Monday, December 5, 2016

The Great Pet Detective

OR

"If You Have Good Instincts, Trust Them"

OR

"How I Got My Horse Back"

I haven't said a whole lot about it on here I don't think and you may or may not have picked it up from social media, but Courage has been Terrible. Yes capitialized. I'd go all caps too, but y'all might just think I was being dramatic when it's him.

Regardless. Despite everything about his life being tailored to suit him, Courage lately is the worst Courage has ever been and I'm including times like when he reared and knocked Lindsey down and got loose at a trail head or any and all of his show disasters or even the dramatic bolting y'all are getting a little too used to.

I kinda want a silhouette of this as my blog logo 
I mean. I had a lesson last Tuesday that Alyssa came out to document. Last time she came out, he was so naughty that my trainer told me to get off and lunge "lest ye die". Maybe not quite her words. Anyways, this time was sort of better--I lunged first and C was a ball of anxiety but not bolt-y or naughty.

Well. Not until I got on, at which point trotting in a straight line prompted a flail into the fence. We finished with some walking, but he was getting more and more amped and tense and nothing we could do would get through to him.
Alyssa used her voodoo arts to make us look good, which we were not
I canceled his trainer ride for later in the week because there was no goddamn point. I was getting lots of recommendations from lots of people for draw reins and cowboys and "just kick him through it", but look. I'm an ammy. I like being an ammy. I'm not interested in riding through that sort of bullshit and frankly, even if I can (maybe), I know it will pile on so much baggage that I'll have an even harder time being calm and straightforward with him.
pass. no thank you.

And while cowboys are DEFINITELY on the table, I also know that once I go down that path, I can't undo it and Courage is really, really sensitive and yeah... I just don't want to cause more problems than I would solve. And frankly, I'm a little bit appalled how many educated, progressive-type people are inclined to say "just rough him up a little" in regards to a problem I'm having trouble solving. I guess yay living in the west?

Anyways. It was completely terrible.

His magical bodywork lady came out and brought his beloved magnawave thingy. Long story short, it took her multiple sessions with the magnawave to even let her tough him, but when she got to the bottom of it, he had a pinched nerve in the base of his neck that was excruciatingly painful. She's pretty sure he's ok now, but said he might need another session depending.

And see, I like patterns. I like things to make sense. I'm willing to accept a hearty dose of "that's horses" most of the time, but I like to have an inciting incident. The little piece of information that makes it all make fit together.

I have a pretty good read on Courage most of the time. I know that while he's an asshole, he also likes me and generally goes well for me. I think he's quite good at dressage and he likes this barn and this trainer and it's weird that it all went to shit. Super weird.

My trainer has pointed out more than once that this all started after our little open show. He was fine, and then he wasn't. Lots of people have tried to tell me it was the atmosphere or the arena or that it was too much too soon or the other horses scared him, but here's the thing. He gave no shits about the atmosphere or the arena. He was FINE with the other horses. I honestly think he liked them. Remember, he freaking WON his first class out there.
killin' it

And then it got terrible fast.
every canter.
I remember that show so well--the w/t class was FABULOUS. I had every expectation of the next class being the same way, but I remember coming towards the corners of the arena by the mirror and the announcer calling for a canter. I asked for it, and Courage bolted SO HARD and out of nowhere. I wasn't tense or mad or expecting it and there was zero warning. Which is weird. My drama queen loves to bluster and make threats. 

And see, the day before the show, I had one of my best rides ever on him. My friend from out of town was visiting and Courage was freaking perfect. Except. I mean, I thought it was weird on the lunge line because he didn't really want to move forward and held himself in this little frame. 
fanceh
But it was hard to be mad because he took a contact and looked kickass. 

Admittedly, the day before that, I'd tried to school for the show and I had to get off because his canter was solid dolphin leaping and I couldn't get him to level out. 
jump jump C
But he'd looked ok on the lunge? 

And if you scroll further back, earlier in the week, he looked like this and I was SO PROUD of him and so excited for us.:
the base of his neck tho omg
I remember riding in this lesson and being SO THRILLED that he was so rideable and I was actually getting to work on me instead of him. 

So clearly he was fine then. But what changed? What made him go from brilliant to dolphin leaping canter, then brilliant, then horrific and then spiraling downward? 

Cough. 

That's when I remembered. 

The farrier. See, good horsemanship tells us that wisdom is to pull shoes and let horses be horses for a while in the winter. My last farrier and I tried that with Courage a couple times and found out 100% that is a TERRIBLE idea for him. His feet fall apart, he gets crippled, he doesn't get better. The horse needs shoes. So the farrier and I made a pact to NEVER do that again.

But then that farrier moved away and I got a new farrier who's great, but who doesn't have the history with C. So when I get all woo woo hippie status on him and go "maybe we should pull his hind shoes for a cycle", he said "sure" instead of straight up bitch slapping me and screaming WTF NO ARE YOU TRYING TO DIE. 
haha maybe?

