Thursday, December 16, 2010

May the Planets be with You

Recently, it seems that the planets are rolling around in the sky, conspiring to align in the crappiest positions possible for so many people around me. Every other person seems to be getting sick, or if they’re not getting sick, they’re dealing with sick relatives, or a sick or injured animal. Some are worrying about their kids’ problems at school, or about problems at work, or about how the heck they’re going to pay a particularly impressive mountain of bills at the end of the month. The ones with the most crappy planet alignment are dealing with all of the above, which seriously sucks. Come to think of it, I’m in the latter category this month. Mars and Mercury must really have it out for me.

Oh well. Chin up. Things could be a whole lot worse. Blessings aligned and standing by for assessment. The only way out is through, right?

The planets will realign, of course, as they always do, and things will improve. This time of the year tends to be pretty hectic, with everyone running around preparing for the holidays, which is pretty insane, really, as Christmas is supposed to be all about love and peace and hope, and not about stressing about decorating and what to buy who. The notion of “all is calm, all is bright” tends to only exist in the Christmas music the shopping centres have been force-feeding us with since late October. I used to quite like Wham’s “Last Christmas”. Now it makes me break out. In spots, not into song.

The crazy thing is that we all know Christmas is supposed to be all Zen and Silent-Nightish, yet with all the pressure it’s hard not to scurry over to the frantic, frazzled, dark side, be it physically or mentally. My frantic scurrying has been more mental this year, as all sorts of unpleasant recent events have shoved high-energy shopping sprees right to the back of my mind. And I’ve always been aware that there are more important gifts to give than material ones, but I always like to “give” in one way or another, and not just at Christmas. I love making things for people, and as I mentioned in a comment on Alison’s latest post, in the last few weeks, I’ve spent hours knitting scarves for friends and family. The clicking of my knitting needles makes watching Jack Bauer’s curtain call (we’re watching the final season of “24”) more productive, it’s also kept me from biting my nails down to painful levels, although the sorry state of my gnawed disasters suggests knitting with Jack has definitely not been enough. I wonder if Jack Bauer bites his nails…

Otherwise, Kwintus is fine. He’s been officially retired for a month or so now. His shoes came off about two weeks ago, when a giant dump of snow made going out into the fields with shoes impossible as he ended up teetering around on ice-wedges. He’s definitely a happy horse, quite full of himself, dancing around on his lead rope whenever he’s led from his stable to the field and back. He’s always delighted to see me, and one of the nicest images I have of him lately is him cantering towards through the snow after I called him. He stumbled once or twice, presumably due to a mix of uneven terrain and neck arthritis, but camouflaged his momentary lack of elegance with a series of bucks and cat jumps! Cute!

I miss riding him. I miss riding in general, and have no idea when I’ll be able to buy another horse, but as of January have been offered the possibility of riding a friend of mine’s dressage horse once or twice a week at another stable, which is great. Meanwhile, I can’t seem to stop myself from looking at horses for sale on the Internet, which is silly since buying anything at the moment is out of the question, not only for financial reasons, but also because I’m not ready emotionally speaking.

Also, I don’t really know what type of horse I’d want. Good dressage horses are so very expensive, and judging from the problems other riders around me are experiencing at the moment, they also appear to be increasingly delicate. In fact, horses in general seem to be increasingly delicate, developing all kinds of problems at a younger and younger age. My vet seems to think over-breeding is becoming an issue, as well as over-feeding during the mares’ gestation period, not to mention putting too many demands on very young horses’ athletic performances. What do you think?

And is it just a local issue (Western Europe) or are you also hearing about more and more horses failing to pass vet-checks during the acquisition process? With all the high-tech instruments now involved in vetting horses, I can’t help thinking we’ve got to the point where we’re looking for trouble, nit-picking on tiny weaknesses that might never turn into massive problems. But then again, I’m no expert, so I don’t know. Clearly, if you’re paying thousands or tens of thousands (not to mention hundreds of thousands, or even millions!!!) of Euros/dollars/pounds/et al for a horse, you’re going to want reassurance that the tiny flaw in his/her tendons/ligaments/bones/et al aren’t going to turn your investment into a very bad joke within five minutes. In this light, I totally get that the poor vets need to nit-pick in order to cover their backsides in case it all goes belly-up. I just wish things were simpler. Less stressful. Don’t you?

But I’m not going to worry about my future potential bankruptingly-expensive super delicate dressage horse’s nit-picking vet-check. Not now, at least. Nor am I going to dwell on the negative effects of those misbehaving planets. I’ve got a lovely warm house, plenty of delicious tangerines in the fruit bowl, and a nice man delivered a giant box of chocolates to my doorstep this morning. My little dog is feeling better (he had a parasite in his intestines, poor guy. He was soooo sick!), and my slightly bigger dog doesn’t seem to be cross with me for having him castrated last week (Ouch. I know. But it had to be done.) My daughter is home from University for a month, my son’s school holidays begin tomorrow lunchtime, and my husband is off work as of tomorrow evening for two weeks. How many more blessings does a woman need?

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to everyone. And may the planets be with you!


Anonymous said...

Here's hoping!

Glad your boy is enjoying his retirement - lots of frisky snow horses out our way too.

