Well, kind of… Since Shah was sold to a part -retirement home earlier this year I’ve had a show arab on loan (MHS Wytuki) for a few months to keep myself fit and to have something nice to ride out on over the summer. He was a real poppet and has been easy peasy to look after, however, I knew that the time was right for me to buy my own horse. After many months of searching, a failed vetting, seeing all sorts of arabs with plenty of conformation and health problems as well as many that were just no fun to ride I finally met Mushammer.

He ticked all my boxes, passed the vetting and arrived home here with me this weekend. So, I’m very excited as I have a horse but haven’t got on him yet as he’s fresh from racing. He was raced the last time about a month ago so I’m just keeping him turned out with plenty of hay, good companionship, getting him used to his new routines before we start the re-schooling bit.

Mushammer is a fleabitten grey, ten year old pure bred arab gelding, with part French part American bloodlines. Born in the UAE he was imported and sold to his previous racehome as a four year old and started to race as a six year old. He was champion pure bred arab gelding in 2007 and has several wins to his name. Now, his new career is endurance which I’m sure he will love.

I have started doing little bits of groundwork with him, just some desensitisation and pressure release work, as well as the start of some bending as he’s very stiff from four years of racing. He’s picking up on things nicely so it will be very interesting and bags of fun to see how we develop together.

Must admit that I can’t wait to get on him, when I tried him out he had the lovliest of paces that I’ve ever sat on, and he was a real gentleman waiting for my signals to trot and canter rather than just rush off. How that all turns out in his new surroundings we shall just have to wait and see. I’m making full sure that he knows my groundwork well before we go out for our first little walk around the farm. After that it will be weeks of walking and trotting before we try a canter – the grass stretches up on the Downs will be out of bounce until I know we can walk them without him needing to run!

Will keep you all updated of our progress.


So, the day has come when I don’t have to go muck out Shah’s stable, change his rugs, make up his feeds, go catch him in the field, groom his grumpy face, push him out for a ride, or leave him tucking into his dinner. After five and a half years we finally decided it was time to retire him. We are looking for a potential sharer to come and take him for some slow hacks a couple of times a week but as he’s such a difficult little horse I think the best for him is to just retire on grass.

I hear you say why?!? Well, I brought him back in work towards the end of December as he felt well enough in himself and we took is real slow to start with as he hadn’t been ridden properly for three months. To start with it all went well, we started with our 10-minute a day walks, slowly building up to an hour before we added some trotting and schooling work to get the muscles back into shape. After about two and a half months I felt that he was ready for a ride up on the Downs, with some slow hill work. He was very keen, got excited at the sight of the trailer, and walked on keenly when we started our hack together with old endurance friends. But half an hour later half way up our first hill he died again. This was exactly the same that had happened to us during those two endurance rides last year, but now it was happening in training, just half an hour into a ride. Even our companion horse stopped to look back and wonder what on earth he’s on about. He just slowly grinds to a stop, then has to rest for a while before he can walk on again. We picked up the walk and after a while we managed what would become our last canter across the Downs before going back with a heavy heart.

I know he’s telling me that he just can’t do it anymore. He can’t do the hill work or the Downs rides anymore, regardless of how much he wants to. All those years of neglect and abuse has started to take its toll, his health just isn’t right and it would be cruel to continue pushing him when he blatantly can’t do it.

We have had tests done but nothing conclusive ever came back and because he has such phobia of needles and vets, at his age we feel that it would be more cruel to him to put him through even more tests than just calling it a day and let him have some rest. He’s only 19 but he’s been through a lot in those years and for the past five and a half years he had a good spoilt life with me!

The owners have promised to keep me updated with what happens to him but it feels so weird not going to see him today.

I have started the hunt for a new horse but it will take some time I guess to find the right one. In the meantime I will post a bit here about my antics while going ‘horsey shopping’ – yes, we’ve had some real good stories on that topic already….

So, in summary – that’s all folks from my friend Shah.

We’ve had a lot of lows lately which is why I’ve not been posting here. Shah has been poorly for quite a while and it’s taken every effort trying to get him well again and at some points I’ve been seriously considering retiring him although he’s only 18 years old. Here’s the story.

After being lame for nearly five weeks in May due to a stone cut on the heel I started him up again in June and we sailed through the slow progression phase, starting with 10 minutes walk each day, slowly building up in 5 minute increments until we were back on being able to ride at a decent speed for 1-2 hours. We had a set back when he decided to reverse into some brambles and cut himself quite badly in the groin stopping any faster work for a few weeks as he complained every time he stretched out. But it healed nicely. Then something else hit us.

