Winter is coming…

Winter is coming…whether we like it or not. For the traditional horse keepers amongst you, this means months of mucking out in the dark, clipping, changing sodden rugs, riding for fitness in the dark or paying for indoor arenas.

Winter is coming, and the winter preparation for track kept horses is slightly different. Our field is about 6 acres. We have a summer track around the edge, a hard standing area for giant hay feeders and the middle is split into 3 paddocks. This summer, one paddock has been grazed by Gary’s TB, who needed extra weight and needed to be segregated from the others because they bullied him horribly. It turns out he has had Kissing Spines, and now his back has been injected, and he is moving better, he is allowed into the herd; presumable he doesn’t look like the weakest link anymore. That’s another story for another day though.

Winter is coming, which means the grass will finally be safe for the grass sensitive Cal to eat without going footsore. The other two paddocks have been left long to act as standing hay for winter. Our grass doesn’t really turn onto foggage as our weather generally is not cold or dry enough, but we had great success last year introducing them to the long grass one paddock at a time, until they had access to the whole 6 acres for the worst part of winter. Allowing wider access reduced the footfall in any one area, and thereby reduced the mud damage. A couple of the gateway gaps were trashed by spring but they have recovered really well over the summer. And the gravelled feed area proved a life saver last year: the feeders were easy to fill, the horses didn’t get mud fever, their feet were brilliant from standing and loafing on pea gravel. I’ve made a road from haylage store to feed area from old stable mats, eventually this will be stoned too.

The horses made their own gateways last year. This year the electric tape is staying up and electrified for now, but if they start barging through willy-nilly again, it will get unstrung and put away for winter. I’m not sure how well the solar energiser will work over winter!

Winter is coming, and it’s a good time to take stock.

Gary and I have had the most excellent year. We have continued the brilliant monthly clinic lessons with Patrice- Cal is getting stronger and more established in his work, Rocky got through his teenage tantrums, although we had a bit of outside help with that, and Beat settled in lovely and will be the most fabulous event horse if his KS come right. Cal and I have been to 2 British Riding Club Championships, both team trips with friends from the Exceptionally Cool Riding Club. The East Clwyd Riding Club is most excellent, and has been rightly shortlisted for the NAF Riding Club of the Year Award- Please vote here

The Horse Trials Championships were obviously the most fun; bonus was we had a season best dressage and a lovely double clear.

Previously known as sicknote, Cal managed to remain sound for a whole summer. I got really brave and took him down to the Dovecote Stables for 2 ridden lessons with the legendary Charles de Kunffy. Now I will admit, in my dreams I wanted it to be a breakthrough clinic where we got to clean changes. However, Charles is a genius at getting to THE thing; and the breakthrough turned out to be that there is no point doing all the funky stuff until his body submission issues are completely sorted. Many people who know him think Cal is an angel; he’s not hot, he doesn’t dance or jig or bronc, but he does just do this tiny brace in his neck, and fractionally lock his jaw, and he doesn’t ever yield his brain. So the Charles lessons turned out to be all about ensuring we get a good topline, with a lifted back, swinging shoulders and a soft lumbar back. And that’s OK, because when I take that horse to the harder work, that works much better too! Except for trot/canter transitions…if Cal can’t brace we can’t yet do them on demand…..more practise.

We have done 6 ODEs, including an unaffiliated 90 at Eland. Not bad for a full time surgeon! And finally we finished our summer season with the FOTH qualifier at Berriewood- first out on course for individual 3rd and a team win. It was at 80 level again, rather than the planned 90, but this last month has been mad busy so I didn’t feel ready to step up.

For those of you who haven’t noticed, this was all done without shoes. With 24/7 turnout on a track system.

Cal Foth Berriewood 2017

Naughty turned out leg in the showjumping photo- much winter homework required!

Cal XC Berriewood Fotj 2017

Winter is coming, and the horses are getting furry. The working horses will get a shallow trace clip when they get really furry, just to enable us to ride them. I think the TB will need a rug, depending on how much coat he grows, but based on last year’s experience, the others won’t need a rug.

