Wednesday, 30 July 2008

Rubbing noses

Dee’s swab result came back today and it’s good news – a negative result. What a relief. She is now back in the field. She is to have at least one more swab just to confirm the negative result. I am allowed to ride her in the arena, but not take her off the yard. The general quarantine is now lifted for everyone else. The geldings who had to be stabled for the full quarantine were a delight to see when they were released into their field this afternoon – playfully bucking, galloping and prancing about, enjoying the freedom.

Life should gradually return to normal now – apart from the fact of taking over full responsibility for Red again in two weeks’ time. Jayne – having given us notice that she no longer wants to have Red on loan – has bought herself a mare, so I look forward to meeting her soon. Red is going to go on full livery and we’ll keep Dee on DIY. It will be expensive, so we shall have to make sure we ride together often enough to make it worthwhile.

If we find it becomes too much, logically it would make more sense to sell Dee and keep Red. Red is big enough for us both to ride, is gentle and reliable for an inexperienced rider like ’ö-Dzin, and a horse who really is bomb-proof. He’ll ride past anything and nothing worries him. However the logic of the heart dictates that we shall never sell Dee. I made a commitment to Dee and I just love that mare so much. It is not logical, but nevertheless Dee is the horse I could never part with. Hopefully we shall be able to manage it though, and keep them both.

’ö-Dzin has been experimenting with taking photographs from unusual positions. Dee thought it most intriguing having him lying on the ground in her field. I think it has produced an interesting image even if her muzzle is a little out of focus.

Sunday, 27 July 2008

Visiting Red

It is suddenly very hot here in Wales. Of course this sudden heat wave, and the fact that it’s the weekend, means that the generator has decided to break down. All the automatic stable water feeders and the yard taps are fed from the well which is pumped by the generator. Hence there is no water in the stables or on the yard until it can be fixed on Monday. It is hard work having to lug water around in this heat. We never have hot weather for long enough to get used to it.

Dee is fine in her stable, despite the heat. It always amazes me how adaptable horses can be. “Last week I was in the field all the time, now I'm in the stable … but Nor’dzin is coming by everyday and I’m being fed, so that's okay!

We’re enjoying visiting Red every day as well, and he is enjoying hanging out with us. It is good to just visit him – stroking him and giving him some carrot and apple. As he’ll be back to our responsibility fully in three weeks time, it is good to have the opportunity to reawaken our relationship with him. Our latest thoughts are about finding a way to keep him. He is so much the perfect horse for ’ö-Dzin that it feels foolish to let him go. We’ve so enjoyed riding out together, that it would be a great shame to lose that pleasure. So we’re going to give it a couple of months and see how we get along.

Only two or three days now until the results of Dee’s swab come back – fingers crossed.

Thursday, 24 July 2008

Undesired results

Dee's blood test came back this morning - not good news unfortunately. Her antibody count is rising. This does not mean she has got strangles, but that she has certainly been in contact with it, and her body is fighting something. She's now in her stable and will be there for five days until the result of a swab is returned.

I went up to the yard to be with her while the vet swabbed her. She was quite agitated when I arrived, but settled down once I was there and started munching her hay. The swabbing was not a pleasant experience for her - a swab on the end of a metal rod stuck about 12" up her nose. She coped with it very well considering, and soon went back to her hay.

Red is now out in the field where Dee was, and I shall have to go up to muck out Dee's stable twice a day for the next few days so that she is clean and comfortable. I have to pass the field on the way to the stable, so it will be nice to see Red every day as well and hang out with him, giving him a few treats of apple and carrot.

Daith yn ôl yr prawf gwaed Dee. Anfodus dydy e ddim newyddion da. Ei chyfrifon gwrthgorffyn ydy'r codi. Mae e'n ddim yn meddwl bod strangles arni hi, ond mae hi wedi bod agos strangles. Mae corff Dee yn ymladd yn erbyn rhywbeth. Rhaid i Dee aros yn ei stabl am pump dyddiau.

