Chase, is an RBI and has had some pretty significant issues with mounting. He gets really tight and will almost touch his ears to his butt. In fact, he used to throw his head way up when I just stepped up on to the mounting block! We got over that by me doing some serious leg exercises one day with Chase on the end of a 12’ line. We can now step straight up and he’s doesn’t worry.
For the longest time our riding sessions were about stepping up half way and stepping back down. I really had to wait for permission to go any further. When I got it, I slowly and carefully put me leg over the saddle and gently sat and waited. The preparatory movement to dismounting would again send his head flying up (almost knocking me out the first time!). I had to keep doing this preparation to dismount over and over until he realised it was OK and then he gave me permission to dismount too! (The first time I tried to dismount him was out at a club day and he popped out from under me – that’s where I learnt he doesn’t like dismount either!).
So then my poor boy beat himself up in the float/trailer. I don’t know what set him off but I know that once he felt the pressure on his poll, he just panicked and pulled back, thrashing his head from side to side. He got his butt under the rump bar and his front legs over the chest bar – all in the space of about 4 strides for me to get to the access door and undo the rope to take the pressure of his poll. As soon as that was released, he stopped struggling and he no longer looked like he might go through the front window! What to do now?
Here I was, all alone with a 500kg animal with his front legs over the chest bar. Lucky for me, my chest bars have pins and I don’t have a fully enclosed trailer. I don’t know what I would have done otherwise. I pulled the pin from the inside and raced around, up on to the fender, reached and pulled the other pin and punched the bar out. Once Chase was on all fours again, and the poll pressure was no longer a problem, he calmed down. It really wasn’t pretty though. After the vet visited, we weren’t sure if he’d fractured his skull, such was the damage.
The left side of his face swelled up from the bottom of his ear right through to the bottom of his eye. We weren’t sure if he’d keep his eye at this stage either. It was quite difficult to get his medication into his eye as it was swollen shut and he was obviously very sensitive about it.
In the weeks that followed, and as Chase recovered, we played with lots of friendly game and, once his eye opened and he was kind of normal again, we did lots of mounting and dismounting. Finally, 10 weeks after his accident, we are able to go out and do ‘stuff’.
This morning, I took Chase to an indoor arena with fencing all around and a good sand footing. My goal was a canter.
My levels mare, an LBI thoroughbred named Bonnie, has helped me lose my confidence when asking for a canter. She is lovely when she offers and mostly to the left when I ask, but an absolute horror when I ask to the right! I know she can right lead canter but if I ask (and I’m not being particular about her leads, we just happen to be travelling to the right), she get’s ‘humpy’. It’s like a buck without the effort of actually kicking out with her back legs… a lazy horse’s buck! It’s all feedback right? Anyway, I digress….
Back to the story of Chase: like I said, my goal was a canter – if he gave me permission.
My bestie (not Parelli… or natural for that matter) came to ‘support’ me. I just wanted someone there if anything went wrong, you can understand my concern after what my levels mare has given me. Chase was a little tense as I walked around the indoor online but a lovely lady produced a handful of hay from the ‘scary place’ and he thought that was pretty good… I’m actually surprised he took it!
Then we played on the 45 for a bit, until I felt OK to get on; Chase actually looked really rideable right from the get go! Again we walked around before I asked for a trot. He got a little tense so I didn’t ask for more but when he dropped down to a walk, I asked him to go again until he blew out. Then I asked for a bit more energy… again a bit tight but we stayed there until he blew again and did the same in the other direction. We did this in trot until we got a 18/20 trot in both directions.
My friend started getting antsy and said I should just get over it and canter! Nope… although it was my goal, I had to make sure he was OK and I wanted to preserve what was left of my confidence. After a short time at the faster trot, he did a really big blow out and I knew we were good to canter.
When he did, it was beautiful! He was so gentle and careful! I’m so glad I waited for his permission. It was so smooth and calm. We did only about half of a 30m circle and only to the right. I haven’t noticed if he’s got a ‘bad’ side and he seems to pick up the inside lead in either direction.
This was such a great session. Not only did I not worry about what other people wanted of me, I put my relationship with my horse before my goals and allowed him to be in charge of the timeline. In the end, we achieved the goal I had set and it wasn’t frustrating for either of us and both of us stayed confident and we built trust and rapport.
This boy is so lovely. I am so glad he came into my life.
My goal now is to have that with B. I just have to wait for her permission. ‘Normal’ people just don’t get it!