Friday, April 29, 2016

A Diagnosis

Today we finally saw a light at the end of the long tunnel that is mystery lameness.

When I first realised that Oscar was lame, I put it down to muscle soreness from hunting. Whilst he was fit enough to go hunting, he wasn't really prepared very well for the type of terrain we were hunting over.

Woodville is a very flat town, surrounded by the rolling hills of farmland which then backs onto the Tararua Ranges. It's difficult to ride out into the ranges without making your way up some very narrow and winding gravel roads, which are often frequented by deer hunters in big utes and sometimes rattling trailers strapping down an antlered carcass or two. For safety reasons, and because it provides a much nicer ride, we tend to stay down on the flat surfaces. You can actually see the racecourse on one of the above aerial shots, which we ride around when conditioning! I digress,  whilst my horse was cardiovascular fit, we should really have invested some time into riding over hills to better develop those muscle groups. If you've ever been into running, you'll know that you're likely to be a little sore after hill sprints when you're used to beating the tarmac. It was therefore pretty reasonable to think that Oscar's soreness was due to the fact that we'd just gone tearing up hills that were so steep I had to hold a chunk of mane just to remain on my horse, when we usually work out on the rolling-at-worst surfaces of Woodville.

Because of this, I opted to go straight to a physio instead of a vet when his soreness persisted. A vet's diagnosis is obviously hugely important but, if you have a good idea of what's wrong, I find it more efficient to go straight to a specialist. A farrier, for example, will generally do a much cleaner job of an abscess treatment than a vet, and a physio will treat individual muscle groups more efficiently than a vet would. It also tends to be on the cheaper side this way, so it's a win-win situation.

Juli, from Animals Back in Action, specialises in McTimoney manipulation - which is a gentle and non-invasive procedure - alongside routine sports massage. Oscar always responds better to gentler forms of massage, getting quite grouchy if the intensity of the cyclossage and pulse rugs are upped from the base level even. He has had massages in the past but I stopped booking him in as he would often pull faces, start biting and just generally be uncomfortable throughout the whole treatment.

My tricky schedule meant that Juli had had to rearrange hers to fit us in so soon, which I was really grateful for. A+ service. She was so lovely and I was worried Oscar would be a noodle and start biting and pawing and being a general pain in the arse for her- and as he's been on turnout for the past fortnight, I knew he'd start losing his mind to be back inside the cross ties. To give him a chance to settle, I brought him in early with a hay net to munch on quietly. About five minutes into being tied up he realised that we weren't just picking feet out and going on a routine hand walk, so he proceeded to freak the f out. Eyes bulging, head in the air with flared nostrils; typical fruit loop stuff he does if something in his routine changes. Ever the dramatic gelding.

Whilst I would have had next to no chance of calming him down in the space of 25 minutes a few months ago (the last time his routine changed), the recent hand walking has improved his ground manners enormously and I just played around with a bit of natural horsemanship techniques. They're really useful to get your horse focusing on you in a relaxed manner, and Oscar seems to enjoy the instant reward of pressure-release exercises. His previous owner practised a lot of Parelli with him during the breaking in process, so he responds to it very well. By the time Juli arrived he was in a much better headspace to play the patient.

I was immediately impressed by her thoroughness. She had brought a notepad and asked a few questions, taking notes before beginning to assess Oscar. No joint and no muscle group went unchecked as she methodically moved from one spot to the next, pausing only to jot down more notes. Each leg was stretched and flexed as she chatted to me about his history, she said some nice things about Oscar which is always nice to hear as an owner. When she was satisfied, she had me walk and trot to and away from her on a straight line, lunge at W/T/C on both reins and on both the arena surface, and limestone before repeating the straight lines in walk and trot. It felt like a good twenty minutes of observation, which was refreshing as some people are a bit quick to get stuck in.

