The biggest trigger in my shift of perspective, I think, is Otis. In May and June I had a jam packed competition diary for us, with several aims; jumping clear at Hickstead in July for the Riding Club, and qualifying for the British Dressage Native Breeds Championship. Then he went fractionally lame, almost just sore in his near fore, at an ODE at the beginning of July. It looked like a concussion injury as there was no swelling, or heat, and the shoe was slightly pulled. Plus the ground was hard. So a new set of shoes and two weeks rest he became sound. Ish. Probably about 2/10th lame, if that. Then it was Pony Club camp. Then on the Friday he was crippled. It turns out there was a humungous flint in the cleft of that hoof. Which caused bruising of the frog and by the following Tuesday he was very lame. I called the vet because I was just thoroughly confused about it all. He was nerve blocked, coming sound when the whole hoof was numbed. His shoes came off and I had to poultice for a few days.
The next week he was back to the original 2/10ths lameness with the shoes on, so the vet was called out again and she brought the x-ray machine. She x-rayed both front feet. I have to say he was a total angel standing motionless while she snapped away. His near fore is a bit special, with the coffin joint being at an angle in his foot. Anyway, she spotted a bit of sidebone in both front feet. Well, more than a bit in the left one, and it looked furry, which means that it is active. Then the vet was concerned that his right hind leg was causing the left forelimb lameness so she insisted on x-raying that hock. To my relief she couldn`t see anything.
So in week five I had the farrier out again to put remedial shoes on Otis, which are rolled all the way around the shoe, and his toes were brought right underneath him to improve the breakover point. He looked better, marginally so. And was no longer placing his left foot left to right instead of front to back. So the vet came back out a couple of days later. We trotted him up again and studied him on the lunge. She was still concerned about the right hock so we nerve blocked his left foreleg from the fetlock down to ensure we had eradicated any problem there. And Otis trotted up sound, on a circle, on flexion tests. So we abandoned the idea of investigating his hindlegs and we decided to give him a cortisteroid injection into his left coffin joint.
A week of walking and he seems to be sound. And I hope it stays this way. I`ve decided to start feeding him turmeric to reduce the likelihood of the sidebone causing future problems. Once the sidebone has stabilised I hope service can continue as normal.
However, during these seven weeks I`ve been really thinking about him, and what is important to me. Perhaps I was being too greedy, and wanting to do everything. So I pushed him too far. At one point I was worried he`d never jump again. Then I realised that I just wanted to have my Otis back, so we could go hacking and have fun again, whatever it entailed. I ride numerous horses a day and none of them are quite like him. He`s my best friend, ying to yang, and I know him inside out. Then I worried that he wouldn`t be the same to ride. After all, I`ve ridden veteran horses who are stiff, or cannot flex properly through their hocks and I was scared I would lose Otis`s exuberant gaits, and the bounciness that he`s famous for. I just wanted things to be how they were in May.
I did come to the conclusion that whatever the outcome, I would adapt. If it means he can`t event on hard ground then I will use June-September to work on dressage or showjumping. If he couldn’t jump again then we would focus on dressage and not go above elementary. If he could jump then we wouldn`t go above the limit set by the vet. Whatever it took, I was happy to adjust my ambitions and dreams. I had realised how much he meant to me as a friend, a comrade, a confidant.
We`re now beginning his rehab, which hopefully shouldn`t take took long. I’m taking a clients horse to the Blenheim Riding Club eventers challenge, which should take my mind off Otis`s rehabilitation progress, and I`ve still got until the 30th September to qualify for the native breeds championship. Should I wish to. At the moment, I don`t know if I want to or not. Then I’m going to do as much research as I can about managing this condition and go forwards into next year with fewer, more specific goals, which centre around him and his well-being. After all, he`s the most important one here.