Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Crazy psycho banana nuts

Well. Sunday was “interesting”.

I got to the barn and went to catch Sofie. She seemed fine and normal, except for turning away from me, repositioning herself, and then turning back to me, like “Now you can catch me”. She is a weird horse, though, and she’s done that before so I thought nothing of it. She was tracking up at the walk and seemed to be moving fine, so I decided to just tack her up and ride without free schooling, KNOWING the one day out of one hundred that I make that decision WILL be the day she loses her brains.

She stood fine, picked up all her feet and ate a little hay (spreading most of what I gave her out because she doesn’t like the new hay for whatever reason). She was still very, very touchy, and I got a lot of head shakes and ugly faces (sometimes when I wasn’t even touching her). I got the saddle on her, and she didn’t stand all that well (she was preoccupied with shaking out the hay I gave her, looking for the good parts). Then I went back into the tack room to get something, and things started to go downhill. I thought I heard her walk off, and came out of the tack room to find that she had indeed walked off, went to her head and backed her up to where she was supposed to be standing, told her to stay, and went back into the tack room to put on my boots. I got my boots half on when I heard her walk off AGAIN, and I rushed out to find her down by the arena door. I think this was the point where I started yelling, and I went to her head and made her back up. She backed up unwillingly, leaning on me and being heavy, and at this particular point I was not in the mood, so I smacked her chest, jerked on the lead rope and basically got up in her face until she gave me more of a back-up. She was really, super high-headed by this point, and as soon as I went back into the tack room to get the bridle, she was down the aisle yet again. More yelling, more backing up, more agitation. When I let her stop backing she shook her head at me, and I was seriously not in the mood so I smacked her on the neck. She stood there all high-headed and tense, and I stood there trying to figure out how I was going to get my bridle, since she apparently couldn’t stand on her own for two seconds. I was not feeling great because all I’d wanted to do was have a nice, calm little ride outside (it was gorgeous out, of course), and I felt like I shouldn’t have gotten so mad at her and that I’d probably made her worse, and I knew I should have free schooled her but now it was too late to do anything about that because there was a horse being ridden in the indoor, so I was just going to have to ride her. A boarder came in from the indoor at that point and I asked her if she could grab my bridle, then I put the bridle on Sofie (who put her head down, flapped her lips and picked the bit right up and then cranked her head way up again and went back to her freaked-out setting) and we went in the indoor to warm up because I was not taking her outside right then.

She didn’t want to stand for me to mount, and once I did get on her she walked off immediately. I had to stop her at least half a dozen times before I got my feet in the stirrups, and then she walked around reasonably well, not super relaxed but not taking off either. I didn’t end up riding long because the mare who was being ridden was having issues, and being in there with her and trying to stay out of her way in a small arena (with her cantering and us walking) was not fun at all, so I took the mounting block and my horse outside. Sofie immediately decided to stare at a plow truck, and I walked her around hoping she would calm down but she didn’t. The only positive was that she didn’t completely lose it and run me over/get away/drag me around. She walked by my side most of the time and stopped when I asked. She was just a completely tense mess, and by this point I was really feeling bad for getting so angry with her before.

Eventually I figured out I was not going to be able to ride her outside, since I knew she wouldn’t stand for me to mount, or if she did, she’d walk off immediately and I’d have no stirrups (when I don’t have someone around to hold the off side stirrup, I use the three-step mounting block and get on without stepping in the stirrup. That way the saddle doesn’t slip and I can leave the girth looser, since the saddle never shifts when I ride). I also knew it was not a good idea to even try to ride her outside when she had so obviously lost her mind for whatever reason, but my alternative was going back in the indoor with the mare who kicks (and was not having a good day either). I wound up going back into the barn, and the other girl was done riding so I took psycho pony back in the indoor. At first she walked around, fairly reasonably, but then she starting trotting (and not the way she has been trotting; it was a big, huge, fast trot). I just went with her, figuring she needed to burn some energy. I might’ve enjoyed it (I haven’t felt her move that forward in a while), but I was slightly preoccupied by certain things, like, my horse was completely psycho insane, I felt like a complete idiot, I figured she was probably going to hate me or be afraid of me now, and it was gorgeous outside and I was in the dingy indoor with my psychotic horse.

She wasn’t lame at first but she started to feel a bit off. That did not deter her in any way, however. She barreled along in the trot, and then (this is how bananas she was) she broke into a canter. In the indoor. Under saddle. She threw her head a bit in the depart, and I instinctively half-halted and went “HEY!” because I had no idea if she was going to kick out or completely lose it or what she would end up doing, but she went along in a nice canter, halfway around the arena, balancing just fine and handling the corners with no issues. I haven’t cantered her in the indoor since JUNE of ‘09.