Winter is coming. I was musing the other day that we need to work out how much of what we traditionally do over winter is done for our human convenience, and how much is done for the horse’s benefit. Shoes exist for human convenience. Horses don’t need shoes, they need good feet. And good feet don’t come easily once they are brought into the sphere of human influence. Stables exist only for human convenience. Stables don’t make good feet. Clips are for humans really- people want to use their horses over winter and are taught they can’t do so unless the horse is clipped. Clips lead to rugs, and lead to stables being required. Horses can easily deal with temperatures from -5 to 25 degrees Celsius, if they have adequate forage, shelter and hair. As well as friends. Friends are crucial. When it rains, our horses huddle behind the hedge, or in the dip, taking it in turns to be on the outside. When it stops, they go for a mad 10 minutes play, get warmed up and then get back to eating. Forage ferments in the equine caecum, providing their own central heating system. They eat for about 16 hours a day, to trickle feed their caecum. Their fur can stand up, fluff out, the dense layers of unclipped fur resist rain beautifully and they are often completely dry underneath the herringbone pattern the rain forms in the long top hair. Mud is a great insulator, as is snow and ice if we get a proper cold spell. Our horses only really use the field shelters if it’s wet and windy, or nights like tonight, persistently wet with their full winter coat not quite through yet.

So our choice is to let them deal with winter as naturally as possible. We still ride regularly, with fluffy numnahs to prevent damp hair rubbing. We hack and school and jump and drag-hunt and do farm rides. I’m careful not to work them so hard that they overheat on warmer winter days. The horses cool themselves off perfectly mooching around the field after being worked. We feed ad lib unlimited haylage and grass, along with one hard feed a day. They have ample shelter and they have each other. And the natural lifestyle keeps them fit, in mind and body. It’s not always easy. It’s certainly not always convenient. But it is a valid choice, and our horses are the better for it.

And all we have to do is pooh pick and knock off the odd bit of mud.

Winter is coming. So what? Horses have been doing winter for millions of years, without us as well as with us. Here’s to winter training!

Been busy having fun…

Been busy having fun, all the best intentions to post but just been too busy doing the do to put fingers to keyboard; apologies all.

We have been busy having fun with the Classical Riding clinic crowd. A couple of true examples of how horses introduce us to new and precious friends. I was eventing at Eland Lodge and asked on Facebook if anyone was around to video a test. Cora, one of the lovely ladies who has trained with Patrice for many years, came not just to video, but helped warm me up for dressage, whilst deftly controlling her toddling twins, did poles for the SJ warm up, kicked my butt when required and even helped wash Caltastic off after XC. Above and beyond. Cora is also a dressage judge so great to get some insight into how to gain marks and still ride honestly according to our Classical principles and training. I fed her and the kids cold pizza and juice at the event, but will get the opportunity to feed her nice gin when she stays over at this month’s clinic as a proper thank you.

Then the Equestrian Journey Clinic- Cheshire went International!! Kim, one of Patrice’s pupils from Colorado, came over to the UK on an Equestrian Journey road trip. She stayed with us, was lent various horses to have lessons on, videoed every minute, took loads of notes and was a great and enthusiastic contributor to the group learning experience. She’s a trainer and rider so was keen to maximise her learning in this intense holiday. And her coming over here just showed us that one can never travel too far for good teaching. The Yanks have really been missing Patrice and are wildly jealous of how fortunate we are to get her invaluable input every month. Kim had a great lunge lesson on Cal and really showed me how the skating pelvis feeling can extend the walk, and she showed me how fabulous his walk can be…and it’s not quicker, it’s muuuuch looooonger.

