Decisions

So much has happened since my last post that I’m even more annoyed at myself for not posting last week. Oh well, spilled milk and all that. Now I just need to get it all out so hang in there y’all. This is gonna be a long one.

So the Sunday after the body slam, I turned Ezio out with nice legs and brought him in with scrapped up legs.

How did he scrape them? He spooked at a fart from another horse when I was trying to halter him to go in. Seriously. I think he was just trying to make sure we were both injured. Luckily, they were all pretty surface. I coated them in Alushield and continued to work with him. He had a bit of localized heat around the wound but it always went down with working and he never took a lame step. It’s healing nicely by now.

I held back from the canter in almost all the rides up to today. Since he’d been giving me issues in the walk and trot, I wanted to take a step back and chill some. I felt like he needed to have some time to remember that transitions weren’t something to freak out over. Nor circles, nor spirals etc. Basically, chill the fuck out horse. Unfortunately, we’d have days where we were okay and days where we weren’t. It was very frustrating. I wanted to get a lesson in but I was busy on Friday and couldn’t make it happen.

This past Tuesday, I turned him out like normal but in the back arena. I then hand walked him around the outside of the dressage arena. He did not want to go straight like I did and when I tried to stop him, he pushed through me. I circled him to stop him from winning and he kicked sideways and caught me. I punished him for that. Then, since I wasn’t in enough pain to say I had a huge injury, we tried again. The same situation repeated and I got kicked again. I was furious. I backed his ass halfway down the row and then we turned around, went to the end of the row and then turned around and tried again. We got past the spot but he freaked out at a horse riding in the arena. And then a few more times on our way back.

By this time, I would be lying if I didn’t say I was nearing scared to interact with him level. He kicked me in the leg twice. Luckily, it seems to have been a glancing blow. I’ve got bruises but no other injury. And I’ve ridden and run since so I’m sure I would have noticed if something was wrong. But I’m now having issues during riding and issues where he’s willing to kick at me while hand walking. I was starting to not look forward to the barn, even close to dread it. Riding is fun for me. I needed it to stay fun and I no longer had the tools or experience I needed to resolve these issues. I needed help.

I managed to get a lesson for this past Friday. The first thing I did was basically spill my guts to Trainer J. I got near tears when describing how frustrating and how difficult it was for me to do things with him. She was very concerned to hear that he had kicked me while hand walking. She said lets see how the day goes and then we can see what options we have for him.

The record heat wave this last weekend meant we just wanted to do an easier ride so as not to overheat either of us. I set off on a large oval. It was maybe 1/4 of the arena. And he was furious. He’s been hating circles lately because he associates them with work. We do the circles but he gives attitude sometimes. And luckily, he gave me ALL the attitude for this lesson. Which is exactly what you need when trying to solve a problem.

I am full of ‘tude

We went around that oval doing transitions in the walk and trot. Ezio got super tense, he flung his head, he bounced like he was going to rear, he crowhopped. He did it all. I pushed him through it when he started. Then Trainer J had me leg yield him in and out for a few steps at the walk. When he got soft, she had me trot him off. We did get a few good transitions. She asked if he was always like this and I explained that its a lot easier when I didn’t stick to a circle. He tends to behave better with going around the arena or on the long diagonal. She had me demonstrate and he did chill out some as we trotted around the diagonal. She was happy to see that we could regain his brain, but said we should be able to do a circle to work on things without him losing it.

So after the lesson, we talked. She said she didn’t like that he was acting like this in the walk and trot. Especially when we were not asking him for much of anything. It’d be one thing if it was the canter but its always. And the fact that he lashed out at me while hand walking made her concerned. She explained that she has no need of more horses and doesn’t like to pull riders off their horses, but she’s worried about it escalating. And she’d rather nip it in the bud than be riding him because I’m in the hospital. So she thinks that the best option would be to give him to her for a whole month. Then the month after, we would be sharing riding on him and when I ride, she’d be instructing me.

Obviously given how bad the last few weeks had been with Ezio, I’d been running through options in my mind. Of course the option to just continue working with him was there. I’d been doing that. I’d been getting injured. I’d been frustrated and unhappy. Another option would be to find a trainer to send him to for a while who specializes in dealing with ottbs, or groundwork or something. But that would require knowing someone and I know very few horse professionals in the area. And I don’t want to trust my horse with someone I haven’t been given a personal recommendation to. The next option would be to have Trainer J work with him. I didn’t know if she did that or what it would cost but it was an option I had been tossing around. The last one would be to sell him. I don’t want to continue fighting with my riding horse forever. The problems with that is I like him. He’s a nice horse and we had a few good months where he was lovely to ride and was learning the ground stuff. I’ve bonded with him now. I don’t really want to start the horse search again. Also, how the hell would I sell a horse that I couldn’t ride myself? And I wouldn’t want to lose money on him. I obviously wouldn’t get out what I’ve put into him but I’d at least want to get his purchase price. But that’s a last ditch effort. I didn’t want to go to that option just yet.

So her suggestion of taking him for a month was perfect. But monthly training is not cheap so I needed to talk to my husband before I made any decision on that. So I went home and talked with him. To my surprise, the conversation took about 45 seconds before he said do it. He had apparently been a lot more concerned about the stories I had been telling him and my injuries than he had been letting on.

So I texted Trainer J and told her we will do it. So Saturday was his first training ride. She’s going to be riding him for a month and then we will be working together. For the first bit, she’d prefer if I don’t try to watch her riding him. I did ask if I could spend time with him on his days off or if that would mess with her program. She said we will try it for now and see how it goes.

