Leopold The Last - Educational Fund
I'm somewhat in the middle. I believe we participate in many life changing events, both sad and joyfull, and sometimes it is helpful and maybe even healing to create a reason...
Before I move on to the reason for this Fund, you need to meet Ceri and her very special four legged friend, Leopold The Last (Leo). If you have ever had anything to do with horses, you will know they can form a strong bond with their owner and rider. Leo sure had one with Ceri.
In the summer 2016, a 38 year old Ceri received devastating health news. Secondary cancer.
When she asked me for help with rehoming Leo I thought I would take him on whilst she was undergoing treatements and together we will find the right solution for Leo.
I thought I would keep him so she had him close by, a comforting presence throughout gruelling times.
I thought being able to see him, even if not able to ride him, would give her strength to keep fighting.
I'd like to tell you that she is still here and having a chance to survive but this is not the case.
Ceri passed away a week after I picked Leo up and promised to secure a good life for him.
When something means so much to someone, as this little horse meant for Ceri, it is especially important to make sure the promise is kept to the best of my ability.
This is where this Fund comes in. This is where you come in. You can help me give Leo an opportunity to do something meanigful and important.
Who am I...
I'm a horse riding instructor and run a coaching programme - Aspire Equestrian Riding Academy - aimed at people of all ages who have deep interest in ethical equestrian sports, who want to ride and train horses with knowldge of their biomechanics, anatomy and psychology.
Ceri's dream was to learn as much about good, wellness focused training as possible. Her dream could live on via Leo's work within Aspire Academy.
For this reason, the primary aim of this fund is to secure future for Leo.
I'd like him to have a purpose in life and for this purpose to be focused on education. I'd like to be able to help those who wouldn't be otherwise in a position to book the kind of training Leo and I can offer.
For me to be able to continue caring for Leo in best way possible and proceed with his educational role, I need to secure money for:
- Leo's care (hoofcare, veterinary care, saddle checks, health checks)
- Leo's livery fees
- investigations of Leo's small performance issues which Ceri had started to address before her death
I would love to have you on board and part of #LeoAspireJourney. Every tiny little contribution helps and so does sharing this Campaign.
You will be able to follow Leo's story via Aspire blog, Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.
There are some incredibly sad stories we all have within us but some of them can also give life to projects that can bring smiles instead of tears.
All the very best and a huge thank you in advance for your contribution, however small :)
Wiola & Leo
Plan of action
First thing I decided to do was to take control of his diet. “You are what you eat” and all that ;)
After talking to many people as well as having a good read around of tens of Forums and hundreds of opinions I settled for a German feed brand called Agrobs and went for 2 products from their range: Alpengrun Musli and Alpengrun Mash Gut Restorer.
I also learnt (from the earlier mentioned Conference) that there was a study done on several cribbing horses where horses received 9 feeds daily and their behaviour stopped. I couldn’t possibly replicate that but could feed Leo one additional feed which took his meal numbers to 3 a day.
Second action was to give him turnout company. For that I had to wait a long time as I wanted a relatively stable group for him with lower risk of injuries by being out with big, playful athletic horses . Once the yard was in a position to do so, we created a group of 4 small horses/ponies and Leo seemed immediately happier.
The pain/discomfort aspect is something I’d been working on all the time but at the beginning of the year I booked him for an assessment with a very well respected spinal/horseback vet specialist, Rob Jackson and continued his groundwork focusing on restoring healthy biomechanics to the best of my current knowledge and abilities. One method I noticed to have a fairly significant influence on him is the Tellington Touch Method but I will perhaps talk more about it another time.
Last but not least, I removed his shoes…now, I know some of you will say this might have nothing to do with his cribbing but I know shoes can cause low level, chronic feet dysfunction (discomfort/pain) as well as affect blood circulation in the feet. Whether the blood flow in the legs has anything to do with blood flow in the gut I couldn’t say for sure but since the body works as one unit surely we can't say no for definite?
As of April 2018 Leo’s cribbing reduced to a point that I only see him do it when I create a situation in which he is most likely to crib in i.e. give him a particular treat (sweeter treats make him want to crib more) or take him to some spots where he used to crib a lot. Other yard members don’t see him crib either.
On the basis of my observation of him, I’d say his cribbing has now decreased by 99%.
In the last 6 weeks I noted 2 singular cribbing episodes: one on his stable door for a couple of “gulps” and one by the leg wash area on a post he used to crib on incessantly. None lasted longer than a couple of minutes in comparison to 15-25 minutes I observed before making changes to his management.
He might still return to crib more in some situations and perhaps he does it at night where I can’t see it but I am very happy with this result as my main concern was a danger of colic or other serious health implications that some cribbing horses are reported to succumb to.
Hope this information will help some of you :) Thank you for reading and until next time!
Wiola & Leo X
PART 1 of LEO'S CRIBBING STORY (and how I decreased it without cribbing collars)
As always, a huge thank you to Leo’s supporters, both on here and offline, you are making it possible for me to carry on with best possible care for him.