Es i i'r iard. Bues i gyda hi wrth iddi milfeddyg ei lanhau. Mae hi wedi cynhyrfus pan on i'n cyrraedd, ond ymlaciodd hi gyda fi a fwytais hi gwair. Glanhau dydy ddim profiad pleser i Dee. Rhoiodd milfeddyg yr swab rhwyllen i'w thrwyn. Oedd y swab rhwyllen yn mesur deuddeg modfedd. Ymdopodd hi yn dda. Yn fuan aeth hi yn ôl i wair.

Mae Red yn y maes nawr. Bydd rhaid i mi fynd i'r stabl dwywaith bob dydd am pump dyddiau i glanhau ei stabl. Rhaid i mi pasio y maes ar yr ffordd i'r stabl, felly gwela i Red pob dydd hefyd. Rhoia i fe moron a afalau a byddi i hapus ei gweld.

Tuesday, 22 July 2008

I've been tagged

Thank you Victoria for tagging me to join in the blogging summer games. Hmm . . . six things you may not know about me . . .

1. I have two cats called Smokey (mum - top pic) and Spots (daughter - bottom pic). Smokey was one of a litter of six kittens of a feral cat. We adopted her during a camping retreat. She is a quiet and nervous cat. Spots is like a soppy teddy bear and loves to be cuddled.

2. I love computer games and often join my sons on the Wii or DS to relax in the evening.

3. My first degree was in design, specialising in ceramics, and I still enjoy artistic endeavours. Currently I am working on an applique embroidery.

4. I was inspired to study homoeopathy after our experience with our younger son. He used to stop breathing as a baby - very frightening. My doctor and local hospital were wonderfully supportive, but could offer no explanation or solution, so I took him to a homoeopath who cured him with a single tiny pill. I practised as a homoeopath for a few years but then gave it up because of my Buddhist duties.

5. 'ö-Dzin and I have been married for 23 years and had a second wedding for our 13th anniversary. It was a wonderful ceremony led by our Lamas, with our friends, family and sangha - and of course we had a party afterwards. We may do it again when we reach 26 years. Thirteen years marks a special level of depth of commitment in our tradition after which many fruitful things become possible.

6. We lived without a car for about 10 years because we didn't feel we really needed one in the city. I used to take the boys to school in a trailer attached to my bicycle. Unfortunately this has proved to not be so good for my knees in the long term, so although I do still cycle, I now have an electric bike that gives me assistance as I pedal. I finally bought a car this year because I am getting too old to manage things like the shopping without one now, and I felt I wanted a bit more scope in my life for getting out and about.

I tag:
Nuzzling Muzzles
LJB at Horsey Therapist
Lynda at Hoofbeats
Grey Horse Matters

Sunday, 20 July 2008

Catching or being given permission?

I have been wondering whether perhaps my blog is the cause of frustration for Welsh language browsers. I have called it 'Ceffylau' but it contains no Welsh. Perhaps there are lots of Welsh people searching for 'ceffylau' (horses) in the hope of finding something interesting in their own language, yet if they come across my blog it is in English. So I have decided to address this by posting some pages (or parts of pages) in both languages. I apologise in advance for my poor Welsh! Please feel free to correct me. I'm only a learner.

I do not catch Dee every day at the moment - while she is in the field all the time with our yard in quarantine - just several times a week in order to groom her. Whenever I halter her now, I approach her and then simply stand holding the halter open for her and she puts her nose in. This simple connection is so heart-warming and I am amazed that I have owned her for over three years and only just discovered we could do this.

It occurred to me . . . do we ever really 'catch' a horse? Isn't it that whenever we put a halter on a horse to bring them in from the field it is because they have decided to allow this? Could we ever get near enough to do this if they didn't want us to? Surely a horse being 'caught' is their decision to want to be with us and has very little to do with our actually ability to 'catch' them. This slight shift in view is somewhat revolutionary for me and is starting to seep through the habitual patterning of my interaction with horses. I am looking forward to when I am able to start riding again to discover whether Dee continues with this behaviour when having a halter put on her may be the precursor to work.

