This was the first weekend in some time that I was able to focus almost entirely on horses and horse related tasks. Let me say this...it felt good. No errands, no family obligations, no other things to I must do. I forgot just how good it feels to just say no to all the other demands on my time .
It started out with JB getting his scheduled trim. His feet continue to be doing very well. I curried, curried and pretty soon had another layer of his winter coat off of him and onto me. I booted him, saddled him, and off we went. It was a bit chilly so we started out slow, doing lots of bending, leg yields, circles, etc at a walk. I had decided to work him in his bitless bridle Tom recently made for me (another post maybe) and this was only the second time I had ridden him in it. He was responding nicely, much better than the first time I put him in it. I decided to ask for a trot after about 15 minutes of warm up work. He hesitated.. "well, it has been a while and it has been cold..." , I thought to myself. I asked again , this time a little more insistent... He picked up the trot, although he pinned his ears a bit . He offered three or four strides and then he was back to a walk. I thought that was odd but since Tom had just left with his gelding maybe he was being a bit barn sour. I gave him the cue to trot again, and he obliged , but clearly wasn't happy about it. The trot he gave me was choppy, slow and then he started stumbling all over the palce. Then I knew something was definitely wrong. When he had foot trouble 2 seasons ago, that was one of the most noticeable symptoms, he stumbled over nothing. I got off him, pulled his saddle and bridle off, and made him move at liberty in the arena. There is was, a definite front left gimp. Tom came back out about then and asked what was goin on. He watched him too, definitely front left. His previous foot issue was his front right and was due to a stone buise of the sole. His soles have thickened and he also had his boots and comfort pads. Besides, his trim was only a small amount of rasping. No sole was taken and JB hasn't even sluffed his winter sole yet. So I knew whatever this lameness was , it was unlikely that it was foot related. I caught him up again, ran my hands down both front legs, no swelling, no bumps, no heat, no nothing. I pulled the boots, no soreness in the heel bulbs, no rubs, no nothing.
Hmmmm. Maybe he just strained himself playing with Brego.
Right about then, Tom said..
"Didn't you say the other day that you noticed he had some hid missing on his shoulder?" "Which side was that?"
It was true. He did have a good sized scrape and indeed it was his front left shoulder. Initially I assumed it was a bite when I first saw it because he and Brego are constantly playing and biting one another. I looked at it again, it could easily be a scrape from a hoof, without a doubt. So,JB is mildy to moderatly lame.
My plan? Give him a week with some slow easy walking work and see if it goes away. If not, called the chiropractor , if still no improvement, off to the vet for a lameness exam. Initially at the discovery of this, my stomach flipped as I envisioned my already short season being ripped away from me. Howevewr, I was encouraged when I turned him back out to his pen when he was rather playful and willing to jump around. At the very same moment, I decided it was time to separate him from Brego for the time being. He is now in with just Rebel. They don't play and JB usually bosses Rebel. His chances of getting injured further would be far less.
As for Maggie, well.. Maggie and I are at a bit of an impass. Maggie is learning that she can go as fast as she wants to and I will still be there. Here's the thing, Maggie gets anxious and travels around tense and thinks that if she just goes, faster things will be better. That combined with that fact that she is terribly herd bound. Fighting her with half halts isn't working, its just frustrating her more. She's too strong willed. Maggie needs to learn to let go of that anxiety and if she needs to move her feet to do so,then that is what we will do. Think about it, have you ever tried to run a mile holding every muscle in your body tense?? How tiring is that???? Could you travel 25 or 50 miles like that? Maybe but not without a high likelihood of injury at some point.
So, today, we started out slow and as predicted she wanted to go faster. I let her and pretty soon we were moving around the arena (and eventually the pasture) at a big trot or a canter if she felt the need. As a disclaimer, I should mention that while we are moving at a quick pace, she isn't in runaway mode. So I let her go, while directing her a bit with circles and changes of direction. Then, every so often, I offer her a good deal, asking her if she would like to maybe slow down a bit, using my seat and reins, If she responds, we slow up a bit. If not, we kept on moving at the speed she feels the need to move at. sometimes it was a canter and sometimes it was a big fast trot. We continued this pattern for some time. Pretty soon, when I suggested she slow up, Maggie listens and her pace slows, maybe just a bit, but that's a try, and that's something... Pretty soon, Maggie is trotting quietly around and eventually she slowed to a walk. several times, this walk only lasted for a few minutes before she decided that she needed to go quickly again. We repeated this process and I rode her for quite a long time. At the end of it, she had made some progress. We could trot a lap or two around the arena at an easy pace with out her trying to hurry. Better yet, I could ask her to slow to a walk and she willingly walked and stayed in a walk. I ended the lesson at that point.
Some might read this and say, sure, you just tired her out.. and I would say that that is a wrong assessment. Believe me, this mare was far from tired. It's crucial that Maggie learns that she doesn't need to travel so fast and tense. I can see that I am not going to be able to make any training progress on anything until she lets go of this anxiety and tenseness and I refuse to be in a horses mouth constantly to get them to slow up. In order to do that, I need to put her in a physical bind to get a mental change. Remember , I didn't ask her to move quickly or choose the pace we traveled at. I let her decide and continually suggested..... "We can slow down now if you would like" . When she did , I rewared her, and let her slow down. When she left quickly ,I let her but directed her feet. I am a strong believer in presenting things and then letting a horse work through all the possible options. Eventually she'll figure out that she doesn't need to work so hard. I know this process will need to be repeated several times before we get it perfect but it's a good start to a long road ahead.