Hey everyone! It is that time again. Get your 3rd quarter hours in to me for a chance at the $50 prize package. This is based on the person with the most hours for the entire quarter and will be the last quarter prize for the year!!!
So far I have for September:
Nadia – 4 hours
Amy – 22 hours
Emma – 4 hours
September was not a very busy volunteer month. I’ll post the winner on Monday (possibly Tuesday depending on how Eeyore does at the vet on Monday and how much alcohol I consume afterward).
October and November will be the final two random monthly drawings leading up to the year end award at the end of December. Speaking of which – I’ve changed the final prize a bit and it will be a surprise worth winning I promise!!!
Dusty thought Eeyore was dealing with saddle fit induced muscle pain and prescribed a new saddle. I was not convinced but there is no way I’m going to turn down a new saddle when offered with no strings attached (he specifically said he didn’t want me to sell Gem’s Thorowgood to buy a new one). Plus it sorta made some sense with the quick recovery with time off, the new issue with the T8 sliding forward over his neck, the onset of pain halfway through a ride and his new found affinity for stretching once the girth is loosened. With everyone closed until Monday anyway, it was worth a try.
Saturday afternoon I drove down to Aiken which is a single right turn out of my drive followed by two boring hours of driving straight. There is a nice used tack store there that has a lot of inventory and a free trial period. The most I would be out would be the price of shipping it back to them. Seemed harmless enough.
There were several in my made up price range of $1500 or less and I sat in quite a few. In the end I brought home two Kieffer saddles: a MW 17.5″ Norbert jump and a W 17″ GP both with cut out for extra wither clearance.
Sunday afternoon I hooked Eeyore up to the lunge and had Dusty watch from the rail. He was intermittently lame at 1/5 on the RF going right. He’d go a full circle no issues then take a few bad steps and return to sound for another circle and a half before showing another few bad steps. At that point I was ready to cash in my chips and call the vet in the morning upon opening to set up a lameness eval.
Back in the barn Dusty convinced me to try the saddles out. I figured it wouldn’t hurt to see if they fit him since I had them and he wasn’t full blown three legged lame. The MW was way too narrow. I didn’t even bother getting a picture it was so obviously not a good fit. The wide GP though. I really liked the looks of it and decided to at least walk around in it. I was a bit worried it would be too small for me as I am usually a 17.5″ but it was worth trying.
Plus it would appease the hubby.
We returned to the arena and I climbed up and asked him to walk off. He took a few stubby steps and then blew out and gave me the most forward, relaxed walk I’ve gotten out of him. No lazy, behind the leg oaf. No coaxing. It was an immediate difference.
I had him pick up a trot left and he felt amazing. No tantrum, no sucking bad. Dusty encouraged me to try going right. If he took a bad step I could stop immediately and call it a day. He picked up the trot and….I’m not sure. During the ride he felt really good. The trot was rhythmic and he was relaxed. In fact during and after I was convinced he was sound as he felt pretty great. He is always fussy with his head probably because I’m a rigid steel beam in my arms and don’t give him the ride he needs, but otherwise he felt really really good. Plus he likes to try to stop and walk and reacts by either lifting his head or dropping it when I boot him forward, so it can be hard to tell.
But in reviewing the videos Dusty took…I’m not so sure now. It’s hard because he is fussy in the bridle so looking for a true head bob when he isn’t super lame is hard and I can drive myself crazy looking at the footage all night long. But…it looks a little off to me. I don’t know. He is truly lazy, feeling good or not, and asks to stop or drop to the walk and he looks way better when he moves out versus sucks back and barely trots but I don’t know. I also am really, really good at making a sound horse look lame to my eye. I spent years of Gem’s life thinking she was lame and the only thing that stopped that was her flying through the 100 with all As. After that my brain shut up. One thing was certain: he was way better than Friday when he was very obviously head bobbing and the only thing that change was the saddle. I’ll take an iffy, maybe maybe not gait versus the head bobbing 3 legged lame ride from Friday.
Here are some videos. I don’t have speakers at work and the sound was off on my phone when I watched them so I have no idea if you can hear a cranky, bred Wyatt in the background or the husband making fun of me. I’d recommend turning your sound off because neither of those things are enjoyable.
Going right on a smaller circle:
He was slow and trudgy but that is him on a good day. Big man doesn’t like to move when he doesn’t have to. But he was relaxed, responsive and not fighting me which wasn’t the case last week leading up to the lameness and there was no question he was 3 legged lame on Friday.
