Friday, February 16, 2024

Hold me, I'm hurt

Alternate titles: There's our step back OR "My mom is an a**hole" - Goggles

Goggles started out the year doing SO WELL, I joked that our one step back was coming soon. And oh boy did it ever, sort of like a fall off the landing, not just a step back. It started one day when we worked in hand at the front of the property. He started out grazing, but his eye wasn't quiet. And then, then, he basically exploded. It was actually less than in the spring when we had our sessions with the cowboy, in that I didn't struggle holding onto the line, but instead he threw in some straight up hi ho silver moves. While he wasn't rearing AT me, when I was holding the line on a LARGE horse who is standing straight up, it still kinda felt like he was rearing AT me. Eventually though, he found some quietness and tried to creep into my  space to be consoled. I tic-tocked him out of my space again and eventually got a settled(ish) horse. But we basically had to start all over again as we walked back to the barn. 

A few days later, we went down to JT's. My schedule didn't line up with my friend's, so he was solo on the trailer. He is getting SO MUCH better with trailering, I figured it was about time to trial run. AND he did great! But by the time we got to the lesson? He was plumb out of spoons. 

So we got a hot, reactive baby horse. He managed walk and trot, but was launching and bucking at the canter. Woooo boy. I did still get some good tidbits, a refined half halt, and a lecture on not pulling back any more the second they have halted (::hangs head:: that I needed that, but my adrenaline was high).  But we quit before we even made it near a jump. 

Two days later, I plunked him back on the trailer, and we headed to the GY's to get his feet done. I was firm, but patient and kind with my half-halts and we did a lot of walk-halt-walk. He was actually REALLY good. Then we moved on to trot and I again was insistent that he focus on me, not the other horses, and we got some nice bendy work. Then we moved to canter. He started out with a smaller version of what he'd done at JT's, but I kicked him forward and then half-halted softly and he moved past it. We did several canter transitions each way and he was super. I popped off and told him what a good boy he was.

Ben Ben wanting some attention

Post hi ho silver rears, I had discussed with his barn owner, and she shared that he had struck at her husband while turning in one afternoon. I immediately called and scheduled a cowboy lesson at a time she could hang out and watch ASAP. 

The anxiety is high

But a few days before the scheduled lesson and a few days after his trip to the GY's, he stopped eating breakfast. He still picked at hay, but he was essentially shouting at me "MY BELLY HURTS!!!" He had no way left to say it since I had ignored all of his other behavioral cues or chalked them up to herd bound anxiety that we needed to work through. This one was like a smack in the face though. I brought out gastrogard that morning, and he ate dinner like a champ. By turnout the next morning, post second dose, he wasn't doing the anxious mouth chomping that had crept in the past 1-2 weeks. 

And now we're back to this while we're grooming

We still did the cowboy lesson, but both the barn owner and I agreed that his behavior was already 1000% better than what it had been. She is amazing and started wracking her brain thinking of the first subtle cues she had seen. She had actually noticed him holding up a hind leg while eating a week or two prior. Not full on kicking at his belly, but holding it slightly up in the air. 

So we're getting gastrogard and life is good. I have my happy, relaxed baby horse back. We aren't doing any ridden work this week, we're just hanging out and working on our ground work homework from the cowboy. One thing he said stuck with me more than everything else "Why wouldn't they be focused on their buddies? Most people show up for an hour or two a day and spend the whole time telling them exactly how to behave." So we're hanging. With the boundaries established by the cowboy, not pulling at the end of the line, not coming in to my space, but learning to relax together. When he first stopped grazing today, he oriented pointing the herd in the pasture. But then he ate some more and oriented pointing me and took a nap. And that felt better than any trip around a jump course. 

I'm grateful he is continuing to put his trust in me even though I failed him miserably. Even when his stomach felt the worst, he was still walking up to me in the pasture, happy to see me. And since he isn't much for pressed treats, and I don't always remember to grab carrots from the house, I know it isn't just about food. 


  1. Oh geez goggles…. Nobody wants to see you morph into Hi Ho Silver!! Glad the meds and cowboy session seem to already be doing the trick!! Doozy got her first course of ulcer treatment when she first came home about six months ago, and I’ve already started wondering if we should do another sooner than later. I think life can be maybe more stressful for these babies even tho they’re doing “easier” things bc everything is a big first and they never really know what to expect…

    1. Exactly re stress level even though the activities are "easy". His acupuncture vet characterized his current workload as light when she talked about how often she wanted to treat him. Which, yeah, it's 3-4 days a week for 20-40 minutes, but it's also learning to carry himself in a very different and challenging way. So it's the same as Ben working 5-6 days a week with collected work and jumping. Let me know how it goes if you treat Doozy mare again!