Winter is Coming

I have been looking towards winter with some trepidation for the last couple of months, dreading a potential repeat of last year’s emotionally unstable Phoenix.

So as with everything, I made a plan.

I decided to maximise on the fact that she’s come on so well in her training over the summer, and reap the rewards by booking a few competitions. Having something to focus on would also help distract me too.

So in the last five weekends, Phoenix and I have been adventuring four times, and have two more adventures before November. She’s entered four showjumping classes, doing three double clears and being placed in all four. She’s been placed first and second in dressage tests, which whilst they weren’t her best work felt much more established than her last test and the consistency had improved. She’s also been on the Badminton sponsored ride to get in some cross country practice. Our next two outings are hunter trials, which will hopefully put us in good stead for some one day events next year.

So we’ve had a lovely few outings, thoroughly enjoying ourselves and building on her CV.

I planned to make some changes to Phoenix’s management this year, but I wanted to ensure I did it step by step so that I learnt which aspect she didn’t appreciate and what stressed her. She’s continued to spend time in her stable over the summer so that it is a familiar environment, which would hopefully reduce any stress there.

I decided to get her saddle checked before she started living in, and to buy her a dressage saddle that I’d promised myself, so that I knew there wasn’t an issue with either saddle or back. Phoenix’s regular massages mean I know that her overall muscle tone is healthier and better than last year, with any problems being ironed out quickly.

I have come to realise over the summer that Phoenix doesn’t cope well in the wind and rain. She gets chilly very quickly, even when we’ll rugged up, and when ridden is more tense and “scooty” in the wind and rain. I retrieved my exercise sheet which when Otis grew out of it several years ago I loaned to Mum and Matt, who rarely used it. Over the last week I’ve used it a few times and definitely found Phoenix to be more settled and rideable with it in adverse weather.

With this sensitivity to wind and rain, I decided to give her a blanket clip, not a full clip, so that her loins had extra protection. Additionally, she found clipping a very stressful experience last year, so I planned to clip her before she started living in. Then I could gauge her reaction to clipping without the factor of being stabled. We actually had a much more positive experience last week; Phoenix ate her bucket of feed, and let my friend gibber in her ear while I clipped away. It’s not my best work of art, as I quit while I was ahead and stopped clipping when she ran out of food! But it was a positive experience, and there hasn’t been a change to her behaviour under saddle.

So I’ve ticked off clipping, saddles, and back, and still had a lovely, happy horse to ride. Next on my list was feed. Phoenix didn’t eat well last year, not tucking into her hay, or drinking sufficient. She’s happily eaten hay in the field the last month so I decided not to change her forage unless she went off it when she started staying in. And then I would immediately introduce haylage. However, I bought some Allen and Page Fast Fibre a couple of weeks ago and have introduced it alongside her chaff based bucket feed. This has a low calorific value, but will fill her tummy up and hydrate her, which will hopefully mean she is less skittish as a result of gastric discomfort. I’ve recently increased her magnesium the level she had in the spring, and maintained her daily dose of gut balancer.

My plan was to get all of these steps established before Phoenix came in at night, but the fates were against me as last weekend she and her field mates started living in due to the atrocious weather conditions. I haven’t been able to exercise her as much as I wanted to this first week due to family problems, but I was thrilled when I have that Phoenix has been lovely to ride, and that she seems happy in her new routine.

It may be that Phoenix is more settled this year; in her ridden work, at the yard, with me, and having experienced a winter living in, so is less likely to become a stress head this winter. But by taking these steps I feel I’ve done my best not to overload her system with simultaneous changes, and could identify triggers that upset her.

I’m not so anxious about winter now as I feel in control, yet ready to make positive changes at the first sign of stress from Phoenix.

Breaking News

http://www.horseandhound.co.uk/news/burghley-winner-clifton-promise-tests-positive-for-prohibited-substance-412058/

Just read this shocking news in Horse and Hound. How must Jock be feeling? To come from such a high flying season to finish on this downer. It must be even worse if he knows that he and none of his staff have administered the drug. Subterfuge.

I thought it explained quite well the potential hazards to a situation I found myself in a few weeks ago.
Just before shutting up time one Friday night I was doing the last minute checks, making sure hay was out for the morning, gates were shut, rugs, headcollars and stray bits of tack away, when I came across a feed bucket. It was on the floor outside the barn full of wet chaff. It was green, so I knew it was a riding school one, and the food looked manky. So I threw it away.
Five minutes later a livery owner comes into the yard with her horse. “Oh someone`s moved your dinner”.

Whoops.

So she hunts around for a moment then I step forward and explain that I had thrown it away as it was unclaimed, looked fairly old, and I didn`t want it hanging around in the morning when we would be bringing in hundreds of horses and the last thing we wanted was all the horses in our hands diving towards this solitary green bucket.

“But all his meds and supplements are in there” Huffs the livery owner. So then I start to explain that it wasn`t really the best idea in the world to leave a feed bucket on the floor for all passing horses, particularly if it had prescribed drugs in. You can just imagine a little boy leading his pony back to his stable and finds himself being dragged to this bucket. Or another horse snaffling some of the feed while their owner is distracted by the Hello`s from their stable neighbour. This horse then goes out competing the next day. Affiliated. And gets blood tested. It would be catastrophic.
Alternatively, the feed bucket isn`t sufficiently rinsed out and the next riding school horse who eats out of it has an allergic reaction to the meds. Goes into anaphylactic shock.

It could happen, lets face it. I eventually brought said livery owner round to my way of thinking; use your own feed buckets, and feed buckets should not be left hanging around the yard for all to snack on. Especially if your horse is on a special diet!!

So how did Clifton Promise get reserpine into his system? Unlike my situation I can`t imagine any of Jock`s yard being negligent enough to put the wrong feed bucket into his stable, or to have not washed the equipment properly. Which leads me back to subterfuge.