The Jury is Undecided

The state of play at the end of my last post was that Aero was coughing miserably and had failed to respond to homeopathic treatment; Flurry was head shaking and had just started bute to try to help us determine whether the head shaking was due to pain or due to an allergy; and I had just started the magical Meziere method for back treatment (but hadn’t said very much about it).

Let’s talk about Aero first.  His story is the most straightforward of the three.

The ‘normal’ vet visited on Thursday.  I told him the story to date – how the cough started a little over two years ago when we had bad hay, how a he coughed a little bit last spring but it cleared up quickly, how he’d been fine with this year’s hay all winter and then started coughing on and off in February (when it was cedar pollen time), and has been getting steadily worse.  The vet listened to his lungs and used a word which I think means ‘crackling’ in the lungs which he said is consistent with an allergic response.

We discussed treatment options – a nebuliser, cortisone and subcutaneous immunotherapy (thanks Aurora).  The vet wasn’t pushing me towards any one particular treatment, so I proposed cortisone straight away to try to alleviate his symptoms, do a blood test to see what he’s allergic to and follow that up with the immunotherapy.  Meanwhile, I will watch out for a nebuliser on the second hand sites, it can’t do any harm.  At the back of my head, I’m thinking that if we can get him through the current pollen season with steroids, perhaps I can defer the immunotherapy to next year… we’ll see.  I also discussed soaking his hay with the vet and god I love that man!!! He looked around at the bone-dry dusty ground, the straw in the shelter, the other two horses who would also need to have their hay soaked (because Prince Aero doesn’t like wet hay, remember?) and said no, that would be impractical and not worth the trouble especially seeing as we are 99.99999% certain that the root cause of his cough is pollen.  My thoughts exactly!

However… I’ve turned the horses out into a grassy paddock since then, just to reduce their exposure to dust in the short term.  After his first cortisone injection and his first 24 hours on grass, Aero’s breathing is exactly the same – about 30 per minute – and he coughed a couple of times while I sat and watched them.  I’m not sure how long the cortisone will take to kick in.  I was hoping to see an immediate improvement and was a little disappointed, to be honest.

Then there’s Flurry.  By the time the vet saw him on Thursday, he’d had three days of bute, to try and help us decide if the head shaking was due to pain or an allergic reaction.  After three days, I felt that his it had reduced noticeably BUT I also realised that the bute would reduce allergy symptoms by acting as an anti-inflammatory and easing that head-exploding hay-fever feeling that I assume he’s suffering from.

The vet was scratching his head with him, to be honest.  His proposed treatment plan was to continue with bute for another five days and then stop completely.  If the symptoms return fully, then we will hit him with a course of steroid injections.  I asked the vet if he’d ever come across something that you squirt up the horse’s nose and he said no, and was interested to hear that we had treated Denis’ horse Paddy with this, reasonably successfully several years ago.  So my addition to the treatment plan is to contact my vet in Ireland, John Hyde, and ask him what was in the mixture we used with Paddy – it was something John made up himself.

I’m also going to do something I’ve never done before.  I’m going to contact a couple of companies who make a head-shaking relief nasal spray and ask them if they would send me a free sample in exchange for a review on the blog.  It’s worth a try!  I’m looking at an expensive couple of months with both horses, so anything that might reduce costs is worth doing.

The day after the vet visit, and also after 24 hours on grass, I spent some quality time with Flurry and then went for a leisurely hack with Sam and Zingara.  He was shaking his head pretty badly.  Not the worst he’s been, but worse than when the vet was there (of course).  So I’m thinking I will be stopping the bute sooner rather than later, seeing as it has not stopped the symptoms.  I’ll keep you posted.

Finally, there’s me.  I’ve had two ‘Methode Mezière’ physiotherapy sessions now.  I feel there is progress, but in small steps.  I feel less ‘wrong’.  It’s hard to describe, but I’ve just felt as if my back was fragile and ready to TWANG at any minute for a few months now.  There’s less clicking and grinding in the sacroiliac region, and I’m definitely becoming more supple.  I’m still not riding hard, or for more than 45 minutes at a time, but I rode for five days in a row this week.  That’s a first for a long time! I have no problem picking out all eight feet now, and I’ve even done a light rasp around the toes on both horses’ front feet.  So that’s all good too.

