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26 September 2007

Keep up the good work!

I went back to see my consultant today about my shoulder. Last time I saw him he was less than impressed by my progress 2 weeks on from the op. Today I felt like I had made no improvement since then and he might come up with a different course of action. I have to say that going to physio three times a week and running through countless different exercises several times each day and not noticing any significant improvement has left me feeling a bit deflated. My hope was on a glimmer of light being offered by the consultant today but all he said was that I was my progress was about average and I should continue what I'm doing for another 6 weeks until I see him again. That gem of information will cost me £130 plus another £35 every time I visit the physio. It would be worth it if I could see some signs of improvement but even the physios are telling me it should be far better. It's my own fault really. I should have had something done about it far sooner. Oh well, another 6 weeks it is then, back to the exercises.

Still, on a more positive note. I had a great day yesterday. I had a commission deep in the heart of Kent for a surprise portrait of a horse for my client's husband. The horse was a 'cart horse' of no particular breeding but he has got to be one of the most beautiful horses I've seen. They used him for carriage eventing so he was trained in harness and he looked every bit the part. Pied balled with a very long straight white main and tail and full feathers. Beautiful conformation and as a stallion he was proud with it so held his head wonderfully. When I asked her what his history was she told me they bought him from some gypsies! Amazing, so few gypsy horses have such a good shape but then out of the thousands of poor broken down animals they breed a few have got to turn out right. The other thing that generally makes gypsy horses look so poor is their lack of work so they tend not to be very muscled up. This horse was certainly not lacking there as since they had had him he had been trained regularly and is constantly in competitions. When I can I'll upload the image to my web site but as this is a surprise Christmas present it will have to wait in case her husband should stumble across it.

21 September 2007

Portrait of a Wayward Pony

For those of you who are regular readers of my blog you will know who 'wayward pony' is. For the rest of you, you really don't want to know. Notice there is no head collar. It was 'painstakingly' digital editing in the end. Notice too how demure she looks. Ummm ;-)
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17 September 2007

A Silver Lining

OK so I've done my moaning but its a very dark cloud indeed that has no silver lining. The injury to my thigh meant that I could no longer participate in the agility competitions I had entered for the weekend. OK, so that doesn't sound like much of a silver lining it's true but the weather on Saturday was just perfect for gliding. As there have been few really good gliding days this summer and as the season is virtually at an end this was too good an opportunity to miss. So the three of us packed into the aeroplane and headed off to the gliding club in the Midlands where we keep our glider. It was Paul's turn for the glider so I was ground crew but that was OK. I think all the members had the same idea worried that this would be their last chance this year. Everyone was rigging and before long the launchpoint was chock-a-block with gliders all waiting to go. A task of 220km (approx 132 miles)was set and by lunchtime they were gone.
A few hours later and the leaders start returning often swooping over the airfield in a victory beet-up. Everyone got round successfully including Paul who was now a very happy bunny.

It wasn't just Paul who was a happy bunny though. Last time I flew the glider I had had to do so leaving the undercarriage down as I did not have the strength in my left arm to operate it. Well it seems the physio is paying off as although I don't have much more mobility the strength has returned and now I can operate the undercarriage and so easily that I find it incredible that I could not do it before.
That night we enjoyed what was probably to be the last of the season's bar-be-ques. The nights are getting a little too chill now though so while Paul did the honours the rest of us stayed in the bar...hic!

This last image is probably a pretty good representation of how Brac appears to me when I've had to wait too long for the food to be ready ;-)

14 September 2007

The 13th was not my lucky day! (Occupational Hazard?)

