Monday, February 14, 2011

I Think I Found the Answer

Energy supplements are off the table. Here's why:

I rode Izzy Friday for a jump school. She was fabulous, as per the usual and I think I'm starting to catch up. She hasn't really wanted to go forward into contact lately, so I rode on a looser rein and just had her go forward, period. It seemed to work reasonably well, though she flipped her nose a couple times in the canter. I didn't worry about it too much--after all, I was intentionally asking her to do something she didn't want to.

Saturday she had off since I was volunteering at a show.

Sunday was the most amazing day we've had all year in terms of weather. Almost 60f, sunny, light breeze. The track is finally dry and had been worked, so I put Izzy jumping tack on her to go do some intervals for the first time this year. Unfortunately (I thought), the barn owners were doing a lot of work with the tractor and they had it right on the spooky road I'd need to go down to get to the track. I figured that spooky road+tractor would be too much for a pony brain, so I took her to the outdoor arena to warm up before we went to the track.

Now, some basic info: my jumping saddle is a collegiate convertible. As in, has a tree. It fits Izzy well enough. It's not perfect, but she seems to think it's ok and since there isn't a saddle fitter within 800 miles of me, I'm letting good enough alone.

She lunged just fine, so I mounted. Her walk was ridiculously slow and behind my leg. More than usual. I tried leg and whip and everything with precious little result. It was stupid walk or break to trot. Fine, I thought, we'll trot. She gave me a nasty head tossing transition to a choppy, ridiculously slow trot. When I asked for more, she started throwing her head and threatening to go up, a threat I always take very seriously from her. I tried a couple different things to get her forward and not-head-tossing. All failed.

Ok, plan B. I dismounted and unsaddled her. Since her saddle fit isn't perfect, I thought perhaps she'd changed shape again and was now uncomfortable. Usually, I'd expect her to start showing that when tacking up, but it was worth a shot. I looked at how the saddle sat on her. To me, it looked the same as before. A little too wide in front, but with shimmed with a pad that has a tiny front lift, fits reasonably well. Huh... We walked back to the barn. I put her jumping saddle up and pulled out our treeless dressage saddle. This is her happy place, so if there's a saddle fit issue, putting it on will correct the behavior.

She was fine. I took her out to the arena and got the exact same response--fine on the lunge, head tossing and rearing threats under saddle. Huh. I checked her back Friday and today and it was totally fine. No knots, no soreness. She's totally sound and even in all four legs. I had a brief chat with two of the other boarders. One mentioned that her horse flips his head when he thinks his browband is too tight. Despite the fact that she's gone in this bridle for over a year, she did just get a new dressage bridle with a roomier browband, so maybe she changed what she likes.

I switch the bridle. She's quite patient about it. Huh. It just doesn't make sense to me. She's been a little fussy about bridling, but I'd attributed that to the cold weather and cold bits of winter.

I decide to wait for Terri (hooray western trainer!) to go out and check our latest configuration. I had two thoughts: 1) she might be able to see a problem I'm not feeling correctly and 2) if Izzy does flip over on me, at least someone will be there to scrape my bloodied corpse off the ground.

As we're waiting, the other boarder and I start talking about Izzy's bit/bridle arrangement. Loose ring, double jointed, copper mouth, comfortably fitted. She walks over and starts feeling along Izzy's face where her teeth lay. Right side: nothing, no reaction. She went to the left side. About halfway up, Izzy opened her mouth and put her head up.


Tooth issues. We tried one more time and got the same reaction. Poor mare... it explains so much. She hasn't wanted to go forward into contact because, well, ouch. She went really nicely in the western tack because there was no contact and a minimalist bridle. She's just been picking at her hay because it hurt to eat. It might even explain some of her explosiveness lately--the only thing she's been eating well (other than treats) is her senior, which is grain based.

Huh. I thought she'd slowed down on eating because it was warmer and she didn't need it to keep warm. I was wrong.
Now I'm setting up a dentist appointment for my horse... it will be sometime after her manicure this afternoon.


  1. Good for you for "listening to the horse." Even though they can't speak, they will tell you what's wrong if you take the time to listen. Hopefully the dental will put things right!

  2. I'm so glad you found a reason! There's just soooo much that can make our ponies uncomfortable it can take awhile to narrow it down:) Good for you, though. Do you have a bitless or a hackamore you can use in the meantime?

  3. I have a sidepull... not sure if I want to use it, though. Won't that just put pressure on the side of her face and continue the discomfort?

  4. LOL...oh the things we go through with these animals. I was talking to someone the other day about Pongo's chiropractor, vet, dentist and personal pedicurist aka farrier...Glad you figured out what was causing the behavior and didnt get hurt in the process!!!

  5. It's good you figured out what the problem was so now you'll be able to fix it and then start improving again.

  6. Smart you to keep trying things instead of trying to ride her into submission. Our horses try to tell us when things are bothering them. We need to learn how to listen.

    Well done. Hope the dental work fixes the issue.


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