Early July and Shah’s chronic pastern leukocytoclastic vasculitis (PLV or LV as it’s also called) flared up badly. We’re still not sure what allergen he ate to start it all off but in just a couple of days all four feet were affected and he struggled to walk. So it was onto a strict routine of being indoors during daytime, out with sunprotect boots (Equilibriums much better than Cashel in my experience) and trial of several types of steroid/cortisone creams to try and clear it up. LV is very individual but for us, Betnovate has helped tremenduously. A warning here though, if you think your horse suffers from LV rather than ‘ordinary’ mudfever, don’t start severe treatment unless you have had it diagnosed by a vet. Using steriod creams on normal mud fever can do a lot of damage.

LV is an autoimmune system disorder. This means that once the immune system has sorted out the initial allergen it overreacts and turns on itself, in effect destroying itself and not being able to cope with anything else. When the LV flared Shah also caught a virus of some sort, we thought he’d just caught a cold as it coincided with some bad weather and being outside at night without a rug on (come on, it’s supposed to be summer here!!). But the cough hung around. It wasn’t too bad to start with, just the odd cough when exercised and especially in the dusty school so I didn’t think much of it. And we had our hands full with trying to work out how to get rid of the LV which was causing us a lot of problems at the time.

With strict management we succeeded in getting rid of the scabs in time for my next planned ride at Windsor on 19 July. We were really looking forward to it. A nice 32km through Great Windsor Park, manicured bridleways fit for a queen! The route took us passed the castle, through the deer park and we had an excellent ride finishing on heart rate 46, average speed 13.7k/h and gained a grade 2 – our best grade so far!! However, I knew all wasn’t right as he was running out of steam after about 20k. We had to stop and walk a few times especially during the last 5k, which is very unlike him. So although we had a great ride I also knew that there was something else lurking inside him.

Since then, the virus inside him broke out and he was coughing, wheezing and struggling for a few weeks. In the end we had to get the vet out (another horse on the yard has had the same so we’re pretty sure it’s a virus) and he prescribed some ventapulmin, which has now cleared the cough. I’ve also had Shah on a course of Transfer Factors to see if they would help regulate the immune system and clear the LV. In the meantime I’ve also had to change his feed completely as I’ve found out that he’s allergic to loads of things and there are quite a few feed stuffs that can trigger the LV, soya being one, alfalfa another so I was advised to go right back to basics with the feed.

It’s been a tough few months but I can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel. Shah now feels like his old self again. The LV seems to have cleared, thanks to the bad weather I think, the cough is definitely gone and he’s just a little tight in the chest. The tightness seems to disappear after a bit of fast work when he can clear it all out. Hopefully the last of it will go after another week or so. I’m considering putting him on some homeopathic remedies over the winter to support the chest as he sometimes gets a cough anyway when he’s stabled more.

We’ve also moved stables. Same yard, just different stable to give him more air circulation, he can now stand with his head outside in the fresh air which is better for his airways. And I’ve been giving him some pink powder to get his guts working so that we can feed him haylage instead of the dry hay. He loves it, but it tends to make his belly rather loose! But with the support of the pink powder he seems to be fine.

With all the ill health now hopefully behind us I can start thinking about endurance again. We’re hoping to get up on the Downs again this week for a nice hilly training ride and I want to use it to see how Shah’s chest holds up. We were due to do a proper ride this weekend (40k at Firle) but I’ve cancelled our entry as I don’t want to exert him yet, it’s still early days and the cough could come back and if he became ill again I’d be gutted. So I’m helping out instead, will be on checkpoint 2&4, if you ride past say hi!!

If all goes well now, we might still be able to get another ride or two in before the end of the season but I have low hopes after the bad run we’ve had this year. We’ll see how it goes over the next couple of weeks and then decide what distances to try.

After nearly five weeks lame I’m glad to report that Shah is now back to normal again and we’ve started our ‘back to action’ training programme. On the vet’s recommendations we started with 10 minutes walking on the road, slowly building up every other day, up to an hour where we are now.

As Shah is now perfectly sound in walk, trot and canter I’ve started to add some small trots and will extend the length of these over the next few weeks, adding a bit of canter next week, then upping the length of our sessions and so on. I also tried him on some poles the other day and he happily flew over them so we’ll be doing more of that, and adding hill work as soon as I can.

