How to share your life with a Highland Pony without losing your marbles
I'm a life-long horse fanatic, currently living in West Lothian (just outside Edinburgh) with my other half, Craig, and our horse, Einar.
I'm a senior psychiatric nurse specialist, but have ambitions to eventually move into equine bodywork...this will be a slow process I fear!
I've been vegan for many, many years. I love gin, music (alternative, metal, rock punk, industrial, goth, classical... ), exploring the wonderful British countryside, historical buildings, yoga, reading...pretty boring really.
We’ve endured the painfully heart-rending loss of our beloved cat Maurice this weekend (at the remarkable age of 20). I really can’t find the emotional fortitude to say too much about it right now, but Craig has beautifully documented what he meant to us here:
When I started this blogging endeavour I had planned to map out the story of how Mr Pie came into our lives, and the bumps in the road we’ve encountered on our journey with him.
His strange viral/colic episode last week rather knocked me off kilter but normal service has more-or-less now resumed, so here goes.
Prior to Einar, I shared my life for 16 years with another gorgeous Highland pony, the indomitable Kincardine Macdougall (Dougall or Doogs if I was very busy and didn’t have time for two syllables). There’s a couple of photos of the beautiful Dougall below. Dougall was a proper sturdy garron with the constitution of a steel elephant. He sailed through his life in rude health rarely needing to see a vet (other than for routine stuff), only to be suddenly and brutally felled by a lipoma that strangulated his intestine when he was 20. Despite the very best efforts of my wonderful vet David Reed, and a frantic rush to the Dick Vet Equine Hospital in Edinburgh for emergency surgery, he couldn’t be saved. I lost him on 19th July 2013 and I miss him every day.
Following this incomprehensibly horrendous event, I desperately felt the need for a new equine friend; not to replace Doogs (that could never be possible), but to fill the agonising void he left, and to keep my mental health from completely disintegrating. Thus began the exciting and exasperating quest for a new pony.
We spent a while trawling the horsey selling sites and whilst there were certainly a lot of lovely HiPos looking for homes, none really piqued our interest. That was until we checked the Horse Questsite, and spotted Einar’s ad…and were instantly smitten. One quick call to his owner/breeder later, we discovered that he was located in the Orkney Islands…not just a hop and skip up the road unfortunately. Undeterred, time was hastily arranged off work, ferry tickets were bought, and a hotel was booked. We were off to Orkney!
We had a very enjoyable time in Orkney (falling hopelessly in love with the place) and finally met the delightful Einar. He was a gangly unbacked 3 year old at the time, but was sweet, sensible and very well behaved – a testament to his breeders Marlene and Ivor Rorie from the Tuskerbister Stud. We were smitten!
We had a frustrating two week wait to get the boy to his new home in West Lothian (the ferry from Orkney to Aberdeen Harbour was booked solid). He arrived on a very wet and windy September Sunday, and walked off the lorry as though he’d just been on a five minute trip rather than a 12 hour ferry crossing on very rough seas followed by a six hour drive.
We were delighted with him and started to plan his education with a view to lightly backing him at four, and eventually starting some gentle riding at five. The best laid plans however rarely run smoothly, and that certainly has been the case with Einar over the past five years.
Over the next few posts, I’m going to tell The Sorry Tale of Tuskerbister Jarl Einar and His Long-suffering Humans.
Einar had his regular visit from his barefoot trimmer Jane Cumberlidge from Barefootworks on Thursday.
In keeping with the rest of him, his feet aren’t at their best currently, which is a frustration, considering the mighty rock crunchers he used to have. His previous history of laminitis means he needs very restricted grazing and since he is currently unable to be ridden or exercised to any great degree, he’s not moving around anywhere near enough to stimulate strong and healthy hoof growth.
Jane (we like to call her The Hoofsayer™) has been working to keep his feet in top condition for the last 4 (and a bit) years, and I think she’d agree that it’s not been the easiest of tasks. Just recently he’s had a lot of flaking and chipping, and we’ve had to resort to turning him out in his Cavallo Simple boots each day to avoid this happening. Coupled with his ongoing propensity to produce sloppy cow-pat poos (and his mystery colic/virus episode earlier this week) we’re convinced that something is askew somewhere in his digestive tract. We were chatting this over with Jane when she mentioned an article she’d read earlier that day by Dr Carol Hughes from Phytoriginsabout her newly released Equibiome faecal test for horses. This analyses the gut biome and identifies any issues or problems. At £150 a pop it isn’t cheap (it’s horse related; of course it isn’t cheap), but if it gives us some insight into what the hell is going on in Einar’s gut (and more importantly, how we address it) then it will have been money well spent. Order duly placed, and the testing kit arrived first thing next day (speedy!). I’m both excited and apprehensive about what the test might reveal…I will report back in due course!
Well, I was intending to kick this thing off with a brief synopsis of the illnesses and injuries Einar has endured since we bought him in August 2013, but a spanner has once again been lobbed into the works.
We arrived at the yard last night to a dull and subdued Pie, and a completely untouched haynet.
Alarm bells clanged.
This boy is normally loudly shouting his empty-haynet woe the second we drive into the yard, so something was clearly wrong. We’ve been through enough colic episodes with him to know his unique and very subtle signs – no thrashing, kicking his belly, or lying down. This stoic wee scone simply retreats into himself and sort of switches off.
Cue yet another call to Forth Valley Vets (aka The-Best-Vets-Ever™) and a swift visit from James. Pain relief and anti-inflammatory duly administered, and fortunately his heart rate was fine and nothing untoward was discovered upon rectal exam. However James was concerned by his high temperature (just shy of 40°C!) and suspected we may be dealing with a virus and infection – not so good.
To rule out anything sinister, James pulled some bloods and performed a peritoneal tap. Fortunately, the fluid obtained looked relatively normal, and The Boy was considerably perkier by this point. He was left sans hay overnight (and rather vocal on that point), and by this morning was back to his usual bright and cheery self. Breakfast and hay demolished in record time, and temperature down to 37.4°C. James called early doors to check how he was, and to let us know that the bloods and peritoneal fluid were normal – phew!
So, a lot of stress and worry, a sleepless night (for me anyway – nothing much keeps Craig from his slumber), and a hefty vet bill to look forward to (thanks for that Pie!), but our lad is back to his usual, loveable self.
Meet Einar (who rejoices under the Sunday name of Tuskerbister Jarl Einar, but is more affectionately referred to as The Pie/Mr Pie). Einar is an 8 year old registered Highland Pony gelding who is over height at 15.1hh, and is a beautiful yellow dun with black legs, eel stripe, and tail and mane.
He is beautiful, sweet and gentle – a more placid and obliging boy you’d be hard-pressed to find. However, he has also challenged us throughout the five years he’s been a part of our lives (or should I say, Our Entire World) with a series of illnesses, injuries and conditions which would have depleted the endurance of lesser (saner) owners.
Einar’s humans are me – Jo – a senior psychiatric nurse specialist/vegan/retired goth/lifelong horse-fanatic living in West Lothian (just outside Edinburgh), and my better half, Craig, an IT specialist/vegan/nerd/geek/more recent recruit to The Horsey Life. We’re in our forties, but have yet to reach any semblance of adult common sense.