Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Sinking In

It seems as though our recent meltdowns and extra training has brought about some changes in both my horse and in myself. I am going to call them good changes, because I think in the long run it will keep me safer, and keep him from failing it such epic proportions.

The biggest change in me is awareness, and paying attention to detail. As I was saddling I noticed every movement he made in reaction to each of my movements. Shirley, I did wave my hand in front of his eye, enough to make him blink and he did not shy away at all. However I also noticed/remembered that his right eye is the eye that has a spot in it, and more than one vet has asked if he has issues with vision in that eye.

As we walked to the arena I noticed what was going on around us. The new neighbors were out there with their 6 horses, and 5,000 (okay 7) goats. I noticed what was open, what was closed, what was a potential death trap, and what wasn't. I made sure the big gate was shut, and took him close to the neighbors fence to give him time to eyeball all the commotion going on next door. My main reason for doing this is because after the donkey and goat incident, I wanted to make sure he knew they were there before we started rather than finding out as we are loping circles or something....chicken? Maybe, but mostly just wanted to give him a heads up. I was really hoping the goats were in a pen closer to fence so he could really get used to them, but they weren't.

He spent some time observing the new horses next door, saw the goats, decided they were not worthy of his attention and then was ready to go to work.

I forgot to mention earlier that I am no longer giving him the Purina wel-solve. It is too expensive and has .5mg of mag per serving. That is pretty much non-existent when you think of what most people give to over reactive horses. I ended up trying a product called Mag-restore. It contains 2000mg of elemental mag per scoop and he is getting 4 scoops a day. Here is a a link to their website with some information. The type of mag is a di magnesium malate, which allegedly has a greater uptake than mag-oxide or mag-sulfate. Keep in mind I have no idea if this is true. I do have a history of letting people blow smoke up my skirt and me falling for all that they tell me. However, I have found several on line forums of people, not paid by the company, who really love this stuff. I also found an interesting article on burned out horses written by a vet who also mentioned the DI MAGNESIUM MALATE as being very effective. Also I sent the company an email asking some questions and got an immediate response from a live person who even called me today to make sure all my questions were answered. So although I cannot say whether or not their product is any good yet, they atleast have decent customer service. He has been on this since Sat evening, so hopefully we should see some results in the next week or so.  If I don't like it, I can always switch to something else.  I admit to buying this on a whim, because I needed to quit procrastinating and get something in him. 

So, today I didn't do anything too crazy, just worked on refining some of the things we have been working on already. I was really curious about the left and right contradiction thing so I found myself paying special attention to that. Since he is so much stiffer when asked to give to the right, I spent sometime just really stretching those muscles while I was on the ground. I really do think that, that part of him is having physical troubles. I can kind of relate. Due to some accidents of my own I can hardly turn my own head to the right. But still I asked him to stretch and hold as far and as long as he could and we did that several times. It seemed to me like each time he got a little further and was able to hold it a little longer.

When riding, I really wanted to revisit those silky smooth soft in the face leg yields, but first we just warmed up, did our serps, and long trotting. I did a little loping and a couple of lead changes, and of course our lope, stop, back and roll the shoulders. It did not take him near as long to drop his head and move out in a nice trot, and he held that collection longer than he ever has. I find that when he is in his right mind and I apply a little pressure he is really starting to seek that soft place over bracing, more and more. He is even starting to look for it on his own. Even backing up, I was able to back him one handed and have him drop his head and back nicely rather than fighting it. Usually I have had to use 2 hands for that.

Now BEC and CNJ both gave me some great stuff for building the muscles he needs, and I did try it...I think, but I think I need to go back and re-read it, and perhaps when one of them is around have them talk me through it again. Not sure I am getting the whole concept.

Then we went to the side passing/leg yields. My goal was to get him silky smooth on both sides, with out having to work him into the ground again.

We started with his good side and it only took a second to get him back to where we left off Sat. But the other direction when I picked up on the rein he just turned. I messed with it for a bit, went back to the other side and tried desperately to figure out what I was doing wrong. Then it hit me.