I’ve been busy having fun, but as well as doing our flatwork homework, ready for our Charles de Kunffy lessons in September.
(it’s OK, I’ve told Cal and he’s really excited too), we have also managed to squeeze in a little bit of eventing! Interestingly, this year I have been (mostly) detached from our results. I have used the competitions to test whether the training is working, and looking for improvements in way of going, strength and consistency. I am no longer afraid of making mistakes, because mistakes are where we learn, and we have to stretch our comfort zone for progress to occur. I have been mostly doing unaffiliated, because it’s cheaper, and there are now so many unaffiliated event running over BE courses that the argument for paying extra for the quality of course no longer applies.

So we did the Riding Club Horse Trials 80 Qualifier with East Clwyd Riding Club. Cal did a nice test and a double clear, with a couple of time faults. The team came second, and we qualified for the championships!!!

Cal and I then did the unaffiliated 90 at Eland Lodge, with Cora’s help- thanks again. He did a nice test, we had 2 stops show jumping, (jockey oxer wobbles) but he stormed the cross country, again with a few time faults.
We did the 80 at the Cheshire Shield st Somerford, which is always a good track, and got a lovely double clear.

And then we went to the NAF BRC National Horse Trials Championships. As always, after a couple of tricky years with the horse’s health, the main achievement is actually getting there, having qualified, arriving there with a fit horse, ready to go, is something I am now grateful for every day. I do love those events where you get a gorgeous frilly just for arriving safely!! We had a great time, arriving the day before, team building over a lovely pub dinner which even involved wine! The show jumping and the cross country were cleverly set to be challenging at the level. Only 10 teams posted a finishing score, and our team came 8th.

Cal chose the best day to put all the training together, we scored a season best dressage and a double clear, this time with naughty time penalties. I can’t decide which was the best moment. The dressage test felt lovely and fluid and he felt rideable and aidable at every moment. The show jumping just felt fab and the cross country was a huge buzz.

A great result for a day which I wasn’t expecting to happen- in my head July and August were going to be the youngster’s busy time because Cal would surely be struggling with his breathing. Oh well….he’s not too bothered.

So now we have a month and counting before I present my gorgeous ‘peasant pony’ to Charles at the incredibly posh Dovecote stables. He will be the cheapest horse there, by a full order of magnitude, but his training is coming on in leaps and bounds and I (and Patrice) feel confident that his work is good enough to shine through. As long as I don’t get too starstruck or succumb to lesson brain.

We have one more Patrice clinic before then- trot half pass and canter to walk transition to nail by then so everything is set up for the next steps.

And gorgeous Gary has made the most amazing pull out bed for Travis the Truck now so we can sleep in luxury while we are down at Dovecote Stables. I can’t wait to go back to the pub next door- lunch there in March was the most lush food I have had this year.

So there you have it- been busy having fun.

Horses can event barefoot, they can event from a field; naked and hairy and scruffy most of the time, they will stay happy and healthy and give you their best work when you ask for it.

I’m not sure why Cal hasn’t had breathing problems this year- we have fed organic haylage, golden paste pellets, spirulina, jiagolaoaun, and Succeed (for his hindgut) all season. He has had the odd cough, and some clear snotty discharge, but never felt breathless. The rapeseed is planted further away this year; maybe we have just been lucky and it’s far enough away for the horses not to suffer.

I won’t know until next year.

But for now we will keep busy having fun while it lasts.





If you ain’t having fun

If you ain’t having fun, you ain’t having nothin’.

Excuse the vernacular, I think I’ve been hanging out with the Bermuda Babe for too long.

If you ain’t having fun, why the hell not?

It’s summer, the days are long, the ground is drying out, or setting solid depending on where you live, the horses are in their summer coats, the riding diary is full and everyone has come out of hibernation.

If you ain’t having fun, are you having troubles?


Horses can be emotionally and psychologically draining as well as financially. Humans tend to be goal and task orientated, horses however live in the present moment  and have no idea what it’s all about. They will never get the point. They don’t know they are meant to be eventing in summer and doing dressage and show jumping prep in the winter. They just know they have a body that somedays feels good and somedays feels bad. Our job as the rider is to repay them, for the gift of being allowed to share that body’s athleticism, by daily attention to good work that will improve and enhance that body’s capability, not break it down.

