My Little …. Zebra?

I apologise if my last post sounded as if I’d awoken from a long slumber and got out of bed on the wrong side.  In the period since my post about Pom recovering from his temper tantrum (Welcome Back Dr. Jekyll), we’ve been through a strange period which has changed many things….

Perhaps I ought to explain.

Sometime in the Spring – well the calendar said Spring, but the weather said Monsoon – I had to admit to myself that I’d slumped into a deep depression.  I know almost everyone goes through depression at some time;  most often as a result of life mustering all its rotten possibilities and dumping them on your head without warning.  If you’re hit by life’s big dramas – separation, divorce, ill-health, bereavement, redundancy, financial worries …. ( I humbly can’t even begin to talk about war, famine, drought, flood, pestilence…..) feeling utterly at sea sort of goes with the territory.

It’s more understandable for people to sympathise with anyone going through depression as a reaction to monstrous changes in their life.   So I found it very difficult to talk about just sliding into depression without any major reasons I wanted to talk about.

The tendency is in my genes, and, over a lifetime, I’ve often been there before.  I watched it happen to my mother from when I was a tiddler, so I kind of knew what to expect.

Maybe losing my darling old horse (though I was expecting it sometime) and a build-up of  other footling worries contributed.  But most people, looking at my life, would think I was damned lucky with my particular lot (I am) and demonstrating weakness of character to complain.  So when I’m down and dispirited I’d rather not harp on about how low I’m feeling.

Finally acknowledging I was back in an old pattern and going to seek help set me on a better course.  And when I was back to feeling more positive, I came to realise I’d been avoiding everyone.  I dropped off-line as much as I cut back with all my friends.  I’m so very sorry guys, but I know no-one likes a kill-joy.

But maybe that’s what I needed.  To get back to looking after the basics in my life, then looking upwards and outwards and letting complications pass me by.  A bit of psychological feng shui …. clearing the mental clutter so to speak.

And this is where having animals anchors you in the real world.  We don’t have any cats or dogs at the moment, but getting up every day to keep up the horses’ routine, hearing that whicker when they see you, seeing their enjoyment of their food and their everyday care drags you up into the pleasure of the moment and reminds you that your duty to them transcends whatever you feel.

Winston Churchill famously called his bouts of depression his ”black dog”, maybe mine should be my ”dark horse”.  Or not.  Because this summer, my number-one horse, who restores my joy in life has been transformed into a …. Zebra.

Picking up on a great promo from equestrian retailer, Derby House, late in the day, I found plain-coloured, reflective, fly sheets were sold out and so I ordered one zebra print and one graffiti print and now – given that I’m very happy with the fit and cover – both styles on Pom make me smile.  With his black fly mask he looks like a horse super-hero!



Managing a horse with sweet itch is a mixed blessing.  Once you’ve come to terms with the condition being a permanent challenge and you’ve researched the best way to manage your particular horse’s itchiness, you may find buying the products, flysheets perhaps, and having the time to be nurse and carer is both expensive and time-consuming.

I’ve seen horses suffering from sweet itch without relief and all I can say is that my opinion of the horse’s owner is reduced to a level of, on a scale of ten, say, …. minus sumpty-something.  Cruelty, in my book.  You just need to imagine how bad you would feel;  desperately itchy all over and no succour.

But what a great chance it proved to be for me in forging a relationship of trust and mutual need with my ultra-itchy yet aggressive, touch-me-not Pom.

If you have to come to terms with a horse that is miserable, uncomfortable, peevish, sulky, default aggressive and taking it out on you; what an opportunity to prove a friend and refuge in being able to relieve pain, discomfort and alienation.  It’s an opening you grasp with gratitude.

My horse has finally understood that, however alien and annoying he thought I was at the outset, I can solve the itches, scratches and hurts that irritate and enervate and – hey, what do you know – I can provide fun outings and adventures too!   So maybe in being his friend, his Mum, his playmate, his nurse and partner in crime…. just someone he likes hanging out with … I’m bridging that yawning gap.

This is how we’re progressing at the moment. It’s fun. We’re playing with clicker training. We’re hoping the damn flies leave us alone sometime soon.

I look forward, every day, to the moment I get out to see the horses.

And they restore me to my best self again.