So we pulled his hind shoes. Then I tried to ride him and while he was sound, he was short strided at the walk and trot, and was only capable of dolphin leaping at the canter. I rode the next day and he was good, but unwilling to push forward off his hind end. Think holding his body in a frame to compensate for ouchy feet. But good, so I didn't overthink it.

Then he was ok at the show until I asked him to lift his withers and canter, and I think by then the damage was done. He tried to do it, but he'd pinched the nerve by compensating for his feet. He was as surprised as I was and we bolted sideways. Repeatedly.

Back at home, Trainer said he felt ouchy and stiff, but she couldn't pin it on a specific leg, so she did a course of bute. I had a family emergency and wasn't really at the barn for a couple weeks.
Once I was back, we started asking him to work harder and Courage got worse quickly. I thought he was naughty.

And the whole time, he was screaming at me that he hurt. 

A barn friend kept pointing out that when C is unrideable, it's usually pain and I kept telling her "but it's never presented like this before", which it hadn't. Usually he quits turning right, not just freaks out and blows forward. 

But you know. Never before have I pulled only his hind shoes and so the pain was different this time. 

You guys.

I swear.

This horse.
the hat detective

The things I learn from him aren't always fun, but the skills he's teaching me apply so many other places. Things like learning to trust my instincts even when everyone tells me differently or taking the long view when the present is crappy. Standing up for myself and my belief even when it's hard.

And always obsessively documenting everything so you can look back at it later and see the larger patterns.

Oh, and great outfits make everything better. 

47 comments:

  1. I'm glad you figured things out and hopefully C is back to his kickass dressage-y self ASAP! 😁 I think it's so interesting how little thigns can all be interconnected and then when you find the linchpin you're like "duh!"

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    1. I mean, there's always the chance things are just from a whoopsie in the pasture or whatever, but this was pretty extreme so it's nice to be able to point to something and go "ooooooh i get it now".

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  2. I know my opinion might be unpopular, but I think barefoot is way overrated in a horse that really WORKS. It has it's time and place, for sure, but on horses that have demanding jobs and need the support and stability? I'm not a believer. Hope Courage is back to feeling more like himself now!

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    1. I agree 100% with this opinion, especially as it relates to Thoroughbreds that may have the stereotypical "Thoroughbred feet"*.


      *does not apply to every single Thoroughbred, it's just a generalization.

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    2. True fact: I have never had a horse that barefoot was good for, but apparently I'm a sucker for hype.

      If I'm riding in sand arenas (normal out here), I generally work their feet down faster than they grow. Plus C has shitty TB feet. This is why I relied on our old farrier to keep me on the straight and narrow. I need to keep this (expensive) lesson in mind.

      And yeah, already counting the days til shoes go back on.

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    3. Oh I don't know about that. Dylan is 15 and works his ass off and he's barefoot.

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  3. Pain causes so many problems. Glad you got to the bottom of it!

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  4. I am glad you figured out it was probably just as a result of the shoes being pulled. It's nice having an answer!

    Although, I don't think when people pull shoes in the winter their horses stay in work. I think the shoes come off and the horses get turned out for a month, like a total vacation.

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    1. Yeah tried that too. Also a disaster.

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    2. Oh, I didn't realize Courage had that much time off with no shoes. Sounds like shoes all around and a job suits him the best.

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  5. I am glad you have things figured out. I find it so interesting the way horses express pain, they are all a little different. Great outfits do make things better! Plus that plum outfit is on point.

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    1. Well, I'd never say I have them figured out, but at least this little section of the puzzle makes more sense now.

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  6. Glad Courage is better!

    I pulled Annies hind shoes when I bought her but she wasn't in much work. I pulled her shoes last year when I moved to Nashville and she still wasn't in a lot of work. She ended up staying pretty tender footed and we put fronts back on and then hinds a few months later. I am not really a huge barefoot sometimes fan. If my horse gets its shoes pulled in the winter than its work load will be decreasing as well to accommodate that decision. Just me though.

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    1. Someday I would like to have one of those magical horses that does well barefoot. I'm 0/3 right now, in work or out of it.

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    2. Yeah... I was hoping Annie would be able to stay barefoot but it wasn't meant. Maybe Luna will change my luck. She's def not getting shoes before she has a job if I can help it!

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  7. THANK THE LAWD it was just the shoes!!!

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  8. I asked my farrier about pulling all 4 shoes or just hind shoes on Miles the first winter I had him and got the "wellllll if everything was literally perfect you could maybe try it..." so I scratched that idea and never asked again.

    Pulling shoes is great in theory, but some horses can't handle it. Especially when you still want to ride and such.

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    1. Yeah it's a theory I need to quit exploring. C likes his shoes. So do his feet. Period.