With some extra care in form of a couple of massage sessions, a course of arnica tablets, some leg aid creams, a course of devil’s claw and plenty of turnout (he’s now out 24/7 – yippee!!) we should be back to doing some more rides quite soon. The only problem now is the belly!! Yep, after his enforced rest while being lame (turned out at day, in at night) and then now being out 24/7 while I start him up, he’s put on a huge grass belly. I can’t see the ribs anymore!!!

Luckily he gets more exercised now in the field as a new mare has moved in with them. Shah is the bottom of the pecking order and as the new girl is quite young and likes to play, he gets the brunt of it, being chased around. I feel sorry for him though as he doesn’t get anyone to groom/tail swish for him anymore. With the two mares now doing that, he gets left out. Once a grumpy old man, always a grumpy old man!

Short montage


Unfortunately, the cut that Shah got during our last ride turned out to be much deeper and bruised than we thought. So much so that he’s still lame four weeks after the ride.

He’s not hopping lame so he’s not on box rest, he gets turned out in the field during the day and in at night to keep the cut clean and dry. It is healing, but very slowly due to the location on the heel. The skin stretches all the time so it will take time to heal completely. Plus the cut goes into the bulb of the hoof, another place where it takes time for things to heal.

As I was worried that it might be something else wrong with him that we were overlooking because we’re so focused on the cut, I had the vet out to see him last week. Vet confirmed that the lameness was most probably due to the cut and as Shah sustained the cut during an endurance ride, the extra strain you put on the legs while competing might contribute to it taking extra long time to heal. He looked over all legs and could at least confirm that the lameness is definitely in the leg where the cut is. There is a slight thickening on the tendon on that same leg, but as it’s not hot, sore or swollen the vet thought it might be just a small burst blood vessel and shouldn’t be anything to worry about. The cut should heal within the next couple of weeks and hopefully the lameness will go as soon as the cut is completely healed, until then we can’t assess whether the lameness is due to something else so it’s just a case of wait and see.

The good news however was that the vet was happy for me to ride walk Shah for 10 minutes a day to help with the boredom – grumpiness already set in – and condition – he’s now slipping back into bad habits. I should check his trot once a week to see how he’s progressing, and if the cut heals up and he’s still lame then we start to worry as we’ll have to investigate further! But I’m hoping we don’t have to go that far.

So, another setback on our journey. It always seems to be like that, you take five steps forward and four backwards.

I’m really missing riding, and poor Shah is really missing going out for our Downs rides and endurance rides. He was so happy for a couple of weeks after our last ride, still keen to do more although frustrated when he realised that he couldn’t trot. Poor thing is now all grumpy and back to his old self of not wanting to work, amazing how quickly they lose that motivation they get when competing. I’m just hoping that we can get going soon again and get him back to his happy state of mind.

If things get worse we’ll just have to turn him out for a couple of months to rest and get fat – but I will then face a much longer period of rehabilitation to get back to where we were. And I’m not looking forward to that as I know it will be very hard, depressing and frustrating work. So we’re trying to stay positive, stick to our 10min walks, and hope that this will be behind us as soon as the cut has healed properly.

After having to get up at about 4am and leaving the yard at 5.30am it felt like we’d already done half a days work by the time we got to the Berkshire Downs ride, but Shah travels well so it’s never a bother taking him anywhere. Much to my surprise he was awake when I turned up at the stables at 5am, and he happily ate his breakfast too. As I’m quite organised it was just a case of hitching the trailer, pack the saddle and load Shah before setting off.

We arrived in good time at the venue, being able to have a look around and find everything before unloading and getting prepared for the ride. Farrier check all ok, vetting all ok, start heart rate 40, which is very normal for him. So we tacked up and set out on the first loop with company.

As this was a major ride it was quite busy and during the first loop there seemed to be other riders around us nearly all the time. I had arranged to ride with two, more experienced, endurance riders but unfortunately one of them had a horse that was wound up by Shah so after about half way we trotted on in front and started catching up others instead. Shah really seems to like the race-catch up with others game and I was extremely pleased about his speed and pace. We kept up with all the experienced riders, trotting and cantering all the way apart from one downhill where we met a throng of school walkers and had to take it easy anyway.

Finished the first loop on a high. Shah felt great, was still full of life, very keen and had loved every minute of the ride. As his heart rate was 57 straight away I presented quickly and by the time we got to the vets, his heart rate had dropped to 44 so I was very pleased. He trotted up fine but unfortunately had got a cut on his front heel. The head vet took a look and decided it was only a fleshwound and we were okayed to keep going as long as we lashed on some first aid cream onto it.