The first session was mostly assessment.  The physio took one look at my x-rays which everyone else has said show ‘nothing much’, did a sharp intake of breath and said my pelvis is crooked by about a centimetre.  Maybe that’s not much in the great scheme of things, but it’s definitely enough to affect me!  There are also three spots along my spine that show arthritic wear and tear which concerned him.  He was impressed with my forward bending flexibility, thank you yoga!  He did an investigatory massage and found that my psoas were very tight, particularly at the front where they were quite OUCHY.  Then he gave me two stretches to do for the week – one was basically a yoga lunge but you drop the hip of the leg thats’s behind you to deepen the stretch, and the other was pigeon pose.

By the time of the second session yesterday, I’d been diligently doing my exercises all week and did feel looser.  So the second session was more work.  Again I’m going to use yoga terms – I started off with cow/cat, with added modifications, for 6 minutes.  Then lying on my back, knees bent, feet on the floor, swinging the knees from side to side, again add modifications as the exercise progressed, again for 6 minutes.  Then we were back to the lunge again, and then I ended up on my back, legs straight up against the wall, feet flexed, taking long slow breaths that I had to blow out to the very last drop.  Apparently that is the fundamental Mezière pose.

Today, I feel like I’ve been hit by a bus.  I’m not going to do much, I might even take a pain killer.  The plan is to take Aero for a walk and see how his breathing is and watch Munster play Saracens in the European Championship semi final this afternoon.

Hopefully, all three of us will start to get better now, and soon there’ll be more of this :

More Woe than Go

I’ve been thinking of changing the name of the blog.  How does “Never-ending Tails of Woe” sound?  Because, despite my best efforts to remain cheerful, it’s beginning to feel that way.

I wrote about the homeopathic vet/osteopath a couple of weeks ago.  In fact, it’s four weeks to the day since she she saw my horses the first time.  To be honest, I’m a bit sceptical about homeopathy, but it’s absolutely accepted as a complementary form of therapy here in France.  Everyone seems to know someone who’s had great results with it, either personally or in the treatment of animals.  So I engaged fully with the process and toddled off to the pharmacy, where I parted company with €65 and came home armed with tubes of tiny white pills and an assortment of nondescript brown bottles, all filled to the brim with magic potion.

Aero was to have five of each of two different types of pill at least twice a day (we consistently managed to do this three times a day), plus a mix of three different liquids squirted into his mouth once a day.  Flurry’s treatment was easier – just five of two types of pill one a day.  I became adept at pressing the tiny round pills into the flesh of apples, and the horses were thrilled to be getting TREEEEATS.  Although Aero was less than thrilled about the magic potion I was force-feeding him, but he’s a very tolerant boy.

Initially, his cough got worse.  This seemed to ring a bell somewhere in the dim recesses of my brain, that homeopathy makes the symptoms worse before it starts to improve things.  Sure enough, after about a week, the cough seemed to be improving.  I rode out with my friends, just a short forty-five minute amble through the woods and he only coughed three times.  Things were looking up.

I was talking to Georges, who feeds the horses in the mornings, a couple of days later, and I said that Aero seemed to be better.  Mmmm, he said, shaking his head doubtfully.  He’d heard a couple of coughs that morning.  That day, I went and sat on a rock in the horses’ field and watched them for about twenty minutes.  Aero coughed on and off.  Flurry shook his head constantly and I videoed him (see below).  I was not a happy bunny, and I arranged for the vet/osteo to see them again a couple of days later.

Two days before she came, there was a heavy thunderstorm.  I rode Aero the following day, just to see how he was.  He was bouncy, happy, energetic and not coughing.  I was ecstatic.  But, I reminded myself, it rained yesterday.  Maybe there’s just less pollen around today.

The next day, when the vet visited, his breathing was still good and he wasn’t coughing.  We discussed his case.  She was confident that the medication was working as it should.  I could stop with everything bar one of the liquids, but if the cough started again I should restart the meds straight away.


I rode him the next day, Saturday.  Cough cough cough.  I actually hadn’t stopped the meds yet, so we continued as before.  The cough continued, too, as bad as ever.  I tried to contact the vet/osteo on Monday.  She was on holiday and was not replying to messages.  I’ll be honest here and say I felt helpless and pathetic while I was waiting for her to get back to me (it took five days).  I was not strong enough in my convictions to say stuff this and call the ‘normal’ horse vet immediately, and I persisted with this treatment that was doing nothing for another couple of days, because at least I felt I was doing SOMETHING!

Eventually, on Thursday, I called the normal vet and left a message.  We had a brief game of telephone tag and finally spoke on Easter Sunday morning.  He’s coming to see us on Friday.  Meanwhile, I’ve made a homemade nebuliser, consisting of a plastic bag with holes, hot water, a sponge and Vicks VapoRub.  Aero doesn’t like the smell but he’s very accepting of the plastic bag on his nose (what a good boy he is!) and it does seem to help him.

