Sometimes it takes a while for my brain to kick into gear. The last few weeks with Mikey have been a little puzzling, and somewhat frustrating. He had been excellent, pleasant, and fun to ride before my little trip to the ER. When I got back on him, we had a HORRIBLE ride. He was cranky, tense, and not wanting to listen. The following ride was quite good – he was happy, forward, and pleasant again. Allie came to visit, and hopped on – he was resistant to going forward, and rather cranky again. She actually commented that he felt like a horse that wanted to explode (kind of what I was feeling in my bad ride) and wasn’t broke at all (ouch! But it was true!).
The following day, again, not the best ride. I actually ended up hopping off and throwing him on the lunge line, to try and get him forward and listening to me, without risking my delicate hemophiliac self. He kicked and bronced on the line, and took a while to start listening. Eventually, I got him to start focusing on me, doing some walk-trot transitions without a lot of fanfare or resistance. After that, we did have a more positive ride, going forward and not resisting the bit, and I felt like I was riding a (somewhat) trained horse again.
So that got my brain going. Hmmmm, I said to myself, what on earth is going on here? Why would this lovely, sweet horse feel so fun and good one day, and the next feel like a barely trained horse about to blow?
I had to be missing something. After some observation, it didn’t seem to have much to do with different riders doing different things. It didn’t really seem to have to do with tack (western vs. english). I thought time of day, company or lack of it, and a bunch of other things could be at play.
While going through my brain bank for common denominators, I was reaching a blank, until I reached for a glass of water. Omigod. That’s it. One of the most abundant resources on earth, something that is so basic I take it for granted – just plain water.
Could water be the difference? I reached back in my head. All my good rides on him, prior to the hospital incident, I’d given him water before riding because he wasn’t used to the auto-waterer yet and had been coming in quite thirsty. The first ride back? I hadn’t, assuming (badly, perhaps) that he’d figured out the auto-waterer by then, and was drinking his fill. The next good ride? I had given him water. Allie’s ride? No water beforehand. Wednesday’s icky (but somewhat promising at the end) ride – again no water.
So for Thursday, Laura gave him some water when she first brought him in – a full bucket and a half. What happened when she got on? Exactly as I was hoping, he walked right forward in a relaxed manner. She picked up the reins a bit and asked for more walk. He marched on and seemed fine about the contact, not shaking his head once. When she went up into the trot, again, pleasant horse, and while not the most forward long stride, it was not balky or resistant in the least, he was listening, happy to turn, stop, and go, and even was happy to do a little leg yielding and work on bending a little bit. This was in pretty stark contrast to the day before – when I had first gotten on, he took small, mincing steps at the walk, kept trying to jig into a tiny trot that wasn’t going anywhere, and shaking his head angrily when I picked up contact.
Really, could this be such a simple thing? I won’t argue that he needs more training – he still likes to stand there and not move when you ask him to go, and he needs a bit of education. That’s fine, I dig that. But it seems that a minor and very simple way to get “sort of cranky and irritable Mikey” to turn into “pleasant and fun Mikey” is a magic potion that’s not magic at all. Now, it could be that the somewhat long work I gave him on Wednesday had something to do it, but something is telling me that couldn’t possibly be the whole thing.
Am I crazy? I don’t know, but we’ll be making sure he gets a good drink every time he comes in from now on.
Saturday he’ll be going for a trail ride, also, to calm his mind and relax (he is the trail master, even if he doesn’t love using his hind end in the ring!)
Also, if anyone near Damascus, MD would like to donate tack or horse care items for the Charles Town fire victims, I will be taking a couple boxes over to the racetrack Saturday morning. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll tell you where to take them. If that’s short notice, Stablemates Tack Shop in Mt. Airy is also collecting such items. 🙂