As I was crewless (note to myself, try not to do anything more than 50k without a crew, it is difficult) it took me a little longer than 30min to get ready in the middle of the ride. I was then curious to see how Shah would react at going out again, this was the first time he had ever done that, and his eyes nearly popped out of his head when I tacked up and he realised he was going to do the whole thing again!!

As predicted, It was VERY difficult to get him out of the venue on his own. I was supposed to ride with some others so that we got a pull out but as they left before me I had to just try it on our own. He napped terribly and I ended up having to get my wip wop out and make lots of noises before he got going. The first 10km after that were painful, he was slow as a donkey. Luckily we then caught up with another rider, and some others caught up with us and we then succeeded in motivating Shah to get going and he got a second wind.

Once motivated we continued to fly around in usual trot/canter manner. I could feel he was getting tired towards the end though, and I was also a little concerned about his cut as parts of the route was muddy and you don’t know what they can pick up in puddles and mud. It was great fun, however, to ride with some lovely and hugely experienced endurance riders and horses.

Came back with a quite tired horse who unfortunately vetted out lame on the right front foot, where he had his cut. I suspect the cut had got more bruised and sore during the second loop and it was just hurting a bit towards the end. His heart rate was absolutely fine at 46, so I’m pretty sure he was fit enough for the job. He also drank quite well on the second loop and it felt like he had lots of energy in the tank. Our speed was 12.3k/h, which I was very pleased about.

All in all I was very pleased with him. We did the full 65km, had our ups and downs, worked our way through them, kept up a good speed throughout, he felt fit and forward thinking most of the time and he proved to me that we can now go out and ride our own race, without having to be reliant on company all the time, although it really helps. I was also very pleased about his heart rate readings, and getting the cooling down/keeping warm routine right (lesson learned from last ride).

It was just a bit of bad luck getting a cut I think. The cut is healing well and he wasn’t lame at all the morning after, not even when he came out of the trailer at home to be honest. He wasn’t even a little stiff the morning after!! Wish I could say that…

Need to find another 65k ride now so that he can start getting used to going out on more than one loop. Things can only get better from now!

Courtesy of Eric Jones, the photographer for the day.


Because I was curious I added up all the kilometers we’ve been doing in training so far this year and we’ve passed 600km in total (including one 26km TR and one 32km CR) which is quite astonishing in itself for being us!

So, to keep a record for myself of how we started out this year, here’s our training programme so far:

Week 1 and 2: 4km, 4 times each week – total 16km each week
Week 3: 4km + 4km + 7km + 8km, adding trot – total 23km
Week 4: 4km + 8km + 8km – total 20km
Week 5: 8km + 8km + 8km + 4km + 10km, adding canter – total 38km
Week 6: 8km + 8km + 8km + 4km + 10km – total 38km
Week 7: 10km (hills) + 8km + 8km + 4km + 8km – total 38km
Week 8: 8km + 8km + 8km + 10km + 15km (hills) – total 49km
Week 9: 4km + 8km + 8km + 26km (TR, hills) – total 46km
Week 10: 8km + 10km + 8km + 8km – total 34km
Week 11: 10km + 20km (hills) + 8km – total 38km
Week 12: 8km + 8km – total 16km
Week 13: 4km + 8km + 8km + 30km (hills) – total 50km
Week 14: 8km + 8km + 4km + 8km – total 28km
Week 15: 8km + 10km + 4km + 25km (hills) – total 47km
Week 16: 8km + 4km + 4km + 32km (CR, hills) – total 48km
Week 17: 13km + 8km + 3km + 12km – total 36km
Week 18: 4km + 4km + 15km (gallops, deep sand) – total 23km
Week 19: 4km + 4km + 65km (CR) – total 73km

Well, the last 65km ride is still to come this Saturday. We’re getting all prepared and ready for it and I’m so excited! Full report will come after the ride, it will give me a good indication about whether the above training programme was too little or just right.

Most of my 4km rides consists of a walk up and down our lane, so on tarmac only. Some of my 8km rides is also just on tarmac roads, while some of them are schooling in the sandschool as I’ve calculated that we do about 8km in an hour. All our hill work is over the South Downs, good gradients and good workouts. The rest is hacking out around where we are, a lot of tarmac work and some trotting/canter work across fields when the weather is good.

With the schooling work I started doing canter interval work about half way through the training programme, with short bursts of canter that I’ve gradually built up to now when we do 30-40min canter work, split into several sections with a little walk or trot in between.