If you ain’t having fun, maybe you are taking it all a tad too seriously?

While I have been suffering from frustrated competitive ambition for the last two years due to Cal’s various health issues, I have had the luxury of examining exactly what I enjoy about owning horses. Now obviously the answers are deeply personal to me but the exercise has clarified a lot of “stuff”.

For example- I love jumping. But if, as seemed likely at one point, the horse I have doesn’t love jumping, would I pass on that horse? Or would I find a way to still enjoy owning that horse? I decided I would find a way to still love owning that horse, and would do my best to do right by him. The resulting freedom that decision brought opened up a whole new phase of education, about husbandry, and horse health, and managing my expectations, and working to the horse’s timetable, not my own. I concentrated on getting him as healthy as I could, and taking each day as it came, and doing the basic foundation work, from Classical training principles. And guess what? Cal has come back, for now, stronger, and better, and fitter, and is jumping brilliantly. My riding has improved no end, I have learned to listen to his body and mind, and analyse the feedback I am receiving, and work with what I have today, and progress has been rapid and rewarding.

Image 2

What makes competing fun? For me, it gives me a framework to base my horsey homework around, but I also love seeing my mates, having a beer, and joining in the group activity.

This year I have made it a point to say yes to every horse related learning opportunity that also involved fun.

We went to watch the great Charles de Kunffy teach,..for 4 days. I filled a notebook with notes but the immediate takeaway message was the daily vocabulary of training- bend, straight, lengthen, shorten, sideways, transitions and patterns. There are hundreds more gems in those notes alone, filtering through gradually into our work. Does that sound too serious? What could be more fun than turning your average “peasant pony” into a correct and beautiful riding horse.

I leapt (ha ha ha) at the opportunity to have a jumping lesson with Yogi. Yes it was expensive, but the value obtained was huge. I treated it as a group learning experience, kept asking myself what I was seeing, what I liked, what that horse needed, and tested myself against what he said to see if I was right. The take home from that clinic was discipline, every step, every line, every jump, has to have a plan.

And we got to share a day of fun and frolics with Wocket Woy and the Pwoducer. Cal was brilliant, as were good old Leo and the ex police pony. We laughed and giggled and got abused, and jumped some fences, and even ate some cake.

You can watch the video of the day here

If you ain’t having fun, just eat the cake. Always. Life is too short not to eat cake 😉

I went to see Yogi Breisner doing a demo about schooling racehorses over fences. As we now have an ex-racehorse this seemed useful. It was a great demo, and reminded me that there is always a degree of forward needed to jump a fence. Obvious…but when we get obsessed with control and perfection and pretty, forward is easy to forget.


Although ex-racehorses can do pretty too.

Everyone’s definition of fun will be different. I have learned to love the journey. And enjoy the training, and the use of the patterns and exercises to create a horse more capable and more beautiful than the one I started with. There will be more setbacks, as sure as horses are horses, but I am now in a much better place to maximise the good times and be phlegmatic about the bad days, because I know that although progress in gradual, change is immediate. I don’t need to practise doing something badly, I now have enough kit in my toolbox to think around a problem and find an exercise to change the dilemma. I have great eyes on the ground, fabulous friends, a helpful and truthful husband, and lovely horses. And I know that horses work better when they are laughing too, and dancing with us.


Or not 🙂


 The best best thing about competing 

The best best thing about competing is when the preparation and the hard work pays off and your horse is simply awesome. The best best thing about competing is celebrating a good day with well earned bubbles. 

Friday at Kelsall Hill felt like it was meant to be a good day for us. The weather was perfect for Cal, cold and slightly overcast with no chance of pollen. The ground was also perfect, firm with just a bit of cut and good thick grass cover. 

