Horsey Therapist

Wednesday, January 31, 2007


I think that is what Rusty and I were watching in the woods this afternoon. Well, I was trying to see what he was seeing, because it really got his attention! I've seldom seen him so wound up -- he was high-tailing it and standing frozen sounding the honk-snort that horses do. A herd alarm system??

That put an end to my thoughts of riding him for a third time today.

Why would I ride him three times?

First time was normal feel him out and warm him up, thinking if all went well in the western saddle, I'd try the Bates Isabell on him. He had some vertical life but not a lot and afer 15-20 minutes of walk and trot with some canter, we headed back to the barn to change saddles. His walk, by the way, was really lively and felt wonderful! His trot was a little bunched up but he stretched out some (I was using inside rein to invite a bend as he trotted and predictably, that brings his head down and forward) and I was eager to see how it would go in this other saddle so that was enough.

The footing was weird -- broken up shallow crusty icey snow stuff over uneven frozen sand. I think he was uncomfortable with that today.

So, dressage saddle. With grab strap, thank you very much. Walking was fine. Trotting was extremely bunched up and short strided and man oh man did he move into some major bucks today. Time and time again. Eegads. It took me a few times to find my bucking balance in that saddle and a couple of times I wondered if I was going flying beyond my ability to come back to the saddle. Yuck. More than I care for frankly.

I kept wondering why all the bucking today?! This was not just his usual bounding and bouncing, this was bucking and kicking out with effort. My conclusions are limited. I had hoped to ride him again in the western saddle to confirm or rule out the Bates saddle as the culprit. But remember the bear? Yeah, that energized Rusty well into my self-serving Stay-On-The-Ground survival mode.

Possible causes for the bucking:
- saddle interferes with his shoulders (and I think it does but darn! I love how the saddle feels to ME);
- footing unbalances and/or hurts him;
- the bear was lurking in the woods all afternoon unnerving Rusty;
- separating from Kacee who is in heat unnerved Rusty;
- the moon is practically full.
Any other educated suggestions or wild guesses?? Sigh.

As much as I criticize those who oooh and aaaah and promote the appearance of very frightened horses, I admit I enjoyed the visuals of Rusty in his fear. I was very glad he had no rider while this was going on. It was interesting to see his athletic maneuvers in action, instead of just feeling them while riding. Ya know, he might excel as a cutting horse. He clearly has more energy than he's using on a regular basis.

It's due to snow tonight. Maybe that will soften and even out the footing in the arena. I can hope?

I did get to watch him bucking and kicking out during his bear fear moments. It left me thinking it's not all about the saddle -- it's a lot about the crusty stuff he's moving through. He's been called a Prima Donna and in my less accepting moments I would call him fussy! In any case, it looked like, as he was upset and bounding around, he was also kicking out like something felt wrong about his back feet. Nice if it were simply the saddle fit!

After the bear left the area and Rusty settled, I brought Bo up to the arena. That gave me a chance to work with both briefly, then with Bo alone. Rusty was curious and approached me while I was focussing on Bo. Interesting as I was setting it up so Bo could approach me rather than stay stuck in his pacing mode. Bo made some changes, then I took Rusty back to the barn and returned to spend more time with Bo.

It turned out nicely, with clear evidence that he's calmer and listening more. I introduced backing one step at a time with head low. He is a great learner! I am looking for ground work ways to help him carry himself more efficiently. Left to his own, he travels upside down. No, not literally, but with ewe neck and tight back. This is something I could address from the saddle, but I don't plan to ride him much due to our size differences. Well, he's about the same size as some Icelandic Horses I've seen ridden by moderately sized adults. But I think ground driving would help him, too. Yes, I'll start doing that with him.


At 01 February, 2007 20:53, Blogger ZinniaZ said...

Hm, how much does Rusty routinely buck under saddle? Every ride? I think bucking can mean discomfort. If the shoulders pinch, maybe you could try a different size gullet plate for your saddle. Maybe move it back a few more inches-- many people put the saddle a little too far forward. And maybe his hocks are sore-- it seems to happen to many horses. You could try bute a little bit diagnostically. Bute for three days and ride each day and on the fourth day see what differences there might be. I know that's not the major point of this post, but it caught my attention!

At 01 February, 2007 22:02, Blogger LJB said...

He's been bucking since I started asking him to let go of what he's holding back, since I told him 'go for it, I wanna know what's inside you'. But not really bucking more bouncing and leaping. Yesterday it was more of kicking out and bucking and yes, I think it was discomfort, his clear way of complaining. Generally he does not buck at all - it's not a regular thing. It wasn't a regular thing!

He has the shortest darn back so I've not found a way to set a saddle back further. As far as gullet size, maybe I could get RNB to reshape one of those bars? Rusty is wearing the widest size already.

I don't own any bute so won't be trying that idea. The footing was softer today, and if it's softer again tomorrow, I'll ride and see if some of his upset was about his delicate sensitive new age ankles getting roughed up by the mean ole' crusty snow!

He's such a hoot really.

It was nice to ride the mares today. I'll get something up on my blog about that soon.

At 02 February, 2007 19:31, Blogger ZinniaZ said...

Oh good. I was beginning to think maybe he bucked every single ride with great vigor. Which gullet plate is it? Is it the extra wide? I wish he liked it. :(

It doesn't sound like the bute would work/ help if it is related to the saddle. I always have bute now because of my old girl. I like to bute before the farrier and she needs it occasionally on days where walking hurts.

Sensitive new age ankles, huh?! Do you like Christine Lavin by any chance????

At 02 February, 2007 20:24, Blogger LJB said...

"Sensitive new age ankles, huh?! Do you like Christine Lavin by any chance????"

Oh, she was here recently and such a delight in person! That phrase came to mind thinking about Rusty and his need to have things 'just right'...

Yes, using the extra wide gullet now. I will see if there is a way I can put it back further. I succeeded with putting the western saddle back further so I'll try it with the Bates. I wonder if with Kacee the gullet needs to be one size smaller and that might tilt the saddle so it doesn't tilt me forward? But at the risk of being tight on her shoulders???

At 02 February, 2007 21:55, Blogger ZinniaZ said...

I was thinking it sounded TOO wide for Kacee. You could use one of those white wither pads. I have one that Com needs. Well, assuming I were to ever be able to ride her again. If you don't buy one before you come to maine again, you can have mine.

I adore Christine Lavin. She was at the State Theater (Merrill?) in portland several years ago. It was fantastic. She had me in tears of laughter and at the end, she also had me teary because she is so uplifting. She is wonderful. She twirled her baton which she said was a lifelong dream. She took lessons and did an amazing job with that baton. So FUN.


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