Horse blogging is about being honest, right? Even when it’s ugly?
Prepare for ugly.
Nibbles reached a new peak of meltdown last night. When I got there, it was quiet. When I pulled her into the barn to tack up, they started cutting hay across the road. She immediately started worrying. Put the saddle on, she’s watching for the tractors. Before I even attach the girth, she starts dancing and starts weaving away from me. She didn’t bite but kept giving me the hairy eyeball and even bobbed her nose towards me. I guess it’s worth defending the fact that I slowly tighten her girth after lunging her; I never crank it tight from the start. I wish I could clearly articulate how unusual this behavior is for her. I think she’s in heat but at 6 years old, she’s never been more than just a little sensitive when in heat.
When we got to the arena, the BO start up a buzz saw. And it all culminated in a horse I could not get focused on me, not even a little. In fact, I didn’t recognize this horse. Her behavior has become so frantic and uncharacteristic. She’s normally such an easy going horse. This pattern started and has been getting worse since my other mare left for Canada. It’s been a little under a month now and based on the mild colic episode last week and her behavior worsening, I’m starting to suspect the vet was right and she may have ulcers.
Last night was the first time I’ve had to use an emergency dismount in several years. I knew I was in actual danger and she wasn’t just been a greenie. My butt was in the saddle all of 60 seconds when I felt like she was going to flip over on me. At this point, I’m exasperated because I don’t want rides to turn into something that start scaring me and spiral downhill for her. Up until now, she hasn’t scared me and I haven’t gotten angry with her. But I feel like I’m running out of strategies to help her and myself. The trainer I used to work with hasn’t gotten back in touch with me for a long time now and apparently she’s doing so well that she’s almost always traveling out of state.
Oh, and when I got off, I untacked her and thought maybe letting her free lunge would get the ants out of her pants. She proceeded to trot like the stereotypical Arabian, tail over her back, head jacked way up, snorting like the arena was surrounded by fire breathing monsters. Then she galloped. And when she started skidding herself into the fence, I decided it wasn’t worth her getting hurt and caught her and walked her out. Then hosed her down. I dropped the end of the lead rope and it made, you know, the sound of a lead rope hitting the ground softly. And she jumped out of her skin. What in the world? That is not like Nibbles at all.
So where do I go from here? I think there are two things. The first is having her evaluated by a vet. Because the change in behavior is so dramatic, I want to rule out ulcers or any other health problems/pain. Cue my bank account groaning. Secondly, my search for a new trainer needs to start bearing fruit. I wondered if we’d get to a point where I couldn’t handle what she dishes out and, whatever the cause, we’re there. And I don’t want to make it worse or start allowing bad behaviors, especially if they’re just lack of work ethic.
And that’s my fear. Did I just wait too long by waiting to back her until a late five year old? Have I ruined her somehow? I try to do the best I can with what I have but maybe that’s not enough. Not to sound mellow dramatic and not to sound like I’m giving up but maybe I’ve over-faced myself here and need to do some re-evaluating. I keep going down the list: where did I mess up? Bring her back into work slowly? Check. Make sure tack fits? Check. Be clear and fair with what I ask for? Check. Don’t crank her head in but encourage her moving out? Check. Reward the slightest try? Check. Avoid getting angry, even when she may deserve it in my mind? Check!!
Anyway, I’m deciding which vet I want to have look at her. I’m also debating having a very good friend of mine who is a chiropractor come out to look at and possibly adjust her. She also happens to work closely with a few vets and I trust her eye and general horse wisdom.
I’m all ears if anyone has any experience with behavior/behavior change like this. Obviously, I’m an amateur but I’m not green and I’m actively trying to find a trainer (that I trust). I feel like I’m all out of ideas. Help? Encouragement?
Editing to add I will not be getting back on her until after a full consultation with a vet at minimum.