This afternoon, a coworker stopped by my desk to chat. It was a slow day in the world of Dover Saddlery, so I welcomed the momentary distraction from reorganizing the pharmacy orders in my filing cabinet. General pleasantries were exchanged, and then, as people who work for an equestrian equipment company are wont to do, the conversation turned to our horses.

“How’s Image doing?” she queried, leaning against the half wall that separates me from the Big Boss.
“Really well,” I responded, glancing over at the picture of him on my desk. “Taking a step back was a really good idea. The only thing is, is that I’m really having a hard time finding what triggers his reaction. I’m starting to wonder if it really is the sensation of someone being in the saddle, and I’m going to just have to use my western saddle with it’s ‘oh shit’ handle, and figure it out from on his back.”

We tossed some ideas back and forth before she went on her way into the warehouse. Shortly thereafter, I discovered my order waiting for me in the employee order bin. Well, if that wasn’t a sign to go see my critter after work today, I’m not sure what is!

So, off to the barn I went once 4:30 rolled around. Fortunately, I’m in the habit of keeping a pair of boots and socks in the back of my car, so I ditched my flip flops (yes, flip flops!! Bye bye, snow!!) and wrestled my waterproof (ish) tall boots on. I said hello to L and the few others that were hanging out in the yard, before fetching my horse.

Image is definitely shedding now. I went over him with my Furminator, but really didn’t do a thorough grooming. I’m finding that he’s got more hair to shed after he’s worked, so I wait until we’re done to give him a thorough grooming. We did some cookie stretches for good measure, and I’m pleased to report that he is now able to stretch allll the way back to his flank! When I first started doing these, he was stiff and unable to even reach halfway down his barrel. I stretch him from side to side, down between his legs, and up as far as I can go, per the suggestion of the masseuse we saw a few weeks back. It’s definitely helped limber him up some, and I’m pleased with that progress.

I outfitted him with my new surcingle, put his bridle on over his halter, and headed to the ring. Actually, I didn’t head to the ring. I headed to the POND. Yikes! The ring is kind of a disaster right now, and it’s mostly a slushy-watery-yucky mess. I scoped out the best spot with the best footing, and did our usual warm up routine. He is learning that “walk” means walk, and walk calmly. He was a little hyped up today, so there were many more tight circles until he chilled out. Once I got a few quiet laps out of him in each direction, we went to flexing and disengaging. I’m really excited to say that he has softened up immensely since I first brought him home, especially on the right side. I love having a soft horse!

Shortly thereafter, I broke open my new lunge lines and hooked them up. The second I stepped behind him, I noticed his head come up and tension fill his body — much more than there has been the past couple of times we’ve done this. He understands what I’m asking now, as he moves off immediately when I cluck. I asked for a whoa. He danced nervously, trying to swing his head around to look at me. I spoke to him quietly until I got a bit of relaxation. He walked off with a simple cluck, and we repeated the exercise. He seemed concerned by the fact that I was behind him. He was also really, really unhappy with the bit — a big change from this weekend’s much quieter acceptance.

This is the first time I’ve had any serious negative reaction from him on the ground. Something has triggered him, and I’m not sure what yet. This weekend, I’m going to forego the bit all together and try a little “S” hackamore, to see if I get the same response. I’d like to get the bit out of his mouth until I’m sure he has no teeth issues, which is my top concern in regards to the bit. Barring any bit issues, this comes back to my theory that someone has manhandled his mouth, and bits mean bad things to him. There are so many things about this little horse that I don’t know yet, so as bad as this is going to sound, I’m actually a little relieved to see a reaction such as this on the ground. It gives me something to go off of so I can try and figure out a way to help him overcome his fears. For all I know, today was just a bad day and I’ll be back at square one come this weekend, but the way he was acting tells me otherwise. So, we’ll do some experimenting to see what he is most comfortable with for the time being, and work from there.

This development has me thinking about getting in touch with a friend who has a rescued Paso Fino who exhibited many of the same characteristics. I’m going to get her opinion, especially since her way of bringing Tico back around way was to do the many of the same things I seem to be doing.  I’m also happy to receive any thoughts from Image’s fanbase here — I know what I think, but what I think isn’t always right!

In other news, he had his feet done on Monday and was a perfect angel for the farrier. I enjoyed the hour and a half long break from work to be there for his first farrier appointment. On Sunday, we took a low key walk around the neighborhood and loved his reaction to small children: “Oh, hello, tiny human. Here, this is my nose…you can pat it if you want!” He also handled cars, motorcycles (?! It’s still too damn cold for that shit!), runners, people bundled up in snowsuits, and dogs without any fanfare. He was happy to go out exploring, which was fun to see. These sunshiney days are really helping all of that nasty snow disappear, so we are well on our way to spring! I can see my front lawn again, so that’s always a plus!

I apologize for lack of pictures lately. My wrist is still a bit ouchy and I was told to not handle my camera too much, due to its weight and the repetitive motion of working my zoom lens. It’s also very hard to take pictures when you have to hold the horse and be far enough away to take a decent shot! Here’s a very bad cell phone picture of him getting his feet done by Brian of Granite State Farrier:

You think he looks disgruntled now? Wait until I break out the glittery hoof polish…!

Time for bed, as tomorrow is a school day…just a few more days until the weekend! 🙂

2 thoughts on “Triggers

  1. perididdle March 15, 2013 / 3:11 am

    What sort of bit do you have on him right now? The big beast my instructor had who had his mouth torn to shreds by bad handlers absolutely LOVED a big, fat, jointed (any sort) Happy Mouth. He was a different horse with one in vs. a metal bit (though he was always a nervous boy, it went from anxiety-and-badness to 'LET'S GO LET'S GO LET'S GO!', which is much better). I know Dover sells those so I'm sure you've thought of them, but just a word in their favor!


  2. Amanda March 15, 2013 / 1:33 pm

    I've tried a Herm Sprenger KK Ultra D ring and a Myler D-ring, level 1. Thinking back to when he was still at B's, he did not react that way at all to the bit, which is something that just occurred to me now. Hmmmmmm…


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