Following this thank you, let me share a few thoughts on crowdfunding. There have been a couple of equestrian related crowdfunding projects shared on social media recently which received a large amount of negative feedback. I find it so incredibly sad to see.
Crowdfunding is such an empowering tool. It lets us helps one another, support each others dreams no matter how insignificant they might seem. It lets an ordinary person with a £3 they decide not to spend at a coffee shop become a part of someone’s joy that is potentially much more far reaching than the fundraiser’s cause itself.
Yes, there are projects that carry more social value than others but our lives have so many aspects to them...
We have wars, gun issues, animal welfare problems and oceans full of plastic alongside awards for poetry, art installations, opera evenings and theatre enjoyment…We can’t control world wide spendings but we can our own.
I strongly believe in empowering the ordinary in order to achieve the extraordinary. We can all do so much with so little and I personally enjoy contributing to variety of different projects that drive people to live happy lives.
Donating to Leo’s fund won’t solve the war crisis or feed starving children. It simply helps one person to care better for one horse whilst publicly sharing various aspects of horse management and care that might help one other person with one other horse. And the whole thing is completely voluntary to partake in :)
In today’s update I’d like to chat to you about Leo’s cribbing.
Cribbing is considered an undesirable behaviour where a horse grabs hold of an object with his incisors and burps loudly engaging variety of neck muscles. Some sources suggest the horse sucks in/swallows air in the process, some believe the air is pushed out from the stomach in the act of cribbing.
Where no physical object is required for the horse to rest his teeth into, the behaviour is termed ‘windsucking’.
There is no confirmed treatment or cure for Cribbing/Windsucking and the act alone is poorly researched and understood.
It is believed that stress, social isolation, stabling, boredom/frustration, pain, commercial feeds and gastric dysfunction like ulceration can all be the culprit. Some believe the behaviour can be copied between stable mates out of boredom.
Leo’s Cribbing History
I learnt from Leo’s breeder that he started cribbing as a foal post weaning and they thought he copied the behaviour from a cribbing Thoroughbred kept next door.
He came to me with two types of cribbing collars. One is known as a “magic collar” and is fully leather and the other one is a metal and leather one. Both are designed to be fastened around the throat area and are thought to make the sucking action impossible. I have not used either of them on Leo as I am personally convinced by the research/studies and veterinary advice which suggests that limiting the behaviour via the collars can be more stressful to the horse and cause more harm than the action of cribbing itself.
In the early days I used Cribbox on his stable door and his paddock fencing. It was very effective in that it repelled him from cribbing on any surface I put the substance on. However, he soon found little bits I missed or he would crib madly the second he was away from covered areas. The damn thing would also stick to everything - his rugs, coat and my clothing.
I decided against buying the second tube once first one ran out and started researching everything I could find on cribbing.
I started from searching for videos online for cribbing and wind sucking horses and comparing their behaviour, management and cribbing patterns to Leo’s.
There isn’t much freely available information on this subject out there but there was enough for me to play with.
One interesting viewpoint was shared with me by a friend of mine who attended this year's Horses Inside Out Conference. Amongst other topics, the subject of cribbing and ulcers was brought up and cribbing was discussed as a behaviour present in very intelligent and ultra sensitive horses. It was also mentioned that one very well known 4* Event riders favours cribbers as his competition horses! I must say it was possibly the only time I ever heard cribbing considered a positive!
At first I couldn’t quite work out Leo’s pattern as he seemed to crib a lot at seemingly random times and situations. Before and after feeding, before and after receiving a treat, whilst being groomed and tacked up, in his paddock in regular intervals between grazing, morning, midday, afternoon, evening, basically anytime I saw him he was on/off latched onto something.
In order to start somewhere I grouped all his cribbing “times” into 3 possible “causes” :
1. Gastric issues (any times around food or ‘stress’ and I included being ridden in that category too)
2. Pain/Discomfort (I included grooming time here on the assumptions that having to submit to touch/grooming could cause some stress)
3. Social - he was in individual paddock (able to touch other horses) and stabled for large parts of the 24h (out in the day, in at night or out at night, in during the day depending on time of year)
Having these categories I started making daily notes assigning cribbing moments to each category and after 6 months of this I ended up with most episodes around categories 1 and 3.
PART 2: Plan of Actions and Results coming up :)
Wiola & Leo X
It’s been a long time since my last update on here. I’m forever grateful for the start this Fund gave me in securing Leo’s basic needs. There’s been a few bigger changes to the little horse’s life since I last updated and I know some of you have kept up with those via my social media and blog posts.
Sadly, due to my own injury that became chronic and in need of urgent attention, I had to limit Leo’s ridden work. This seemed like a perfect timing to start Leo’s transition to barefoot life so that’s what commenced mid last year. I was a bit apprehensive about taking all four shoes off straight away so started with the hinds, gave them several months to adjust and then at the beginning of December he went shoeless in front too.
