From the highs of last time to the lows of this one! October is always a bit of a tough month for me.

I’m a teacher, so the start of a new year is always a stressful time and when the nights start drawing in I always lose a bit of motivation. I hadn’t really ridden a huge amount since I took Merlin to Alnwick Ford, I figured he could do with a bit of an easy time after all the hard work over the summer (that’s what I’m going with anyway!). We’ve been having a few minor issues recently as well, which probably isn’t helping my motivation either to be honest. A few weeks ago Merlin started bucking in his jump saddle. I put it down to the saddle not quite fitting as it seemed to bit sitting a bit low on the withers, stopped using that saddle and rang my saddler, Chris. Unfortunately Chris then put his back out (ironic I know) and hasn’t been able to come out until it’s better. I’d rather wait for him than get someone else – I really believe in loyalty, he’s been a fantastic saddler for me and is always very reliable. Plus I’ve got the dressage saddle to ride in so it wasn’t a massive issue.

I carried on as normal but there was something nagging in my mind. Merlin just seemed a little sour, hiding in the back of his stable when I got the tack out, slightly stuffy to ride, a little inconsistent in his head carriage. He was also losing a bit of muscle condition across his hind quarters and neck, despite me upping his feed and beginning work on the lunge.  I’d been racking my brains and couldn’t come up with anything concrete. I figured it was probably because the weather was changing, he was in his stable more now and getting fed good haylage.

Last Wednesday, I finished work and decided to go for a hack. It was super windy but he’s normally amazing to hack and I assumed he’d be fine. I didn’t realise there was four of us going out, two of which are fairly nervous. I knew from the second I got on that something wasn’t right.

We set off up the farm track and Merlin immediately started prancing, bucking and leaping around which is very out of character. We had a minor disagreement about it, kept going and he settled by the time we hit the fields. By the time we had a trot, he was back to his normal self and trotting through the open fields on the buckle end. I decided he must have just been fresh hacking out in a big group and put it to the back of my mind.

I thought I should probably school him on the Thursday if he was fresh and work him a little harder than normal. He behaved impeccably but there was just something bothering me. His tail was swishing throughout and he just seemed furious! My friend is a veterinary nurse and she came round to have a look. He reacted when she was pressing his back (he hadn’t reacted to any of my prodding previously!) and she suggested maybe he was a bit sore. By the next morning, it was much worse. Running my hand along his spine resulted in his belly nearly hitting the floor – he was super sore poor thing.

So we withdrew from the competition I was supposed to do at the weekend – it was supposed to be his first novice test but never mind. There will be others. Obviously it’s disappointing but I’m not riding him if he isn’t 100%. We’ve got my physio, Andrea, coming on Tuesday and then the saddler coming on Thursday. I figured there wasn’t much point getting one without the other! I’m still lunging him as Andrea wants him working before she sees him but only every other day as I don’t want to sicken him.

I’m hoping and praying he’s ok and we’ll be able to go to the championship we’ve qualified for next weekend but I’m waiting to hear what they’ve got to say before I enter. It’s not worth hurting him over. I’m itching to get him out BD and there is a show on at the end of the month local to us. Hopefully it’ll be sorted in time – I trust him enough to just jump on board after a couple of weeks off. He’s definitely not a typical youngster – I swear he’s been here before! Fingers crossed I’ll have a more positive couple of weeks!