The best best thing about competing is being part of a big party. As Kelsall is our local event it was also lovely to see people and catch up on gossip after winter. The team at Kelsall Hill had worked their usual magic and the courses all looked immaculate, although the numbers on the show jumping were almost completely hidden behind the beautiful flowers. Luckily I had walked the course the night before and made sure I had checked every number up close. Some competitors hadn’t been so thorough and were caught out by the START sign leaning on fence 9, jumping that backwards for instant disqualification. How cross would you be?

Dressage was OK. Cal was very pleased to be at a party and was very on his toes. An extra canter transition and a tense walk meant I wasn’t expecting much enthusiasm from the judge. 

All I was worried about was the show jumping anyway! 

The best best thing about competing at BE80(T)  is that coaches are there to help with the warm up. I was glad to see Linda de Matteo was the show jumping coach- I know, like and trust her from previous clinics. She warmed us up very positively and also stopped me from doing too much jumping before we went in.

Cal was a little superstar and jumped a beautiful clear round. After all the angst and doubt and fear, once we cleared the first fence it felt easy. As it should- this is a horse I was starting to do 100 on before he got ill.

Once we had got the dreaded show jumping out of the way I knew cross country would be fine. I decided not to wear a stop watch; we would go at an appropriate speed for him and not worry about the time. The exit from the water wasn’t flagged so I chose the quickest way out to the right so we could trot through sedately and breathe. We galloped the rest in his rhythm, I did not really need to do much kicking, but did do a bit of setting him up for the bigger fences 

And he cruised around beautifully, very close to the optimum time. 

Bear in mind that last year we either had numerous stops or were eliminated at every event. I even got David to ride him at one event to see if he could do better, to see if the problems were all down to my muppetry. 

So what has changed?

When we moved to Delamere Forest, Cal’s breathing was really bad the first summer. He was diagnosed with Pasture Associated COPD and had to have daily inhalers through a babyhaler. 

Last year he had steroid inhalers every day, which seemed to keep the airway inflammation under control but, in retrospect, the steroids completely wrecked his feet. I’ve shown the X-rays in a previous post   

So I have built a better horse from the inside out. I have focussed on the flat work over winter, finally concentrating “enough” on my homework from Patrice Edwards to have transformed my position and learned to use the exercises to train for strength and athleticism. Cal’s trot now has cadence and suspension, and his canter has lift. 

This year he is on Succeed for gut health, Golden Paste Pellets for minimising inflammation, magnesium, salt and a very tight barefoot friendly diet. Spring hasn’t really sprung yet, but so far he looks good, and if there comes a summer day when he can’t breathe, I just won’t ride that day. Feet take months to grow, breathing problems can be variable. 

The best best thing from the last few months, for me, has been having my horse back. When he wasn’t jumping well last year, I lost loads of confidence. He never really looked ill. His feet were never really that sore. I thought I couldn’t ride, that I was causing the stops. Friends came up with various theories- I was catching his mouth, I was blocking his back by pushing with my seat instead of kicking, the horse has lost interest/ confidence/ condition… it is really hard to keep riding positively into a fence, kicking like mad, to then grind to an ignominious halt.

The best best thing about competing again was being reminded that when isn’t right, it just isn’t right. When your good horse stops performing, there’s something wrong. The trouble is that the decline can be so insidious. Horses are hard wired to hide pain or weakness- the easy target is the one that gets eaten by the big cat. So we need to be carefully tuned in to hear their feedback. 

It wasn’t all feet last year. He is still ouchy on hardcore and stony tracks, although he just slows down and he does keep his ears forward when on tough terrain. 

Look at his beautiful hooves- on a good surface he can fly.

That’s my favourite picture from the weekend- there was no flying last year. 

The best best thing about competing is that occasionally we get frillies. 

The best thing about competing

The best thing about competing is that entering competitions makes me focus on my training goals. The best thing about competing is that entering competitions gives me a concrete timetable to direct my work towards, and when eventing is your main discipline, that timetable has to include basic fitness, fast work, jumping practise and cross-country schooling

as well as flatwork. We have had a great winter mostly working on our flatwork, as always with the help of the amazing Patrice Edwards, and Cal has been feeling stronger and better than ever, with a good canter (finally) that feels effortless and adjustable. So the best thing about competing is that it forces me to test the training.