Now, I won't say I'm totally free of blame here. There were plenty of warning signs and a lesson to be learned. Basically I was kicked by a clients pony. Luckily, an unshod one.
One of my first mistakes is to forget that there are two classes of horse owners. Those that 'do' at least to some degree and those that simply 'don't'. By that I mean those that look after their charges as well as ride them and those that have this all done for them, including taking up, and simply have to turn up when they want to ride. Not that there is anything particularly wrong with that but this group tend not to have as much understanding of their animals. My client, to be referred to a IC from here on and I'll let you think of a suitable word for the 'I', was of the latter category I eventually discovered.
IC was not at the stables when I arrived on time for the photo shoot. This should have been my first warning. So far, all of my clients have been in attendance well before I have been due to arrive so they could get their charges all spruced up and looking pretty. IC was about 15 minutes late and there was no one else at the yard apart from a very friendly guard dog.
Warning sign No.2, IC appears all 'dressed up to the nines' in a satin blouse, designer black 3/4 length jeans, winkle picker fashion boots, false nails and jewellery.
IC introduced herself and showed me to her daughter's pony whom I was to photograph. She told me she had her for 6 months and she was an absolute sweetie. She also said she had her own horse at the same yard that she rode.
Mistake No.1, as IC claimed to be an equestrian and horse owner I assumed she had a degree of horse competence.
The pony had not been groomed and had a very dusty face. I asked if IC could give her a bit of a groom to smarten her up. IC said she didn't know if there was any grooming kit available. I said if nothing else we could roll up some straw to use as a brush but we would need to clean her off a bit. IC rummaged around in the stable and found a body brush but no curry comb. What that was doing in the stable I have no ideas but mabe the pony liked to give herself a brush up occasionally! She gave the pony a quick brush off on her neck but left the worst of the dust on the pony's face. When IC put the brush down I took it and cleaned off the pony's face. IC clearly didn't relish the idea of possibly getting dirty.
Warning sign No.3, IC produced a head collar and held it up to the face of the pony. IC could not work out how to put it on. Eventually I had to put the head collar on. This really was a major warning sign for me to have overlooked as putting a head collar on for a horse owner is as basic as putting a collar and lead on a dog.
We lead the pony to the sand school where I noticed, as did the pony, that there was a lot of lush grass growing around the edges. The head collar was scruffy and obscured a lot of the pony's face. IC asked if I could take the head collar out of the portrait. It is far easier and better if the head collar is not wanted in the portrait to take the photographs without it on but in some cases this is not practical. In such cases the head collar needs to be removed by careful digital editing but if too much of the animals face is obscured this doesn't always work that well.
My response, therefore, was a question and not a request. "Will she stand still if you take it off?" Mistake No.2, to assume people are going to respond in the way you want them. IC replied "I don't know, let's see." and before I could issue a word of caution she remove the head collar and the pony wandered straight off for the grass. This was clearly not going to work. A horse determined to graze is never going to keep her head up for a photo. IC goes to put the head collar back on but the pony moves away. She tries again and the same thing happens. IC said "I don't know what to do, she's never done that before."
Mistake No.3, I took charge because I stupidly felt guilty for leading my client to this situation. I knew she had no hope of getting hold of her pony especially as she didn't know how to put a haed collar on. She couldn't leave it in the school loose as this was supposed to be a surprise present for her daughter and 'said' daughter would want to know why her pony was there. I got IC to hold my camera while I took the head collar to catch the wayward pony. Wayward pony did not want to be caught while there was so much fresh grass to be eaten. I asked IC if she had any food, a carrot or some hay to tempt her with. IC informed me it was all kept in the tack room and she didn't have a key. Great!
I started to carefully approach the pony by sidling up to her with shoulder relaxed, not making eye contact and holding out a very large hand full of grass. She would allow me so far and then move off. Eventually she settled in a corner and I approached again. Only looking at her out of the corner of my eye my judgement of my exact position in relation to her was limited and as she was facing into the corner I was approaching too much from behind rather than from the side. Too late, I notice a slight change in her and instantly knew she was about to swing into me and kick. My weight was on the wrong leg to move out the way and the next instant I heard, more then felt, a whack on my thigh. I can't say it hurt at that pont, it was more a feeling of weakness. I clasped my leg and began rubbing it vigorously. "Did she kick you?" chimed IC. "Yes" I said. "She's never done that before!" replied IC, "Are you all right?"
There was nothing to be done but to continue with this sherade. If I left then IC was be like a fish out of water. The horse community is a small world and word would no doubt get round to my detriment not to use my services. The customer is always right and the show must go on...blah, blah.
I try again and again but never really got her trust enough to allow me to put her head collar on. Still, as long as I kept moving my leg was not too bad.