I took him to the gallops a week ago to check them out, see if we could do some training on our own, and take a checkpoint on how his training is doing. He behaved, with only two naps, so we ended up doing 4,5 miles of canter work in deep sand, one of the gallop tracks is 1 mile uphill, before he tired and got bored. We came back with a good recovery heart rate so I was pleased and will definitely use the same gallops a few times over the summer for long distance slow canter work.

I also started pole work very early, gradully building up from one/two poles to 6 poles on the trot. We then did raised poles, and finally some trotting jumps. I’m still to start raising the jumps and do them in canter. As he’s an appaullingly bad jumper  I had to start with easy stuff and build up very slowly. He also has a habit of bumping into the poles, he’s not very coordinated, so I also have not wanted to do any pole or jump work before a big ride, just to eliminate some potential risks!

If all goes well on Saturday we will then start our next phase of training and our goal of doing an 80km ride in July. But let’s focus on Saturday first…

On Saturday we were all excitedly off to do our first open competitive ride for the season. We had entered to do 32km at the South Downs Festival, which was a 2-day ride held over the lovely South Down hills.

The weather turned out ok, sunny, windy but no rain. Unfortunately the wind caused us a few problems. It was very windy at the venue and Shah is not good with flappy things, or too much wind noise in trees. The vetting area had been set up right next to a woody area and the signs were flapping about, so by the time we got to the pre-ride vetting Shah was more in the air than on the ground! The farrier check was all fine, he even commented on Shah having nice big feet for being an Arab. We vetted in with heart rate 42 which wasn’t bad considering we’d just had a few minutes in the air. The trotting up was funny though. We trotted fine down to the cone, then there was a white flappy bag in the trees that caught Shah’s eyes and that was it – we piaffed/passaged back to the vet who was in stitches, laughing at us. Hey, at least we passed and he wasn’t showing any of his age!!

At this time I was getting rather concerned that I might not be able to get a saddle on him, or even get on him for that sake. But he decided to behave so on the tack went and we set off at a nice steady trot.

The route was lovely with some magnificient views from on top of the Downs and we had a great ride. Shah proved that he had learned the endurance rope from last year and kept a nice steady pace throughout. We trotted and cantered everywhere apart from two steep downhills that were a bit muddy and slippery. And one of those we jogged down as Shah really can’t understand why on earth we should walk anywhere when going fast is so much more fun.

I was very pleased with his going. He felt strong throughout the ride, he pulled for the first 20km as usual but then settled and we could trot more relaxed on a long rein. One of his good points is that although he pulls and is quite strong I never feel out of control. We had to stop our horses from breaking into a gallop at one point as the going was very good and they were quite excited by that time, but they both settled into a nice fast trot after half way and kept up the good speed without getting tired.

We finished the ride on an average speed of 10.91km/h, which is the fastest we’ve gone so far so I’m really pleased. The one thing that loses us time is the amount of gates we had to go through. There must have been in excess of 15 gates and it takes us probably 1-2 minutes per gate. My friend who I rode with is better at it, and we’re learning too, so I think we’ll improve this season. But it does take time away from your total, so something to work on.

Now for the vetting. And here I got it a bit wrong, but we’re still learning the ropes so I’ll put it down to inexpereince. In my eagerness to lower his heart rate after the ride (it was 50 after a tad of sloshing off his sweat) I sloshed a bit too much so he got chilled in the wind. I then didn’t put his rug on quick enough so by the time we got to the vet he was shaking because he was cold and the vet struggled to hear his heart rate as he was bracing himself against the wind. Also, I noticed that he needed to wee but as he was so cold he couldn’t go and he was holding it in. This all meant that we ended up on heart rate 54, a tad high, but I know it was because I got the cooling down/keeping warm routine all wrong. At least it was a completion as we passed the trot up after another bit of piaffe.

Once I had double rugged him and put him in the trailer, out of the wind, he relaxed and wee’d within a few minutes, lowering his heart rate himself. So, lesson learned: if it’s chilly he might not need as much cooling down as usual, and if it’s really windy he might be better inside the trailer before vetting, or vet early as the heart rate will not go down anyway.

Lots of good points to take home however. His speed was good, he didn’t tire at all during the ride, he could probably have gone faster if I asked him to but I was happy keeping him steady. And he feels ready for upping the mileage. We’re now entered for our first 65km in three weeks time so back to the training programme for this week, then slower work for the next two weeks to make sure he’s all ready. We will be riding with some very experienced riders and we feel ready so I’m looking forward to it!

The only snag is my own fitness… I’m aching much more today, two days after the ride, than yesterday. It’s not too bad, I can still go down the stairs but it takes some effort… But it’s worth it!!