Dw i wedi meddwl bod fallai mae fy mlog i yn creu teimlad o rwystredigaeth dros porwr gwe iaith Gymraeg. Dw i wedi ei enwi 'Ceffylau' ond dydy e ddim yn cynnwys Cymraeg. Fallai mae llawer o bobl Cymru pwy sy'n chwilio am 'ceffylau' i ffeindio pethau diddorol am eu iaith. Os maen nhw'n ffeindio fy mlog i ydy e'n ysgrifennu yn Saesneg. Felly dw i wedi penderfynu i postio tudalennau (neu rhannau o dudalennau) yn Cymraeg a Saesneg. Dw i'n ymddiheuro ymlaen llaw am Gymraeg anghywir! Cywirwch i fi os gwelwch i'n dda. Dw i'n dim ond dysgwr.

Dw i ddim yn dal Dee pob dydd ar y foment - ers mae hi'n yn y maes yn wastad tra ein stablau sy'n cwaranten - dim ond sawl gwaith yn yr wythnos i'w brwsio. Pan dw i'n dodi i hi ei halter nawr, dw i'n ei gadael ac hi'n dodi ei trwyn i mewn. Maen hyfryd. Dw i wedi meddu Dee am tair blynedd, ac dim ond gynnau fod i wedi sylwddoli bod ni'n gallu gwneud hwn.

Dw i wedi bod yn meddwl . . . dyn ni'n gallu dal ceffly dweud y gwir? Ydw i'n gallu dodi halter ar ceffyl i'w dod o'r maes achos yr ceffyl yn penderfynu i gydweithio? Faswn ni ddim yn gallu dod agos ceffyl os dydy e ddim yn happus? Mae e'n syniad chwyldroadol i fi. Mae e'n syniad bod yn dechrau i newid fy arferion am gweithio gyda ceffylau. Dwi'n edrych ymlaen i marchogaeth eto. Fyddi hi'n ymarweddu fel hwn o hyd pan dw i eisau ei ddal i waith?

Thursday, 17 July 2008

Sky photography 4

This image reminds me of the sky as an analogy for the nature of mind. The nature of the sky is clear, blue and unobstructed. Clouds ornament the sky but do not affect its capacity to be clear and blue. The nature of the mind is to be clear and empty. It is ornamented by our thoughts and distractions, but these do not obscure the capacity of the mind for clarity and expansiveness.

In this photograph the sky is mostly grey and its vast blueness is obscured by the grey cloud. Yet shafts of bright light do shine through - just as rays of clarity can spontaneously arise in the mind even when we are at our most distracted and confused.

Ahh - I am so grateful for the opportunities to remember teachings that arise through visiting my horse. My blogging friend Victoria named her blog well: Teachings of the Horse.

Wednesday, 16 July 2008

Sky photography 3

I particularly like this photograph of the sky reflected in the large puddle that forms in the centre of the yard in wet weather. It seems to express perfectly both the wonder and the inconvenience of inclement weather.

One more week to go of quarantine. No horses have developed symptoms and the infected horse continues to be well. It is a strange thing to be involved in such stringent quarantine practices when no horse is really ill - but I'm sure we are all happy to cooperate fully with the vet's recommendations.

Dee has another blood test on Monday to check that the small reading for antigens in her blood is her background reading, indicating that she probably has been in contact with strangles at some point in her life, but is unlikely to have ever actually suffered the disease herself.

Tuesday, 15 July 2008

Sky photography 2

This is sometimes called a 'mackerel sky' in the UK and foretells rain.

Monday, 14 July 2008

Sky photography 1

I thought you may like to see some of the photographs of spectacular skies that my Beloved 'ö-Dzin has taken over the last couple of rainy weeks.

As this blogspace does not cope well with multiple images in a single post, I'll put a few photos up over the next few days.