What must have felt like an eternity for Oscar, who hasn't trotted a circle in weeks now, came to an end and she went back to her hands on assessment. This time she was focusing on manipulating his spine and back area, which he was happy enough about and she was able to rule out any joint pain which is excellent news. He was a bit sore in his trapezius muscle, which runs above the shoulder and close to the wither, on the off side. I did suspect it was a right shoulder soreness, but Juli continued working away before pointing out that the long muscle running over his back on the near side was raised, whereas it was nice and flat on the off side. The right shoulder soreness was very likely a result of compensating for the soreness across his back. More gentle manipulation confirmed the injury was to the longissimus dorsi on the near side, which made perfect sense as he was snatching the near hind leg underneath him on the lunge, was reluctant to canter on the right lead, and this type of injury is relatively common in horses that are underprepared for the terrain they are working on. It also explains why there was barely any lameness evident when we were all focusing on the right shoulder.

She continued to massage the target area which, unlike previous massages, had Oscar yawning and stretching down and yawning some more. Very positive.

Following this, she used two types of laser therapy (shallow and deep) on specific areas of the muscle for good measure, before showing me some useful stretches for the loins, pelvis and hind legs.

Honey I shrunk the horse.. just tricking, Juli is stood on a box ha.

Her thoroughness meant for a lot of information for me to take in, but it's handy to note that she breaks it all down in a report and emails it to the owner, after saving a copy on file for her future reference.

I didn't carry my phone with me when I turned Oscar out, but he walked over to the other horses to tell them off for who knows what, before getting down to roll after which he stayed down. His sore back must have made it hard for him to get some proper rest, so I got a case of the warm fuzzies to see him obviously feeling better and able to catch up on some z's.

Next steps are daily stretches to help get that muscle working properly and healthy again on the road to recovery, with a couple of weeks walking- in hand for the first two days only. If he shows soreness under saddle then we'll just go back to in hand until he's comfortable again. Then we have the all clear to continue work as normal! So pleased to know that it's not a very serious injury, and a timely reminder to make sure my horse is fit for all aspects of a ride, not just in going the distance.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Hand-walking Chronicles

Oscar's persistent shoulder soreness is hanging around, though completely unnoticeable in the paddock and on our daily walks. I almost convince myself the horse is sound, and then I trot him up and am reminded that he isn't. The trouble is that he is only 'off' on it a smidge, so nobody really takes me seriously when I ask for a second opinion. He's currently turned out on ten or so acres, which he's getting about on more than fine. He cantered away happily enough following his cyclossage session the other day which was promising. My problem is that I don't want to exacerbate anything when I don't know for certain what is going on.

I'm trying my best to get a reputable vet-physio out to see him; it's just proving difficult to organise a time when she is in the area.
My first two choices are out-of-area specialists that travel in on six week cycles- luck would have it that they are both four weeks away from their next visits. My third choice is off work with a fracture, my fourth choice is seemingly uncontact-able at the moment.

Whilst I am itching to get the issue resolved (and continue riding!!) I'm not in any hurry to have just anybody show up and diagnose him, only to realise after a lengthy time frame that it wasn't quite right. That happens a lot, it's time wasted and I'd rather get the right person in the first time- even if I have to be patient for an extra week.
 -- I will add that if my horse was showing any signs of discomfort during turnout, I'd be more concerned with getting somebody out, the first person I could, than getting the right person out; just for the sake of an educated diagnosis.

We live quite close to the best veterinary clinic in the country, but of course our float issues are rendering us stuck on our own property and we'd need to travel in to fully utilise that option. That's quite frustrating, but I listed the float for sale today so hopefully we'll get some movement in that area pretty soon.

If I can't get the vet-physio out by the end of the week, I've decided to just get the vet out for a lameness diagnosis and pursue treatment following that. It would be ideal to have it all done in one session, especially as we live in quite a remote town and it's difficult to get people out here without paying through the teeth for it, but eventually you have to say enough is enough and do what you have to do.

So with that being said, I'm hoping for some progress this week.

In the interim, Oscar is just thrilled to be on a hand-walk-only schedule. He gets to snarf down a tonne of red clover and meet little bay racehorses on our daily adventures.

