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Questions after attending clinic
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Redmare
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 Posted: Thu Aug 10th, 2017 07:53 pm
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Hello Dr. Deb, I'm writing back with a rather different sort of reply than I initially thought I would be.

Shortly after your last reply, the owner of this gelding fell off him. I wasn't there to witness it, I just heard her account of it afterward. She said she asked the horse to trot, and he trotted calmly and rhythmically down the long side of the arena but tripped at the end. She said he then sped up and after a couple strides took up into a canter, at which point she fell off (she has never cantered on a horse. She rarely does more than walk).

What I think actually happened is the horse tripped, sped up as any horse will to regain his balance (and especially as this horse tends to do) and the owner got pitched forward. When she pitched forward, her lower leg came back/she gripped on with her leg and the horse interpreted that as a request for canter.

This horse certainly knows the difference between when I get in the saddle and when his owner rides. He is extremely aware of her and I've often witnessed him "come from the other side" to help her out (often times this means *not* doing something until she asks correctly, especially when that something is asked in a way that may other horses would panic about), or act in a way that tells me he understands that she is not as able-bodied a rider and thus needs more care. But with all the work I have been doing with him to make him more understanding of the leg, I'm wondering if I'm actually doing more harm than good in educating him, knowing that as long as his owner has him, she will rarely do more than groom, pet and get on and walk.

Since she fell off, the gelding has been more hasty in his canter transitions and his upward transitions in general. I have no doubt that the rider coming off can be traumatizing for a horse. He's gone back to being more stuffed up and when he does go, it's more explosive and anxious than previously. I use the term "explosive" loosely: he does not truly explode, but he certainly is anxious about the increase in energy and I feel it must be related to experiencing his owner come off.

How would you advise I proceed? He's been slowly getting better, but I do not want to make this horse unsafe for his person or confuse the poor gelding.

Last edited on Thu Aug 10th, 2017 07:57 pm by Redmare

DrDeb
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 Posted: Thu Nov 9th, 2017 06:35 am
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HI, Redmare: I'm very sorry to not have gotten back to you on this thread for quite some time -- just too many trips out of state and too many classes to teach on my part, so that this thread kind of dropped out of my consciousness. Don't interpret my slowness please as lack of interest in your replies or queries, which are always good contributions.

I think your analysis of both the gelding and his rider is right on: the horse is now a little anxious, while the rider continues to be incompetent. Luckily for both of them, you are part of the picture -- otherwise, the incompetent rider would steadily drive the horse down the road to the horse's doom. Your report is a very clear description of what happens to a lot of horses whose owners are afraid to step up to the plate and just "go for a ride" -- the horse gets all the blame, he tries his best but he becomes more and more unsure and anxious, and it finally ends with the horse getting a "reputation" for unreliability or even dangerous propensities.

Your job, then, is to de-fuse this. Try to be the one who rides this horse the most. If you can't put skills on the rider, then I'd lie through my teeth if that's the only treatment that will work -- my bet is that if you "feed" her a reason why she shouldn't ride, even a very spurious excuse will do and she'll take that bait like a big bass gulping down a fat fly, because in fact she's already looking for a reason to be a nurse instead of a rider.

The next step is to get her weaned off the horse altogether so that she begins thinking about selling him. I wouldn't start this phase until you have identified a buyer. If you can, and you have access to him, get her husband working on this with you, because almost certainly he's the sugardaddy that's paying the board bill, and he's probably already (long since) been saying to her, "honey, if you rarely or never actually ride....why do you want to go on keeping a horse?" He'd probably love it if he didn't have to pay for it.

When you've got somebody lined up, maybe one of your other students, who would be a good rider and good caretaker for this horse, then you and/or the husband can work on the owner to let him go. Another way to make this go smoothly in the direction  you want it to go, is to also line up another horse for the current owner. The horse you line up for her needs to be one of two kinds: either a very small pony, too small for her to ever even consider riding, but something she can pet and coo and groom all the hair off of, to her heart's content; or else, he needs to be a rideable horse but 17+ years old, kind, patient, sleepy, and broke silly -- i.e., an old schoolie. If he's in need of special shoes and/or other treatments, probably even better.

In short -- you and I both know this type of owner, who would really rather be a nurse to her horse than actually go for a real ride. I always say, there oughtta be a requirement that people have a license before they can own an animal, but the way reality is, it's money as talks, so the idea here is to phenegle her and fuddle her and play on her "mommy" desires and her ego, so that she'll give her pretty good gelding up to someone who can be a true friend to him rather than use him as the lay object onto which she can project her fantasies and her fears. Cheers -- Dr. Deb

Redmare
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 Posted: Thu Nov 9th, 2017 05:53 pm
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Hi Dr. Deb, thanks very much for your reply, and no worries on its lateness...I figured you were quite busy.

To this owner's credit, she has made some progress with this horse, and had some nice rides on him, albeit only at the walk. My assessment is that due to her age and physical limitations, she will probably never do more than walk. If she wanted to trot or ride at any appreciably higher gaits, she'd need a horse with a naturally much slower rhythm than this gelding to make up for her physical difficulties following the horse. She's also need, as you said, an older, very broke schoolie.

I actually would be quite happy to take this horse, and his owner and I have chatted about this given her complex medical history + age and potential for sudden changes in her ability to ride or care for him. It wouldn't be for at least another year or so, until I have our small farm up and running. Until then, I greatly appreciate the guidance you offered; at this point, she's really only riding under my supervision and I work with the horse far more often than she does.

Darling lil
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 Posted: Sun Nov 12th, 2017 11:36 am
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Excellent info. A friend and I were practicing canter departures last evening in a beautiful harvested soybean field. I'm going to try this myself.


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