Could it Be…Ulcers? – Update.

It’s only been three days since I began Reason on his new, what I like to call the “tummy love,” diet for what may be ulcers.  I’m happy to report, so far so good!  There has been notable difference in girth area and lower abdomen sensitivity and even a change in mood!  Reason’s been more willing and happier from the times I’ve spent with him since Friday.  Yay, maybe this is going to help.

On Friday I turned Reason out in the outdoor arena for a little free-lunging.  I like to do this at least once a week because it just seems nice for him to get out and stretch his legs.  I am careful to boot him up and I do think about the tendon all the time, but it’s really not something I worry about more am conscious about at all times.  I think the turnout/free lunge in the large arena, is ideal and good for Reason both body and mind.

During Reason’s free lunging in the outdoor on Friday, he was trotting down the long side, head and tail high when he realized the barn owners dog was running with him.  Quickly he spooked, half passed, not very gracefully, sideways and kicked out, knocking down a lower rail board and also taking off a small patch of hair/skin of the inside of his left leg at the fetlock joint.  I’m doctoring that now, which is nothing bad just needs to be kept clean and medicated.  So no riding has been happening since Thursday.  It looks fine, some swelling but nothing more than what is to be expected.   

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Could It Be…Ulcers?

Monday sucked.  To put it bluntly.  Tuesday was much better with roundpenning.  Wednesday was…OK. 

Wednesday my mom came to watch.  Bareback again, I rode Reason and got a couple attempts to get me off.  Nothing bad, just attempts because I clearly wasn’t listening to his hints…  I was listening but trying to work him through them through really quick responses from my crop (he’d be unresponsive to the leg or just not paying attention and I’d really quickly give him a click behind my leg) and just staying neutral.  It worked, but still Wednesday was my opinionated horse :).  Then yesterday, Friday, I had a pretty awesome ride.  I let Reason munch on his dinner while I finished some barn work and then got on him bareback.  We cruised around the property, not around the path, but around the immediate property and then I went to the arena.  I go into it just focusing soley on forward.  Nothing else, just getting a willing, forward horse.  Reason was proving to be willing and forward so we moved onto doing something else.  I asked for long and low here and there and got some mixed ideas.  Reason wasn’t settling into the idea of long and low, simply because he’s still learning how and what is being asked.  I kept clear in my mind that the only way to train him to know what I was asking for, was to make sure I was quick to release once he attempted to do it.  In no time, he was traveling beautifully!  Not only did it feel great it also was great to feel him going, “Ahhhh.”  It must feel good to stretch out like that and feel your body, engage the hind end and begin to feel what lifting the back might feel like!  I was quick to end the ride on that great note.

The idea of ulcers…  Well, Reason’s not skinny, he’s in great physical shape, he does have an appetite, isn’t a picky eater and his coat is pretty darn lovely.  He doesn’t look what you’d view as typically, “ulcery.”  But he is sensitive around his girth and lower abdomen which may suggest something.  He gets resistant and grumpy under saddle.  It could be.  Considering a large percentage of racehorses develop ulcers, it certainly is a possibility.  He’s a sensitive horse and I couldn’t imagine him on the track.  So maybe, just maybe, this may explain in more depth what is actually going on.  I’m not going the scoping route as of yet.  I did however buy some Aloe Vera juice, Slippery Elm (herb), alfalfa cubes and probios to add to his rice bran.  Maybe it will make a difference?  I hope so.  I’m trying to come up with an idea of how to allow him to have access to 24/7 hay as I know that’s key.  I think I may have come up with something… 

For now, the things I can do without waiting for results is ride him after he’s had some hay, no sugary treats and maybe let him enjoy a bannana or some yogurt per-ride also..

Well, lets hope everything goes well!

A Glass Wall Went Up.

On Monday I got to Reason, having not seen him over the weekend and he was a different horse.  I’ve been having such a great time with him, not just bareback riding but all around.  He’s been happy and comfortable.  In little (and big) ways we were making such great strides.  He was not holding tension, apprehension or anticipation towards anything.  He was happy!  I know my horse, I know the horse he really is and I know the horse I was experiencing on Monday was not my horse, for whatever reason, I don’t know.
When I went in to get Reason, he was immediately wanting to get away from me.  Consistently he’s been actually wanting me to get him, coming to me and following me.  It used to be that he’d stop and not move, that was his biggest problem when I’d go to catch him.  So it came across weird that he was like trying to get away.  I approached him and got a sour look.  Between his ears and his eyes, he was sending a clear message.  But he allowed me to halter him once I talked to him and slowly put the halter over his head.  He wouldn’t move.  I went to go get my crop that I usually just have to carry and he’ll move.  I’m well aware that the clear message was there with Reason, that he didn’t want to come out, but I needed to explore it further to know why.  Reason began to follow me but with resistance and once in the stall, wanted to dart back out and get away.  Again, it sounds like he just didn’t want to come out, but it wasn’t that simple.  I tried to approach him to just get him calm and he threw his head up and wouldn’t let me touch him, kept trying to get away and even began to threaten to rear when he couldn’t get away.  I couldn’t even get near his face or body without him getting freaky\and trying to nip.  At the same time he was acting afraid of me.  I wasn’t in fear of my safety, I was more worried why this was happening. 