After that we trotted some more, racing around and trying to cut corners (her) and trying stop cutting corners (me). She felt okay at times and head-bobbly at others, but not too bad considering how fast she was going. I’m not sure how much of that was adrenaline and how much she’s going to pay for it later. It will be interesting to find out how this affects her shoulder issue. Something to look forward to, right?

In between trotting around like a maniac, we did some walk work, and at least I know she really knows about flexing (in the walk, at least), because she still flexed beautifully and lightly, even though she was having a mind-loss issue. And, whether it was a continuation of our recent rein-back improvement under saddle, or due to her fearing/respecting my authority more since I totally lost it, her rein-backs were AWESOME. They have NEVER been that good. She was light, she flexed at the poll but stayed on the vertical, and she actually used her hind end. It was pretty freaking cool. Small comforts.

And when I dismounted I saw we had foam, like an actual white lipstick of foam. Dressage people love foam, right? I have to say, I have serious doubts concerning foam. It supposedly means the connection is good, but apart from the walk work, we had absolutely no connection. I think in this case (and probably a lot of cases) the presence of foam has more to do with tension, or heavy contact (like most dressage people ride with...).

I walked her around for a bit (she actually broke a bit of a sweat on her chest for the first time this winter) afterward, and she was still distracted and high-headed at times. She did seem to enjoy her face-brushing, which made me feel a little better. When I turned her out she immediately went off to stare at something in the distance.

Turns out when they brought the horses in the night before I rode, Sofie ran around the arena not wanting to be caught, and went to her stall high headed and totally tense. She didn’t finish her grain Sunday morning, and Sunday evening she ran around the arena once again before letting Judy take her to her stall. She has been eating her food at least, though. She’s had days when she lost her mind before, but this is a little prolonged and dramatic for her. It seems almost like she’s in heat (I’ve only ever noticed her being in heat twice before, but she tends to be really distracted to the point of not being able to stand still), and she’s not the first mare I’ve seen (or heard about) having weird hormonal things happening recently. It’s my best guess. I’ll just have to see what happens. Hopefully this will pass, and not turn out to be something major that requires a vet and a whole bunch of money and drama.

I would like to be able to take advantage of this energy, but since she’s still having lameness issues under weight I can only do so much. I hope she stops being both psycho AND lame, so I can deal with the psycho (or lameness) better. I think it would be better that way.

On the positive side, even though it SUCKED, I did learn from Sunday. I learned that sometimes I do need to discipline her. I want to be soft and light and be her friend (I’ve often been called “passive” by instructors), but she needs to respect me too. I don’t like “getting after” horses, and I give her the benefit of the doubt a lot because of her issues, but I think I need to ask for a little more. I hate that I yelled and jerked on her, but I did get my message across. I should have been less emotional, but sometimes I think I do need to raise the volume.

I also need to praise her more. I think I only rubbed her neck once on Sunday, and it really helps her. I’m always upset with myself when I don’t praise her enough, so I need to make sure I do. I think that will help both of us.

And I know now that she can canter just fine in the indoor. If she is ever sound again, I need to ask her to canter in there. If I’m going to do that, I need to commit and I need to be prepared to follow through. I’m sure I will get drama when I flat-out ask her for the canter, since I’ve been letting her choose when she canters for so long (although I did work on asking for the canter this fall, but that was outside and I kind of stacked the deck in my favor). I need to be able to make it happen. But at least I know she can do it, so maybe eventually I can get us past this.

I just want to be able to do things. I hate not knowing what’s going on with her.


  1. Oh those days. I stated having one of those the other day with Indigo which was rare this year but about 10 minutes of strait trotting the settled in.
    Saliva creates the "lipstick" effect because of the horses anatomy. Wile holding a bit which creates saliva and working (trotting hard) a horse cannot anatomically swallow and brethe at the same time so naturally saliva will build up in the mouth or on the lips. The reason why Sofie was foaming more would likely be because she was working harder to trot for a longer period of time which would mean she had less time to air up and swallow the saliva, thus "lipstick".

  2. Sounds to me like she was in heat. When my own mare goes into heat I just leave her alone for about 3 days and then she goes back to normal. She has ZERO control over the hormones and is downright dangerous.

    Please don't take this too harshly, but if you're yelling and hitting your horse you need to stop for the day. It's not going to get any better once you hit that point.