So that’s Tail of Woe number one.  And then there’s Flurry.

Headshaking, remember?  He’d had the horse dentist and he’d also had a crashing fall in the field, witnessed by Alexandrine, so it was sensible to conclude that the incessant irritated shake of his head was caused by one or both of these.  He was reluctant to have me touch his head anywhere, or behind his ears or down the left hand side of his neck.  Everything the vet/osteo found made sense in relation to these.  She treated him, prescribed his tiny white pills and left me absolutely certain he’d be grand in a couple of days.

Except he wasn’t grand.  He was exactly the same two weeks later, when I made this video.

(Apologies to those sensitive souls who might be aghast at how ‘relaxed’ he is.  I was concentrating on his front end, so I didn’t notice!)

So on the vet/osteo’s second visit, after we’d talked about Aero, she treated Flurry once again, and found a blockage on the same area, behind his ears, but on the right hand side rather than the left.  That all made sense.  And the treatment looked like it was beneficial.  I’ve seen enough equine osteopathy to know the signs a horse will give when something releases, and Flurry did a lot of blinking, chewing and yawning.  Once again, I was certain he’d be grand in a couple of days.

Except he isn’t.  He’s still head-shaking, although not as much.  When I finally spoke to the ‘normal’ vet, I expressed my concern that this was actually the manifestation of an allergy.  I suggested that I try a course of bute while waiting for his visit.  He agreed.  If the symptoms clear up with the help of bute, then it’s not an allergy.  If they don’t clear up, then I’ve got two allergic horses.

Feck’s sake, that’s all I need.

He started the bute yesterday.

The Jury is out.

That time the vet treated my back….

I do hate to be a Moana McMoanyface about my back, so I promise I won’t go on too much!

I’m starting a new physiotherapy treatment on Friday which is supposed to be the berries altogether, according to any French person I’ve mentioned it to.  However, I’ve still been having pain and I just felt wrong so I asked the doctor if it would be a good idea to see an osteopath beforehand, for a final straightening out.  Bien sûr, he said.  In fact, he added that I should see the osteopath on completion of the treatment (12 weeks!!) to see how I am.

A small aside… I effing love our local medics!!  They’re all so completely accepting of complementary therapies!  There’s none of the prevarication I’ve heard from their Irish equivalents : “Well, if you find it beneficial” or “I suppose it won’t do you any harm.”  Just “Of course! “

But I didn’t want to see my regular osteopath, Moïra.  I feel like she knows me too well at this stage, if that makes sense.  And the last time I visited her I got a sense of frustration on her part that I keep going out of kilter after treatment.

One of my friends recommended an osteopath in Manosque.  But it’s a bit funny, she said.  This osteopath is actually a vet as well, and you’ll find yourself sitting in the waiting room with a bunch of dogs and cats!

Vet/osteopath?  There can’t be too many of them around here!  Yes, it turned out that this lady is the same vet/osteopath who treated Flurry and Aero three weeks ago.

So now I’ve been treated by the same vet as my horses.

How do I feel after it?

Like I’ve been hit by a train, to be honest.  Her method of treatment is not like any I’ve had before.  There was no clicking or crunching; no gentle finger-pressure manipulation.  There was a lot of head manipulation with me lying flat on my back, followed by a lot of sometimes-painful heavy pressure treatment on my back with me lying face down.

But I felt sort of validated, or even vindicated, afterwards.  I’ve been beginning to wonder if my pain is psychological, because there’s nothing major to see on my x-rays, just normal wear-and-tear arthritis.   And I’ve been feeling I should be damn well getting over it by now.  But this lady, like Moïra, found that my pelvis was completely thrown out to the right and the rest of me is twisted to compensate.  But unlike any other osteopath or chiropractor I have ever visited, she honed in on two specific areas, one  in the middle of my rib cage and the other in the upper-butt region, both of which are constantly sore.  And, when the treatment was finished and she was discussing what she’d found, she said I was so crooked that it was no wonder I’ve been in pain.  And all I could think when she said it was “Hooray! I haven’t been imagining it!”

It’s one day post-treatment and I ache all over, but my left hip is particularly sore, right on the spot where I was kicked by a grumpy horse twenty years ago.  I blame this kick for everything, and I’m hoping that the fact that it’s sore now is a good sign.

Fingers crossed.

Now I promise to turn off Moana Mc Moanyface for a while.  Hopefully she’ll be back to normal soon.