I ended up unclipping the lead and letting him go about his business after a suggestion from a friend. 

Yesterday, I knew we needed to re-establish our relationship and trust.  Why though?  I felt like trust was lost, somewhere.  I don’t know why.  I don’t know what happened for him to act that way.  Maybe because I wasn’t there over the weekend and he got out of routine???  I don’t know.  It’s weird.

In the round pen yesterday, Reason was more sensitive then ever.  As much as sensitive is good, it’s only good when it comes from an equally good place of willingness, not fear.  There was fear lingering in the air and confusion.  I felt like Reason wasn’t sure what was going to happen.  We were just getting places in our relationship too.  Sigh…  I know by the end of the week, things will be better.  But, things were rolling along consistently well.  This has nothing to do with “two steps forward, one step back.”  One step back lately would had been a day were Reason’s mind was wandering, he was fresh and we had to work him through it or something of that nature, not suddenly my horse flipping a lid for no explainable reason.  He’s not that type of horse that would flip without a reason.  This I know.  I trust him.  I know him.  He’s sensible.  Although he is sensitive and picky at times, he is also very sensible and easy-going if he is allowed to be. 

Yesterday in the round pen proved the above point.  I still saw the same horse that was doing well last week and the week before, but hindered.  It was like he was lost somewhere but still present.  He wasn’t sure where to be because he was worried and confused for whatever reason. 

Maybe I just worry and care too much about my horse?  Well that is true, but it doesn’t mean that overrides my ability to appropriately view him or me and therefore truly evaluate the situation for what it is.  I have the ability to see the situation without altering my perception just to satisfy myself. 

Today will be better.  I got places yesterday and today we’ll go back to our regular routine most likely.  If not, we’ll keep working to rebuild whatever was lost. 

It Continues..

My bareback riding escapades have continued.  Each ride has been good and positive.  Like I said before, no longer does this tension hang in the air.  No longer is there a wall, so to speak, up between Reason and I.  Wow, all this from a girth and possibly a saddle..  I knew that ill-fitting tack could clearly cause pain and therefore various degrees of reaction, but to experience it and live it, is new to me and now I actually do understand.

On Wednesday (I think), it was a little chilly and windy out.  There was some cloud cover, welcoming the following weekend rain.  I got on Reason bareback to spend a day out of the arena, exploring the ranch more-so than I’ve ever done on his back.  There is a perimeter path around the property and although I’ve hand walked Reason on this path, we’ve never done the whole thing riding.  There have been a couple of reasons that the past week was finally the first under saddle day around this path..  Due to Reason’s tendon injury and rehab since last year, I wanted to stay off hills for obvious reasons.  The path is not the best footing-wise and has some hilly parts and one nice slope.  When I first started bringing Reason back, I hand-walked him up and down the small hills that lead to the arena to start.  Then, I began walking him to and from the arena under saddle.  Then I took him on the path up that larger hill in hand.  The path also has a notoriously spooky section.  The path goes up a hill to a bushy area on the left that hides some spooky farm equipment in a large shed, that occasionally people are starting and moving around.  The horses can hear but not see it happening.  Then, as soon as you past that, you go para ell to the large outdoor round pen and through a grove of tall eucalyptus trees.  These trees are almost always moving, making creaky noises.  Although the stretch isn’t long, it presents itself as an interesting cumulative of spooky possible experiences.

The day, to some probably wouldn’t had been the best choice for this.  But it felt right, so off we went.  I took him around without an issue.  Reason isn’t used to going around this path much at all, so there were definitive new sights and sounds, including some footing questions.  He took it all in stride.  I’ve found when we come across an interesting sight, which could possibly be scary, Reason likes to stop, observe and then move on.  In his time of observance I am constantly trying to help him remain confident through the experience so to not make it a big deal.  Reason is sensible, but he is young and at times hot.  He looks for guidance 80% of the time and the situation will escalate if the guidance is not there.  If I give him a confident basis, he probably will not worry and we will move on without another thought.  Whether its a big issue or not.

Although it’s not a big accomplishment, walking around that path, it’s a great step in the right direction.  It felt nice to go through those areas of question along the path and feel like we had a good working understanding.  He was listening to me and not worried about the creepy noises or swaying tree tops. 

