Tuesday, March 4, 2014

A Willing Partner

I coined stole this phrase from BEC when she gave me her assessment of her little bit of time watching me ride Trax and riding him herself.  She said, "You have your work cut out for you, he is not the most willing partner." (also coupled in with "You have done a great job with him so far, keep it up." )  Her assessment was 100% correct and I have known this for a long time.  In fact it is one of the reasons I am constantly horse shopping, because I want a willing partner.

Trax likes to get things right, just like any horse, because getting it right means he can go back to his nap.  Some horses, on the other hand enjoy learning knew things and thrive off of the challenge.  With all of his baggage, he thrives off of being left along.

Also, on the day that she rode him he was not feeling well. In fact he was not well for a couple of weeks, so that did contribute to his attitude that day. What else...well I wanted him to be something he wasn't yet and I was pushing him faster than he was ready for.  This sort of behavior on my part puts up three more bricks in the wall that I just tore 1 down out of.

So lets see that was about a month ago.  Alot has happened for the old guy since then.

He/we had a meltdown, which in turn brought about a few revelations on my part.

He is on a new diet. I was looking for a magnesium supplement but since I couldn't find it settled on a grain made for IR horses.   He is also getting a vitamin supplement and a joint supplement.  One at the behest of the trimmer to get those soles growing better, and the other at the behest of the chiro who thinks it will help the pain in his one hock.

He had a chiro adjustment which left him hardly able to keep his eyes open.

Today was our first ride since the melt down and since his chiro appt.

I won't say I had a new horse today, but he was different for sure.

First off I noticed today that my horse has withers.  Did you know that my horse has withers?  I know, you would think that I should have known, but truly today is the first time I have seen them.  It kind of freaked me out. I thought "Argh, he is getting too skinny!"  But then I felt for his ribs. Yes you can feel them, but the are not stick out.   I looked at his butt. Not sunk in at all, still round and muscular.  I felt his back bone, yes I can feel it, but it is not sticking up, it is just flat.   But that big strap of fat over his withers is gone.

You can bet that I'll be watching his weight closely, in fact even now he is out in the pasture all by himself having a snack, but right now he looks great. After our ride today I hosed him down and really looked at him with all his winter hairs smoothed down. Not skinny, just has withers....go figure.

So we rode. We started with the lunging and he...started....at...a...walk.  He has never done that.  EVER.

We had a welcomed audience today of A, who is quite modest and does not call her self a trainer, but who has spent a lot of time around some of the bigger named trainers in the area, and does give lessons to young children.  She just wanted to watch us for a bit.

When I got on, I asked for the later flex. He was good to the left still, really stiff to the right.  We trotted around moved off my leg, counter arched, stopped, backed up. Stood still and reminded him that if he feels the slightest pressure on his mouth, if he drops his head the pressure will stop.

We ran our wild circles and then when he felt right I asked for a little more control.  He gave it to me willingly.  He was just so damn good.

We worked a little on our roll backs and she mentioned that if I sat back on his butt a little more it would encourage him to plant that hind foot a little better.  Damn straight it did!

I side passed him for her, it actually felt pretty nice and she said that he only crab stepped once or twice before he moved gracefully and crossed over in front...both directions.

We loped the other way, working on our transitions of faster to slower and back again.

Then it was time for her to go so I kept riding, we worked on our lead changes.  Did you know that Trax can almost do a flying lead change?  I didn't.  By time we finished with that exercised I was able break him down just one step ask for the change and get it.  Can you see my grin from where you are?

We did a few more roll backs against the fence. He is so good in one direction but not the other...but we will get there.  We did them at a trot.

Earlier when we were loping circles I had asked for a stop but got my cues all wonky and the stop was all wonky. On our last circle, I tried to pick up on his front end just a little, said, "Ready", sat down, and then said "Whoa". It was the best stop he has ever done.

We stopped right there, walked down the road and then came home for a hose down, a quick hoof file and now he is getting his pasture time.

He is becoming a willing partner.  I don't know if it is me or him, the supplements, the chiro or a combination of it all, but it was tangible progress today and I could not be happier with my horse.

I have had 3 different people tell me now that I really ride much better than I give myself credit for. So I guess I'll quit saying I can't ride at all now.

One thing that A said she noticed that she thought was very cool is that Trax and I have constant conversation's going on.  He asks, "This?"  and I say, "No this." and so he gives what I want and then I reward with the release. Then he says, "Can I lift my head?" and I say, "No I'd rather it was down." and so he gives it back again and gets his release.  I never realized that about us, but I guess it is true. I guess that is a good thing.

Late for work now.

PS.  Done with the horse shopping.


  1. Dang it, now I want to see pictures of this wither change. How weird! I do know that some IR supplements have been known to melt off fat pads. Must be what happened?

    Sounds like a great ride! I hope they continue to go so well.

    I think I missed something about the chiro visit. Did they say whether they needed to come back and adjust again?

    You can get just magnesium from Horsetech.com. It's under "Basic Ingredients" on the side bar. I used to order it for Tonka, just recently ordered some more. Excellent customer service, free shipping. But it sounds like what you're using is doing something good for him. I'm curious to know what it is.

    1. So the supplement is Purina Well Solve low starch.

  2. Most of my pics of Trax are with a saddle on but I will have to see if I can find something that shows the before and then I will take an after. I'd like to determine for myself if it is all in my head, but really I don't think it is.

