Having horses as wonderful as Henry and Angus, it is very easy to take for granted that everything will go smoothly at a job. 

Having a range of different carriages , each with different ways of attaching the traces, it is important to be aware of specifics when packing for certain jobs. The hardest part is always when using a new combination for the first time at a specific type of job. 

Back in October we went to a wedding, with our new, large carriage, at a familiar location that has in the past seemed a bit jinxed. The venue is stunning, but more than once, we have had random inconvenient occurrences there. This particular day, I was decidedly not stressed at all, as we washed, transported hitched, prepared and waited for the bride. 

The boys looked great and the carriage looked lovely. I had forgotten the swingle trees, but they are a nicety, not a necessity, and we improvised to make the traces connect. My hired help was my brother, who is always a great assistant. 

We loaded the bride and bridal party, and headed off. All was going well, until we got to a slight ride in the road. It wasn’t even a significant rise, but Henry said “no”. 

Henry saying no is a very foreign situation. Angus tried to keep working, but couldn’t progress without Henry helping. With persistence and encouragement from my brother we managed to get the bride to the aisle. The approach to the ceremony was down hill,  which Henry wasn’t struggling with, ensuring we arrived in good style. Following the ceremony we unhitched and the bride posed for gorgeous photos riding Henry, which was really important to her. 

I discussed with my brother what the cause of Henry’s reluctance could have been, and we had a few theories. Two days later I had a hands on experience. We used a familiar carriage, were at home, the swingle bars connected as they should be. We harnessed up and set off. The moment we got to a very slight incline, Henry once again  said “no”. We persisted, but it was still a resounding “NO”.

As not to leave the clients missing out, we disconnected Henry, attached Angus to a different carriage, and completed the job with Angus as a single. 

This experience did however completely dent my confidence. I had no idea why Henry wouldn’t pull. Was it the static pull points where the swingle bars should have been? Had it knocked his confidence? Was he just being naughty? Was the big carriage just too heavy? Was it the pads in his shoes, which are in place to help with shock absorption on bitumen, but making the gravel driveway feel funny and uncertain to him? Was it pain? If it was pain, where was the pain, as he looks totally fine in the paddock. So many questions and unknowns. 

First line of enquiry, was to rule out pain. We booked Henry for a vet appointment for the following Wednesday. 

In the meantime, I received not one, but two funeral requests requiring a pair, for the following week. Knowing Henry was unavailable until he re found his mojo, I made the decision to give nibbles and tabby a couple of drives, and use them, as both funerals were very short distance and flat terrain. 

Not 10 minutes later, I received a call from Leanne saying tabby wasn’t well. This was the beginning of the end for her. With no other options I had to cancel both funerals, something that I really didn’t want to do, but the welfare of my horses is my utmost priority and I couldn’t risk exacerbating whatever Henry’s issue was. 

And so begun the most turbulent and challenging week we’ve had for a while, one that made me question whether we could even continue with our carriage business

Tabby continued to deteriorate, to the point that the decision was made to put her and nibbles down on the Wednesday, which was the day Henry was booked for the vets. On returning from burying they greys, Angus was showing signs of illness. With a temp of 40, we made an emergency vet visit with him, throwing blood tests, anti inflammatories and antibiotics at him to cover all bases. The blood tests came back showing a bacterial infection , fortunately he responded well to treatment and other than stepping on egg shells for a week, bounced back nicely. 

We had Clare from Whole Horse, come out to treat Henry. Clare is absolutely magic with her hands, treating the sore spots, with her voodoo fascia release technique. While there were some sore spots, there was nothing significant enough to stop him from pulling. 

The following week we managed to get Henry to the vet. He was given a full check over and showed no signs of lameness and we were none the wiser. Henry has had irritation of his sheath for a while, so had the vet check that while we were there. It was then that she found evidence of a large laceration on the top of his penis, that appeared to be 1-2 weeks old. 

The size and location of this cut would have most definitely been enough to cause enough pain for him to not pull the carriage. It was not detectable , as unless he is peeing, his penis is all tucked up inside. The theory is that as it was itchy, he flopped it out to scratch, caught it on something and did himself the injury. The morning before the wedding I remember that he had a bit of a haematoma just in front of his sheath, which I had put down to the sheath irritation.

The vet also took a biopsy of a scab that didn’t appear to be healing, just to be on the safe side, meaning a nervous wait for the next week, hoping desperately that it wasn’t a form of cancer. 

Results came back as a bacterial infection, so a course of antibiotics, has mostly cleared that up. 

We gave him a week to recover and called a friend to come and hold my hand. Even though it was raining, we nervously harnessed him and Angus up , and were so happy and relieved to find he was more than keen, and a tad excited to resume his normal duties. 

It’s hard to explain how much relief we felt knowing Henry was able to recommence work. It did highlight however, the importance of a back up pair, which has changed the priority for Boris and Stanley, but that can be covered in a different blog. 

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