Thank you Pom and Pie.  Best therapists ever.


If you’ve suffered from depression and are are a rider/horse-owner/horse lover, (or none of these!) I would love to know how you cope – please give me the benefit of your experience…!

About cavaliereattitude

Englishwoman, transplanted to SW France in '86, blogging - with a large dose of humour and self-deprecation - about life with my husband and our horses, the never-ending renovation of an ancient and crumbly stone farmhouse and the attempt to carve a beautiful garden and productive pasture out of a woodland wilderness.........
This entry was posted in Dressage, equitation, Horses, Living in France, Musings, Riding, Rural Living, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to My Little …. Zebra?

  1. magreenlee says:

    I was in a bit of a slump in the summer, too, I just couldn’t get myself going with the horses. Maybe it was largely the weather, the flies, the shared vehicle, visitors etc etc but there were also occasions when I just couldn’t be arsed. Not “down” enough to be called depression, but just in the doldrums. So I’m making a valiant effort now. Monday I went up to Nanse (where the horses live) first thing in the morning and was hit all over again by the beauty of the place. And working with my sweet little Flurry is always a good thing! Tuesday was Aero’s turn, and he surprised me by turning into calm & attentive after being hyper and silly initially. I hope I can keep it up. If I can get into a routine, I’ll be flying.
    However, today I’m hit once again by the “only one car” issue. LSH has class this morning. Poo. Maybe later.
    I LOVE the zebra stripe sheet. Do you think it’s better than the plain ones? Aero will need a new one next year, now is probably the best time to buy. Hmm, better go on-line shopping…


    • Thanks for the support Martine, and glad to hear you are on the up again too. Hope you manage to get hold of another car, at least there’s no road tax and the insurance is not too bad here. It’s frustrating to have all the right conditions for a ride, except the transport!
      The Derby House sheets are fab (esp. for just £20 each – down from £80!); very good coverage and not too tight on the shoulders, nice and long in the neck with elasticated join at the withers and long enough, as I got the max. size, though Pom’s only about 15.2 , but I had to shorten the straps to the stomach flap. I’ve been very resistant to full cover but his coat, mane and tail are looking brilliant this year and if he may look a bit silly in some eyes (my friend Patrick calls it his “pyjama”!) the sweet itch is at bay, I’ve used less product on him and he’s a happy boy – and the Pie’s inherited his old flysheets for when the taons are unbearable…. all the best in your new home!


  2. Anna Blake says:

    I always say, “Some days they carry you, some days you carry them.” It’s true especially with the old ones. Depression is the flip side of happy, so I try to make friends with it so it doesn’t fight my day as much. Then I breathe deep to loosen its grip. I might have learned this from horses. Take care. Write anyway.


  3. Thank you Anna – I love the way you always seek – and find – your answers to life’s questions with the horses. Apart from the endorphins worked up by a good ride (or even a satisfying clean out of the barn!), the look of a soft eye and the happy swish of a tail are a lift to the spirits.
    Any further thoughts on the OGM club – it seemed to strike a real chord 🙂 ?
    (Btw, don’t take this weirdly, but I miss your friendly smile on your new header, lovely though your horses are; seeing someone else genuinely smiling is a failsafe cheer-up!)


  4. I remember hearing an interview last year with an old rock singer from a 60s band (a bit before my time) who was trying to squeeze everything he could into his last days of life. He was dying from cancer. He mentioned all the wonderful places he’d traveled, all the great people who had crossed his path and all his remarkable personal experiences- all things he had never expected when he started out with a guitar and a song.One thing was profound for me:even tough he was facing the inevitable, he was thankful for his life, whatever it brought him.

    These past two years I slogged through classes at the University of Kentucky to complete my journalism degree after being out of school for many years.Caring for two goats, a horse, cats and dogs, and a myriad of other chores and musts, not to mention the stress of keeping pace with students thirty years my junior, juggling homework, the aggravation of driving a 60-mile round-trip almost daily and always, always running so far behind that when I went to bed at 1 a.m and got up at 5 a.m.I was just barely able to keep on track. So I, of the upbeat attitude, succumbed to the doldrums and a sharpened tongue after awhile and forgot how blessed I am.

