Saturday, January 24, 2015

Battle & Breakthrough

First off, THANK YOU to all of you beautiful & majestic unicorns for your tips and suggestions for what I should do with the Lilly situation. I think my POA is to get a blood panel and a fecal test, add beet pulp, and begin blanketing her and see where we can go from there. Thank you all again!

Now, the rest of this post might be lengthy and wordy, BUT I also have plenty of pics [and mostly happy ending]. Terrible quality, video stills, very grainy and mostly blurry, but! I took them myself with my iphone propped on a barrel. #flawless

Prefect angle for photography -_-
So to say my ride yesterday was the worst of my entire 24 year existence is no exaggeration. I realize I said that about Tuesday's ride, but I shit you not, yesterday, I rode a dragon from hell. Fucking hell.

Words cannot express the level of fuckery I experienced with my darling animal, but I will try my best.

For new readers, and others alike, I've had some serious issues this winter regarding Bacard's spooking and rideabilty. I've tried and thought of almost everything that could be wrong or of use in our situation. Everything. Yes, that includes teeth and eye exams, etc. Sans scoping for ulcers, everything. The damndest thing is he was FINE in summer/fall and I didnt change a thing.

So yesterday. I decide to try a fleece girth cover, last minute, to see if that would help. B is SUPER sensitive [makes clipping a real joy] and flinches on almost every inch of his lower body even when being brushed. Don't even think about asking for a change in gait, or lateral work, with more than 3lbs of pressure on his sides. So why not try and see if this makes him more comfortable.

Anyways. He was bad. From the get-go he was snorting and making a fuss. You know, the wound-like-a-rubber-band feeling beneath you?

yes, like this
Yeah, we haz it. All the fucking time. I didnt even ask for anything other than a nice big walk and he was already jumping sideways, snorting, rearing, twisting and dancing underneath me. And I had barely picked up the reins. Tried to ask for lateral work to give his brain something to do...wrong move. Cue explosions. Yes, many. Think chain reaction explosions. Bombs going off, knocking pillars over. Throw in a few MASSIVE crow hops and bucks and a few bolting episodes and you have the recipe for frustration. He was having NONE of it yesterday.

The last few rides, if I distracted him with transitions or lateral work, he would simmer down and only pop a few rears here and there. (Still not acceptable by any means). What broke the camels back was, after 15 minutes of his shit, me just wanting him to WALK in a normal fashion and he refused and just jigged. So I asked for a halt, patted him when he stood for .8 seconds, and the instant my hand touched his neck he reared, twisted, landed, bucked, bolted and crow hopped until the cows came home. I have no idea how I stayed on. I had to one rein stop him for fear of losing my life, but that only made matters worse and it was probably a good 17 crow hops later before he stopped.

This is tame, actually
Like I said. No words describe it. It was awful.

So what did I do?

I cried.

Like a fucking baby.

Bawled my eyes out for at least 8 minutes. No joke.

I was SO done. So frustrated. I've NEVER owned a horse that was so intent on killing me, or himself, and or just being a complete ass for no reason. I've never had a horse shiver at my touch. I've never been afraid to ask for a trot. I've never had to worry about possibly flipping over backwards in the next 4 seconds. NEVER had this much trouble with any animal, ever.

Why couldn't I do this? Why was B so impossible? WHAT was I doing wrong?

And you know what?

Apparently everything.

While I was sobbing, I dropped the reins, hung limp like a sack of potatoes and just sat there. B continued to walk around, but I noticed after a few blurry minutes that he wasnt jigging. Wasn't exploding. Wasn't flying sideways or backwards or upwards.


Then it hit me. I had been going with what I knew because my methods were tried and true with all of the animals I've ridden and horses I've owned. Even the Thoroughbreds. But B isn't every other TB. No no, he's a Sensitive Sally, Prickly Prince.

I should've put it all together.

He was definitely abused. So he's already sensitive to quick movements and heavy hands. He also raced, so his has a mildly stunted brain in the ways of learning. I've done my best to be gentle and kind. But he still always twitches when I girth him up (slowly) and if I use "too heavy" of a leg aid he lets me know. Same with hands. But we managed fine for months. He was perfect. We understood each other.

And then winter arrived.

It got really cold, and I shaved him.

Cue Winter Willies. Which include random spooks. Not a problem in most horses and manageable. But when you have a Prickly Prince, half-halts are apparently fuel for the fire.

An ass thats ready to bolt
A whiel back I surmised that  my half-halts were freaking him out more, so I tried releasing when he spooked and bolted, and then applying steady pressure to get him to stop. When that didn't work and his bolting/rearing got worse, I HAD to use one-rein stops. That only escalated his anxiety.

Basically, I CREATED a monster.

What I can piece together is that his initial spooking was just winter willies. But he could not tolerate the sudden pressure of a half-halt and THAT created anxiety and he spooked/misbehaved more often. Rearing, one way to escape pressure, or fear of pressure, bolting, another. The more he bolted and reared and spooked, the more I would have to half halt to try cease such behavior. In turn, he began to associate the field, me on his back and riding in general as a terrible bad thing. But when you have a sensitive sally, anything is too much & I just never put it together.

So, after feeling terrible for creating this problem, I decided to test a theory.

1lb pressure on the reins, sitting the trot and little tiny baby half halts (or total releases) on inside rein whenever I felt him getting "wound up". By 1lb, I MEAN 1lb. Like, I tried to imagine that the reins were feathers and I would crush them if I gripped or pulled "too hard".