In fact he felt so good I asked him to pop over the vertical he refused to actually jump over last week. He popped over happily.
I called it a day after that and returned to the barn. Dusty palpated his back after and he was a little reactive in the loin region but after trying again he was fine.
I don’t know. He moved better and was happier in this saddle and for only $200 I’m going to keep it. I’d prefer a 17.5″ and I’m not crazy about the spine clearance in the rear of the saddle but it is better than the Thorowgood and didn’t budge. It’s only $200 and not worth the $50 it would cost to ship it back.
But…in reviewing the video I’m not sure if he is normal or not. Opinions?? It looks like he mostly is but then I see some off steps but that could be the complete crap I’m riding him in. I just don’t know one way or the other.
I’d love for it to be a saddle issue but ugh. He felt sound. He looks..I have no clue. I’m planning on hopping back on again tonight and seeing what I feel and how he acts with two days of riding in a row. I’d expect him to be worse if it is soft tissue after being worked the day before. If Dusty is right and he has muscle soreness from the T8 pinching him that wouldn’t magically completely go away either so some intermittent bad steps could be residual from that and don’t forget the crap right front hoof. Having a chiro/massage person out could really benefit him, but not if it is an internal hoof injury so…yeah. I just want to ride my horse.
Farrier is set to come out the 1st but I may cancel that and schedule a lameness eval instead or push my luck and try to schedule the vet in the am and the farrier in the pm after they give recommendations but who knows if that will work or not. If he is sound and I’m seeing things that aren’t there (which could be the case) then I don’t need to shell out a bunch for a lameness eval on a sound horse so ahhhhh!!!!
The plan? The ever changing plan? Ride again tonight unless the pending storm comes (its dark as all get out right now with a black threatening sky and lots of wind but I don’t care as long as it stops for 5 pm) and see how he feels. If he still feels really good I’m going to keep the farrier on the 1st and add in a chiro/massage appointment for that day as well. If he feels questionable, make a vet appointment instead. Oh…and drink a whole lot of alcohol in Chicago when I don’t have to drive and have no child around.
I don’t normally post on the weekend but I’m driving myself crazy and need to write my thoughts out before my head explodes.
I’ve owned horses for almost a decade. You’d think I’d be more familiar with this stuff. Truth is that Gem and Pete were easy to manage. I’ve never had a single lameness even after she cut half her hoof off. No nagging NQR. Sure I dealt with personality disagreements and she wasn’t easy to train or ride but health wise she was an ox.
Now I’m finding myself overwhelmed and losing faith with a nagging right front lameness that will not go away. Or at least won’t stay away. And I’m so confused.
Here is what I know:
He was sound the day I met and rode him.
He was sound for his PPE, flexed 0/5 all limbs and had clean X-rays. The vet was confusing when it came to his navicular shots claiming she saw things but then sending them to a more experienced colleague who said they were normal. She gave the go ahead for low level eventing. Dusty spoke with her during the exam and was comfortable with what she said to give the green light for purchase.
Both times he was shod all around and his feet were normal looking. The X-rays showed too long toes and needing the shoes set back farther but otherwise fine.
Then I brought him home. That was on a Sunday. On Monday he came in to the barn missing his back right shoe and half the hoof. He was lame on that foot. My then Farrier came out that Wednesday, trimmed all four and reshod the fronts. He was unable to walk come Thursday so I took him to the vet and she casted the hinds but saw no other issues.
Fortunately the hinds were not so bad and he quickly came sound again and able to be ridden. I rode him both at home and took him xc schooling. He was perfect. A little footy on the hinds in the gravel water complex but happy, forward and moving fine. At home I took a lesson in the pouring rain and he was fine w/t/c both directions on a 20m circle.
The week after he came in for dinner missing his front left shoe and half the hoof with it. The front right was loose with half pulled out nails and so we removed it and called the farrier. He came out and cleaned him up but he was dead lame on the front right with exposed lamina the next day.
I fired that farrier and got a new one.
Eeyore continued lame on the front right for weeks. He was pasture sound and sound on the lunge but very obviously lame front right under saddle going right. Going left he was fine. Going straight he was ok.