After about 20 minutes of so, I suggest we let the pony out of the school in the hope she would take herself back to her stable as most horse would especially as the area was secure. She left the school but went straight passed her stable preferring instead to hob knob with the other horses in the next field. I asked IC again if she could find some hay, maybe from her stable. She went into her stable muttering how she hated entering their stable when they hadn't been cleaned out! She came out with a handful of hay which the pony ignored. I then noticed a whole stack of hay bales tucked around the corner so grabbed hold of an arm full which I placed on the ground by the pony. The pony tucked in and I slipped the head collar on her. Relieved, I hand the lead rope to IC to take her back into the sun for the photo shoot. IC then said, "Can we not do it here only I don't really want to lead her in case she kicks me?" As it was in the shade this would have been a useless location so I simply told her she would be fine provided she was holding the lead rope and stayed near the front.
A few minutes later and the photos were in the bag and I was free to limp back to my car. By the time I got home I could hardly get out of my car and my leg had swollen considerably. I know this should have been treated with a cold pack straight away but 1 1/2 hours later it was too late for any of that. I shall just have to put it down to a lesson hard learned and ensure I don't make those same mistakes again.

12 September 2007

Major workout

I had my second Hydrotherapy session yesterday. I different physio from the previous session as this one had been on holiday when I first went. She was much more keen to push me to my limit in a gentle but firm way. At one stage she had me swimming against a current. I now know how race horses feel when they have this treatment. Initially I thought this would be quite a gentle exercise but how wrong can you be. The current was deceptive, as currents are, and I can honestly say I have never swum so hard in my life even with two good arms. It got to the stage where I would feel rally good if I managed to creep up the pool by an inch or so but after a minute or two I would give up and get wash back exhausted. It was a really good workout and even if it doesn't improve movement it will do wonders for arm strength. Before I left she warned me I might feel a little sore later. Yes, once again you detect the physio's art of understatement. Within an hour I felt like I had been weightlifting. Last night in bed was very uncomfortable and this morning...well, I'll leave that to your imagination but needless to say, I'm still on the pain killers.
Brac, by the way, seems better. He is still on the antibiotics but has not been sick since. He actually likes these little pink pills and takes time to chew them up before swallowing. This is particularly unusual as he is not one for chewing anything. In a previous life he was probably a sea gull!

07 September 2007

Under the Weather

Poor Brac is feeling a little under the weather. Not that you would notice if you hadn't seen him being sick. He started vomiting yesterday but only little bits so I didn't think too much of it especially as he had not lost his appetite nor his 'joi-de-vive'. I even took him to agility last night and he was as excitable as ever. Today he brought up all his breakfast so it was off to the vets. He greeted the vet in his normal buoyant and enthusiastic manner as if there was nothing what so ever wrong. the vet found no obvious symptoms of anything wrong so she prescribed antibiotics and a diet of chicken and rice for the next few meals. Hopefully he'll keep that down or we'll have to go back again.
AS for me, I had my first hydrotherapy session this week which went well but I'm still not managing to get any more movement back in my arm yet. The nights have been quite uncomfortable as it aches so much when I lie down despite the pain killers. The physio didn't seem to concerned about that when I told her, seems that's normal. Lets hope 'normal' meant it will pass fairly soon. In the mean time she's upped my exercises with a couple I find impossible to do (and not sure I could if I was fit either!)

01 September 2007

Skateboarding Dog

Brac has been learning a new trick. Skateboarding. This video was taken during his 5th session so he is still new to this game. I'm sure finesse will come with practice. :-)

This board is really too small for him to stand on properly but they were not designed with dogs in mind so we'll just have to make do. Unless, that is, I can get Paul to make me a better board but somehow I don't think that is going to happen.
I did see a video of a staffordshire terrier skateboarding who was actually able to steer the board. I'm not sure how as the wheels seem to need quite a bit of weight on them for them to turn and Brac at 20k isn't heavy enough. Maybe it's because this was a cheap board. If any of you know anything about skateboards and could tell me if better wheels turn corners easier do let me know.