Internet "horse porn" can be quite an addiction, even if you're not in the market!

Depending on what a horse is being used for, vet checks can be overdone. They cost a lot too, but I do them anyway because it's good to know what you're dealing with, particularly when it comes to joints. And there are acceptable flaws and others that are less acceptable, for me. It's always a judgment call in the end.

Francesca Prescott said...

Kate, lol, I never thought of it as "horse porn" but that's exactly what it is!!!

I've always done pretty thorough vet checks, and yes, it does get expensive. One poor friend of mine has been back and forth to Germany I don't know how many times this year to look at horses, has fallen for quite a few, yet none of them pass the vet check. And then another friend who bought a 4 year old horse with the best, cleanest, most perfect x-rays ever has spent the last six months trying to treat a ligament/tendon problem that developed when her horse spooked at a cat while out grazing in the paddock. He's only 6 years old, and they're talking about having to do all sorts of complicated stem cell treatment. So sad and frustrating.

I guess they're just big, delicate animals.

Joy said...

Thank you for this post. Sometimes it feels like I'm the only one feeling like this.

I was sad to read about Kwintas (sp??) and I know that feeling too. Sending you warm white light and happy healing thoughts this holiday season. And hopes that you find the exact right horse at the exact right time. hugs!

HorseOfCourse said...

Happy holidays, and retirement to Kwintus!
And good luck with finding a new training partner. It is not always easy.

I believe the health status is depending on what conditions the horse has when growing up.

If you look at Germany, from what I understand the foals and young horses are kept indoors much of their lives?
All research shows that you get best bone density if the horse is moving around a lot when growing up.

Combine standing still in a box over months with too much hard feed (forced growth zones) and a pressed schedule when starting them under rider and - voila! you've got problems.

If I was to buy a young horse I would make sure that he was raised together with other youngsters OUTSIDE, with lot of room to play around, and sensible feeding. That would at least increase the possibilities of getting a healthy horse.

The breeders breed what the market wants, right? And it is easier to get a large sum of money for a 3 yo looking like a 5 yo, with a shiny slick coat - instead of a 3 yo with some fur and bitmarks, and with a gangly look. But I know what I would choose.

Sorry for my ranting, but sometimes I am wondering what we do to our horses.

Laura Crum said...

Francesca--I hear you. It has been my impression for many years that the winter solstice is frequently a time of contraction and loss. Many of my animals have died around this time, as did my mother. And just yesterday I heard that my father-in-law broke his hip. I guess I think its best to rest in the knowledge that this is part of this time of year, and allow oneself to contract--sink in, hibernate a little, withdraw, however you want to call it, knowing that soon the days grow longer and we will be in a time of expansion again. There is a version of that sentiment in "Wind in the Willows"--Badger says it, if anyone remembers.

I am very leery of vet checks--cost a lot, and I have seen them flunk horses that did well for years thereafter and pass horses that promptly went lame. I do not buy high dollar dressage horses, of course--but I do my own vet check these days. Trot the horse in circles both ways on hard ground and do a flexion test on the hocks. I can do both these things and I can tell if a horse is sound. This has worked pretty darn well for me--and its free. I also try very hard to buy horses I have "known" previously, which helps a lot.

I agree with you about raising horses turned outt, Horse Of Course. But in my world of less high end horses, it is rare to find one raised "indoors". My little Sunny horse was raised in Mexico on a cattle ranch, and I truly doubt he ever saw "indoors". Which, in my book, is a good thing. I keep my horses out 24/7, though they do have pasture sheds--and, of course, I am not in Norway with the low temps.

It seems like it is a cold winter in Europe--is that right, Francesca and Horse of Course?

Francesca Prescott said...

Joy: thank you so much. Considering everything happening in my life right now, I believe more than ever that things happen for a reason. When the time is right, I'll have another riding horse.

Horse of Course: I think there are many young horses in Germany who live outside most of the time; I know my trainer's young horse does. I suppose it depends on the breeders/owners. But you're right, I suppose it's rare to see gangly furry bite-marked youngsters these days, especially in horses from a "good lineage" as they're not going to be as appealing to buyers. Crazy world!

Laura: yes, it's very cold here in Switzerland, and we had another big dump of snow last night. I was miles away, right across the other side of the lake, having dinner with friends last night. When we went there at 8 there was no snow. And when we left at 12.30 there was loads! Geneva looked so pretty as we drove home, all decked out in fairy lights and decorations. Really special to see.

And yes, it's definitely a retreating into one's nest time of the year. I just want to stay cosy and keep my loved ones safe.

I think my first mare was probably raised outside, with no chi-chi treatment, and I must say that in the ten years I owned her she never had anything wrong with her apart from a little chip that had to be removed, and a mild colic. She wasn't a friendly type, but boy was she fit! So there's definitely something to be said for less mollycoddling...

FD said...

Dropping in, having finished work for the holidays!
I agree with HorseofCourse - it's a combination of overfeeding while young, how they are kept, and increased demand to produce high level movements early. I absolutely do not believe that six year old should be working to GP level - it was a major sticking point for me with the BD team criteria, although they've relaxed them of late.

I would also add that I have reservations about WB / TB crosses - I think that they tend to grow faster than their bone density and muscle structure can accommodate.