I gave him 6 weeks completely off between farrier appointments. That was from the end of July until Labor Day weekend in September. He remained sound at all gaits in the pasture. Labor Day weekend I trailered him to Trainer’s beautiful footing and he was sound at all gaits even jumping a small vertical just fine and willingly.
He remained sound for two weeks, I think I rode 5 times, then last Monday he was odd. Not lame, but sucked way back and refused to leave the ground to jump. Tuesday he looked off walking in from the pasture for dinner and then yesterday he warmed up fine but was dead lame on that front right going right at the trot about 15 minutes in.
Ok… that is the back story. Kudos if you’ve stayed reading this long.
I had Dusty examine his front right this morning and he found nothing and no reaction. No abscess and no bruising. No heat. No pulse. He is sound in the pasture and cantered up to the gate for breakfast no issues.
After that Dusty had two thoughts.
Saddle fit.Soft tissue injury
Here is where I’m getting myself wrapped up in too many questions without answers.
First, his feet suck. His front right is shaped like an elf shoe and there isn’t anything to do about it until it grows all the way out. I find it hard to believe that isn’t the root of the issue. The foot is completely different looking than when I got him plus he is barefoot. The left front remains normally shaped though under-run and he is sound on that. It’s got to be the hoof right?
But if it is the hoof then why is he only lame under saddle going to the right at the trot? Why not in the pasture? The footing is harder out there with the lack of rain and I’ve watched him walk, trot, canter and rear/buck play all perfectly sound. Up and down hill too. Now he isn’t doing it on a 20m circle but still. If his hoof was the culprit, wouldn’t he be lame all the time on it? Specially since he isn’t a little NQR. He is three legged hobbled lame under saddle.
So Dusty posited that it could be saddle fit. The saddle was purchased for Gem after all and he has much bigger shoulders and a different build. The fitter said it was fine with a thin pad under it 5 months ago but maybe it pinches his right shoulder after a while and causes the lameness? He is a bit melodramatic when it comes to pain. I mean, when the hubby says go buy a new saddle and see if it helps I’m not going to say no but I don’t know. It would explain the fact that he is sound out and on the lunge line. I doubt it is the answer though. What horse becomes three legged lame with a pinched shoulder?
The other concern though is that there is a soft tissue injury that was either present but hidden when I bought him or occurred out in the pasture or when he was lame from his feet and six weeks was enough to calm it but not heal it. It’s hard to explain the soundness outside and on the lunge as well as no heat, edema or pain with palpation though.
So this is my plan at the moment unless bloggerland can come up with other suggestions and believe me all are welcome.
Try one of my other saddles, even the endurance one. I know it won’t magically heal him but it is free to try and will appease the Hubby making spending a lot on other things easier for him to swallow.
Nag the crap out of farrier to come out. If he doesn’t answer or can’t come, try to find someone who can even if they aren’t my favorite in town. If he comes sound with shoes end of story. If not….
Set up a lameness eval with the vet. Likely Tryon Equine and see what’s up. Who knows it could be a left hind issue showing up as right front lameness and I’ve been looking at the wrong thing this entire time.
Wish me luck. My brain hates things like this. I’m a fixer. Not being able to fix this is killing me.
And thanks for reading a long post with no pictures.
Monday happened and he was fine. Not noticeably off at all but sulky, behind my leg and refusing to leave the ground instead opting to trot a 2′ pole awkwardly.
This is where I get frustrated that I don’t know him well yet. If that had been Gem I’d have known. But I thought he was being sulky and behind my leg like he can get when he doesn’t agree that work needs to be done. Plus it was after dinner and his friends went out without him. He was in week three of being ridden 2-3 times a week and had the weekend off. I thought he just wasn’t working well.
Tuesday evening Dusty does the chores as he gets home before me. I watched him walk Eeyore back out and asked if he looked off or was it just me. He thought he looked fine.
Wednesday he looked perfectly fine.
Thursday I went to WEG and missed both morning and afternoon chores (thanks Hubby!) so I didn’t get to see him.
Today was my first lesson in months. It only happened because both my surgeries canceled last minute and I had a free afternoon on my hands. With a sound horse and free time what better is there to do???
He loaded fine. He unloaded awful and scraped his left hind a bit but it was dry and fine in minutes. I lunged him to get him freed up and moving and he was sound and moving normal.
After we returned to tack up I palpate his left hind and he had no swelling and was not reactive. Got on and got started walking. Trainer was happy with my position and improvement in flowing elbows and seat. I still need to sit up taller and rock my shoulders back, but it is way better than before. She hadn’t seen him go in months and was pleased with how he was being and his response to my leg.