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  9. I went through something super similar this fall and it ended up being an "I FEEL AWFUL" situation instead of a behavioral issue. I'm glad y'all both figured it out and hopefully he's feeling better soon

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    1. I mean, he could have been less of a dick about it, but that's kind of who he is. So. Sorry buddy.

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  10. Deary me the lessons we learn and the mysteries we have to unravel! HORSES. But I'm so happy to hear that things are falling into place so far as "answers" and "solutions" go!

    It makes me sad to hear people say, "rough him up". I equate "cowboying" with more of the quiet cowboy types than the rough-n-ready types - the good ones anyway!

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    1. I may have been unclear--I wouldn't use a cowboy I thought would rough him up. The two pieces of advice were mutually exclusive. I think it's hard for people to accept how independent-minded C tends to be and it's tempting to want to "make him" do things, which just doesn't work.

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  11. Impressive detective skills. I'm glad you are getting it sorted out.

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    1. Ha well it could all be in my head, but at least it makes sense now.

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  12. I don't think I've ever met a horse that you can just pull the shoes off and be like, "Tah dah! I feel awesome now!" Hopefully once he gets his sneaks back on behind he feels like a respectable Courage citizen again!

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    1. I tried hardest with my stupid warmblood who actually had pretty ok feet but it was also a dismal failure. For some reason, I go for highly reactive pain sissies.

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    2. I pull shoes off of lame horses for a living and most of those horses run off and go "tah dah I feel awesome now!" So, they are out there. But, it's a process on some of them.

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    3. I dunno how Texas is, but Idaho is SO DRY so it can really mess with them if we get the slightest bit of moisture. Also I have a type and apparently that type doesn't include good feet. 🙄 Maybe next time?

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  13. so glad you are 'figuring things out'! Sounds like a plan!! AND my whole (new to me) barn just pulled all their horses shoes and they looked at me like...well...and i was like..um no. As my farrier says we spent all this time getting my little QH feet RIGHT (OMG They were horrible) and getting him to grow right. Why mess with it. SURE i would love a break from the cost every 5 weeks BUT it works. AND i cant imagine (I am watching all my coboarders on their horses with their ouchy feet and feel all smug :) (Disclaimer Remus only has shoes on front but still. I feel strong about not messing with it! :)
    ALSO i have met some very kind and nice cowboy type trainers so don't feel like you can't find one of them that doesnt rough but does understand how to handle a horse like C! Good luck!

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    1. Yeah those "save money" experiments never work with horses!!! LOL! Cheaper to not mess with anything that's working ok most of the time I've found ;)

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    2. Good, appropriate hoofcare is a place to splurge for sure. At least in my area, a lot of the cheaper practitioners are cheaper for a reason.

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  14. i like answers. answers are good. glad you got this one figured out!!!

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  15. Moral of the story: blog.
    Second moral: PLUM IS HIS COLOR. Gorgeous.

    So glad you figure it out!

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    1. This one was instagram via gchat, but blogging is very important to me for tracking progress.

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  16. I'm so glad that you figured this all out!

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    1. Well. I dunno about "all", but yay for part of something!

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  17. At least putting shoes back on is a pretty easy fix! Some lessons you just learn the hard way. A few times. Can't wait to see C getting back to his normal self.

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    1. Haha yes. Maybe someday I'll get it figured out.

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  18. I have my fingers crossed that this is the answer and it works.

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  19. When B's tick-bourne thing (not exactly sure what it was) reared it's ugly head, he was almost inconsolable sometimes. Before I figured out what it was, everyone was just making excuses that he was hot and being a dick. Like you, I knew him better than that.

    The sensitive one are definitely a pain in the ass the way they react, but at least they tell you. Versus a couple of horses I've seen work through pain and issues where the owners have no idea because they're so stoic about it until it's too late!

    Fingers crossed this is the answer! And I agree, Plum looks AMAZE-BALLS on him <3

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  20. As others have said, there are some good cowboys out there and not all of them are rough on their horses. Like every other group- there are bad apples that give the rest a bad rap and even their own group hates them because of it.

    Not all horses can make the transition from shoes to barefoot quickly and some never do, but for the most part it does take time and like a lot of other things- commitment. The hoof may be weakened as it has learned to depend on the shoes for protection, much like our nails when we have fake nails. Putting shoes back on is an easy fix considering it could have been much bigger and much worse.

    Courage is lucky to have someone around him that takes the time to get down to the root of the problem. Many times it is pain that causes them to lose their minds. Being in pain changes things, for us and for them.

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    1. Just a thought, but I wonder if his flailing about jumps and even ground poles stems from this? Maybe he went over them once, something caused him pain (Ouch!) and he reacted by thinking the pole/ jump was the cause....

      I'm Not saying that anyone expects you to try jumping again with him now, but it may be a physical thing going on with him as to why jumping is not in the cards for you guys. People have physical restrictions and limitations-> horses do too.

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  21. Yeah, you know him well, there's no doubt about it! So happy to hear he is back to his good self!! And looking amazing in burgundy.

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