Friday, March 30, 2012

There are Zen Days and there are . . .

days like yesterday. All good stories have a beginning, a middle and an ending. The middles are usually where the conflict develops, the interesting stuff that makes it worth staying with the story all the way through.

That is where I am at, with Riata. The middle. We had a wonderful beginning, kinda cool tale of picking up young horse at a sale, knowing full well there were mysteries behind her of breeding, handling, training that would never be solved and it didn’t matter. She had a kind eye, a long sweeping stride belying her tender age and her short stature and was wrapped in a neat if weird looking grulla-esque coat.

Love the relationship I had with her and I want it back.


The story went from unsolved mystery to love affair as the wary filly quickly hooked up, looking for a friend in her new life and I was happy to be one for her. All the initial stages went as clockwork, took her to a Kerry Kuhn clinic to get that first-to-me ride out of the way, and she came through, flying her colors all day long.

This filly originally took everything in stride with the best, easiest going attitude ever


All the riding went well, and then she got hurt. Not horribly, just put her on the sideline for awhile. Treatment didn’t bother her, she stayed quiet and gentle throughout. Healed up, it was time to saddle, and the first couple times of those went just fine too.

Healed up, great frame of mind, thought we would be back in business in no time

Healed up and ready to go to work!

And then the bucking started. I don’t know why. I am told it doesn’t matter but to me it does. I don’t know what set her off so I am slightly at a loss as to how to proceed to fix it.

Too big a saddle, this was the first time she expressed unhappiness at a saddle and boy, has it got worse from here!

Not yet, for the Crates

This brings us to the middle, the conflict, the “interesting stuff.” Me, I would be happy with a “she rides great, see ya on the trail” boring tale that no one would care to read. Instead, we have this.

As far as I can tell she had an allergic reaction to the neoprene cinch I used. I used it on her every single time I saddled her since I got her, no issues. She came home from both long clinics, friendly, willing, happy and we were eating progress like it was candy.

Working  under pressure with Peter, we both came through and got to better places!

Getting our lessons

Three days after bringing her home from the last one, I get a call from the barn asking me what the heck we did to that filly at the clinic, they couldn’t get near her, not even to feed her. Wtf??

I couldn’t get out there til the weekend, and sure enough she wanted none of me. Her girth area looked a little crusty, not red, not inflamed, not swollen, and it seemed maybe a little irritation had set in there.

From here is a series of letting it heal, saddling her up, fits getting more frequent, more explosive, me puzzled, wondering what the hell is causing us to be heading so far south, so quick and why can’t I see what is happening here?

I rode her out on the trail with friends, and basically stole a 7 mile ride and didn’t get killed in the doing of it. That is testament to the really good mind and nature of this young horse. She was so sore when I untacked her that she nearly buckled her knees when I released the girth. Shit.

Having an issue, but she came out of it without blowing up much to my relief.

Ri having an issue

It’s sinking in. It’s the cinch, stupid. Trina, if you are reading this, I wish to hell I would have listened to you on that. I took every other bit of advice that weekend that could sink through my skull but that piece I waved away. Had used them for years, long hours, lots of horses. No issue so why should it cause one now?  Did though.

Fast forward. My horse is cinchy. Bad. Claustrophobic. Doesn’t want caught, doesn’t trust me or want to be with me. My pocket pony who followed me around, now raises her head on full alert when she sees me even looking at her.

As I wrack my brain, as I will do, to figure this out, Colleen says “knock it the hell off,” or something to that effect “you are wasting time and energy on something that doesn’t matter anyway. Get in the moment and read your horse! What would you do if you had never seen this horse before? No idea of her history and you just have to start where you are. What would you do?”

Well, that’s where we came in, isn’t it . . .

Day before yesterday, everything worked. She got a little scared once, but it was further into the process than we have been for a long time.  I know it worked because she didn’t spin and bolt off when I let her loose, stayed with me and was the easiest to catch the next day that she has been in a long time. She told me I got better.

Still she’s almost never fully relaxed. She’s still not moving right, is still tight, bunchy, lopes like a little deer instead of the long sweepy stride that I fell in love with the first time I saw her move. So, I know, no matter how right I think we’ve got, we are not there yet, and I shouldn’t be taken by surprise when she blows and goes.