The best thing about competing, and training for competing, is that we get to catch up with old friends. Winter can be dark and dreary, especially with working full-time and having horses living out; some days it just seems too much effort to ride, let alone enter anything. This winter my surrogate pony club mum, the lovely Judith, has organised regular riding club jumping clinics with Richard Carruthers. These have been great fun, watching combinations develop, and the camaraderie, thrills and spills and banter have been inspirational. A bit of continuity has also allowed Richard to be inventive: in this lesson he put Cal in a hackamore to see if less inadvertent clutching rein action might improve his way of going. We still had a couple of stops but it did make me realise where I might possibly have been tightening my hand when thinking “oh heck”. My current tasks is to retrain myself to kick every time I think “oh heck”!! The hackamore won’t stay in for ever, but it has been a useful exercise, and doesn’t allow me to micro manage at all, so all I can do is keep asking for forward, which is very much what Cal needs.

The scariest number I ever heard is 4000: this is the number of weeks in an average 80 year lifespan. 80 years sounds like a very long time, 4000 weeks by contrast sounds surprisingly short. It’s so easy to let a week drift by, or a month, when one isn’t focused. Horses set their own timetable, for sure, but a sense of time passing is handy for those of us with busy lives and other distractions, like a full time job and a home business on the side.

Rocky set his own timetable this month; no sooner had I ordered his new saddle then he developed an abscess and was waving his front foot around like a dying swan. He came down to the house for a few days for poulticing, which was quite testing. Note to self, must handle him in more inventive ways, rather than just doing basics, as nappies went flying across the yard and he did pirouettes and levade whilst the tape was going round his foot. After 8 days there was no real improvement so we took him to Brownmoss for x-rays. The x-rays showed a tiny abscess, quite deep in the foot, so no point digging and no point poulticing. We chucked him out in the field again for it to work its own way out. This took another week; he got really good at chasing the dogs on 3 legs and doing perfect pirouettes to turn around. It was all good hind end strengthening. He finally looked sound the evening before we went away for Easter weekend, so will get ridden out tomorrow.

Rocky handing in his note excusing him from games

The best thing about competing is that it makes me clean my tack properly! I’m quite good at looking after my tack for durability and checking stitching for safety, as most of it is second-hand, but it rarely gets a full buff and polish unless we are going out somewhere. Rocky chewed Cal’s leather reins, so I have the choice of looking scruffy in lightly chewed leather tomorrow or doing dressage with rubber reins that don’t give the same nice elastic feel…we’ll see.

The best thing about competing is that it forces me to tackle Cal’s mane so that it can be plaited; as a friend once said, he has two good manes, one on each side, that take quite a lot of taming. He also hates having his mane pulled, so we have to do a few handfuls at a time, or do it really quickly before he gets too cross.

Cal showing off his two manes

After photos tomorrow LOL.

The best thing about competing is the anticipation. To keep ourselves moving forwards, we are told to do something every day that scares us. You can’t grow in your comfort zone, only in your stretch zone. Well, having not competed properly i.e. jumping, since last summer (I don’t count dressage as competing because I am now so detached from the outcome), I am indeed feeling stretched! Here’s to growing!

The dulcet tones belong to Richard Carruthers, videos courtesy of Brent Sansom, many thanks Brent.

And finally, my stepson Barney stomped way out of his comfort zone this weekend, walking 100 miles in less than 48 hours, raising over 4K so far for Cancer Research UK and St Wilfred’s Hospice, in memory of Pam, his dear and wise friend. I am uber proud, and would ask you to consider donating to the 2 very worthy causes.


Spring is in the Air

Spring is in the air…,and that means more work for everyone. 