Experiencing the elements

There is not much to say about the horses at the moment. I feel as though I am on holiday. Dee is out in the field all the time and will be for at least another week. I do not go up to the stables unless I have to, as I feel the fewer people they have moving in and out the better. I know Red is well cared for by Jayne and that Sally is overseeing everything. So I have no stable to muck out, no feeds to make up, and no heavy barrow to push up the muck heap. Unfortunately I also can do no riding.

I visit Dee every day in her field. Although it is quite warm, the weather over the last week has been torrential - raining cats and dogs as they say in England, or raining old ladies and sticks as they say in Wales. In view of this I have been putting a light rug on Dee which I would not normally do in the summer. She probably doesn't really need it, but it feels kinder to give her a bit of protection from the heavy rain we have been having.

Although the rain can be inconvenient, I have greatly appreciated the wonderful skies. The different colours of the sky have been extraordinary - from a featureless grey, to deep purple, to blue - and the cloud formations have also been beautiful and expansive. Recently grey skies have not seemed to be so grey - there seems to be a hint of rainbow colours. Often it has seemed that we have experienced several seasons or several day's worth of variation of weather conditions in a single day. It can change from sunshine, to rain so hard it stings like needles, in a moment. Then it may suddenly be bright and sunny. Later it may become very windy with threatening clouds. The only thing we haven't had, surprisingly, is thunder storms, though an electric storm has often felt imminent.

Someone once said to me that people are afraid of the weather these days - that people go from their front door, to the car, and from their car into centrally heated or air conditioned buildings without experiencing the weather to any great degree. I'm not sure this is completely true for the majority of people, as I see plenty of people still walking their dogs up to Coed y Wenallt whatever the weather is offering, but I do think it is good to have an animal like a horse or a dog that makes us get out into the elements. Essentially our nature is elemental - the solidity and form or the earth element, the fluidity and flow of the water element, the vitality and warmth of the fire element, the motility and energy or the air element, and the spaciousness of the space element in which all the other elements perform. The play of our lives is the drama of the elements, and it is helpful to experience the raw elements of our environment to remind us of the raw elements of our being.

Today it stopped raining, the clouds parted, and the sun shone hot and clear. It was quite hot when I arrived at Dee's field and I was concerned that she might be too hot in a rug. When I bridle Dee or put her halter on in the stable I now always open the tack in front of her and allow her to place her nose in. However I had never tried this in the field before. I had always felt I had to 'catch' her - be quick and whisk the halter on before she decided to move away. Today - especially as it did not particularly matter whether she allowed me to put her halter on or not - I tried this in the field. I walked part way across the field calling her, and then stopped when she started to come towards me. It is fascinating how she approaches me in the field. She does not walk directly up to me, but heads off a little to the side, as if she wants to keep me guessing about whether she is really coming to me. I waited for her to come by me and then held open the halter just as I have been doing in the stable. There was a moment's hesitation where she looked as though she might turn away, and then she put her nose into it. I was delighted.

We ambled down the field to where I had left a little pile of carrots and apples waiting for her. While she ate, I removed her rug and groomed her. Then I slipped off her halter and left her to graze. Hopefully the weather will be less extreme for a while and she can be out without a rug for the rest of the summer.

Thursday, 10 July 2008

Good news

Red's blood test came back today - negative. He is not a carrier of strangles. Phew - what a relief. I had not realised until I heard the result how much it had been preying on my mind.

Although Red is being kept in he is calm and relaxed. I think because there is little coming and going on the yard and all the other geldings are also in, he has just accepted it. In this photograph he has just completed one of his favourite tricks - flicking his headcollar of the hook by his stable door. The mares are staying out, well away from the geldings, until the rest of the blood tests come back - hopefully tomorrow. Then we shall know if there is a carrier or if any of the other horses are infected - I pray they are not.

The infected horse is well away from all the other horses and being cared for in isolation. Strangely he is not really ill and has very few symptoms. As far as I have heard he just seems a bit under par, but nothing serious. Hopefully this means he will recover quickly and be free of the disease.