Then we trotted left and right going large and doing circles and everything was going ok. He was being a bit sassy and the neighbors were blaring music that captured his attention more than I did, so we gave a brief break and started doing more figures to keep his brain more engaged in the ride.
And that’s when I felt it. 15 minutes into the ride. Three legged lame on the front right. I stopped and slid off with my stomach in a knot. I picked up his hoof and inspected it. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary. Well, for him anyway. Lots of chips. The odd ski slope shape. A new bruise to the outside heel but he wasn’t reactive to me palpating it. No heat. No visible area of abscess.
I got back on. Left was normal. Right : three legged lame.
I’m not a crier. I’m usually pretty pragmatic in life but I admit to almost bursting into tears right there. The same crap as in August. Pasture sound at all gaits and playing with Pete. Sound at the walk. Dead lame on that front right at the trot. Odd that it started 15 minutes into the ride but it was very much there and likely it started way back on Monday when he refused to leave the ground.
I’ve texted my farrier to see about scheduling an emergency appointment for him to look at the hoof. It’s probably time for glue on shoes.
I’m worried though. I’m worried the shape of the hoof is so wonky that even shoes won’t help. I’m worried they won’t stay on. I’m worried that I keep blaming these bad feet when in reality there is some nagging soft tissue injury that heals just enough during his rest period and then flares when back in work.
I’m worried I bought a lame horse and my riding career is over for the foreseeable future because I can’t afford to have three retired horses and buy another to ride. And I wont sell him lame nor will I put him down just because I can’t ride him. So if he doesn’t come sound I’m screwed for hopefully many years as it would require the loss of Gem or Pete to get another and that isn’t allowed to happen for another decade.
Hopefully the farrier responds. That can be tricky sometimes. Hopefully he agrees he needs glue on shoes and can do it soon. Hopefully he comes sound with that and grows out his hoof beautifully and all this can be behind us and I won’t have to send frustrated, probably mildly depressing, texts to Emma about my lame horse being lame.
When I decided to retire Gem I knew one thing: my next horse would be a confidence builder. I had had a ton of confidence before getting Gem. Probably too much. She taught me a lot of great things, but the one bad thing she did was kill off my confidence. I needed a horse who would help me find it again.
Eeyore is mostly fitting that bill. His temper tantrums aren’t my favorite thing in the world and I wish he wouldn’t have them, but each ride shows improvement. Last night I threw him on the lunge again and he was fine. I got on board and he was great at the walk. I’m really getting the hang of the walk. Not like Olympic level getting the hang of it, but you know like adult ammy who doesn’t ride as often as she should getting the hang of it. I’m 1000x more relaxed, my hips/seat follow his movement instead of being a rigid board prohibiting it and my elbows stay bent and following. The best thing is that I am using my seat and leg aides and not going to my hands. It is the coolest feeling to me to use my outside leg and rein to get him to turn. I still can’t really wrap my head around how using my left leg and rein gets him to turn right. I’m sure there is some physics/biomechanics lesson in there that I don’t care to unlock, I just think it is a really cool thing.
I moved him up to the trot and he didn’t really like that idea much. He started curling up and shaking his head side to side in his warning that he wants to rear or go flying off. This time I called him on his bluff and booted his orange butt forward. And you know what? He went forward, realized it is too much effort to fight and settled down. He never got as relaxed as last week. He was a bit pissy that the others were put out after dinner and he was made to stay in and get tacked up instead and he refused to fully relax, but he trotted and didn’t throw any more tantrums.
The one trick he did pull back out which he hasn’t done in a long time is hanging on my hands. Apparently it was too much effort to hold his own head up last night. Again, I booted him forward and he responded though remained sulky about it. Life is hard.
I had two exercises I wanted to work on. One was exercise 3 from the Jumping Book: a single ground pole in the center ridden as an X shaped figure 8. Clear as mud? Good. It is actually my favorite single ground pole exercise to date. It requires riding a straight line, cutting over the pole on an angle and then creating bend at the far side to turn and come back over the pole on a straight line again. Thus forming the X with an arc connecting the top and bottom. It keeps me honest with my path while fluctuating between straightness and bend.