Rocky is hacking out again under saddle and feeling very important. He has been a bit cold backed and occasionally bucks under saddle so I took the plunge and ordered our first new saddle since 2010! In 2010 I discovered WOW saddles, found a fabulous local fitter and got introduced to the joys of buying WOW parts on EBay. The WOW is completely modular and completely adaptable; with the great fitter, we have managed to get away with tweaking second hand WOWs ever since. So the new saddle concept was a shock. I’ve ordered a Pro Jump from AVA saddles for the Rockstar- I’ll let you know how that goes. However, Claire’s main comment was how wide he is when he works, so I swapped the WOW head plate up 2 sizes to a 5 and we have had no more bucking and a much greater desire to go forwards. 
At least he will have his own jumping saddle!!

Rocky on a solo hack around the lake, just after a little canter ??

Boys on the pea gravel square with their giant hay feeders. 

Spring is in the air, which means the grass is growing. Spring is in the air which means it’s time to put up the track- we got it all sorted last weekend. Gary worked like a hero. 

Spring is in the air. March seems to be Cal’s month. He’s fit and keen and loving life. Having a tricky barefooter with breathing problems teaches you to enjoy the good times and not worry about the rest. I hope this is his year, but we have had plenty of fun while he’s feeling good. 

Spring is in the air- I hope you are feeling it too. 

Thursday was

Thursday was my blogiversary ?

I hope you’re enjoying sharing our journey.

Thursday was also Storm Doris day.

Thursday was also horse dentistry day! We had 3 booked in with the lovely Craig Griffiths at our local vets. 

Thursday was pretty windy! We caught Beat and got him down for his session.

Craig asked me to make him look heroic and dashing- hope I’ve managed!!

Craig is an Equine Dental Technician. He does monthly clinics at the vets. Doing the horses at the vets gives us the option of sedation to ensure a pleasant and safe experience all round whilst allowing us to use a tooth expert. Whilst there are great vets with a special interest in dentistry, I generally prefer to use an EDT where possible. I don’t go to the GP for work on my teeth, why should the horses be any different? 

We decided to book the other 2 in gorbext month- Doris was quite angry.

Friday was better weather. We took the opportunity to have some fun. 

Rocky and Gary with the world at their feet. 

And Friday was also the day our second dog arrived…

This is the first lie down – 20 hours later!!!

Lizzie doing dog whispering magic. 

Happy Blogiversay Nelipotters ???

Do combination wormers cause abscesses?

Do combination wormers cause abscesses? I described in a previous blog

how we operate a targeted equine worming programme based on Faecal Egg Counts and saliva tests for Tapeworm.

The reasons for this, briefly, are

1) the national problem of increasing resistance to anti-helminthic chemicals with no new drugs in the pipeline

2) a general desire to limit the herd’s exposure to synthetic and possible toxic chemicals

3) a sneaking suspicion that worming can cause systemic upset in sensitive horses

Do combination wormers cause abscesses?

Now I’m not advocating letting the worms flourish. I completely understand how dangerous worm infestation can be for our fragile equines. I have close friends who have lost horses to worm disease. I also have friends whose horse had a terrible reaction to a commonly used wormer. So I’m just trying to minimise the amount of worming doses I have to use for my horses, to be a good citizen and decrease the spread of resistance for all of our sakes and to reduce the chance of bad reactions in my own precious herd.

Do combination wormers cause abscesses?

So after testing for redworm and tapeworm in October, I had 4 horses needing 3 different treatments. I went to the farm shop and bought the wormers and labelled them carefully with each horse’s name so I wouldn’t get too confused. The 4 horses came down to the house for hoof trimming and I took the chance to do a worming round. And got confused.

The short non profane version is that Cal, the most systemically sensitive horse, needed worming for tapeworm and didn’t get the Equitape he was meant to. After I’d jumped around swearing a bit I thought never mind, he’s only mildly positive for Tapeworm, I’ll do a combined dose in winter and cover tapes and encysted. It’ll be OK.

Do combination wormers cause abscesses?