Happy Days, for someone at least.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Tummy Upsets & Sore Shoulders

I've been really worried about Kiri for the last week; she's had the runs when everyone else has been pooping just fine. They are all on a really good worming cycle, have plenty of access to good quality forage, and are fed good quality feeds produced in horse-feed-only mills. She has a lot of non-cancerous melanomas, which unfortunately appears to be a genetic thing in Charlton horses and I was worried that the runs were due to internal melanomas. We had a really reputable out-of-town equine vet come and check her melanomas over recently and he all but guaranteed she'd have a fair amount internally. It was actually on the pretext of wanting to breed from her, and he advised us to just do it as the damage was already existing and the melanomas continue to crop up. Breeding will do nothing to exacerbate the problem. We are sitting firmly on the "no" fence currently as I read a few threads on COTH saying that breeding tends to speed up melanoma growth and she's worth more to us being here herself than having a legacy foal.

So, mysterious diarrhoea. I fretted and fretted as it spanned for four days, some poop was slightly more solid than others and she wasn't looking sick. Very interested in food, and drinking fine. All of her vitals were completely normal. I consulted with a vet and we'd agreed to check her out if anything changed with her vitals.

Unfortunately she's a grey, and with grey horses comes white tails and with diarrhoea comes dirty tails...

Clunkers galore.

It was disgusting. I'd clean it up and then she'd spray poop through it again, it would get weighed down and she'd pee right through it and flick it all over her legs. It was so hideous and I can only imagine how uncomfortable it would be to have faeces all over your legs. Luckily we are in a cold snap and flies aren't rife. I think it was the third time I'd brought her in for a bath when I clicked on to what could possibly be causing her tummy upset. It seems the horrors of getting up close and personal with dried up diarrhoea was all down to Kiri being in season.

When I released the beast to dry off, she was off pretty sharpish to the nearest gelding.

Here's a photo dump of her breathing heavily all over the poor guy's face. He didn't have a clue what to do at this little white marshmallow of a thing whickering sweet nothings into his nostrils and peeing all over herself. She clearly hasn't heard the term playing hard to get...

Finally losing interest, he wasn't quite the man she thought he was.

I called the vet to ask if it could possibly be down to the horse being in season, especially as her heat-cycles are so irregular, and she confirmed that it could definitely be to do with that. I'm starting to see healthy droppings again now and she's back to her normal self, so the tummy upset - on heat cycle time frames coincide perfectly.

So much anxiety on my behalf, thinking the melanomas were wreaking havoc and that we may have to look at her options, when in reality she just wanted to get in one last chance of making a baby before the winter set in. Not such a great idea when your baby freezes its tail off next winter because of your poor life choices is it Jakiri? Fancy timing your year long pregnancy with the onset of winter.. #blondemareproblems.

Speaking of equine health related anxiety, Oscar's mystery lameness is still there. I had L come and confirm it wasn't anything in the elbow down and he was able to pinpoint the shoulder. 90% of 'shoulder lameness' is in the hoof, so he whipped off the shoe and tested the hoof so we could definitely rule that out. He manipulated the shoulder area a little and got a good reaction out of Oscar, so it's a safe bet that it's some muscle or soft tissue damage in there.

A really well known rider in our area hires out her cyclossage rug and so we'll give that a go this evening and see if it does anything. The lameness isn't bad at all; unnoticeable in walk and barely there in trot. Canter is where it really looks like there's something going on.

If there is no improvement following the cyclossage we'll get the vet out to try and diagnose him; either that or a vet-physio, or chiropractor or something. We'll get to the bottom of it. I'm not too concerned as he's getting about happy as larry in the paddock - I'm just having major withdrawal symptoms. Especially as I've been invited to go hunting again and I'm literally chomping at the bit to go again. Even contemplating taking Kiri but she's a handful and I don't have anything strong enough to keep her under control on a hunt field. I struggled slowing Oscar down and his mouth is like butter, where Kiri has major rock-jaw from her time cruising around Intermediate thinking she knows #allofthethings, #holdtighthumanpassenger, #jumpthebigjumps, #gallopthebigcourses. Le sigh.

I did treat myself to a little summin' summin' as a condolence slash present to myself for doing particularly well on an assignment. It starts with Sportsvibe and ends in two minute noodles on the menu for the foreseeable - #worthit ;).

More on that later, please pray the cyclossage works on Oscar so I don't need to sell my soul to fund a lameness identification mission.

