First, Sharif is fine now, just so no one develops colic while reading my sad stupid story.
Sunday seemed like a good day to saddle up and do a little introductory spring stroll in the field. No pressure, just to get him thinking about maybe riding with me like other people do on a nice day. I had started our Spring Wake Up Call a couple of weeks ago and had a few little jiggy rides on him, but issues with my dog came up, and so Sharif was on the back burner till I got that girl ironed out. So what could go wrong? I expected him to be a bit jiggy, and I was prepared with all my tricks to divert his attention, and just get him used to the idea that he's not in charge. Saddling up went pretty well, mounting, no problem, okay he was prepared to be a bit naughty, but I thought I had it in hand. He was going to have to walk nicely, headed off breaking into wild trot, aborted a few bucky attempts, distracted him from even thinking of a rear. Then while trying to reset him during a tricky patch I suddenly noticed the saddle was rolling. Shoot it was fine when I got on, but the guy puffs up and I usually have to readjust after riding ten or so minutes. If he's just being stupid and the saddles snug,or if he's fine, but the girth is loose, we have options. Both problems at once, I knew I was in trouble,so I quickly hopped off, and figured I could tighten from the ground, and whammo, he lost it. For a brief two seconds, I still had the reins, but he was obviously ready to explode. I didn't really feel like being dragged across the field with a panicked horse, so I stupidly let the reins go in a split second decision. He bolted back to the house which of course made the saddle slip totally around. Fortunately he stopped at the house, but by this time he was totally panicked and had bashed up his legs with the irons, not bleeding too badly but he must have had a ton of bruises. I didn't take the saddle off immediately, just slipped it back up on his back, I didn't want him thinking Mommy takes away the Evil Saddle just because he freaks out. After a couple of minutes of walking, I took it off, he was still pretty scared, but I kept a close eye on him and with about an hour he gradually seemed to have calmed down. Okay, just another little bump in our training, cuts and bruises heal, right?
Then the bum, after apparently being fine, suddenly started puffing like an engine and wanted to lay down at my feet.
He never just lays down at my feet, and definitely not when he's upset. Oh, sh*t I thought, he's going to colick right here and now. I called the vet, fortunately my favorite, who happens to live nearby, was available and came over pronto( you gotta be a little bit lucky even on a bad day). Yup, no bowel sounds, pulse way up, and Sharif was getting nervous all over again, all his muscles hard as a rock. A nice shot of long acting tranquilizer and inflammatory from Doctor FeelGood, and things were starting to improve. I think since we got to it quickly is the only reason I didn't have an extremely ill horse. I just feel really really lucky, and extremely relieved.
I think we are just going to do long walks, and a little lunging, with the Evil Saddle on, and lots of mount, dismount, till I think this guy is ready for riding, and more girth tightening/walking before I get on. Obviously I was moving too fast for him, I had even done a several scenarios with him like mounting, saddle slips, Haha , no problem,before this happened,and he was pretty good, but that wasn't good enough. And I have sewn a tacky no slip lining on the bottom of my saddle pad, I'm not sure just a breastplate or crupper would be enough. The guy is built like a barrel. I didn't nickname him Teflon Don for nothing.
Commentors feel free to call me an idiot, but since I already know that, if you have constructive suggestions, that might be more helpful.
A bit of history on him, as I didn't want to bore those who have followed my trial and tribulations. I've had him about 2 1/2 years, so he's 13-14 ish now. He's been ridden, but I have a feeling not a lot, and he had a few issues when I got him. Spooky, girthy, wouldn't stand for mounting, nippy, wouldn't tie, a little barn sour, a little buddy sour, and a bit pushy. But I gradually figured out really most all of this was due to probably bad fitting saddles and I eventually got through most of that in previous seasons and got out for lots of good trail rides,got used to deer, big trucks (still kinda scared), and he needs really low key diet, grassy hay, and a really firm (but calm) hand. He has a large enough pen to at least run and buck a little, so he's never stalled (he's probably go nuts).