On the left side he is already soft. I pick up the rein, milk it just a tad, and he drops his head to his shoulder almost, then I apply the left leg, remove the right leg and he just melts into it. On the right side he is never as soft so when I start out he is already in the wrong position which makes my cue infective. Interestingly enough, something that BEC said to me the other day in a conversation that had nothing to do with Trax and everything to do with Buck Branneman (get your horse soft and then ask him to stop) clicked in my mind and I realized that it just might make a difference if I took a couple of extra seconds to set him for the maneuver by getting him soft first, and then asking to give to that side before moving his shoulder over.


He tends to still want to try to stop and crab walk sideways the minute he feels that leg on his side, but I was able to just coax him forward and pretty soon he was doing it every time. I was pretty impressed with both me for figuring it out, and him for giving in and doing it.

Holy crap I think some of this stuff is starting to sink in!

We didn't do much after that, just some trail obstacles, and then I went over to one of my barrels. There was a halter that I had left behind one day and I thought that maybe I would see if we could just pick it up and take it back to the tack room with us.

We didn't even get that far. He suddenly decided he was afraid of the barrel. The same barrel that has been out there for weeks.

Okay, Trax, no worries. If you are afraid we don't have to do this right now, but now because you won't walk around the barrel we are going to have to go work again.

Back to our serp drills for another 10 minutes, and then we parked next the barrel to rest. We did this at both barrels until he was okay to stand next to them, and walk around them from either direction. Then I dismounted and threw the halter at him. Okay so I only sort of threw it at him. Really I tossed it on him, tossed it around him. Threw the lead rope around his legs, and was just generally annoying but he only flinched so we ended it there.
All in all I was pretty happy with our progress, I really hope it continues like this. I know there will be ups and downs as I continue to stretch the boundaries of his comfort zone, but I'll take days like today every chance I can get.

In other news, I decided to go out on a limb and bring in some help with Killian. He is wasting away, and I hate it. So I put an ad on a horse for sale site, asking for someone with some experience to come and ride him once or twice, or as often as they would like, a week. I had some interesting responses. One was from a 12 year old girl who lives close to me. I had to decline that one simply because I do not have time to baby sit....and judging from her pics on facebook, I am pretty darn sure she is ten times the rider I am. LOL

But I do have 2 other gals, who are interested, knowing that there is no pay in this, and they will be signing a release, and they still want to come and ride the big boy. If they are telling me the truth they both have quite a bit of experience, the right kind of experience, and understand that if at any time I don't like the way they are treating Killian, the deal is done. So I hope to meet with them, watch them ride, and once I am comfortable with how they ride my horse, I will allow them to ride him when ever they want. My goal is to get him back into shape physically and keep him tuned up mentally. If I like them a lot, I may have one even ride Sassy a little for me. But I won't throw that out until I know them very well.

One respondent was a retired man who is just looking for someone to ride no. Another gal wanted to haul him to her trainer. Um no.

I don't know if I will end up regretting this decision, but he isn't getting any exercise in his pen, Trax is taking up all of my time, Sassy takes up all of my money, and no one else in my house seems to be willing to help. Plus, I think they end up doing more harm than good. So maybe these girls won't.

I did take Sassy out for a walk today. She seemed better today than she has lately....Yay!

*update- In reference to the first paragraph- That wasn't Shirley that told me to do the hand over the eye thing, and I forgot about the popping noise. Will try that tomorrow.

* A reality just hit me. Our incident last week shook me up more than I realized.  It was the first time I have ever felt completely out of control with Trax, and in fear for my safety.  I can see that I am worried about things that I never worried about before.  In some ways that is a good thing, but I have to be careful not to let it take over. It is an even bigger motivator to get back to those basics and get moving ahead again. 


  1. fear is a great motivator .If you let it be and in the right way. You are doing it the right way in my opinion. Increased awareness and careful contemplation, but not seeking disaster. Sounds like an excellent work session,. hers hoping that even with the inevitable ups and downs you have more like today

  2. Scout responds to a hand waving at his bad eye but I know he can't see well out of it. He's lucky to have any sight there at all. What is the spot in Trax's eye?