We are now two months in and there are many positive changes to his movement, some small changes to his behaviour (in plus) and he seems to be dealing with it all well.
I’m planning to start ridden work from the 1st of February so it felt like about time to come back on here!
Having put a lot of thought into how to make sure Leo’s life has more to it than grass consumption, I settled for a resolution to share more content about his rehabilitation and training.
In order not to overwhelm my coaching Instagram with Leo’s daily adventures, I set up a separate account for him at @LeopoldTheLast
If you want to find all photos of Leo across Instagram, just look up #LeoAspireJourney in Hashtags search.
Having separate account will hopefully make sharing my observations and thoughts on how things go easier on the day to day basis. That or I’ll need a day in a week to deal with the online world!
Let’s see what this year brings
Wiola & Leo ❤️
Hello everyone :) It's been a very interesting month for Leo so now that I finally have a quiet moment to sit down and write a proper update, let's get to it!
First of all, the saddle malarkey. I had a feeling it was not fitting Leo well for quite some time now and I am kicking myself for not listening to my intuition here but hey ho. I had it looked at the first time I was a bit concerned (in the late Autumn) but other than an advice to keep an eye, nothing major was found.
However, Leo’s behaviour during tacking up was getting worse (nothing major but little things like ears back, trying to bite when girth was being done up etc). It didn’t stand out that much as he was a bit like this when he first came but enough to make me worried.
Now, I have this beautiful, expensive saddle that was specifically fitted to the horse but the horse changed shape quite a bit and doesn’t think he likes this saddle anymore :-/
I had it checked again in November and the saddler advised to have a thorough check and adjustment done as the saddle was out of balance on Leo’s back.
I took it more seriously this time and kept ridden sessions very short whilst extending in-hand sessions. I also started doing short bareback sessions and Leo’s movement was definitely different (freer, more supple) that in the saddle.
I rode Leo last time in the saddle at the beginning of January and painfully resigned myself to discontinue as he was definitely not comfortable.
So now, we’ve been doing a lot of groundwork, some bareback once/twice a week and walk out hacks. Two weeks in and he is already much happier, there is much more movement in his back and more swing in his pelvis in trot and his overall attitude to work has improved too from slightly robotic obedience to a curious interest in my questions.
Mid month I received a very generous offer from Louise Crow, a technician for SyncEquine. More about her here:
She wanted to donate of a full body scan plus veterinary report to Leo. Whenever I look at a horse with some movement issues I always think how incredible it would be to just see inside them to plan their management as best as possible without forking out thousands of pounds for usually suggested diagnostic tools like MRI or scintigraphy.
I can’t thank Lou enough for this offer, I have helped with the scans before and she was as thorough and professional as if we were paying clients.
Christine of http://cdphotos.co.uk/ who is my superb creative assistant helping during my teaching work, came to take photos during the whole process and a little collage from it is attached here :)
The report from the Vets came a few days later and gave me plenty of think about pointing at areas of concern and suggesting ways of addressing them.
We decided to re-scan in a few months so I can see if what I am doing is helping and re-evaluate then. I would recommend this company without hesitation, superb tool for monitoring your horse.
Leo’s current work is good and my main focus during the groundwork is his straightness. He moves slightly quarters in/shoulders out on the right rein which then affects his ability to bend to the right.
The saddler is coming next week to help me fit something interim. Once I have managed to sell Leo’s current saddle, I will get him something nicer but right now.
If any of you reading this is looking for a beautifully crafted dressage saddle, please see here for more details:
I’d been in touch with the designer and they were incredibly helpful but the costs of re-fitting this saddle are just too high for me. I am also thinking that a good general purpose saddle might be the way to go or a dressage saddle that allows for a comfortable ride in shorter stirrups as I need to be taking Leo out and about not just schooling in the arena.
On a crazy chance that anyone reading this collects unique dressage saddles (this one is made by Ideal but is of a classical dressage design - more about it in the link above) and would like to buy this one for their collection, give me a shout!! :-D
One thing I never thought I’d miss is mooching about the countryside on the spooky guy so I can’t wait to have a saddle he likes soon!
I do get asked about my plans for Leo quite often but other than the fact he is going nowhere and doesn’t owe me anything, I don’t have any plans set in stone. He will be a schoolmaster for my Academy riders in some capacity and I am working on improving and refining his in-hand work skills so he can teach others a good basics of groundwork and if all goes well, I’d like to compete him a little within his comfort levels but we shall see.
He is happy and content, a few days ago he got a new turn out rug from Kelly as a donation gift and enjoys making it filthy day by day rolling in the mud, he has friends in Yorkshire asking about him and sending little financial help and he has a fabulous ongoing feed sponsorship from Smart Horse Nutrition. Lucky guy I’d say!!
Speak very soon :)
Wiola & Leo <3