Tuesday, August 23, 2016

A New "Bad" Place & A Little Hope

The T-Bone exercise.  It looked so simple in my hand-drawn diagram, didn't it?  But it was anything but simple in reality. It led to an impasse or, as Regina told me on the phone yesterday, a "plateau" for Leah and I.

To refresh: Leah was asked to close a gate at the state park a few weeks ago, but when she was standing on the inside, between the gate and rails, getting ready to side pass it closed, she blew to the left.  No matter how hard I tried, I could  not get her to stand there and wait for my ask to side pass.

At our next lesson, Regina broke it down into small sections, 1. The ability to stand still in front of an object and wait for the next step, and 2. The ability to stand parallel to the object, push and pull her body around and stay parallel at the side pass.

But getting past "ONE", the ability to stand still in front of an object, revealed that Leah is a horse that feels "trapped" very easily. It explains so, so much--her bad attitude in the trailer, for example.  All part of feeling "trapped."

I've had my trainer put on a couple of rides here at home, but yesterday I took her out on the trail.  Not a good day.  When we went alongside the cliff/river/WasteWater Treatement, she wouldn't maintain a straight line and blew out to the left, off the trail, and wanted to turn back the way we came, to the trailer.

I worked with her, in saddle, until I thought that we were getting no where and, if anything, it was blowing up. I dismounted and lunged her off the trail, remounted, and returned to the trail.  That didn't work either.

My riding partner had a brilliant idea to ride alongside us on the left of Leah to block her exit.  At first, Leah tried to blow around them, but eventually it started to work and we were able to continue straight on our trail.

Parts of the trail are very narrow and steep and it's multi-use in those sections.  We encountered a family of small children who put Leah on high alert.  I got off and walked Leah through those sections, multiple times, and then remounted and rode her through.  That seemed to work great.

Back at the trail head, we ran into another friend who was starting out on her own ride.  As we were talking, I showed her what Leah was doing with the left escape.  I'd ask Leah to turn to the right, move her back hip over--she would turn. Then we'd go to the left, no problem. And then, I'd ask for the right again, but she'd fight it and pull to the left.

Is it pain going to the right?  Is it misbehavior?  I don't know.  Maybe both.

I called Regina when I got home because she hadn't heard about "The Fall" or any of this escalation.  She told me to do the T-Bone from the ground and also work on side-passing along the fence.  She said we've probably reached a new plateau--new issues--we'll have to work past.  She agreed it could also be pain and a self-preservation issue--one where is she is more willing to GO DOWN than bend.

The EHV-1 is going around our area, so Regina's barn has a no visitors policy until it's under control.  When it's lifted, she suggested I let Rachel, a trainer at the barn, ride her for a little while so that she can see what she's doing and figure out if it's behavioral or pain related.  She suspects there is an issue at her C1 & C2 that could benefit from chiropractic work.  She was very happy that I've found Rebecca to ride Leah for me and thought it would be a good idea to get her opinion about the chiropractor.

This morning I went out and did the T-Bone from the ground.  Leah was awful. She can't stand looking at the fence.  It makes her feel trapped.  She ran into it, reared, backed up--pretty much anything to avoid standing looking at it.  But eventually she stood, and then stood again, and again. We were able to end on a good note.  But WOW!  What is it about looking at the fence head on?  And man, am I happy she did all that Sh#@ from the ground, rather than when I was in the saddle.

I'm not terribly excited about this "plateau", but after this morning, I see there is some hope to get beyond it...with a lot of work.


  1. I sure know how it feels to get to the point where it makes more sense to get off and either work from the ground or lead the horse; that's what I had to do with Rosalee when she had her first heat just after I bought her. She just completely loses her focus on the human and it is no fun to be on the back of a horse that disregards you.
    Rachel, Rebecca, Regina- wow that's a lot of "R" names to keep straight!
    I am wondering about Leah's neck being out where the optic nerve runs through the spinal column. Have you checked her menace response? Particularly on her left side. She might have an issue that chiro would certainly help if her peripheral vision is compromised on that side.
    First West Nile, now EVH- not good! I cancelled going to the Cowboy Dressage clinic at Sagle because I am moving that week but sure glad I did.

    1. What do you look for in the menace response? She seems to see me, but she doesn't bend her head around. She always looks a little mad on that side. (Standing, looking at her, it is her left). I'm going to schedule her for teeth and chiro. She's such a sweet, smart horse, I think pain has to be a part of this. I'm uploading a video right now to show you how much she improved with the TBone from the ground. This morning, she was rearing, threatening to go straight through the panels, but we finally got some good stops and she retained it 100 percent tonight! That was encouraging.

    2. The menace response- easier to show than explain. I'll do a video and put it on my blog.

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  3. Every once in a while we come to some sort of road block with our horses but then eventually it works itself out. I'm sure that Leah will get past this phase and move on. Sounds like you have some good trainers to help figure it all out.

    We have a chiropractor who also incorporates acupuncture and it really seems to help the horses who need it. It's worth a try. Good luck and hang in there. Don't get discouraged.

    1. It takes a village! I have to say, Regina's advice to do the T-Bone from the ground was excellent. Maybe I should try every new maneuver from the ground first. It sets us up for success, and I have an easier time shutting off her escape routes from the ground.

      I really feel there is some pain in her left side (looking straight on at her). She's too willing a horse, I think, for it to be a behavioral issue. I have some calls in.

  4. I'd just like to advise that you have an experienced veterinarian whose well-educated in lameness check her neck and back out BEFORE having chiro work done. There are a lot more bad chiro people than good ones who cause more harm than help. Just my experience working for a horse vet whose specialty is lameness...lots of delicate tissue, nerves and tiny bones that can be damaged if the person doesn't know what they're dealing with.

    1. That's smart. The chiropractor I plan to use is also a vet. She is considered the best in our area--also the most expensive because she is a vet, too. I'm going to have her teeth done tomorrow and have the vet assess her then. I'm wondering if teeth/jaw issues can cause neck pain, too.

  5. I'm sorry- I had typed out a response but it's not here! Anyway, I just wanted to say that your patience ad hard work will pay off. I like the idea of working from the ground to show her and then trying it from the saddle. It might help her make some connections.


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