Oscar will tolerate looking like he's about to take his first lesson at Water Waders for the massagey goodness of the cyclossage, *drool*.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Mystery Lameness Post Alert

Today's horse-time started like any other. Bringing Oscar in and exhausting myself before even getting on because he is the dustiest dust-mite ever and no matter how clean he is when I put him away, I bring him in with a dusty grey bum and a mud mask. Grooming is a marathon and never a sprint.

I wrapped him up in his teal Le Mieux polos, which is our equivalent to business socks, and planned to revisit some of the stuff we had worked on with C last year. He even had a hay net today because I needed him to have some sustenance because it was game face schooling. 8m canter circles kinda game face.

We had a super long walk warmup because he was feeling a little tense, before popping into trot.

He just felt a little off.  Not head bobbing lame, but definitely not even. I wondered if he was still a bit muscle sore from hunting despite having a course of bute, numerous back on track therapy sessions, a few days off and liniment washes. So I thought the best thing to do is to keep trotting and see if he warms up out of it. Whilst he never got any better, he didn't get any worse.

I set up my phone on a jump stand and videoed us trotting a circle on both reins. I rewatched the video and he barely looked lame at all unless I squinted my left eye, bit my tongue, tilted my head on a 40 degree angle and had the phone in a specific position. Basically it was near impossible to see any lameness.

So I went out and asked for canter. No response, which in itself is unusual as he's picture perfect upwards transitions. So I jammed on my leg pony clubber style and kept it on for a few canter strides. He felt pretty normal so I took my leg off a little, at which point he just slumped forward into halt. It was so abrupt I almost went over the pommel. From canter to halt in 0.3 seconds. Can your Audi do that?!

That wasn't right. I hopped off, removed the wraps and lunged him. As with the video, I couldn't see anything, but a reluctance to go forward and the tiniest smidge short in the right foreleg. I'm usually pretty spot on with seeing where the soreness is coming from, two years of a farrier apprenticeship and 300 lame horse call outs you get better-than-average at spotting causes of lameness. Whether it's in the shoulder, knee, fetlock or hoof or a tendon. But Oscar had me baffled.

With nothing to go off, except a 99.9% positivity that it's not in the hoof, I just wrapped a polo loosely up past his knee, stuck the hose in the wrap and left him with a hay net for fifteen minutes. I know I said it's not in the hoof, but a bit of a soak never hurt anyone, right? I towel dried it and clay poulticed from fetlock to elbow before turning out. I decided against bute because I didn't want it to mask any improvement or lack thereof. I trotted him up for my BM (we don't actually have barn managers in New Zealand, but it's easier to type than "the lady who owns the stables") and she confirmed he was definitely a little off. Not just imagining things then. 

There is nothing obvious - no heat, no swelling, no cuts or abrasions. The plan is two more days off with a hand walk on each day. If still no improvement then we'll look at professional help. Whether that's a vet, massage therapist, chiro or what I don't know until I have more of an idea what's wrong.

Currently taking suggestions!

Whilst unable to ride the favourite, I had a little play around on PicMonkey making horse memes.

Variations on this one were floating around makeup and fitness pages for ages, so I was surprised nobody had snapped it up for a horse meme already! It's so damn accurate. 

Friday, April 15, 2016

Kick up the butt: Horse Float Edition.

I mentioned in a previous post that L had come to collect the horse float one day whilst I was at the stables, and take it for its' warrant of fitness. Well, unfortunately it failed for the first time ever.

Meaning we can't float our horses in it. Meaning I have no transport for the foreseeable.

The damage is pretty extensive and forecast to be in the $2,000 region which, considering that we've been weighing up whether to upgrade for the past two years has been a bit of a shove for us to actually make a decision.

We got the float as a temporary trade off for our old truck. We had a lovely little 'ladies truck' which we kept parked up at our local pony club, and one weekend a bunch of horse floats and our truck were vandalised. I think the engine underneath the cab was ripped out and our truck was obviously rendered useless. Whilst we were on the market for a new truck, someone offered us a trade - their float for the body of our truck. It worked out nicely as a temporary solution.

Only, we loved the float so much we never actually got around to buying a new truck, or even a new float. It tows like a dream and the horses travel beautifully in it so it just stuck around.

