Thursday, February 4, 2016

Learning Lessons: Part Two

Again, this is weird to write. Courage got all leapy/flail-y with me before our lesson, then expressed a strong desire to repeat the performance in our lesson. All of this was over the slight issue of turning right.
Whenever this is an issue, big flashing red lights and alarm bells go off in my brain. This is CLUE NUMBER ONE that Courage is ready for the latest round of bodywork. We call in his special lady friend and she fixes him (with magic, imho) and he's all pissy and reactive until she's done, and then he's great. Voila! Right turns! Life is good.

Except this time, it's taking longer than normal to get on the schedule.

Winter has the horses back on restricted turnout, which means I make it a priority to get to the barn every day and at the very least, lunge Courage in a halter so he gets to stretch his legs. He had a light weekend until I came out Sunday night. I turned him loose in the arena and saw this:

To me, that's a horse who looks pretty damn good.

He went through a phase this winter where he just looked like crap. I didn't really video it because it was REALLY unattractive in terms of how he was moving (just stiff and stuck and feet slapping the ground HARD), but here's the best of the worst from the beginning of January:

If you compare the two, I think you'll see what I mean. (maybe?) The top video shows him loose and moving and looking like a dressage horse. The bottom shows him at a very animated point, but if you watch, his legs actually aren't moving all that much. Take away the animation, and he looked not very good. Not lame. Just sort of creaky, maybe. Like his whole body was stuck and he couldn't move.

So after the video at the beginning of January, we had some pretty intense body work done and it made a HUGE difference.
Can't complain about this trot
But the video from Sunday night I'm actually totally ok with. He looks pretty freaking good. He doesn't look all stuck and painful and weird. I mean, how much better is it going to get for an older, high-mileage horse? Especially with no turnout in the winter cold in a dark indoor at night during dinner.

And then I tacked him up and threw him on the lunge line with a sliding inside rein and an outside side rein. After I left him warm up, we adjusted those to working length.

And HOT DAMN I wish I'd taken pictures. It was magical. Right and left, he was super responsive to voice commands. I could do 3-4 calm, correct transitions in one 20m circle. He was light and stretchy and moving and... I don't know how to explain it. He looked great. He was relaxed and forward and easy. Everything I'm working towards, he gave me.

Pretty much all I said was variations on "good boy".
using a flash the way it was designed. with a standing.
So naturally, I hopped on. I didn't want to work super hard because Courage had already been really good and he definitely responds better to praise than he does to correction. He'd also already run like an idiot and lunged for quite a while, so he didn't need more exercise.

But I needed a little more information. See, when I rode in our lesson the other day, he wouldn't take an honest contact for anything. He fought and he fussed and he chomped and lurched. I assumed it was a pain/anxiety response more than an attitude thing.

Except a horse in pain doesn't move like the one in the video and it CERTAINLY doesn't lunge like a perfect angel. And that's interesting.

I didn't ask Courage to do anything hard under saddle--we just did our usual first five minutes of a ride--bending through his body, asking him to step under and take a contact.

Which he did.

Just fine.

And then I got off.
so charming in his cooler
Hm. I didn't really know what to make of that result, not one little bit. I saddled up again Monday (and skipped lunging), just to see what would happen. As per the winter usual, we spent a huge chunk of time walking and bending and doing transitions between free walk and medium walk, but Courage was solid. Great. Balanced. His normal self.

We rolled into trot and he was FANTASTIC. Not a little good. Really, really good. I kept things simple because I still don't know what I'm dealing with, but we even schooled our leg yield (intentionally pushing his buttons) and they were solid.
bonus great outfit
And here's another fun fact--Courage and I do simple groundwork 3-4 times a week before our rides. When he's due for body work, he gets stiff in his right shoulder. He can't step off it and he certainly can't cross it over in front of himself. When we did ground work Saturday, Courage couldn't cross over right and offered to rear when I asked for it. That means pain.

Except I asked again Monday and he moved over like a total champ. Didn't even hesitate.

That's interesting.

coy horse is coy
I don't know. Did the fact that I caved and threw him on a loading dose of magnesium a week ago factor in? Did he somehow (for the first time in his post-track life) self-correct? Was I just seeing a case of the 'tudes instead of just the usual hallmarks of pain for him?

I have no idea.

It doesn't change our day-to-day routine--Courage still very much needed the tactful rides he got in the lesson. We're all learning to communicate here. For whatever reason, Courage felt panicked or overwhelmed by his rides in the outdoor arena. I'm still happy that we were able to work through that without escalating theatrics. I would like to start translating our good inside rides into good outside rides as the weather allows, but that might be a longer process than I thought.

At the end of the day, all I can do is shrug and say "that's sensitive horses".


  1. i think he likes being mysterious, maybe? regardless, tho, he looks great in the first video and i'm glad to hear he's working well under saddle again!

  2. Dude, that trot video is ballin'. He looks SO FREAKIN GOOD!

    1. Not gonna lie--it makes me pretty happy.

  3. Maybe he worked himself out of it overnight?

  4. Gotta love when they change on a daily basis. Sigh. Horses.

  5. Maybe he slept weird or played hard and made himself uncomfortable for a few days? Horses are funny sometimes and it's hard to know, but it great that he's seeming sort of normal again.

  6. He looks so fancy in the first video. As far as the weirdness I have nothing useful to say. I would try not to worry too much about it unless it happens again. That being said I would totally be obsess mode because that is what I do best... :)

  7. Probably because he is not my horse but I think he looks great in both videos! Bodywork galore! Yay!

    1. Yeah I should have gotten a worse video. I see the difference, but I see him every day and am weird and obsessive.

    2. You get bodywork! And YOU get bodywork! EVERYBODY GETS BODYWORK!!!

      But yeah, I see the difference and I am SUPER interested to hear what more you discover about C-rage's newfound self-correcting skill!

  8. He definitely looks super good in the second video, and I don't think he's really all that bad in the other one either. But yay for self-correcting?


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...