Eeyore was pretty great about it too. He is so much easier to work with than my Gemmie as repetition doesn’t make him want to explode with firey rage nor does he decide he knows better after one trip and refuse to take input. He just plods along with it. It makes it easy to over work him on something which is a point I’ve been keeping in mind. I find myself not wanting to stop.
I also set up a 2′ vertical down the one side about 4′ off the rail and closer to the gate end of the arena. I figured that jumping him towards home would get him pepped up and the shorter exit would help me keep him slowed on the back side of the fence. No bucking and taking off on landing. Or wait…that was Gem.
So we head towards the little vertical (the highest I have actually jumped in my short lived jumping career, so not so little looking to me) and he is dragging his head and not really paying much attention so the jump comes as a bit of a surprise. Pay attention Doofus. He walks over it.
Ok fine. We come back around, I make sure to give my best attempt to get him ahead of my leg, I look up and prepare to grab mane and….he trots very beautifully over it.
Ok fine. Try again. And again. And again. I could not for the life of me get him to actually jump over the darn thing. He trotted it every single time. I tried closing my legs. I tried clucking. I even tried jumping it for him..not recommended by the way. And each time he politely took it as an elevated trot pole.
I wasn’t brave enough on my own (the boys were down at the pond fishing) to jack the pole up to higher than I have previously jumped but apparently Mr. Lazy Pants refuses to put forth the effort to jump something that is tall enough to trot over. Point taken. And thus takes me to the start of this post. While he isn’t the perfectly behaved little angel that I dreamed of, he will make me more confident by being too lazy to do anything he doesn’t really have to. Like jump over something he can trot over. Looks like I’m going to get my year end wish of jumping 2’3″ by default. Otherwise I’ll keep trotting over everything.
Florence cancelled my plans to ride a third time last week. The rain wasn’t so bad, it was mostly a casual mist that didn’t end for 48 hours, but the winds were high, the horses were anxious and it wasn’t worth it. Had it been Gem, I likely would have, but I’m trying to build positive experiences as Eeyore and I get to know each other and it didn’t seem like the best bet. I’ll hop on him tonight.
Life with him is never dull though. He is a character and after spending near on a decade with Miss Aloof and Mr Scared of the Universe, it is really fun to just hang out with him.
Eeyore is…different. He isn’t stupid or at least not most of the time, but you can tell he isn’t always firing on all cylinders.
Two weekends ago Dusty looked up to see a strange car pulling down our driveway. The house in front of us was listed for sale and apparently a couple with horses had just looked at it and fallen in love. The issue? It sits on just shy of 4 acres, most taken up by the large house, outbuildings and swimming pool and they have 3 horses. I’m not sure why they even looked at the place as it is not a horse property, but they did. They came down our drive (I very pointedly asked Dusty in front of them why he didn’t shut the gate to avoid this – I’m really friendly like that) to see if we a) boarded – hell no!, b) would sell them the pasture that extends from our house to their back yard – not even a small chance! or c) would lease them that pasture – nope, nope, nope, go buy something that is appropriate.
As we were standing outside talking to them and keeping the nosy agent from wandering all over the place as she was trying to do, I noticed that Gem and Pete had come up to the gate looking for dinner. No Eeyore in sight. Not super odd as the big guy hangs out by himself a lot grazing while the seniors nap. All of a sudden he is seen galloping hell bent up the hill to their favorite napping spot, ears pricked forward and a worried look on his face. He gets to the top of the and stares at the nap spot, empty of horses because they are down by the gate by us.
He screams for them. Looks around with an expression that screamed “OMG! I’m all alone! Its been the Apocalypse. What am I going to do now?!”
Then he looked our way and saw them. He let out a huge happy, relieved nicker and burst into a full bore gallop down to them.
Meanwhile, the Dynamic Duo had obviously also seen this play out and had stood still and quiet probably trying to pretend they didn’t know him and weren’t associated. Dusty and I were keeled over laughing.
I know he was out of sight, but don’t horses have smell? Eyes? A secret sense that tells them when other horses are nearby? He does this all the time too. He will be grazing by himself in apparently oblivious to the word around him and Gem and Pete will wander off. He won’t even realize it for a while and then boom! He does and he freaks out that he is all alone in the world until he gallops around and sees them around the bend, behind a tree or you know 10 feet away from him.
Doofus suits him.