I have some very conflicted feelings about this. My first feeling was oh thank gosh I have someone who can hopefully help me figure it out. Because I think Ezio has my number. And if I stay worried/scared of him, he’s always going to have it. So I need some help there. But I also have my pride and I feel like a failure. None of this is logical mind you. I know I’m not a failure. I need tools I don’t have because I’m not a trainer. This is my hobby. I’m a reasonably skilled horse person but I can’t do everything. And needing help doesn’t make me a failure. But I still feel it. Then there’s the fact that I’m not riding for a month. It’s only three days in and I’m already being driven insane by that. So I’ve got a problem. Then I’m worried he’s being bad for her and hoping he will be good. Which is not how the problems will be resolved. He needs to be bad so she can see the issues.

So yeah, conflicted feelings. Not many of them are logical. But I’m really hoping that we both come out of this better matched up as partners. I hope this reset helps me let go of the nerves and fear I’ve developed. I hope that Ezio learns that humans are the boss. I hope that Trainer J is able to help me and Ezio connect when we work together. I want to enjoy the barn again.

I want to enjoy this face again.

Setbacks

The interesting and frustrating part of baby horses is you really never know what’s going to happen each day you work with them. It’s not really a bad thing but its something I haven’t had to deal with in a long time before Ezio. Scarlet had many years of being super consistent, even when he became neurological.

I’ve been working pretty hard on getting Ezio to behave better when hand walking. While I was gone, my main concern was how people would have to deal with him and his not perfect ground manners. Luckily his feet issues have gotten better. I can usually get all his feet done without him yanking them out of my hand now. But he still tries to nip when walking.

I’ve been walking him with a whip 100% of the time so that I can work on his walking. I want him to stay at my shoulder, on the right side and to not bite at me. It has been getting better lately. I’d love to not have to carry the whip but for now that’s what I’m using until he gets better. And he has gotten better. The only thing he’s mostly not given up is the trying to bite me.

But he’s generally amazing under saddle. So when this last week he started throwing fits when riding, I was very concerned. At first I was worried it was his saddle. Except he’d been fine the day before I first noticed the behavior. So maybe not his saddle. I definitely started to panic though when it became clear that this was a consistent behavior.

After talking to a bunch of my horse friends, I decided it’s quite possible it was an attitude problem. He might be seeing how far he can push me. Then I longed him on Thursday and he kept spinning into me in the center of the round pen and rearing. Given that he cut that out when I made it clear that it wasn’t getting him out of work, it further solidified the idea that it was him pushing me around. Of course, it could still be some sort of pain so I’m planning on getting a chiro out, but I think the majority of it is attitude.

Friday I had more time to ride in the morning so I was prepared to spend a lot more time out there. I was there to do battle. I had a plan and was ready for it.

I got him all tacked up and headed to the main arena. The BO was walking a horse outside the arena. I saw and I’m sure Ezio saw as his ears pricked toward them. We get into the arena and I close the gate. I’m tightening up his girth when suddenly Ezio bodyslams me. I fell onto the ground and my arm got tangled in the reins. I was drug a couple of steps before I was able to lift my arm and loosen the reins. Ezio ran about a third of the way down the arena before turning around and staring at the BO and the horse that had come up next to the arena.

Luckily, I was fine. Never hit my head. My arm was sore and I was pretty sure I had some delightful rope burns. I also had dirt literally everywhere. And soreness continued to show up as the day went on. Still not sure why he spooked so hard. I’m pretty sure he saw the horse walking up. And he’s not a spooky horse. But this came out of nowhere.

I ended up getting on and riding. He was a bit keyed up from the spook so I rode him down for about thirty-five minutes before I tried to canter. The canter seems to be the place where I’ve seen more issues with him. He has thrown a few issues during the walk and trot. But most of it was during the canter. I was riding with my dressage whip which I haven’t before. Any time he gave me any fuss during the walk and trot, I was quick to remind him to actually move forward or transition or whatever we were doing.

At the canter, he did throw up a fuss but I kicked him through it for a few strides before transitioning and trying again. It took about four transitions before I got a half 20m circle without any fuss and I decided to end on that. So I’m pretty sure I can deal with the riding behavior issues. The following day it only took two tries for the same result.

So the riding stuff I can handle. But the ground stuff… Ezio had zero trying to avoid me. Other horses would have spooked backwards or done a half sideways half backwards thing. But there was none of that. Full sideways bodyslam. And that’s dangerous. And I’ve seen it in lesser ways on the ground. My body does not carry mass to him. If he wants to keep walking when I say halt and I’m in the way? He keeps walking.

Now none of it ever seems malicious. He’s not trying to trample me. He seems incredibly surprised when I beat on him to get him to back the fuck off. But he just doesn’t see me as being there. So I have a lot of groundwork practice where I’m going to deliberately put myself in his way and halt and backup and then correct him harshly if he doesn’t. My body, my space. I need to be able to be safer around him. And I’m now having to be on my toes while tightening the girth in the arena cause who knows what’s gonna happen there. -_-

Post-absence

I’m back! I’ve been out of town for over a week due to a work trip and a weekend vacation. It was both tiring and nice at different points during the time I was gone.

My neighbor across the street walked Scarlet for me for the whole time. She rides as well and used to have an arab so she was a good choice to take care of him. It was also nice because she’s a big animal person so she sent me tons of pictures while I was gone.

Ezio was ridden by my trainer while I was away. She said he was good and she loves his walk. She said she mostly worked on being in front of the leg and bending through is ribs. I also had her to a ground work lesson as well and she worked on staying out of her personal bubble and yielding the quarters. I also had him turned out on the days where my trainer wasn’t working with him.

I’ve only been back for two days so I’ve spent some time with both of them and had one ride. Ezio seemed fine. He had a few feelings but overall felt pretty soft and listening. He always tries at least somewhat for our rides. I definitely missed barn time while I was gone.