So on the 3rd Jan I wormed them all, 3 with Equest for encysted redworm and Cal with Pramox to cover both encysted redworm and tapeworm. 8 days later he was really quite lame.

Do combination wormers cause abscesses?

Both front feet had palpable digital pulses and both front hooves were warm to touch. The other three horses were all fine. We had had a touch of frost and one of the bales of haylage smelt a bit ripe so I didn’t immediately connect the situation to the wormer…after all it was a good few days later. I cursed the frosty grass, cut back on Cal’s bucket feed and kept him turned out for movement. A couple of days later I brought him down to the house to have a good look at the still sore feet- the pulses were less bounding, there were no obvious boggy bits or sore spots in the sole and no signs of an abscess ready to burst so I painted his soles with frog oil and back down to the field he went.

The sore feet and the palpable pulses lasted about 10days in total. The left forefoot did smell of pus for a couple of days, although I could never find a convincing egress wound. The frog was a bit spongey but he didn’t mind me prodding it and there was no visible punctum. The right forefoot didn’t smell of pus or thrush but was on off sore for that time and had a variable pulse.

After about ten days I was doing night time bucket feeds and noticed he was moving better (charging around the field with his tail flagged out). Saturday came and I marched him down to the house, picked out his feet without any problem, tacked him up, hacked around the corner on the stony tracks and worked him in the neighbour’s arena. He felt amazing, strong and willing and almost better for a couple of weeks off.

I checked his feet again and there was a small divot in the sole of the left forefoot, as if a small solar abscess had burst or a bit of sole exfoliated, but there was no other sign of what might have caused the lameness.

It was a few days later when I remembered we did have a similar episode two years ago. The last time he abscessed was when were still at livery. That year at the livery yard was a foot- related nightmare. Cal had a few months of constant abscesses and went around his hooves twice; I seem to remember 7 consecutive abscesses. Even Paddy the invincible barefooter had an abscess whilst there. The forage analysis showed their hay to be very high in iron. Because we had so much trouble with abscesses at the livery yard, the various episodes all merged into one. The information did percolate through to my brain though that the last time Cal had a combination wormer was that last winter in livery.

Since moving the horses to our own land we had not had any trouble with abscesses in nearly 2 years…until now.

So I did some Googling: Do combination wormers cause abscesses?

There is plenty of anecdotal evidence on the internet about horses becoming footsore after combination wormers. It seems to be more of a problem in horses with Cushing’s disease or hind gut problems.

There are numerous stories of colic too, but the toxicity there seems to be associated with high worm populations being exterminated quickly and releasing endotoxins into the gut as they die. Cal’s tapeworm test was weakly positive and his redworm count negative in October so I don’t believe the worm burden was the problem in our case. He has tested negative for Cushing’s to date. However he always looks and feels better when he is on regular treatment for hindgut issues.

Do combination wormers cause abscesses?

Other possible causes of this footsore episode include ripe fermented haylage and frosty grass. We have had both these situations occur again since Cal became sound again and he hasn’t missed a step.

Will I give him a combination wormer again? I have to say that I will do my best not to. If he needs covering for both tapeworm and encysted redworm in the future I will dose separately a couple of weeks apart.

I have never tried non-chemical or natural wormers. I’m too much of a doctor there- I think that if worms are detected they need eradicating and then the horse needs re-testing to check eradication has occurred. If there are no worms on testing then the horses shouldn’t need anything other than a balanced species -specific diet.

I know people report egg count success with regular use of herbal wormers but I do cynically  wonder if their horses are all non shredders? Paddy has only tested weakly positive for redworm twice in the last 5 years. 

I am really looking forward to the promised ELISA test for encysted redworm becoming commercially available.

Once we have reliable affordable tests for common equine parasites, there will be some calendar years for my boys where no chemical worming is necessary. It isn’t cheaper than worming blindly every few months, but my recent experience suggests it may well be safer for horses to test before dosing unnecessarily, both in the short and the long term.

Soil analysis digging done today -year 2- I’ll keep you posted.