Sunday, March 18, 2012

No Good News--Now What?

 Today's session of the KVTR clinic started off well enough--just dang cold (27*).  There were 14 horse and rider teams, but the arena was large enough to accommodate us for the ground work.  (the clinician split us in two groups for the afternoon ridden work.)
We started with several different back-ups.
 Maddie wasn't crazy about this one, but she caught on quickly, so all I had to do was step towards her with my hands spread out and she would back away from me. 
 I have to admit, the girls are allowed to get into my space way too often.  Maddie learned about "bubble space" pretty easily.
 She was a little stiffer with the hand on the nose method, but, again, figured out what I wanted right away.
We did a bunch of leading work, with the horse's neck even with us, and driving them forward with our off hand.  Though the clinician asked everyone to bring a "training stick"  (a la NH), I was hesitant, 'cause Maddie is so reactive, and has never responded well to any kind of pressure from my dressage whip.  Barb quickly recognized this in Maddie's wide eyed look, and told me to chuck the stick and just use the end of my lead.  There was a little bit of over-reaction, but, again, Maddie figured it out quickly and we did a bunch of really nice "crazy walking" (stops and starts and turns on both forehand and hindquarters).
As we were wrapping things up, I asked Barb what she thought about how touchy Maddie is across her topline--she has been really tight and doesn't like me palpating it at all.  The clinician agreed it might be good to get an equine chiropractor to look at it and get some advice.  This brief interaction was to come back up later.

With that, we broke for lunch, and then saddled up for the afternoon.
Maddie and I were in the second group of riders, so when she gigged a bit after I mounted, I chalked it up to having nearly two hours of standing around since we had done our groundwork warm-up.  Because the clinician was having us doing all sorts of stretches and pelvic adjustments, she had us working with side-walkers to start.
The couple of times that Maddie started to rush, Gary just circled her, and she settled again.  Both of us were pretty relaxed, but alert.
Then, all hell broke loose!
Near as we can figure, just as I was raising an arm to stretch, Gary started to circle Maddie to the left.  I think maybe she spotted my hand in the air above her--and she's never much liked things above her.
She freaked, and did her skitter off to the side maneuver.  Then, I think she got further flustered by the confusion of having two of us to listen to.  She totally lost it.
 It was exactly what had happened last summer, that I have been trying to blame on the string cinch I had on her at the time, to accommodate for the Tucker's dropped rigging.
As it was, I think having Gary on the end of her line saved my bacon.  If he hadn't gotten her straightened out and stopped, I think she would have careened on around the arena, most likely losing me in the process. 
Because I didn't have to worry about getting her stopped, I just grabbed the saddle horn and some mane, and rode it out.  It wasn't pretty, but I stayed with her 'til she stopped.
The clinician happened to be just to one side of us when all this happened, and she slowly stepped up, taking the lead from Gary, and coaching both Maddie and I to "Breathe!"
Once she was at Maddie's head, she told me to dismount.  She wanted me off as quickly as possible, but knowing that Maddie has sometimes done this same sort of thing for an unanticipated change in position, I did a little shifting to let her know I was dismounting.  Then she stood well while I jumped down.
The clinician related our earlier discussion about Maddie's back to the group, and said we were done.  Although I wasn't sure I wanted Maddie's lesson to be "If you freak out, you get to stop working." I had to agree--If she was hurting (rather than being naughty) we needed to stop.
 I already have an appointment for her teeth to be checked, this next Thursday, so I'll call tomorrow and let them know that I also want Dr. Mark to check her back.

I got about halfway out of the barn aisle leading from the arena before I started to shake.  I got to the truck before I started to sob.  (Even as I write this, I am fighting back tears.)
I stripped Maddie's tack, threw her blanket on her and loaded her up.  I just wanted to get out of there.  I sat in the truck and cried some more.  I was starting to write Pat a note, asking her to pick up my gear from inside the arena, when the group finished up inside and started filing out into the parking area.
I didn't want to talk to anyone, but several folks came over to tell me how scary it looked, and what an amazing seat I had.  This wasn't what I wanted to hear.  It wasn't what had me upset.
The one thing that keeps going through my mind is this:
What am I going to do about Maddie?


  1. Eeeeekk that's so scary, ES. I wish I had something amazing to say right now, but all you get tonight is :hugs:.

  2. My one year of experience working in a stable gave me extraordinary happiness and devastating heartache. Horses are so mighty and so fragile, almost in the same breath. At least, that was my perception. There's nothing to do until Maddie's back has been checked out, and your mention of a raised arm makes me wonder if you might want to have her eyes looked at as well. (One horse that I rode used to "lose it" for mysterious reasons that turned out to be caused by a visual problem.) But, most of all, just want to let you know I am thinking of you, hoping for the best outcome for you and Maddie, and sending virtual hugs and support.

  3. Very scary - glad you're OK. I agree that you should have her checked out physcially first, and checking the eyes is also a good idea. Would you consider sending her out to a trainer for a while, for evaluation and some remedial work? There is a very good trainer that I know personally, who is in WA state. She is a student of Mark Rashid's, and her name is Kyya Grant. Her contact info is listed on Mark's website under Community.

    Will be thinking of you.

  4. I'm so sorry this happened to you and to Maddie, and I feel your heartache and your concern. No decisions need to be made until her health is checked out - and I agree with Carol about having the eyes checked too, as I have seen similar inexplicable behaviour in dogs who turned out to have visual problems.
    Breathe easy, breathe deeply. The answer will come to you in time. Hugs.

  5. I believe that all animals will talk to you, and given the chance and listening carefully, it is like solving a puzzle. But once you figure it out, you will be amazed and totally understand everything Maddie tried to tell you. Trying to solve the puzzle is the hardest and most frustrating part, and is also heart breaking too. I will keep you in my prayers and pray that a solution comes to you. I have walked in your boots, and it is very hard.

  6. I agree that you don't need to do anything until the back and eyes have been checked. Once you have information from that then you can think about the next step.

    It sounds like the whole incident was really scary and would have me sobbing as well. I wish I had something other than empathy to offer.