    The chiro will be coming again for another adjustment, but her next visit will be dental. She says she thinks he will loosen up on the right side once we get those teeth fixed.

    I'll have to look and post what the supplement is. I can't for the life of me recall what it is called.

  3. Kat started out stiff on the right. After I fixed that, he was stiff on the left. It's an ongoing issue for us too.

    I wonder if Kat would or could benefit from the IR supplements. If it would take his neck down even a little it would be well worth it.

  4. High five! Love that you and Trax are connecting and keep on improving. Keep it up!

  5. Ya know...I always hate it when I write a blog post in a hurry after a ride, and in fact I think I need to remember to just hit the save button and go back and edit later because there is a lot I missed and I think a little that I mis-conveyed.

    First off, I feel like I should clarify that my horse is not magically healed. The truth is we had a good day, better than we have had in a long time. He was calmer, but even more than that, he was a little more present than usual. As in he was paying attention and thinking about what I was asking. I in turn was thinking about how I was asking. It was a good combination today. But I am not fooling myself into thinking that it will always be this way from now on. But it was darn sure a step in the right direction and hopefully it will happen more and more often.

    Another thing I want to say, is that the way I worded the conversation that BEC and I had about Trax kind of seems a little harsh. But it wasn't in any way shape or form. It was one sentence out of an entire afternoon of riding and working on things and tweaking this, trying that, getting some good results, and finding things that didn't work at all. That statement was an overall statement of where he and I were at on that day. It was absolutely accurate, and she isn't the first one who has said it to me. When I was riding with Mark there were days when he would say, "Oh he really wants to get along today." And other days he would say, "Wow, I'm impressed how well you kept your cool with all he is throwing at you." He is prone to having bad attitude days.

    She mentioned that he is not the most willing partner and since that day I have been working on trying to find ways to help him be more willing. Not to prove her wrong, but because I know that she is right and it is something I want to try and fix. If he hates what we are doing, then we are never going to get anywhere. So I tried to fix his tummy issues (I believe I have) I am trying to help his physical issues to see if it helps the mental issues. If none of this works then we will switch to different focus, and we will probably still do that just to keep things from getting boring for him.

    So those are the things I wanted to add or change on my post, and hopefully BEC I hope you don't mind that I conveyed part of our conversation on here.

  6. Woo hooo! Lots of good stuff going on there. :)

  7. Of course I don't mind. One of the reasons we get along so well is because we are the kind of people who take an honest assessment as an opportunity to get to the next level. You are so willing to take what someone says, think about it and then figure out how to make changes that work for you and help your horse.

    I'm thinking that pretty much everything you have done recently is going to lead to a lot of improvement in Trax. The comment about him suddenly having withers makes me wonder if his tendency to be self-protective about his front-end (his tendency to 'turtle' his neck) has been a pain issue all along? The chiropractic adjustments may have allowed his shoulder blades to relax down and back and that is why his withers suddenly became noticeable. Getting his teeth done will further help, but then a few more chiro adjustments should really help. Without a doubt, low-grade, long-term pain affects a horse's attitude and willingness. I have seen Moon change dramatically over these last few years as I have fixed things on him that I didn't even realize were causing him pain; his hind-gut issue is something that horse has lived with for most of his life. We had no idea that horses that just didn't flourish were suffering hind-gut problems, we just called them unthrifty or poor doers and if pouring the feed to them didn't work, they usually went bye-bye. And after having injections, Moon has come even farther out of his shell. I used to call him my 'iron horse' because he had such a high tolerance for pain that it was almost impossible to tell if he was hurt or not. Well, the poor horse has lived in a state of discomfort for so long that more pain didn't even register with him. Now that he knows what it is like to be pain-free...He gives me clear indications of when something is bothering him. Moon is an entirely different horse now than he was through most of his life. He has expression and isn't just dull and going through the motions.

    I guess what I'm trying to say is, keep doing what you are doing and I think Trax will turn out to be a very different horse and probably has a lot more capability than anyone ever imagined. :-)

  8. Hi Cindy... I'm a short time reader but enjoy reading about your experiences with your herd. I have a couple of questions sorta related and sorta not... how far are you from Casa Grande?... and what do you know about the Tonto National Park equine trails?... Looking down the road to retirement in a few and looking to some place warmer. Thanks!!

  9. Hi Beth, and welcome to Herdlife.
    I am not far from Casa Grande, but actually lived in Eloy at one time which is right next to Casa Grande. There are some great places to ride out there. As far as Tonto Nat Park Trails, I have not been on them yet...its on my to do list. But I hear that they are a lot of fun and there are a ton of them of varying levels of difficulty.

    One thing that is nice about this area is that there are a gazillion different riding trails, San Tan Mountains, Glove area, Wickenburg area, Tonto, Superstitions, Goldfield, Oro Valley down by Tucson, Saw Tooth Mtns. The list goes on and one. That doesn't even begin to touch on all the stuff in Northern AZ.

  10. Thanks for the additional trail tips... I need to do some additional investigating.

  11. What a great post! It is great that you have someone who is a friend and totally honest about what is going on with you and Trax on any given day. And I LOVE LOVE LOVE that whatever changes you two have gone through, whether it be the new IR feed or the chiro, the two of you are a team and are growing. So glad you are not horse shopping any more. :-) Keep up the great work you two!