No Photo Here, I am too busy hanging on to take pictures!

Burns on my fingers from yesterday will tell you that I am surprised. I stepped down off the fence yesterday after getting what I thought was past the point she blew up the day before, walk past her to lead her to the post to soak and be done. HRUMPH!! I spin, she’s in the air, bucking and leaping away from me. I am not ready, can’t get position and she pulls away and takes off. Dammit.

Here we go again. Yep, now it’s on, and she’s in full reaction mode. She gets stuck, won’t come forward and then when she does, it’s leaps, bucks, bounds. Pulls me off my feet a couple of times. Broke my favorite hat. Bitch. Now I want to kill her, and it’s time to find a place to quit so I don’t mess things up worse than they already are.

I can’t hold her when she goes, and I can’t have her continue to pull away. I tie her to her saddle, yep the old tie around, it’s a loose tie, if I were on her, all I would see is the corner of her eye when she gave. It’s enough to let her know something has her, not enough to not allow her some relief. This is NOT the best way to get a thing done but at this point, I had to have something that would not continue to reinforce her fight and flee responses, and I had to put myself in time out and leave her alone for a bit.

I go get on Royal, in a horrible frame of mind, telling him today is not the day for antics as I am thinking in terms of couch covers, and he takes me down the road and helps me get my mind right.

A wonderful ride on my bestie

During this process with Riata, I have worked on attaching feet to the reins. I have done the groundwork fast, done it slow, she can back a circle, chin tucked and moving freely.

Trust me, I know how fat she is and I know that is part of the problem.

Riate, doing her groundwork ok

She gets to where she sinks her head into my arms and her skin doesn’t quiver when I touch her. Next thing, I will put a hand on her, she tightens, jumps six inches.  It is not a good place. BUT as Colleen reminded me, it’s not the end, it’s just the middle. It’s a process and we will get there.

Not all days are full of Zen and butterflies. Anyone who tells you different is trying to sell you something.


Anonymous said...

These things can be real mysteries to figure out. Could she have something metabolic going on - if she's fat she could have foot soreness problems as well. Also, ulcers are always a possibility. If she was a young horse who'd had a pretty easy time of it with nothing really upsetting her or scaring her, and then something happened to shake her world, this sort of thing could happen - she's not sure she should trust now.

Have you tried cantering her in a round pen to see if she's holding her breath at the canter? Some work time at the canter until she breaths normally again could really help to release some of that internal tension she seems to be holding in.

Best of luck, and will be keeping fingers crossed that you get it figured out.

gretchen said...

whew. yup. it's not all zen and butterflies. thanks for sharing this stuff too. honestly, i like knowing that eveyrone else struggles along the way...(that sounded horrible, but hopefully you know what i mean...). I mean, if the really good folks, like you and Susan and Colleen struggle, then it's ok if I struggle. :) you guys will get there. where the heck ever there is.....

Good Hands said...

Thanks for commenting, you guys. Kate, I don't have a round pen where we are right now, that is one of the problems for me. I am going to take her up to my friend, Colleen's place, when I can and work with her there. I will have access to both a round pen and a covered arena. I am thinking she needs to have her fear, her fits whatever, and when she is done with them, I will still be there, and she can come find me. We did this when I first got her, and I have done this method with tons of horses over the years.

Gretchen, this blog is ALL about keeping it real. It is NOT all Zen and butterflies, though those days are really nice. EVERYBODY struggles, I think, occasionally, with figuring out the next right thing, after trying about a dozen not as good or downright wrong things. I like knowing that I am on a path and that others are on it too, and none of us are perfect in our process.

Getting ready to head out and see what this evening brings us. A longer rope and gloves, for one thing . . .

Good Hands said...

Update: Had a GREAT work with her last night. It is a process, and we are getting through it. Maybe not as smooth or as quick as I would like but it's happening.

Much to my surprise, she was not hard to catch, and while she did blow up once, early on, after I put her on the long rope and gave her about two more feet of room to work away from me, she found some comfort, and then later, she could work on the short rope again. Claustrophobia is a tough thing!