    You’re right about animals giving us purpose. My horse is the light of my life and I treasure all my days with her. Whenever I need calm, I just stand near her and peace flows like a river. I think the singer had it right. Whenever I’m tempted to give in to Sweet Misery, I remember his words and try to be thankful for the opportunities of this life- even if I have to blunder through the dark to find the light.
    Chins up! Women are tough.



    • Great reply Beverly! In some ways maybe the fact that women are tough is the problem. We like to take on and cope with the big challenges. You sound as if your big challenge to complete your journalism degree and fight against all the difficulties and sacrifices which that entailed positively invigorated you, until the sheer lack of rest tested you to the limits! I suspect a lot of my problems stemmed from a series of physical setbacks making it impossible for me to get on and “do” stuff, so a whole backlog piled up and clouded the picture. Funnily enough after doing this post, I remembered a post I did in 2011 whilst I was laid up with a broken leg listing “Reasons to be Cheerful” (as in the Ian Dury song!). I like to think I’m normally a fighter, so thanks for reminding me to count those all important blessings, sometimes it just takes reaching bottom to bounce up again, as long as you get the right help and support – especially from the animals!
      I will keep all the chins up and bouncing 😀


  5. hamrat says:

    I’m glad you’ve found something that’s helping him 🙂 and he looks mighty fine in his zebra-striped day sheet 🙂
    Incidentally there’s a bit of research going on in the world that we’re using to control the midges that transmit AHS to our horses in South Africa that uses painted stripes on our babies to help control the little blighters! Hopefully it’ll help him 🙂


    • Hi Hamrat, welcome and thanks for joining the conversation 😀 I’ve really enjoyed dipping into your blog (what an amazing part of the world you live in, I’m lucky enough to have visited SA, but just the once), am following you back and look forward to learning more about your horse world. Glad you liked the fly-sheet, (I dare say the fancy dress wouldn’t fool any of the zebra herd!) but if the stripes help ward off the midges, so much the better (“tant mieux” as we say here)!


      • hamrat says:

        Not a problem cavaliereattitude 🙂 thank you for dipping into my blog, writing about horses is one of 3 things that keeps me sane 🙂 the other being horses and dressage! 🙂
        I’ll be the first to admit that as long as I don’t have to watch the news I’m not too unhappy here apart from the flies and the sweltering heat and African horse sickness. It’s been scientifically proven my melting point is 32 degrees!
        I hope the fly sheet helps your boy and I’m sure he would look amazing in a fancy dress class with it on 🙂
        Keep up the good writing 🙂


  6. Elaine L says:

    So happy to read you are back! I have missed your posts. Who doesn’t get depressed with all the bad things going on in the world. I find small road trips helpful for depression. It gets you out of your small world and helps you remember that other people have it a lot worse than you. Just to be able to have horses in our lives makes us very blessed.


  7. I’m so happy to hear from you too, Elaine – I often wonder how you, Leo and Dini have settled down south (if you have time, I’d love to hear!) and hope all’s well. Like you, I get great pleasure and a big lift from taking trips out of our home zone, even if for a day. And I always appreciate home-life more on return!
    Since our last, ideal, horse-sitter married, we’re in great need of finding someone else I can trust before we can contemplate getting away for longer. We have a long wish-list of short (and some longer) getaways – current plan/dream is Christmas in Seville with our lovely Dutch neighbours/friends, but I’m still working on horse-house-sitter or taking the boys to a nearby livery stable. It’s so true that if you get out of the habit (several years now since we had a weekend away), it’s nigh on impossible to talk yourself back into it! Many thanks for getting back in touch 😀


  8. saraannon says:
    ran across this Aussie article on a possible cause of sweet itch symptoms, don’t know if it applies to your guy, but it is at least worth ruling out….


    • Very grateful for that really interesting recommendation Sara. I just looked up the article/s and although we use invermectin regularly, it could still be a possibility and I’ll definitely ask our vet. Although I have tried all sorts of treatments and protection with varying success, I can never completely alleviate the itching so will follow any lead which might comfort my lad. Many thanks!
      (Glad Domo didn’t swallow the clicker – far too bright, obviously!)


      • saraannon says:

        It’s at least worth ruling out… and there are some parasites that need either mega-doses or long-term dosing of ivermectin to actually kill them off…and yep, keeping Domo’s brain occupied is my major challenge with him;)


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