    1. I don't know. I'll have to take a picture of it.

  3. We already talked about the other stuff, but thought the Magnesium part was interesting. I will be doing some reading on this. How well the system uptakes the nutrients we provide is of course (or should be) a consideration. All things are not equal and more often than not, effectiveness depends on providing certain things in combination with other things.

  4. I believe in giving magnesium supplements, and taking them myself. Most soil is magnesium deficient and it's difficult to get it into your diet. It's necessary for bone, nerves and sugar metabolism. I'll have to look at the kind you're using, maybe I'll have to switch. I've been feeding Remission.

  5. Interesting about the Magnesium supplement. I should probably look into supplements a little more, my guys are deprived...all stock grain (supposed to be formulated to supply nutrients and minerals needed in this area), pasture, grass hay and a mineral salt lick.

    Such a wonderful feeling when things start to come together, no? Rosie and I have also been working on the soft feel before stopping or pretty much before making any change in what we're doing. It's like saying, 'ok, listen up, get ready, we're going to do something.'

    You're going to have one hell of a horse in not to long with all the time you're putting into him.

    1. Hi Laura, there was a time when I believed my horse could be anything. I know now that is not the case. I hope that in the end he ends up being a good horse, a safe horse, and a happy horse. I hope that I have what it takes to get past his mental wall.

    2. I was referring more to the relationship and level of communication you and Trax are achieving rather than what he will be physically or mentally able to do in a show or competition. A horse who listens, tries, is happy and safe is one great horse in my opinion :)

    3. True Dat Laura! For a minute there I lost sight of what a great horse really is! Thanks!

  6. The article is interesting and I agree that any ailments or injuries the horse has, will show up as a result of the stress when they do burn out. Common sense should tell us that. Increased stress/ tension levels affect the whole body and the weaker parts will suffer. Horses and people will compensate in other areas to protect the injured areas and this too can cause other issues to surface. I've seen it time and again and we've probably all done it ourselves at some point too.

    While Trax has had a few episodes of epic tantrums or meltdown moments, I don't think he is burned out just yet. If he were? It would be a daily thing, not just here and there. I get the feeling he would be a rank, ornery, miserable S.O.B. to deal with too if that were the case. Sure he may be on the verge, but there is still hope in his case. You just need the proper keys to unlock his mind. Once you are in there, you'll both be good to go.

    While I can offer suggestions, as we all have done in the comments on the posts, it is a journey for you and Trax to discover what will be the trigger points, what will be the A-HA! moments and when the revelations will come. We don't learn much from the 'easy' ones and certain horses are a part of our life to teach us certain things. I see Trax teaching you not to doubt yourself, not to let yourself be a doormat- (i.e. not to continually excuse his behavior because of his past) and that you DO know a lot of useful things and how and when to utilize them. You just slip now and then, forgetting it for a while and then someone points it out and you think WELL DUH! much like the rest of us have done at one time or another. I have BEEN there! lol He still has much to teach you grasshopper. We are students of the horse.

    1. CNJ, he was burned out when I got him. His major meltdown happened over a year before he reached me. Luckily My friend gave him a year of pasture time to come back from that, without even realizing what he was doing. You would have had to known Trax 2 years ago for this to be as completely obvious to you as it is to me. The thing that I found to be most interesting about that article is when it talked about how, although they seem fine most of the time, they are just inches away from fight or flight mode at all times. That is exactly how he is. He is hair triggered right now, and even more so since last week. He has lost trust in me (and me him) and suddenly what used to warrant a simple spook, now illicits the freight train mode. Its okay though, we will get there again. :-)

  7. I think you are doing a darn good job of rehabilitating your horse- it is a learning journey for both of you, and you sure do have a lot of support even if it's just from your blogger buddies.
    Sometimes something I have read or heard a while ago seems to click at a certain moment, it's a good reason to read as much as you can, go to clinics even if just to audit, and talk horses to anyone willing- you never know when some little gem of wisdom will make all the difference.