Back to the beginning!?

This 8 year old, 15.3hh registered Appaloosa gelding is in rehabilitation as he gains weight lost due to EPSM. He will be started under saddle and available for adoption.

Back to the beginning!?

Postby Juliane on Tue Aug 28, 2007 2:27 pm

On Sunday afternoon, Ally came over to help me with incorporating the 'forward' movement with Shadow, via ground driving by his side. She spent about an hour teaching him cues by applying pressure where a rider's calf would be. She also spent some time desensitizing him to the rope on his neck, chest and legs, to hopefully help with his goosey-ness with the longer split reins. He was very quiet and calm as she worked with him. It also didn't take Shadow long to learn how to speed up his walk and even trot in hand, based on her applied pressure as she walked by his side. Shadow is a very sensitive horse and was very quick to accept and understand what Ally was trying to teach him.

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When she was done, I felt like the next step was to mount up and ride him around, seeing if the new cues he learned on the ground were understood in the saddle. However, I had this pit in my stomach. I was shaky and nervous and didn't feel like I was in a good place to get on him. I don't know why I was nervous - all of my experiences with Shadow have been great, and he had just interacted with Ally very well. Perhaps it was the audience of 3 people standing on the sidelines watching?! In any case, Rex commented that I should just get on, which caused me to snap at him and tell him if he wanted to get on, he could, but that I wasn't able to at that time.

So, Rex went in and worked with Shadow for a bit. He free lunged him, which turned into Shadow following Rex at liberty. Rex and Shadow seemed like they were working well together, so after fixing the stirrups to the right length, Rex mounted up. However, the minute Rex swung his leg over and sat down in the saddle, Shadow exploded. This was not the same kind of reaction he had when Susan was riding him on Friday morning. This was a full out, huge bronco explosion and Rex went flying :( Unfortunately, Rex also severely dislocated his elbow and we then spent the next 4 hours in the ER. Rex's arm is now in a sling/splint and he is awaiting an appointment with an orthopedic surgeon to see what needs to be done. There doesn't seem to be any broken bones, but there is some major muscle damage and Rex cannot move his arm without serious pain. :(

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While Rex and I were at the hospital, Susan and Ally worked a bit with Shadow. My main concern was just turning him loose after an incident like that. I am not sure exactly what they did, but when they were done, they did notice that Shadow's back seemed to be painful when touched. They both said that there was some heat associated with the sore areas. Susan recommended that he have at least a week off to heal his back.

When we got home from the ER late Sunday evening, I went out to bring Shadow in for his high fat grain diet he gets at night. He was his usual happy-go-lucky self. He wasn't nervous or on edge. Before giving him his grain, I rubbed his back, which did seem a bit sore. I did not feel any heat, so I continued rubbing the sore area the way Dr. Hannah Evergreen taught me for Dandy's back, until he no longer reacted to my deep touch.

Yesterday, I felt like I had to do something with Shadow. I didn't know what, and wasn't sure riding was the right thing, but I did feel that a week off wasn't the answer. So, I went out last night as the sun was going down to work with him. I palp'd his back and he was not nearly as responsive as he was the time before. There was certainly no heat anywhere in his back. So, after brushing him down, I took him up to the barn and saddled him up.

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We went back down to the round pen and worked on mounting exercises. I did not swing my leg up and over, but did stand up in the saddle and bounced around much like I did in the beginning. Shadow was fine with me doing this and I didn't once feel him tense up or be ready to buck.

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However, it did become clear to me almost right away, one of the major holes in his training. One of the first things we ran into when riding (and ground driving) Shadow, was his immediate defensiveness with his mouth. This happened also when ground driving him from behind in a rope halter, so I know that it is not completely bit related. (I also just bought him a new bit - it's a full cheek snaffle with the three-piece mouthpiece for a possible lower pallet.) When Ally was helping me with ground driving, we discussed his reactions to the pressure on his nose and decided not to reprimand him for it, figuring he'd grow out of it.

However, that immediate bracing against the pressure has transferred into the saddle. He is not soft and supple when pressure is applied to the reins. Instead, he jerks the reins out of your hands as his nose goes down and as far out as he can.

