This New Direction..

I watched Reason go around and around, in the roundpen and I suddenly felt the unsure, insecure me looking directly into it’s mirror image.  I saw myself, standing there watching my horse go around in an almost frantic manner and felt exactly what he was doing.  I almost felt lost standing there, in the middle of the big round pen.  Helpless and as if we weren’t there but out someone else facing up to our inner demons, or something like that.  It was weird, so weird.  I have never felt like that before.  My heart began beating and my mind began racing as I watched Reason go around and could not have recognized more.

Yes, Reason got to go into the big round pen for the first time, ever, 2 weeks ago when the vet came out.

Lets start from the somewhat beginning.  Four weeks ago (maybe a bit more) I began taking Reason into the indoor roundpen to have him walk out so I could see how he was moving, after the trim that made him foot sore.  Three weeks ago, I took him into the roundpen and began asking for a little more of him in terms of walking and trotting if he wanted as he was feeling better.  Then, I decide he’s ready to go back into under saddle work again and he’s good but tries to get me off once each day of the two days I ride him.  At first, you might recall my post about this, I thought Reason was just being a rehabbing, young ottb and testing me.  But the following day when I go to first move him in hand before mounting, he’s clearly distressed.  He nips at me for the first time ever.  He’s going a bit bonkers about something.  I take him into the roundpen so he can move at liberty and I can get a better idea of what might be going on.  He starts pawing frantically, then rolling frantically, then constantly shaking his head, throwing his front legs up and acting like something is clearly bothering him.  I’ve had this horse since May and this was the first time I’ve ever seen him like this.  Some chalk it up to him rehabbing and probably having pent up energy or that he’s going back into work.  But that’s not completely true, he’s been saddled, bridled, ridden bareback and ridden tacked many times and worked with on the ground, even around other horses, including a galloping horse and horses bucking on the lunge line etc.  He’s never acted like this before, ever.

At first I was wondering what in the world was going on.  The following day I took him out again and he did the same thing.  He even shied away from being haltered when I went to fetch him from his paddock and made some funny noises when I tried to get the halter on.  I had Matt with me that time and asked him to watch Reason to see if he saw anything or what his opinion was.  Matt has a pretty black and white approach and even though he’s not the most knowledgeable in horses, he is pretty good at helping me and he is the next best person when it comes to knowing my horse.  It was pretty clear to Matt too that there was something weird going on.  When we both tried to approach Reason and touch his head for further examination, he shied away as if something was bugging him.  This made us wonder if what was going on was related to his head.  We began feeling around and Matt came across swelling behind Reason’s left ear.  It clear this was either the source or at least A source.  He did not wanting us touching it, but Matt began massaging the area which Reason seemed to like.  But each time we would try to approach him he would shy.  He would even try to nip.  Yes, clearly this was a behavior as a result of pain.  This was his way of saying, “no, it hurts, don’t touch.”

When we turned Reason out in the roundpen, he would do the same thing; frantically roll, paw, paw, toss his head, shake his head and throw his front legs about and duck his hind end under himself like something was going after him.  When we would leave his halter on it seemed to make whatever was bugging him, worse.  So we thought that the crow of the halter was exacerbating the swelling on his head.

The vet came out just over a week later and noted there was still swelling but also noted some other things which could have caused or a result of whatever happened to his head.  I thought he hit his head on something and it was only worsened by the bridle and he was getting migraines, which the vet also speculated in regards to the odd behavior.  It was progressively getting better, the pain/behavior, in conjunction with the swelling, although reason why I believed all this was related to the cause of and the swelling. 

The vet found a knot (muscle) in Reasons left cheek and pain through his neck into his back.  Could it all be related to whatever happened to his head?  Very possible, probably more than likely and even more so, made whatever else was going on his body to do compensation from the bowed tendon, demands on the body of a young horse etc, worse.  To make matters worse, Reason wasn’t moving.  His paddock got pretty mucky after the constant rain and he refused to move (which is both a good and bad thing) and also refused to roll in there.   

Now, I am moving Reason to a stall with an attached paddock for the winter, which has good footing and very good drainage, in hopes he’ll move.  It’s small enough he can’t get too silly, but enough room he can move.  He’ll also be next to other horses and be able to socialize and be almost like a real horse ;).

Things are getting better.  No more weird behavior, although Reason is still reactive to his kind of stiff body, tight muscles etc. 

So you might be wondering why I’m round-penning him?  Cardinal sin?  Well, the bowed tendon is the least of our worries now and the vet explained that it was ok.  At this point I really have no choice.  I can’t turn him out, that could be way worse, I can’t ride him until his body makes some progress and until I know he’s OK obviously.  The only way I can move him right now is at liberty and I can do that in a pretty controlled manner via the indoor roundpen.  It’s our only place of use right now.  I’ve been working on asking Reason to walk out, some trotting and even small bits of canter if he feels like it, these last two weeks.  He’s getting better and moving more freely and relaxed. So I’m going to be continuing this until he’s ready for the next step, which would be incorporating riding into the program and then hopefully wean him off the roundpenning as the core source of exercise and work.

Here is his most recent video from the roundpen..

I have more, but I’ll save that for tomorrow!

I hope everyone had a very Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!


One thought on “This New Direction..

  1. Keri, winter is a tough time for Bar, too. He hates (hates!) the mud and gets super pent up, even though he's in a paddock, because of the same things you describe. He won't play, he won't roll, he won't lie down. He won't mess about in the mud and burn off energy–and you know they need to do that–because he's afraid to get hurt. (So careful of his footing, this boy of mine.)

    The round pen and liberty is perfect. Reason will learn to take care of himself, of that I am certain.

    Bar paws and paces too, at first–especially if he hasn't been out–but he always settles down.

    Try, and I know it's hard, to just sit back and watch. Accept what he does without trying (at least at first) to figure out if something is wrong. Because he will know you think something is wrong and he will worry.

    Not that the head injury is something to brush off, but temper your treatment of that with your sensitivity to his need to express himself.

    Bar also gets nippy and mouthy when he is insecure. It happens when he is getting handled (e.g. a massage), too, but the insecurity thing is more regular. It's an interesting paradox, actually, because Bar gets nippy at the exact time he wants me to stay close to him because something is bothering him. So when he gets that way, the best solution I've found is to increase the distance between us until he settles. When he does, he can come in closer. His reward is to be in my lap, and that's fine. As long as he doesn't nip.

    Keep at it, girl! You're doing great!

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