On Friday my mom joined me on an even colder, windier day.  The day before the storm was to start.  On our way out to mount up, I heard my mom, who was then already mounted on Errika outside the barn, yell out “loose horse!” and I, holding Reason in the isle-way, turned to look out a stall door to the parking-lot, where I briefly saw a galloping horse sweep past in what seemed like a flash.  The next thing I knew, the same horse, moments later, was coming up the back of the barn isle-way running towards Reason and I.  He had a lost look in his eyes and was in survival mode.  In a moment of seconds, Reason stood at my side, wondering just as much as I, what in the world, but remained calm.  I stomped my feet and the horse slowed down and quickly slowed in front of us and darted into an open stall.  Reason was such a good horse through all of this.  Like a foal at my side, he never strayed in any sense of the word.  After the horse was calmed in the stall and another boarder came to it’s aid, I took Reason away and we proceeded to mount up.  Reason was a little fired up but nothing I knew we couldn’t work through.  I’d much rather get on him when he’s fired up because I know I can get his mind working and get him to a calmer more relaxed place from atop his back. 

The ride was a little challenging.  I knew I had to spend some time just getting Reason’s mind to the place I wanted it to be, because he was a bit “out there.”  I wanted a relaxed horse, listening to me.  We had a couple opinions from Reason.  I couldn’t do anything except just put him through the basic paces and find a quiet but effective way of getting him to want to work with me.  Our ride lasted about 45mins.  By the end, I was getting a good horse and called it quits on a good note. 

Here is a photo from one of our rides last week in the outdoor.  It has a downhill slope to it, which is why the gait looks weird.  It’s hard for most horses, let alone a young one to balance down it.  I do think Reason does a good job at managing though.  One of the other things I don’t like, is Reason’s upside down looking neck here..  It’s really not that bad…  I DO like this photo because I believe it captures a moment of focus and listening on both our parts.

Feeling Good.

I think I managed to figure out why Reason won’t go forward.  As usual, a large part of me certainly believed that it was related to pain somewhere.  Although the first and easiest mind you, place to point as the culprit was the feet (he is barefoot) and the saddle which isn’t horribly ill-fitting.  But, I wasn’t sold on those alone.  Reason’s vet checked his back for pain and found none.  After explaining that my jump saddle is a bit tight at the shoulder, she also noted that in fact his shoulder wasn’t showing signs of pain.  Instead, his girth area was sensitive and painful.  The poor boy :(.  We talked about different girths and girth placement.  I am not a novice, I do know where a girth goes, but apparently it needs to go further back and I need to find a wider one with a belly plate possibly to accommodate him.  My vet also noted that it’s important to buy a girth with elastic at both ends because the horse gets some expansion on one side but not the other with your traditional girth with elastic at only one end.

My Dressage saddle’s girth is too large for Reason.  I remember someone on another blog, an eventer, noted that longer billets on a jump saddle were needed for their side sensitive horse to accommodate a shorter girth.  Is it true that a shorter girth is more comfortable for the horse?  It seems like it would be to me.  Anyway my Dressage girth is too long, meaning I have to fasten it up higher on the billets, meaning it covers almost the entire girth area leaving little room for natural movement and expansion.

I decided to ditch the saddles altogether and see what kind of ride I could get.  Well, much better if I do say so!  The whole experience was altogether better.  I felt like the tense nature of the air when I would ride Reason, was gone and we were actually just enjoying our ride!  Because of that, I felt so much more relaxed and able to communicate with him.  Yay!!!

Reason had the weekend off, so yesterday was our first ride since Friday.  I hopped on and off we went and he was a perfect gentlemen.  Of course he still demands perfection in how you ask and apply aids and of course he still gets opinionated, but it’s no longer coming from a place of pain and frustration but rather a place of light-hearted, cheeky, young horse-land.  I’m learning to be more aware of my body doing this bareback thing as well.  I’m trying to practice staying centered and light.  Wow, does it ever feel good to be riding like this again!  This is the horse I knew was in there.  I no longer get evasions, I no longer get dropping of the shoulder and refusing to go forward.  I get a happy, willing horse who is actually quite with it and responsive.  Ahhhh!

Granted I still want to probably put shoes or buy boots for Reason.  I do feel that he is hesitant to really relax and come into his body and move out freely.  There is some resistance in his gaits that I believe is related to his feet.  I do want to buy a new (well used probably) saddle that fits both of us better and most importantly a really nice comfy girth.  I’m hoping all this will help solve our problems.  Until then, I’m staying bareback.  Well, until I get a new girth at least.  Even then I think the girth area needs time to heal from whatever pain it has been dealt with due to the girth or whatever else could have caused it.  I want to just get Reason comfortable moving forward and try to open him up, get the girth area healed in some way and then go back to a saddle (with new girth of course.)