Saturday, May 12, 2018
I recently heard a song that suggested though I may feel like my world is falling apart, really it’s falling into place.
I love that thought.
I’ve had some nagging questions that have been beginning to feed doubt into my world.
The main concern in my horse world at least – circle around hooves and soundness. Khaleesi has been barefoot for almost a year now and I see great improvement in her feet.
Since switching to Scoot Boots I finally have a boot that is staying on around 90% and win the award for me as easy to use and durable. ScootBoots also offers fantastic barefoot information online including good Q&A forums that have helped me along the way.
So why does it seem I’m hitting roadblocks?
Subtly I’ve been getting this nagging feeling something isn’t quite right. It’s shown up in the shadows – one ride in late winter around the property where she’d feel a little off but would clear up if I rode her through.
The lameness pull – granted I lost a boot on a seriously bad part of trail… But then why did the treatment vet say her hooves were not only not sensitive- but also looked in great shape and healthy….. at the time I accepted the minor tendon sensitivity… but… something is fishy.
Then there was a recent ride where when I tried to get her trotting the ‘lameness’ feeling would show up and then disappear. Once we hooked up with friends it seemed to go away and she felt sound and even the rest of the day.
What do I do?
It’s the nagging doubt that makes it tricky in deciding which approach to take:
If she has a very minor injury then I need to back off, give her rest and get her to 100% health…
but there’s also the possibility I need to be clear about moving down the trail and my expectation isn’t to relax and bop along at a wandering pace. If this is going on then I need to demand clearly that she get going and move at the pace I set regardless if it’s faster or slower than what she has in mind (without being unsafe).
What if I’ve now trained in this odd broken gait by worrying about it and allowing her to go back to a comfortable walk when I feel it. It’s certainly possible that I can create a cycle where I ask to go… she ‘stumbles’ and pops off in her front… I say ‘never mind it’s ok- you can walk. Maybe she’s learned if she answers my request to move out with a misstep I’ll just stop asking.
Plus I’m more likely to err on the side of caution and not cause long term damage.
The nagging continued to plague me. Finally I had one entire day available with no other commitments. So I graciously bowed out of friends offers to ride and celebrated a day to ride solo. Just me and my favorite mare.
I even told my husband I just didn’t know when I’d be back but assumed it would be by dark.
It was incredibly freeing and I realized how much I needed that time when the burden of a time constraint was absent.
I now had at least 6 hours with my horse and chose a trail with lots of ‘boring’ miles on a dirt road where I was able to focus on she and me more closely – asking her for transitions in and out of gaites, change speeds within the gaites, and to switch sides of the road laterally.
That funny broken up feeling came back from time to time and alone in the woods I continued to chew on it and turn it around for examination.
First- as much as it wasn’t ‘right’ still it didn’t feel like she was lame- that feels like falling down. This feels like popping up higher in the front. It is most often on the left front but she did the same thing on the right as well. It was always going from a walk into a trot.
I could push her through it and eventually she’d trot even. She didn’t appear to hold onto any lameness.
If it isn’t lameness then what?
Was it my riding? Was she telling me I’m falling forward? And I stiff somewhere?
I experimented for a while with my riding and position and then it came to me like a bolt of lightening and I felt like an idiot that it took so long!
She was asking about gaiting again!
Considering she’s 3/4 gaited breeds and 1/4 Arab, she has the genetics in there to smooth gait physically. It’s likely I could focus on getting her to gait and pushed her more in that direction, but I’d decided that her trot was just fine and I wouldn’t do things that would feel like force to her in order to create a smooth gait if she wasn’t naturally offering it.
However if she has that gear I’d love to help her develop it. But at the moment I wait until she brings it up.
Once I figured it out I began to help her when she popped her front up. That was my cue – when she started feeling ‘off’ she was really trying to break out of a hard trot and into something ambling or racking – not exactly sure what it will be.
I would sit slightly back and hold steady with my reins and she’d get a few steps of something smooth and then pop back out and trot.
Eventually she seemed to have her curiosity filled and she stopped bringing it up for the day. We trotted and cantered happily the last few miles back to the trailer.
My understanding is that gaiting (especially without force or unnatural aids) can be tiring as the horse begins to use their muscles differently.
She did bring this conversation up late last summer. There were times when she broke into a lovely ambling gait of some sort and then she just stopped asking through the winter.
Now I think her muscling and topline is stronger that she’s starting to ask about it again and that’s the popping up movement.
She’s not lame.
I’m not completely certain she wasn’t lame at No Frills but I have a suspicion she may not have been. When a horse tries to start learning to gait I’ve heard it feels a lot like the horse is ‘falling apart’ underneath you.
She’s learning a little more about who she is.
I would love it if she decides to continue to develop this new gear.
Maybe this is a good reminder that sometimes when things seem like they are falling apart… they just might be falling into place!