While Gem pretends she doesn’t want anything to do with him, it is all a show. The day I hauled him out to ride, she came flying to the gate nickering and acting all not Gem like once the trailer was pulling back down the drive. I barely got the halter off before she took him galloping off to a far corner out of my reach. The big orange beast wiggles under your skin pretty easily. Its hard not to love him.
Pete for his part adores the young guy. Pete would make the perfect horse to baby sit babies. He is playful and kind yet doesn’t let things get too out of hand and will put them in their place when needed. When we first moved here he was boarded with a young gelding and they would gallop, rear and play all day long. I asked Dusty in passing if he thought the old man, now 28, would return to that level once it cooled down and we both thought maybe he had gotten too old.
Well….let me tell you how wrong I was.
Florence brought cooler temperatures and a misting rain that lasted 36 hours. Pete was in heaven with those conditions and picked on Eeyore non stop to play. Of course I missed the massive tail flagged sprints, the farting and squealing but I did manage to catch a bit of the action. It was all Pete instigated too. Eeyore better be in the mood to play one fall and winter hit.
Honestly, even with all the disasters of his early days here, I don’t think I could have picked a better horse to introduce to the herd. Eeyore floats in and out of their romance, choosing to graze right next to them at time sand choosing to wander off while they are side by side. He follows Gem’s lead mostly without question although he grazes more and naps less than they do. None of them have come in with a bite or kick mark yet he plays with Pete when asked.
And me? I finally have a horse that chooses to walk up to me when he notices I’m around. He doesn’t run and hide behind a tree or play hard to catch. If I’m working in the pasture, he is right there supervising my tasks. I love it. I’m hoping he remains sound and continues to be enjoyable under saddle, but even if he had to be retired at a young age he has no worried about leaving our farm. He has wiggled his Big Orange Butt in to a permanent spot regardless of his usefulness as a riding horse.
In an attempt to not make the same mistakes I made with Gem, I decided to go full bore the other way with Eeyore, whose name will not die regardless of how hard I try to make Cruze stick so Eeyore it will remain. The biggest mistake I felt I made with Gem was always assuming the worst and getting exactly what I predicted. You know, the whole self fulfilling prophecy thing.
With her, I would find myself thinking “she is going to be spicy, tense and running through me” and voila! she was. Of course, a lot of that was going to occur regardless of my predictions because she was Gem after all, but still.
So when I brought Eeyore home (affectionately called Doofus around the house) I swung that pendulum the other direction and assumed he was the God of all horses at all the things. Which then led to me shoving him in the trailer and taking him cross country schooling at a new to me venue with a new to me group of people a week after bringing him home. Not really that smart because while the mount had changed, the rider surely hadn’t overnight.
And that mentality caused a lot of the issues I had with him early on. I assumed he would be just fine in a large, open pasture, so I rode him out there and he threw me on my butt. I assumed he would come out and get to work nicely and sedately all the time no matter that he just had 3 months off for painful feet. I assumed he would do all these things regardless of the fact that his entire life had been upended and changed and he didn’t know me from anyone and all because I had spend a lot of money on him and figured he should.
Now I am all for expectations and all that, but there is a level of training, trust and relationship building that needs to occur and I sorta blew by all that on my way to doing all the things. It didn’t work out so well.
In retrospect, while I agree that I shouldn’t picture the worst, had I assumed he could do the thing, but treated him like he couldn’t as I tried to find his level of training and the holes in place, well I believe life would have been much smoother earlier this summer. Of course, horses will be horses and Eeyore has his opinions about working hard and what his life should be like, so there will always be ups and downs, but my entire approach to him wasn’t helping matters at all.
That brings me to the present. Tuesday evening I had a terrible ride. I grabbed him from the pasture, tacked him up, threw him on the lunge line in the home arena and watched him be a perfectly sound, gentlemanly gelding. That ended when I mounted up and all of a sudden had a not so gentlemanly gelding who refused to bend, decided moving away from the gate was not possible and began to curl behind the bit, snake his head side to side and pop up a little.
Even in the moment I knew what I needed to do. I needed to kick him forward, keep him in front of my leg and ride him. The me of the moment also knew I didn’t have the lady balls to do that. As things got worse, I shut him down and just sat there slumped forward in the saddle debating on quitting, sliding off and making his sale ad. I was ready to be done.