And motherfuck, it worked.

That vest is not flattering

I KNEW he wasn't like most horses and didn't like much pressure anywhere, but I did not correlate ME correcting HIS behavior (as it should be) as the issue.

Is any of this making sense to anyone?

He didn't spook once while I rode him like this. He got a little apprehensive, but when I did not react to it, he relaxed instantly. What the shit Bacardi.

Note the very loose inside rein
I think it will take a few rides of me riding him this way to reassure him that I am not some massive bitch, but I think FINALLY I have figured my horse out.


Gratuitous Levi shot doing dressage

So much more relaxed & willing with loose reins
Not that loose reins are accepted in dressage and we will have to work back up into true contact, but its a plus that I can fully drop the inside rein and ride just on the outside. We will get there.

Tired pony

Also, should probably do more work in the dressage tack, but his shenanigans were getting so ridiculous/dangeours I felt more secure in the jump tack.

One last thing I've been noticing and not putting it together...

Happens after every sweaty ride.

What the fuck.

Is he allergic to his own SWEAT?

What else horse, like come on. Could this be another reason his skin is so sensitive? Allergies?

Anyways, fingers crossed for a *hopefully* relaxed ride tomorrow. Thank you all for hopefully making it through this post.


  1. This makes complete sense to me!! On a much smaller scale I saw my friend do the same thing with her horse within one ride -- her problem was that she couldn't trust him to let him go because she had this pre-formed notion that he was going to be bad, so when he needed her to release, she tensed, and the cycle began. I'm SO glad you worked it out!

  2. I want your dog, no seriously so freaking adorbs. I feel you on the pony probs. Super Kid is a lot like B, SUPER sensitive, opinionated, pretty princess pony. I rode her yesterday and she took off,, twice, and would not just chill the heck out so she jigged when I asked her to walk. She needs constance in her schedule so winter is always the worst for her. Good luck with B-man!

  3. Your dog should get a prize. So sorry you have been dealing with that, no fun at all. Happy you are making some progress. I used to ride a mare for a lady that had put two people in the hospital bolting through fences. I think she will get her own blog post, but needless to say the first two months were spent standing still with little bits of walk. If she wanted to stand we stood until she moved again by herself. By the time I was done riding her months later she was jumping and she is now an upper level A circuit jumper. Good luck and may you have all the patience to work this out, I think he is totally worth it, and your bad ass skillz will get you through.

  4. You know what they say about redheaded/chestnut horses...

    1. Haha thought that was only chesnut mares :P

  5. nice job riding through it - despite the tears. poor guy sounds like he's WAY stuck in his own head - hopefully you'll be able to draw him out and get him trusting you (and the contact) more in time!! good luck!

  6. Aaah don't feel bad. Today for no reason at all, O decided halfway through her drive that suddenly she couldn't deal with her bit, and went from trotting along on a nice contact to randomly slamming on the brakes, sticking her tongue over the bit, and promptly having a total shitfit. Then she went back to normal, trotting along like a champ, like nothing happened. No idea why. Redheads are possessed is my only answer.

  7. Aww man, sorry you were still at war with him, but it sounds like you've seen the light! Klein gets a feed through antihistimine, hydroxyzine, in the summer to help with her summer itchiness. That could help alleviate B's hives with sweat.

  8. Don't feel bad for not figuring it out earlier. Heck it took me falling off to realize I needed to take mine off of his fat supplement lol. I guess this proves crying is good for something even though it totally sucks. I'm glad you figured out what his problem is. I hope now you can get him back to associating riding with good things. :-) That's really weird about the hives!! Does it only happen where he's shaved? Have you changed shavings or hay? Poor guy. Can a horse really be allergic to his own sweat?? Maybe it's something he is eating? You know how some people eat garlic to repel bugs and you can smell it in their sweat? Maybe he is secreting something in his sweat?? That is so odd. I'm keeping my fingers crossed this breakthrough is a sign of things improving!!

    1. I have no idea! When I have the vet out for Lilly Belle I'm going to ask. Its been pretty recent thing. Like last couple months.

  9. I have a friend whose horse is ALSO has uber sensitive-skin(surprising not a chestnut, but still a thin-skinned TB) and he is also allergic to his own sweat. So yes, that is a thing. Not sure if it looks like what Bacardi has because she had it well managed by the time I made friends with her, but yeah.

  10. Well damn. I am sorry you had to go through the horrific ride, but it did bring a light bulb moment. I just wish they could speak English and just tell us things. Life would be easier. But then I am sure I would be hearing all kinds of horrific crap from all my mares. I hope for all successful rides from here on out!

  11. I think your frustrations make complete sense, but I also feel like you are being unreasonably hard on yourself! I mean you rode Yankee for years and years and years (and although you rode other horses) you probably have some deep rooted behaviors, expectations and muscle memory that came from riding one horse for so long. B is such a different creature and it is very hard to break old habits (even if they are good ones) -- he's going to be a cool puzzle to figure out and I think it will be worth it in the long run. I think it's also important to remember to "ride the horse you have today" and try as much as possible to let go of yesterday... you know baby horses are two steps forward and three steps back! We'll be right hear to follow along!

  12. I have a good friend whose mare is, indeed, allergic to everything including her own sweat :(