Monday, May 14, 2012

Know your normal- A colic story

My gelding started to colic Friday afternoon. My first indication that something was wrong was the fact that he was laying down in a odd place (not the normal napping spot). So I called out and he got himself up but immediately started wanting to go down again. This was all the information I needed to spring into colic mode and start treatment. Up catching him I noticed his breathing was a bit labored and he was starting to sweat. When I had called him he did poop while up which allowed me to feel comfortable about giving him some Banamine. After the shot we started walking and within 20 minutes Charlie was feeling much better, and within the hour he was in the stall normal once again happily munching hay. My theory to the actual cause of our colic episode is that with all the rain we had last week a dormant plant/seed started growing in the pasture and Charlie ate it and as a result got a tummy ache.

Now the title of this post is know your normal. Given that Charlie was a good ways out in the pasture if I had not taken notice of his odd napping/lying down location (which made me investigate further) there is a good chance he could have suffered for several hours or even through the night before getting treatment. If he had not gotten early treatment (he was absolutely normal when I saw him out 3 hours earlier) there is a much greater chance that we would have had to go to the vet (and I was ready to do so if he had not shown such improvement early on) or worse he could have twisted his gut and required major surgery.

The moral of the story. Horses are creatures of habit, any changes in their behavior could mean there is something very wrong. While horses can not verbally tell us where it hurts, by knowing your horse's normal everyday behavior and habits you will be better able to tell when something is not right.     

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Calm after the storm

Calm after the storm

Just last week I rode through a hell of a storm. My horse in training reared sky high 3 times in a row over a simple back up request while I finishing up my ride out in open pasture, with a bum right ankle, and home alone (Why was I riding at the time you may ask, because I'm a horse trainer I get paid to ride no matter what is going on in my own life). All I could think as she was going up was, “Aw hell, now I have to finish this.” So I did finish it, I did, and she had to trot herself into a tizzy for rearing up, and go back to the crazy trot circles every time she tried to rear again. 15 minutes later she backed up nicely when asked and I slide off. I will admit to being a little petty and rewarding her with only a nice pat and the Babe the movie quote, “That'll do, Pig, that'll do.”, only because I was in serious pain with my ankle from her antics. Even in pain, even after a awful ride by anyone's standards I was happy because I had successfully ridden through the storm once again.

What is the storm? For me I have experienced a storm on every horse I have ridden regularly (Of course I am a trainer so I ride like one, and I expect my horses to do reasonable things at reasonable levels in their training career, and I am never just a passenger), it usually occurs 2-3 weeks into training after quite a bit of sloppy resistance on be half of the horse who usually has never done anything in its life beyond being haltered and brushed. So when I step in and expect attention, energy, and effort for the first time ever their lives they rightfully suffer a little culture shock and resentment. So we plug along, riding because we have to until the horse suddenly says, “Enough is enough, I liked my life before, and I don't like backing up, trotting circles, being caught, etc, so I'm not going to it any more, so make me, or leave me alone!” This is the storm, your horse has decided to challenge you, and you only have two options; win, or back down.

Win or back down. You can only do one, and the one that you choose will have great consequences in your horse life. If you choose to win you will get to experience the thrill of the calm after the storm, or if you  choose to back down your horse will only become more and more resistant. I always have chosen to ride through the storm (and believe me I have been in some spectacular storms) because I know that on the other side of it we will have an understanding, I will have a better horse, and in many cases the beginning of a true partnership. Let's just say that when your horse has dished out a 150% and you are still willing and ready to ride you finish the ride with a ton of “pasture cred” to say the least.

In my horse life after every storm I have always achieved a major break through. So much to the fact that I welcome storms because I know that they are the beginning a much better chapter in my riding life. I know that after a rough ride, 99% of the time I will have a good stretch of clear sailing up ahead. My horse in training has once again been another perfect example of what riding through the storm can get you, she was 100% better on the next ride and every ride since all because I was willing to call her buff and say, “Yes you can, and yes, you will.”

Are you willing to ride through the storm? If so I will meet you on the other side, which feels a lot like heaven.

Please note that all horses were in perfect health and care at the time of all bad behavior, and all had been evaluated for reasonable pain causes for bad behavior prior to being put into training.