Dee is fine and enjoying being out grazing all the time despite the heavy rain.

Wednesday, 9 July 2008


Unfortunately my progress with taking Dee out to the Wenallt horse trail on her own is on hold for a while. There is a suspected outbreak of strangles on the yard so no horses are allowed to leave for three weeks. The horse that may have the disease - as yet unconfirmed - has been isolated and all the horses have had blood tests. Dee and Red are both healthy, but there is some concern that Red may be a carrier as he is in the stall next to the infected horse and our horses are the most recent new arrivals on the yard. I do hope he is not. I wonder how people may react if it is discovered that we have inadvertently brought this unpleasant illness onto the yard.

I have been doing a little research into strangles and have discovered the following information (extracts from the strangles web site):

Strangles is a highly contagious, seriously debilitating disease in horses caused by the bacterium, Streptococcus equi. Clinical signs include fever, nasal discharge, cough, depression, anorexia and enlarged glands on the head and neck, which can become abscesses. The swollen glands can restrict the airway and make breathing laboured, hence the name strangles. Infection is usually restricted to the head and neck, however in up to 10% of cases it can develop in other body organs and cause abscesses. This is usually fatal and is known as ‘bastard’ strangles. Another complication is purpura haemorraghica (damage to the blood vessels of the limbs, eye lids and gums), which can be so extreme that it can cause circulatory failure and death.

Streptococcus equi is transmitted by horse-to-horse contact or via humans, tack, feed and equipment. Transmission frequently occurs through shared water sources where the bacterium lives for longer periods of time. The incubation period is approximately a fortnight. However, new outbreaks can occur up to three weeks or more after the initial outbreak as infected horses can shed the bacterium for long periods. In addition, approximately 10% of recovered horses, known as ‘carriers’ may harbour strangles with no outward clinical signs, increasing the likelihood of recurrent outbreaks in unvaccinated horses. It is imperative, therefore, to minimise contact with horses of unknown origin.

The implication of this information is that if Red is a carrier he must have had the disease at some point and recovered. I feel this is unlikely, but as I have only owned him since last October I cannot know for certain. If his blood test comes back positive, I shall contact his previous owners and see if they can offer any information about this.

Sally, our yard manager, is coping with the situation in her usual efficient manner - addressing the emotional responses of some of the horse owners, dealing with the practical necessities such as foot washes, and organising the quarantine protocols. The ill horse is in the farthest field on his own and strict procedures are in place with separate clothing being worn when caring for him and such like. As it is a gelding that is showing a possible infection, the mares and geldings are being separated even more completely than usual, until the blood tests have returned and the situation is clearer.

So Dee is on turn out in her field round the clock for the next few days. It has poured with rain heavily throughout most of today, but she was perfectly content when I visited her this afternoon. I am glad I rugged her last night in view of the heaviness of the rain. She is happier about being approached in the field these days. On Sunday she let us adjust her rug as one of the clips had come undone, even though she had only just been turned out. Previously she would have run away from us in case we were going to try and catch her. Today Dee made no sign of wanting to move away from me. She allowed me to examine her neck and under her head, and then enjoyed the carrots and apple I'd brought her. She even accepted a cuddle.

I shall be going to see her every day as usual and checking she remains free of symptoms. I'll also be checking Red of course who is being kept in. Sally and her staff are also checking all the horses at least once a day. The blood tests for Red should return tomorrow, so at least we will then know whether he is the carrier.

Friday, 4 July 2008

Making progress

Dee and I have made even more progress. This evening I started out on a hack alone to see how far we could get with our new counting technique. Many things were in our favour. Being Friday evening, there was no noise from the roadworks on the motorway as work had already stopped. Several people had headed out on rides before us, including Jane on Red, although they were well out of sight by the time we got going. Dee was in a calm, relaxed mood.

