There has been a bit of a hiatus in the life of The Eventing Vet. In fact I have been considering a name change by deed poll to The Non-Eventing Vet in case anyone tries to prosecute me under the Trade Descriptions Act. It’s been a combination of being balloted out, then not entering the next events because I hadn’t had a prep run (didn’t fancy doing Chatsworth ‘cold’) then being totally out of the swing of it and having lost my plan for the season. Oh yes, and money!
This is where the tough decisions come in. I have taken on a project to break in and make some money (Reggie, of Unbroken to Eventer fame!) which is great, but I won’t actually see the profits for a couple of months yet. Meanwhile I’ve got two fit eventers who are all dressed up with nowhere to go and I’m feeling like Cinderella watching all my ugly sister friends (sorry guys!) going off to the ball every weekend. Something had to change and I’ve worked out that if I cut down to one eventer I’ll save enough on food, shoes and livery to be able to actually compete the other. So which do you keep? The gentleman with the terrific jump and lovely attitude who’s come back following injury feeling better than ever (Jerry) or the big thug who’s frustrating to ride and bolshy on the ground (Fugly)? You guessed it… Jerry’s gone off on loan to our receptionist’s husband to be a hunter. With any luck he should be field-mastering which will suit him down to the ground. He quite likes going fast and first!
I just had time for our swansong before he left. I’d been trying to enter him for a BE90 for a couple of months, but he’s on a ticket so got balloted out of a couple of events, then I was working and couldn’t get to anything else so I decided to treat myself to a day off work to have a nice fun day out doing the unaffiliated 90 at Shelford which runs two days after the BE round the same course.
My fun day out was preceded by a marathon 6 consecutive days/nights on call over the bank holiday weekend, which is very good for my liver and my wallet, but not much else. In fact it’s probably illegal! It’s colic season apparently and we’ve had a run of them. I think I can do a full colic exam, including rectal and stomach tubing, in my sleep at the moment. Which is just as well… Inevitably when I got to the yard the night before Shelford to ride, wash and plait Jerry I got as far as the field when I got called out to yet another colic. So the nice relaxing day off I’d taken to treat myself started with a bout of tack/horse-cleaning at 5.30am. So much for a local event, nice times and a lie in! My spirits had further been depressed by 24 hours of continuous rain and the forecast of more to come. Which duly arrived just as I’d finished my dressage test. 5 hours of incessant torrential, epic, biblical downpour. Fish have it drier!
The show-jumping was on the small side and I had to go up a stud size after dressage as we’d had about an inch of rain in the interim. I think someone tried to knobble our chances as my reins got slippier and slippier and I swear they’d had WD40 sprayed on them. Guiding an oversized JA pony round a miniscule course on an ice-rink with no grip on my reins and in a hackamore wasn’t a success and we left the ring with one down. The XC wasn’t very taxing either but it was just lovely to have Jerry back out again enjoying himself. I channeled Andrew Nicholson and ditched the gloves and miraculously had a perfect grip on the reins! We got a couple of time faults (fewer than most!) but a super score of 31.5 for dressage and finished in 7th. A bitter-sweet day! Lovely to have him back out skipping round for fun, but a shame that he has to go. I was so wet through I had to borrow a friend’s lorry and strip to my knickers to dry off!
Apart from that Fugly and I have been trying to be show-jumpers. I figured that I’m not going to be happy with my eventing performance until we’re jumping consistent clears at Novice/IN and I don’t want to move him up until everything’s a bit more Ben Maher and a bit less Ben Stiller. I’m as competitive as Andy Murray at heart (and as grumpily Scottish when things don’t go to plan) so I’m going to do the equivalent of hiring Ivan Lendl and get myself some decent show-jumping tuition, take our game apart and re-emerge like some sort of Grand Slam winning show-jumping machine. At which point something else will probably fall apart… Anyway for the time being it’s cheaper, quicker, generally less of a drive and there’s more prospect of winning money so show-jumping it is. I didn’t make a great start to my new career when I fell off in the main ring at a County Show a couple of weeks ago, right in front of the great and the good of both show-jumping and eventing, but I like to make a memorable entrance and hopefully they’ll underestimate me next time out.
The small coloured horse is a continued source of delight and entertainment. He’s just the cutest thing on four hooves, and although he’s a little bit of a scaredy cat about ridiculous things he’s very biddable and generally a joy to have around. He’s off to do a combined training at the weekend and I thought I’d take Fugly along for the ride to remind him that show-jumpers sometimes have to do dressage too.
Things have been mildly exciting on the vet front. As usual there have been donkeys, more donkeys and even more donkeys but we’re getting a bit of variety with the odd Shetland. Oh my poor back! We do get the occasional normal sized horse too otherwise I think I’d start believing I’d moved to Liliput, not the East Midlands. It’s definitely colic and laminitis season here – one way or another I’m earning a living from grass at the moment! Sadly we’ve also had four fatal cases of grass sickness which is a really difficult one to handle, both professionally and emotionally.
The biggest excitement came on my last call yesterday afternoon – a routine visit to apply the last in a course of sarcoid cream to a mare’s inside thigh. I had the mare well sedated, applied 99% of the cream and was just putting the last spot on when BOOM – out of nowhere she delivered a direct hit to my kneecap, knocked me over and I somehow ended up on the floor between her back legs getting walloped. Ouch! I managed to get knocked out somewhere in the process too. The helpful owner dialled 999 and got me an ambulance and the paramedics wanted to strap me to a back board and take me to A&E but I didn’t fancy that much so managed to get to my feet and limp around a bit to prove that I was OK(ish). I still had to have an ECG, blood pressure and some bloods done on site. I’m pleased to say that riding is obviously good for you and I’m fitter than I thought because despite the excitement (and pain) my resting heart rate is around 46 which is virtually Tour de France cyclist territory. The paramedics then said that they couldn’t actually MAKE me go to hospital, so I declined and the student paramedic had to ask me how to spell ‘obstinate’.
Apart from a direct hit to the kneecap, some random bruising and a resolution not to have a sleep on Easibed again (very prickly and gets in your underwear) I escaped rather lightly I think. It’s a bit of a hazard of the job to be honest and it’s my fourth KO in the line of work in 15 years. The score is cattle – 1; slippery concrete milking parlour steps and tread-free wellies – 1; horses – 2 (yesterday and a Shire horse that objected to having its temperature taken – actually that one was highly amusing as it belonged to the biggest tittle-tattle in our village and by the time I got home that night the rumour was that I was dead! I look quite good for a corpse I think…). A convention of vets almost rivals eventers for comparing war wounds! They breed us tough up here.