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So, I immediately felt like this was what we needed to work on. Why should I get on a horse if I do not have control of his head? I definitely do not have control of Shadow's head when I am on his back. Susan's idea of pushing him forward through his 'bracing' was a good idea, if you are moving forward. But if you are just standing still, you should be able to apply the slightest bit of pressure to the reins and have the horse immediately give, right?

Isn't that also the idea of a one-rein stop? If the horse starts to get out of control, you should be able to pull their head up and around, while moving their hindquarters around, which immediately puts on the brakes, whether the horse is running away or bucking. However, if the horse's first thought is to brace against rein pressure, will you be able to do a one rein stop? I don't think I am stronger than Shadow, so this worries me.

So, I spent over an hour both on the ground and in the saddle (well, partially in the saddle), asking Shadow to give to the pressure of the bit. He's fairly stubborn, so it took a bit before he got it, but he did start to improve. I am going to work with him in this manner daily. I will not be getting back on until I feel like I am able to sit on his back and pull his nose around to either side. Right now, that is not necessarily the case.

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When I was done working with Shadow, I did spend some time massaging and rubbing his back - though he didn't really seem that sore. I sure wish I could read his mind, or have someone tell me exactly what steps I need to take to move forward successfully! :P

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I am, however, very eager to attend the Jon Ensign Colt Starting Clinic this Friday through Monday with Ace, to learn exactly what holes I have missed in Shadow's training!! If anyone has any thoughts on moving forward with Shadow, please let me know!
Feel the Spirit, Keep on Riding!
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Postby Altanera on Tue Aug 28, 2007 6:09 pm

Has he had his teeth done? Only thing I can think of for his bit issues. Does he have bit seats on his teeth? They might really help him but as far as I know can not be done by just hand floating.

Maybe he has had bad experinces with men and so thats why Rex ellicited that response from him. I have known lots of horses that hated men with a passion. Would attack men if they came into his stall and reach out and try to take a chunk out of them if they walked by, but he was a puppy dog with women. Just a thought maybe something bad happen with a man when one was on his back.
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Postby Janine on Tue Aug 28, 2007 8:22 pm

My mare was also very bracey and resistant to having her head controlled. My trainer thought it was due to bad starting where she was not given proper releases. Perhaps Shadow has had his head yanked around hard in the past.
We worked on small giving to pressure and releasing, over and over. If she did not give right away, the pressure would maintain and even increase - but SHE was the one applying it - until she finally gave. Then next time I asked, I would start as soft as could be. We are not done yet, by any means, but she is much better. Sometimes when riding and she is antsy with her head, I will just set my hands and let her find the soft place to be. Harder to do while ground riding. But I totally know the feeling of not having control of their head, and I don't want to be on a horse in that instance, either. Good luck!
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Postby cutiepiepmu on Tue Aug 28, 2007 10:20 pm

That is horrible for Rex. I do hope he will be ok and hta the heals quickly. It does appear that Shadow may need more ground time.

take care,
Sara
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Postby Juliane on Tue Aug 28, 2007 10:23 pm

Shadow did just have his teeth floated in June. I am not sure if he had bit seats put in, but I would assume so since it was planned for him to go into training. I also don't think it's a teeth issue, since he does the same in a halter as well.

I worked with Shadow again this afternoon, starting off with ponying him in the round pen. I just worked on as many of the exercises as I could while I was on my mare, Dandy. Part of me wanted to remind him of the things we could do while riding.

After about 20 minutes of ponying, I got off Dandy and worked with Shadow on the ground. I went over the same stuff I did yesterday and added in a new goal - the one rein stop. When I first started working with him on the ground and picked up the reins while standing at his side, he immediately started nosing out. This has been tough for me to deal with - because I am not strong enough to hold a strong pressure for him to learn to give to it. So when he starts jerking and tossing his head, I end up 'gruffing' at him, and then add a short, sharp jerk of the reins. This immediately stops him. I really hated to do that, as I want him to be soft in the mouth, however, the more I try to ask him to give when he's tossing his head, the more it turns into a tug of war.

Today, I only had to jerk on the reins once or twice before he immediately came back to the soft and supple boy he was last night when I ended our session. I was very impressed. I also did a few mounting up exercises, and asked for the same softness and giving while standing in the stirrups. He was great!

