Last year, I didn’t sell anything the week before Christmas, or the week in between Christmas and New Year. I’d expected things to go quiet again this year and to be honest, I was more than ready for a break. But my nice little contemplated break, consisting of eating and snoozums didn’t quite pan out. Work has been quite busy, right up to and over Christmas and…

Jasper was a little stiff on 23rd December; nothing that I could put my finger on, he just seemed to walk a little slower than usual. On 24th, he was lightly lame/stiff and the weather was awful, so I didn’t turn him out in the paddock, but walked him around the village instead. Nothing remarkable happened, but I rang the vet and went to pick up some Bute (horsey anti-inflammatory/pain killers), just in case and to tide him over Christmas. By Christmas Eve he was very lame and struggling to bear any weight on one of his back legs. Ditto on Christmas Day, but worse. So on Boxing Day I rang the vets first thing and asked for a visit. I was convinced Jasper had an abscess on his foot, as he’d gone from mildly lame to hopping lame whilst stood in the stable, so I was fairly certain the problem wasn’t injury based.

A very young, very petite vet arrived. She giggled nervously when she saw the size of my boy and I thought “Shit, this going to cost me an arm and a leg and I’ve got a young vet who’s scared of horses“. Ten minutes later, the vet hadn’t gotten as far as looking at his foot and Jasper had grown bored and fractious, so refused to hold his leg still whilst the vet tried to test for an abscess on his foot. He ‘bicycled’ slowly and the vet lost her nerve, despite my assurances that he was a big softy. She gave him a shot of pain killer and went on her way. Jasper continued to deteriorate.

On 27th, my usual vet came out and Jasper’s face said it all – “Oh thank God you’re here, I’m suffering”. He stood as good as gold whilst being examined and lifted his leg high to show the vet where it hurt, pointing with his nose to his flank. Alas, there was no abscess on his foot (pity because they’re easy to treat and recovery is rapid), but rather, a swelling on his stifle (think thigh if you’re not horsey). Jasper’s temperature was also way up, which perplexed the vet, as lameness doesn’t usually have a marked effect on temperature. So, the vet prescribed bucket loads of pain killers and antibiotics, with a guarded warning that laminitis might be on its way because Jasper was bearing all his weight on one back leg. The road to recovery, if it came, would be slow and perilous. “There’s nothing ever straight forward with my horse” I said to the vet. The vet agreed. He’s been infested with ticks, which were so small that they could only be seen with a looking glass (and we don’t live in a ‘tick zone’). He has Cauda Equina Syndrome, which my experienced, equestrian vet has only come across once before in his many years of practice and now this?

The following morning Jasper was worse. He was snorting to be let out the stable, but when I opened the door, he couldn’t move at all and the look on his face said it all – “Mum, I’m knackered and suffering”. He stood in the doorway all day, unable to move backwards or sideways and I had to duck down and squeeze past him to get in the stable. He was wet through with sweat and I kept changing his fleece to try and stop a chill setting in. I mucked out by shovelling soiled shavings into a bucket from between Jasper’s legs, whilst he stood there, in pain and unable to move. I wanted to call the vet, but was afraid what I might be told. I had to offer Jasper drinks by lifting the bucket to his face, and placed a hay net right in front of him because he couldn’t move (yep, in this house, if you’re on yer way out, you go out on a full stomach). His ‘good’ back leg, now looked bent, swollen, awkward and painful. I laced his food with the drugs and by Friday evening, he was weight bearing on the bad leg, just a little tiny bit. By Saturday, he could move forwards okay, but with mild lameness, so I walked him out to the church for a sedate graze on the grass car park.

By this morning he was box walking and snorting, demanding to be let out, with absolutely no sign of lameness. I had to ask my husband to lead Jasper out as I couldn’t hold onto him. I bribed him with mints to prevent an explosion of exuberance on the way to the field. He had an hour talking to his friends at the paddock and another hour scoffing grass and came home tired but sound. I had been told by the vet, not to turn Jasper out, so stayed with him, much to his embarrassment. Each time I went too near to him, he snorted and flattened his ears back (there’s gratitude for you:-)). I’ve reduced his pain killers today and he seems to be holding up.

So, I’ve had a bloody rotten Christmas, fearing the worst, but it would appear that nothing short of a miracle has happened (fingers crossed)!

As I’ve been at home looking after Jasper, I’ve plodded on with some work. The pink drawings I did a while back weren’t quite right when I did the first lot of samples, so I had to go back to the drawing board. I’m hoping this batch will look okay once they’re finished:

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The plan is, that I’ll push on with work and have a few days off in a week or two; maybe August:-)

I hope your Christmas was less stressful.

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