It's not the prettiest of horse floats; especially parked next to sleek and shiny coloured models, but it has been trusty as hell. I don't even think it's branded, a kiwi home build that even anxious travellers don't mind hopping into. 

All week we have been weighing up whether to fix it ourselves, or finally upgrade as we have been meaning to since our truck first got vandalised. It was a tough call as it came out of 'wanting' as opposed to necessity, but we decided it's time to sell our faithful little float. 

We can't use it in its current state, and once it has sold it may take a bit of time for us to find a new one, so there'll be no hunting, bridle path hacking or beach rides for a while which is a shame, but it's a great time to catch up on lessons instead. 

We're not wanting much for it at all, and so somebody who knows how to weld (damage just requires welding underneath) will make a sweet profit! Hopefully it goes quickly so we can get on the road again!

Monday, April 11, 2016

Hunting Recap

Sunday rolled around really quickly - I had a million things to do between my last blog post and the hunt, so thankfully didn't have much time to stew on the thought of my horse and I tangled in a wire fence, or the fact that I was joining in on chasing a creature to its' untimely death.

I was satisfied with the plan that I would hang back should the hunt go on a run, to avoid being anywhere near that scenario, but was assured several times that it was unlikely to get a kill. Hares apparently largely outsmart the hounds, and have every chance to get away from the hunt and see another day in. Most people who know me were super confused that I went hunting, considering I won't even see the stable cat kill a mouse without setting the little bugger free. I feed the cat and I know she eats well enough without torturing little fluffs for entertainment! So, although it pains me enormously that something dies in a hunt, the fact that it is a quick death and that it has every opportunity to get away allows me to 'turn a blind eye' if you will. Yes, I do feel a hypocrite but I am only human, flaws and all.

So, before I knew it, it was Sunday morning and time to get Oscar ready. I gave him a bigger than usual breakfast with some electrolytes, and set to making him shiny and clean. He's a bit of a mud bug and it's been a bit too chilly to wash, but a bucket of hot soapy water saw his face and legs clean. The rest was nothing a rubber curry and coat conditioner couldn't fix. D picked us up just before 11 and we set off to the hunt meet!

I was checked in and introduced to a few people, offered some port and a sandwich as it was a lawn meet, and then we all assembled on horseback whilst the hounds were released. The farm was five or so minutes up the road, and Oscar felt settled straight away. We do a lot of conditioning hacks and so he's not the kind of horse that freaks out when you leave the sandbox. Once at the farm, the hounds worked on picking up a scent and we slowly followed them up a hill and across a ridge. They made their way into an adjoining paddock which you could get to through a gate or over a spar. The spar was uphill and not the nicest on the property, so D told me to stay back and gate with a groom riding the huntsman's 'second horse', which needed to remain fresh and not be jumped. It was around this point that Oscar started to perk up a little; us gaters were the last ones through and had to canter up a fairly large rolling hill to catch up to the rest of the hunt. I let him let off some steam up the hill as he was threatening to buck, and he did in fact throw in a couple bucks which was a bit of a relief because he'd gotten that out of his system.

Then, literally at the top of the hill the hounds caught onto a scent and were away. I'm not sure how this happened but I was sticking with D and somehow ended up right in the middle of the horses tearing down a hill towards a neat little spar. Oscar was pulling like a train and adrenaline had kicked in and we both just wanted to be amongst it I think! The hounds took us on a wild chase across several paddocks and up hills that were so steep, all I could do was hold on tight to a chunk of mane and let my horse tear along. We galloped up hills, down hills, around corners, over ground that I would usually pick my way across, and sprinted along flat stretches of paddock. It was amazing. A white knuckle ride for sure, but all my apprehension was long gone as my horse was just so brilliant. I couldn't have stopped him if I tried; he thought he knew what he was doing and was just point and shoot over all the spars and lowered wires that came up in front of us.

Eventually it wound down and came to a stop as the hounds lost the scent. Everyone was stoked at what a great run it had been, lasting ages. I spoke to a lady whilst our horses caught their breath and the hounds worked on finding a new scent, and she told me to remember that forever as it was so rare to get a run like that, that went on for so long. Such a great welcome to hunting, and seriously, what a horse. Oscar was just rock solid.