As I sat there though, it dawned on me that if I quit now I’d be quitting forever. This wasn’t the most terrible behavior. Sure, it scared me as I wasn’t comfortable dealing with it but I could deal with it. I actually knew how to deal with it. And it was way easier than anything Gem had ever thrown at me. So I thought about it. I thought about my approach with him. How he hadn’t been ridden in that arena in nearly 3 1/2 months, hadn’t been ridden at all in a week and in 3 months prior to that and well…maybe this wasn’t being all that fair.
I took a deep breath and thought about what I could do that would be productive and in my wheel house. Transitions! If he couldn’t handle trotting more than a handful of steps without breaking to canter or acting out, then I wouldn’t ask him to. Instead I would ask him to trot, praise him, then bring him back to the walk and repeat.
At first he tried to break to canter. I told him out loud “Dude, I can literally trot all day. Go ask Gem about that. You won’t out trot me or out work me. Just do the thing and be done”
It took a while. A long while. But he eventually blew out a nice relaxing snort, took a deep breath and melted under me. For the next 15 minutes we trotted around doing various figures, going over trot poles and enjoying a moment of not fighting. I called it a night after that.
Last night I wanted to ride again. See what I would have to deal with. Would it be the same first 10 minutes of every ride fight? Could I handle it better? This time though I was armed with treats. I’m not a fan of feeding treats and in fact normally I don’t even have any on hand, but I happened to grab a small bucket when I bought some keratex and a second saddle pad because Homeboy sweats through his at the walk. I was especially hesitant to use treats with Eeyore with his already mouthy, slightly pushy behavior, but I read so many bloggers who stuff their horses full of treats and thought why not try it.
Of course this makes me a bad researcher. Too many variables changed between the rides. This time I rode after 1 day off instead of 8 days. The horses were out in the field by the arena instead of kept inside. I had food. Who knows which made the biggest impact. I really don’t care. The result though. Wow.
Homeboy has become an easy horse to handle on the ground which is a huge improvement from when I brought him home. Not as good as Gem, but nearly there and better than Pete. After I groomed him, I offered him a small treat being careful that I would get to keep my fingers. He looked surprised at the offering and took it politely. I began to tack him up and he stood perfectly still. Typically he bends around and stares at me while I work, not biting but putting the idea firmly in my head to watch out. This time he looked forward, rested a hind leg and let me get to it without supervising.
He got a treat.
We went to the arena. No screaming for his friends.
He got a treat.
I got on. He stood perfectly still at the mounting block. Typically I have to swing on and then immediately halt him. Not this time.
He walked off, blew out his relaxing breath within 2-3 minutes and then got busy trotting like a pro. He was soft, neither dropping nor lifting his head against my hands, went where I asked off my seat and legs, and even showed me how great he is at bending through the turns and around circles. Sure we weren’t perfect. I’m an imperfect rider, but he did what I asked without a fight.
He still tended to lose all ability to move nearing the gate and took more urging to get away from it, but he was being good about it. Not mean or threatening. Just letting me know he would prefer not to work, thank you very much.
In fact he was so good, that I cued for canter going right and he picked it up beautifully. After a few circuits, I brought him to the trot and then halted. I leaned forward to give him a treat under saddle. This took me quite some time to train Gem to, but he took it nicely and stood chewing in bliss. I let him chew, then asked him to trot and then canter left. After that I halted him, gave him another treat, walked around a bit and got off.
I can’t say the treats were the only thing that changed his behavior, I’m sure being worked two days prior and being able to see his friends helped too, but I am positively certain he was trained with treats as he knew exactly what to do and what was expected once the food came out.
It was, hands down, one of the best, most relaxing rides I believe I have ever had on any horse ever. The only thing that rivals it would be the 3rd loop of the 100 with Gem. Other than that this takes the cake. He was relaxed. He was malleable. He was…above all else…willing. It was nice to have a willing partner under me.
The biggest change in all this though was my attitude. I changed from assuming he was great because I wanted him to be to the mantra “Good horses aren’t born, they are made”. He wasn’t going to be a great horse just because I willed him to be. No. If I wanted him to do all the things nicely, calmly and happily then I needed to put in the time to get him there. To teach him. To show him. He is only 7 after all. Not a been there done that horse. I don’t think he left the barn I bought him from in the year he lived there.
Moving ahead with him my plan is to expect good behavior but treat him as if this was all new, walk him through it, praise a lot, treat often and see where we end up. If the horse I had under me last night comes out to play time and again, I see some great adventures in our future.