Then, before ending our session, I walked by his side and ground drove him, then asked him to give to the bit as I brought his head around to my waist, while at the same time, asking him to move his hindquarters. I was basically going through what I would do if I were on his back and needed him to do a one-rein stop. The first few times kind of freaked him out, having so much pressure in two places (mouth and hindquarters), but after a couple tries, he was much better. I look forward to seeing how he will be tomorrow.

I am not sure if I will get on and ride him before my clinic this weekend. The morbid part of me wants to make sure I don't get hurt BEFORE the clinic - I really don't want to miss it! LOL The other part of me is sure I will have learned alot through the 4 day clinic, and would like to come home each night and 'review' what I've learned with Shadow. We'll see how it goes though!

So far, I am very happy with Shadow's progress with the ground work we've been doing! Oh, and Shadow's back was NOT sensitive at all today! Yay!!!

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Postby Altanera on Tue Aug 28, 2007 10:26 pm

Maybe he is just resisting the bit. Maybe try a noseband so he keeps his mouth shut and you can keep control of him.
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Postby ponygril68 on Wed Aug 29, 2007 6:48 am

HOW IS REX?
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Postby Juliane on Wed Aug 29, 2007 8:31 am

Rex is doing much better. He has an appointment tomorrow with an orthopedic surgeon. Hopefully he can get a more accurate diagnosis of what all is wrong with his arm. It's definitely still very painful for him.
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Postby Altanera on Wed Aug 29, 2007 8:34 am

As I layed awake not being able to sleep I was thinking about Shadow. Maybe try a rubber or happy mouth bit. He may just be ultra sensitive and metal is too harsh. Just another thought.
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Postby Juliane on Wed Aug 29, 2007 8:40 am

Hmm... that is the second time a rubber bit has been suggested. I really think he's doing much, much better with this new full cheek french link training snaffle, but will pick up a rubber bit tomorrow.

Should I get a straight bar, a two-piece snaffle mouthpiece, or another french link mouthpiece for the rubber bit?
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Postby Altanera on Wed Aug 29, 2007 8:48 am

hmm straight bar or slightly curved might be good if it is a pallate issue and rubber bits tend to be a bit thicker but most horses do not seem to mind tho.

My ultrasensitive TB gelding has finally decided that he loves this bit:
http://www.doversaddlery.com/herm-spren ... 6/cn/1582/

After years of trying to figure out what bit he really liked thats the one which I why I am suggesting straight bar.

My horses bad boy bit is this one or one like it:
http://www.doversaddlery.com/herm-spren ... 1/cn/1582/

:lol:

He is such a wimp, but I like being about to jump a horse around a solid 3'9" jumper course in just a mild snaffle.
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Postby cat_67 on Wed Aug 29, 2007 9:26 am

Sorry to hear about Rex's accident! Hope he makes a swift recovery.

Does he brace when ridden in a halter or sidepull also, or is it just with metal in his mouth? That could help you isolate the cause.
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Postby maefly on Wed Aug 29, 2007 4:56 pm

Is he good at letting you look at his teeth? Does he open his mouth as soon as you lift up his lips? I was told to just barely lift the lips on one side and if it looked like the tongue was squishing out like there isn't enough room in his mouth then the horse has a low pallet. If it is a low pallet a happy mouth bit is not the way to go. If he's just got a sensitive mouth it should be fine though. I read a really good article in the western horseman a few months ago about bits. It explained a lot about the different types of joints, ports, shanks, even the curve of the bit itself. I'll have to see if I can figure out which month it was. You might want to experiment with different curves in the bit. Maybe he'll like something more straight, or maybe something more curved. The article really helped explain the different types of pressure applied and where while being used. You might also try adjusting the bit tighter and looser. Shadow might not like the bit being in one certain spot of his mouth. If it's tightened or loosened it could help. The thing I liked best about the article was that they said that just one bit might not work on your horse for it's entire life. As their training level increases and as they age what works best for them might change.

I hope you find a good bit for Shadow. It's a big trial, but when you've got it right it'll be so worth it. Give him time to adjust to the new bits too. The bracing is a learned behavior now, once the cause of the original bracing is solved he'll still need to unlearn it. My Lilly will probably always be a bit of a head tosser, but at least now we know it's not from the bit. She usually only does it when she's upset, throwing a hissy fit, or thinking really really hard.
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