The hunt had split into three, and it was nice to give my horse a breather as we hacked down to regroup. I asked D how it had split and she said the simplest way to explain it was there were the non-jumpers, the 'half-jumpers' and the jumpers. To my disbelief, I had ended up with the jumpers, despite saying I was only going to pop over the odd spar here and there - HA! I remembered Becks' comment on my previous post, saying to take it easy for my horse's sake on his first hunt so once we regrouped I made my way pretty sharpish to the non-jumping group where we pottered around for a good forty minutes or so, following the hunt at a bit of a distance. Oscar chilled out on a loose rein and I truly can't fault his behaviour. Happy to be right up at the front of the ride, or equally happy to chill out at the back. If he wasn't my heart and soul horse he'd be sold as a hunter tomorrow - he was in his element.

After a wee while I saw D over another fence line and decided to go pop up to the front again. Oscar was feeling good and it was a little chilly just walking around.

We trotted along for a while as the hounds did their job. There was another short run but we skipped it out and opted to take an easy trot short cut across a paddock to join the group further along. Now things get bad on two accounts! Or great, depending on your view.

First, right as we met back up with the group, I hear the hounds making a new sound and the huntsman holding up a hare. They got a kill! And although I was truly super happy for the hounds, and everyone hunting to be rewarded for what is serious hard work, I have never witnessed a death before. Any sick or injured animal I have met has either passed away on a vet's table, or made it out the other end. I have no experience dealing with death in front of me whatsoever, and it was entirely overwhelming. I immediately looked away and tucked myself behind D, out of sight. Because, although I can't deal with death at all, I was happy for everyone else. Tears were threatening and I fiddled around with my girth, when simultaneously the best and worst thing that could have possibly happened, happened. The huntsman made his way over to me with the carcass to give it to me. Which is truly the greatest honour! And I had been told all of the rules and etiquette - point your horse towards the hounds if they come close to avoid your horse kicking them, and it's hounds not dogs. Don't pass the red coats. But, being confident that I would not see a kill, the etiquette of accepting the carcass should it be presented was missed out.

So, on the verge of tears and not knowing how to deal with the fact that this cute fluffy thing had just had its life ended for myself to enjoy a Sunday ride, I politely as I could said, "No, thank you".
Okay. I just know that anyone reading this just cringed into their socks. I am still cringing and I imagine I will cringe in 50 years time remembering that moment. In my defence, I was totally overwhelmed on the verge of a breakdown and had I accepted the carcass I would have inevitably have looked it in the eye and gone into full blown meltdown there and then. Because I have lived under a rock when it comes to normal life processes such as, you know, life and death.

Luckily for me, the huntsman is a really nice guy and saw the funny side. As were the rest of the people riding with me, and they were so lovely and laughed it off and clicked on that I'd missed that crucial bit of etiquette knowledge. Someone else accepted the offering very graciously and we giggled our way back to the rest of the meet, joking about Greenpeace saddle blankets. I am mortified, grateful and very honoured all in one go!

Things turned super positive again though as to get back to the rest of the meet we had to pop over a wire fence, with the top wire clipped to the one below it between two fence posts. It was on an incline, with a steep uphill on landing and with the adrenaline long gone and at the end of the ride, it looked hella intimidating. It was the scariest fence of the day by a long shot and so I was immediately brought out of my humiliation by my horse popping over beautifully, no hesitation whatsoever.

We had another half an hour following various scent trails but there was only one kill that day.
Overall, minus embarrassing myself a little, I had the best day ever. Hooked; hunting is the bomb and all it's talked up to be. I love it!

That night I gave Oscar 2 grams of bute with his dinner, turned him out in his 400gm rug and clay poulticed his legs under wraps. He was moving fine the next morning, though I gave him another 2 grams of bute with breakfast and an hour in his Back on Track fleece to be safe. He was so, so amazing I would feel terrible if he was super sore the next day. And the last thing I want is my new found hunter to go lame!

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Tally-Ho; a hunting we shall go!

The quietness around the blog of late is due in part to me actually riding instead. One day I'll figure out how to ride and blog regularly, at the same time, but not this week.