I was just getting back into riding as a somewhat crotchety older person when I got him, so it was like learning to ride all over again. At any rate he is fresh in the spring (doesn't get spring grass, he gets tender footed). After many saddle trials, fits, I've figured out what should work on him (wide and lots of room for him withers), but saddle slip is not good when your horse is jacking around. Actually the best sticking saddles were treeless, and although I found two treed saddles that should fit, I'm ready to go back to treeless, just because I feel more secure, maybe just use more padding to soothe my concerns about using them. I don't jump, don't ride hard and I'm not very heavy. I just feel him thinking better in a treeless, or maybe it just feels more like the bareback riding I was used to back in the day (rarely used a saddle then). If I could get rid of the cinch altogethr, we'd both be happier, but I don't think that will be happening. I'm a rider, not a lunger, but I'm trying to see if it has some benefits for getting him to work with me, but I think most of our issues really have to be worked out in the saddle. This is a mental issue, his and mine, he's fine physically for what I'm asking him to do. He's off every winter from Nov to early March. Before I got him maybe ridden less but he had some teaching, he's not green, and I'm pretty sure he knows far more than I do.
How old is he? how long has he been under saddle?How long had he been on winter vacation? Just a few questions to fill in some of the blanks, thanks.
Don't worry, I think he will get bored by the lunging quickly.
And I'll look around for some Chill, Barbara. Or maybe we'll both just have beer before we start!
My other little training plan, which I have no idea if it'll work, is to do intermittant bit of lunging as we are doing our "walk nicely" exercise. Then later when riding, I will keep a long line attached to his bridle. if he starts jacking around, I'll get off, make him lunge calmly, and set if that resets him. I've done something like that the rare time that he goofed off during hoof trimming, and he seems to get the point. Whether it will work when he's nappy I don't know. If he just sees it as an excuse to get me off and prefers lunging, then it won't make a dent in his attitude.
For decades I used something like the emergency dismount instead of the normal dismount EVERY time I dismounted. If you sort of vault off every time you dismount your emergency dismount will quickly become a non-event to your horse.
Just lately my MS has compromised some of the nerves involved and now I am back to doing a normal dismount, and feeling insecure every time. The normal dismount will come back to me with practice.
At least today I was able to sort of vault off!
First of all, an idiot would find a way to blame the horse, so you are definitely NOT an idiot! Perhaps just a bit too much of an optimist with spring in the air! ;)
I do have a suggestion: go buy a bottle of "Chill" by Omega Alpha for your boy. It will help you both get through the next couple of weeks as you try your luck in the field again. You can find it in most tack shops, it's legal, all herbal and it takes the edge off. Perfect for spring fever! Also, remember to take baby steps. Spring has just sprung, so you have tons of time to get the two of you used to the open air. :)
We've had a couple of strolls with saddle and me leading since. First time I put on the saddle, and hung the stirrups on after girthing. He was a bit google-eyed when he saw and heard the clang of the stirrups, but walked okay, no jacking around. He never likes it when I tighten the girth, but generally you wouldn't know it was the same horse, he seemed fine, stand okay when I fake mount. I think the critical moment for him was when I hopped off so fast, given his cranked up state on Sunday, it startled him. I usually hop off, I don't lower myself down, but I think I didn't have him stopped and paying attention when I did it. I guess in the long run it might be worth teaching him not to freak on an emergency dismount, given that I might have to bail at some future date. I prefer to stay on a horse if at all possible but only when the saddle is working for me. A breast collar might not have prevented the rolling or the bolt back to the house, but it would have stopped it from slipping all the way, banging up his legs, and probably the stress/colic thing. It would have been just a normal jerky day with him. A crupper I'm not sure if he'd go for that or just jack around, but I might try to get him used to it. I really just lost my mojo for a couple of days. He's a good horse, I think we just both need a tranquilizer to get through the rocky parts till he's ridable (for me, not just for rodeo cowboys). Sometimes I wish I was a cowboy.
You aren't an idiot. All horses seem to be nuts when they first go out in the spring. I've had some bad rides on Cruiser--for the 21st spring in a row...
I think your plan is a good one. You will know when he is ready, again.
Back when I still had horses I watched them closely every spring because my first horse, an Anglo-Arab, would get fat and sassy and would decided to explore his TB side and RUN and RUN and RUN.
So I ended up putting my feed efficient horses in dry lot, feeding them grass hay. If they were fed grain I cut the grain in half, and took out the alfalfa and corn (I fed straight grains, not sweet feed.) Generally a month was enough for the grass to lose the spring time super nutrients and go back to being regular grass. If I thought the horse needed some spring grass as a tonic I would hand graze, starting 5 minutes the first day and adding 5 minutes a day until the grass matured and lost its springtime richness. Then I would gradually start adding back the alfalfa pellets into their feed, I only used corn for cold weather feeding.. If you are feeding a commercial feed cut in half, and when you think it is safe gradually increase the feed.
Good for you catching the colic at the start. I have had many, many vets thank me for not waiting and calling them right away when the colic was very treatable.
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