I counted her footfalls out loud as we progressed down the lane - 1, 2, 3, 4, 1, 2, 3, 4 - until we arrived at the point on the track, close to the gateway into her field, where usually she will not go any further. As expected, she stopped. I ceased counting, waited a few seconds, and then recommenced, simultaneously gently tapping her with my legs. Eventually she started walking on again, at which I immediately stopped the tapping and praised her. I repeated this again every time she stopped. At first she would only take a few steps before stopping again, but eventually Dee picked up an even walk and made it all the way to the end of the track. This is only the second time we have ever achieved this on our own.

Having made our way through the gate, she stopped again, so I recommenced the procedure. She walked on a few steps and stopped again. I was now aware that her demeanour had changed. On the track she had not wanted to move forward, but was pretty relaxed. Now however she was quite tense, and I felt it would be inappropriate to urge her so much as before, so I did not start tapping with my legs again this time. I counted and kept asking her to 'Walk on', and also encouraged her, telling her that she could do it, that it would be fine, that she'd walked up here many times before. It was extraordinary how different this experience of Dee not going forward was to our previous times. She did start stepping backwards a little, but it did not have the feeling of wishing to force me to back down. It actually felt as though she really did want to go forward for me, but just couldn't make herself do it.

We did eventually make it half way up the road to the entrance to the horse trail in Coed y Wenallt. We have never made it this far before on our own. At this point another horse from Wyndham Livery joined us, so I tagged along and let Dee follow this horse up onto the trail. We carried on for a little way and then I turned Dee and rode her home on her own. She was absolutely fine going home - as I had thought she would be. I am so thrilled and so proud of her. I really believe that this is progress that we can build on. I am confident that in time we shall make it up to the horse trail on our own. I'm sure some of the change is in me as well as in Dee. Simple, subtle changes in my relationship with Dee over the last few weeks have made this progress possible. If we have time on Sunday we are going to take her out again, with 'ö-Dzin on foot, and hopefully make it all the way to the horse trail.

Wednesday, 2 July 2008

The arena

This evening I rode Dee in the arena. This has always been a frightening place for her. There seems to be something scary on all sides as far as Dee is concerned. On one side there is a clear view of the motorway with all sorts of vehicles whizzing by, and currently long-term roadworks. On the second side it is bordered by the roofs of a row of stables, as the arena is set a little above their level, and Dee sometimes jumps at the sound of a horse moving about or a broom knocking against a wall. On the third side there is a drop down beyond the fence with more stables, and further down a bank above the level of the fence with bushes. Occasionally a cat or a rabbit emerges from these bushes, and sometimes there are horses being frisky in the field beyond. The bottom of the arena is the scariest of all, and many of the horses do not like this end. There is a row of young trees behind which is a track to a field and also a number of items of machinery are kept there. The trees are gradually growing bigger and thicker, but at the moment the machinery - painted orange and red - can still be glimpsed. Today this end was even more worrying than usual because there was a man working on the machinery. He was not making any noise in his work, but he was just there - not seen clearly but still known by Dee to be there - and this was most unsettling for her.

The sky was dark and lowering and rain expected at any moment. I took Dee in - head high, steps short and tense - and we started slowly walking round at the top end, the less scary end. I counted her walking paces as I had on our last ride, and worked with this counting every time she stopped. I rode figures of eight and clover leaf patterns at the top end of the arena, counting out loud to her and praising her when she was brave enough to walk on after napping, or go past a part she had refused on the last round. Gradually her stride lengthened and she started to stretch her neck down sometimes and make chewing movements with her mouth. We walked in this way for about 20 minutes and then I took her back to her stable for her feed.

Perhaps some might think that this was very little to achieve - we did not trot, canter, or take any jumps; we did not manage to bend at the corners or do any real schooling at all. But Dee came out of the arena a much more relaxed horse that the one who entered. She had listened to me and kept moving forward. She had stopped when asked to stop and stood quietly when asked to stand, facing each direction. It would have been unwise and unsafe to have asked more of her, and I am most content.