There's been several times over the past month that I've been itching to sit down and blog, but to be entirely honest the home office has been completely full of half deflated birthday balloons and the aftermath of a temporary bird sanctuary where I was looking after a very sick bird. Sitting down in here was a constant reminder that it was well overdue a spring clean. Somehow I have managed to get that tedious job done, and being in here no longer makes me feel like a terrible housewife and so I'm all good to get some writing done; huzzah! 

As the title suggests, we're going hunting!! It's really coincidental timing actually as I was doing a few grid exercises with Oscar last week and he was just so lethargic it was exhausting. Completely behind my leg the whole time, and just not carrying me to the fence. I was working so hard getting him in front of my leg that actually completing the exercises became a second thought and I only got one successful attempt the whole ride. More on those grids later though.

As I was riding my horse, who felt a lot like this over those simple jumps:

I was thinking (in other words, but I will use the stereotype for effect) "by golly Jefferson, this nag needs a good hunt!". As I said, that sentence was said a little differently, ha, but perhaps playing the typical English hunts-person will make me less nervous about the whole thing. Then I laughed because I am waaay too chicken to go hunting! Plus, I'm mostly a vegan. I won't eat an ice cream because those Facebook bastards filled my timeline with day-old calves suspended by their hocks and so hunting is surely not quite my cup of soy milk tea. 

So, fast forward to today. I was pottering around, washing my trucking boots and re-folding some of my stable rugs into their plastic storage containers when L shows up to collect the horse float for its warrant of fitness. As I open the gate, all smiles because it's a wonderful and sunny day, he drops in that I'm going hunting on Sunday. He's just come from one of his clients and instead of paying for a pony trim, she's taking me hunting instead. I know better than to argue with this client; she'll have her way any time a coconut and 99% of the time that's a good thing. For the first time in forever, I was really genuinely enjoying show jumping (well, practising it) and it was down to her forcing me to just do it.  

Right now, I'm swinging from manically excited to nervous wreck. None of those states of mind are preferable over the other. 

Firstly, it's my first hunt ever. When I think of hunting, I picture a big bunch of horses all galloping full speed at a wire fence - which, naturally, is just waiting to flip us over and slice up my horse's legs. I need a nervous pee just typing that. If my horse makes it alive in one piece, I know he has a tendency to do a kind of 'corkscrewing' action into the fences when he is over excited and the likelihood of this happening is pretty high. I may get bucked off and I am about as co-ordinated as a baby giraffe these days so my landing won't be too graceful. 

Then I realise how ridiculous I am at times, and instead get excited. Realistically my horse is the perfect horse for hunting. He is strong with an okay jump in spite of his dangly knees, doesn't leap or take off two strides early, and he is as honest as the day is long. I could put him at the worst spot possible and he will still attempt the jump. He has ran out at a fence once, and has never stopped. You could ride either a goat or an elephant up his arse and he couldn't care less, and dogs or cats between his legs is no drama. He's attempted to bolt once, two strides of me hauling on his mouth and he felt differently about that trick. I've broken my hip on a bolting horse so it certainly puts the shits up me now ha. 

So, even if the hunting scene was a little exciting to begin with, he'll tire pretty quickly and it will be awesome! I have a strange feeling that hunting will probably be his #MostFavouriteThingEver. 

And there we go, I'm swinging back and forth between freaking out and being totally freaking excited! I'm tramping up Mount Taranaki on Friday with a friend and at this point, if I was to roll my ankle quite severely on a boulder, I'd probably thank that kind bit of rock and continue pottering around in my comfort zone. Just because it would stop the mixed feelings of excitement and nerves. A major downside of only having limited outings throughout the year is that you don't really get a chance to find your rhythm when taking your horse out. It's all a bit stressful. Though on that note, I do like to grab any opportunity to go out by the horns. Never sure when the next opportunity will be, and with a $4.5k vet bill sitting on my desk, I certainly can't afford to question a 'free' outing! 

A hunting we shall go, Oscar! The white breeches are already hot soaking, and L has gone to pick up the jacket I've had on lay buy for ages! Don't know if my current buttonless jacket will make the cut this time around..