My last post in October was when Eli hurt himself. He somehow lacerated his knee in his stall over night. You can scroll down if you want to check it out.
It took exactly 7 weeks (literally, he busted it on a Saturday and he got cleared from our vet on a Saturday) for him to heal up, I followed the plan to the letter… as well as adding 3 x’s weekly manga wave treatments from our in house practitioner, Stephanie. While he was on stall rest, since he was stuck in a stack wrap, he was allowed twice daily hand walks as long as he could keep his hamster on the wheel. We got a lot of help from Uncle Ace… but the dude was MISERABLE on stall rest.
The Dude got hella nasty being stuck in his stall. To the point where he was charging people and left a pretty nasty bite mark on one of the guys cleaning stalls. I think the entire barn was traumatized. He was rearing a striking while I was hand walking him, even fairly heavily sedated. It was a nightmare for everybody involved and I was seriously upset by the huge shift in his behavior. He’s always been testy and grumpy (like his mother) but he’s never been outright mean.
When we was cleared to start back to work, what confidence I’d gained in him was gone and I was totally terrified. To which he decided that he needed to either A) slam on the breaks and absolutely refuse to move or B) rear. I had a pro helping me from the ground (who Eli even decided to strike out at), but was totally frozen because he had done such a 180.
I decided it was time to reach out to a local sport psychologist (and fellow horsewoman and eventer) to figure out how to get my brain to function properly to get the horse going. It was seriously probably the best choice that I’ve made in my entire career. Andrea was super honest and told me that the things that I was feeling were normal, and I wasn’t actually crazy. I’ve always been a more cautious rider, but my horses have benefitted from it since I don’t push them too far. This was to the point where I wasn’t doing ANYTHING, and she was quick to tell me that sometimes that’s just how our brain’s function. My horse had turned into a different creature while on stall rest, and it wasn’t a good creature at all. It was a dangerous creature and my already cautious brain was saying “no ‘effing way, lady. You gon’ die.” Which was entirely unhelpful because then it proceeded to shut down… not the greatest way to ride a 1200 lb creature who is dealing with his own baggage.
While I was getting my brain straight, one of my coworkers suggested that I reach out to the local cowboy, Billy Smith, to help get Eli’s brain straight as well. He showed up the same week that I reached out and immediately clued into the fact that Eli was completely shut down as well.
We’re the dream team, I tell you.
He spent three hours with us, showing me a ton of ground work that I could do with him to help get him confident and focused. He was immediately aware of the fact that Eli holds all of his stress (and mine probably) in his TMJ and his go forward button was stuck there… which makes sense. Even in the pasture while he’s playing, he’s not super stretchy, his conformation just doesn’t lend to it with the way that his neck comes straight up out of his shoulders and he loves to gallop around like a swan.
He suggested that we have a natural balance vet out to check his teeth and see if we can get him loose through that TMJ area.
We got that done, and while she didn’t see a huge issue, she agreed that he’s super tight.
We then spent a few weeks working on the ground work that Billy showed me, and his attitude drastically started changing in the stall… to the point where I could do full blanket changes while he was eating, without anything on his head. He went in and out politely and started running over the gate to meet me at the end of the day which to me where all huge wins. I decided that it was time to hop back on and see where we were at, since both of our mindsets seemed a lot more confident.
Our first ride was pretty pathetic, with Zach watching from the ground… I got on, the Dude walked… I put my leg on, the Dude slammed on the breaks, whipped his head around, and bit my leg as hard as he could. I got off and immediately did some ground work. Got back on. The same thing happened. More ground work. Back on I went and he managed to trot two laps around the ring and I gave him lots of pats, hopped off, and put him away.
At this point, the general consensus that Eli is just so stuck… he can’t figure out how to go forward. He’s like a young horse that is still putting the idea of leg together… so we’re going to treat him as such. Right now I spin him around on the lunge line to remind him that cluck means go and then hop on a trot him around on the buckle for 10 or 15 minutes…give him lots of pats and good boys, and then he’s all done. When we can make it a full 15 minutes without slamming on the breaks when I apply leg, we’ll increase the time… but for now, we’re just plunking with no pressure, agenda, or goals other than to get him around.
To have to go all the way back to the beginning is so frustrating, but everything happens for a reason, so I’m just rolling with it. I’m a very much “I want it and I want it now” kind of person so this will probably be good for me as well. I’m excited to start taking some lessons over at Andrea’s so I can work on myself and get back over fences again before he needs me to help him with that.
So here we are, 4 months later… back to square one but honestly way more motivated and confident than we were before he got hurt. They weren’t kidding though when they said it takes a village… because it’s certainly taking one to get us rolling!