Monday, June 30, 2008

Third Gear

Yes, this was how I spent part of my time with My Boy last Friday. I told my sister that one of these times while I was hand grazing my horse, I was going to sit out and read a book. But it was easier said then done. I had a hard time concentrating on reading. I'd rather be watching my horse graze!

However, the actual ride before this was not as peaceful. I started off by grooming My Boy in his pasture. He has a hitching post there. This area where you see him standing? A month ago, it was all mud. It is so nice that it has finally dried out. But now it's getting dusty. Mud or dust? Hard to believe, but I'll take dust any day!

I saddled My Boy and took him up to the arena. I warmed him up by walking and jogging on the longe line, circling him left and right, playing some of the Parelli games. We side passed over the log from the ground, etc. Then I donned my helmet and mounted up. I always wear my helmet when I am riding alone.

I walked and jogged, more side passing, backing through a chute of poles, practicing some trail obstacles....My Boy was doing fairly well considering the heat. Then, I got a wild hair up my Pony Girl tootie-ta. I decided to lope.

A little background here....I have not loped my horse since last fall, due to an arena that was wet and slippery most of the winter. He has loped a fair amount on the longe line.

Loping is not my forte. I always feel like a flapping fool when I lope. I tend to lean forward and raise my tootie-ta out of the saddle, and when I sit it back down My Boy stops (which is how he was trained.) He is also a bit on the lazy side at times, so it can be a battle to keep him loping.

I normally do not choose to lope My Boy alone, just in case something happens. But Friday, I literally thought it in my head, gave him a squeeze, and he went right into the gait! I was pleasantly shocked. And then whooooaaa, he stopped 25 feet down the rail, on his own. I gathered him up and asked him again. And we struggled to keep going. He fought me once and it felt like he crow hopped a little, which is highly unusual for this horse. I got him going again, circling the arena once until it was my decision for him to stop. That was progress. I should have ended there but I tried it one more time and he crow hopped more obviously this time. Goodness! This was not My Boy at all! It was obvious to me that he wasn't trying to dislodge me while I was on him. He could have easily done that with more than a crow hop. But I was not comfortable with this behavior and did not know why he was doing it. Being alone without anyone to watch or help me, I did not want to continue this mystery from my horse's back. I dismounted and put him on the longe line again. I loped him both directions (I had not done this in the warm-up. Lesson learned.) You know what? He was WORSE on the longe line! He had his little head to his knees and was just hopping along the whole way around. After a few circles, he'd raise and carry his head normally. He was not full-on bucking. It was like the hopping you might see a young colt do when wearing a saddle for the first time.

After working him well both ways, I got back on and we just walked and jogged. I did not press the lope issue again. He did not seemed bothered at the walk, jog, trot, or backing up.

As I hosed him off, I began analyzing why this happened, and I thought of two possibilities. My mom recently gave me a saddle pad that did not work for her horse and saddle. It made her saddle fit incorrectly, it was too tippy. It is a nice pad, wool top, with a memory foam lining. However, it is a contour fit style and the lining doesn't go all the way across the top of the horse's back. It has two pads of foam on either side. Here is a picture of the inside:

My sister noticed a couple of weeks ago that when I was leading My Boy in front of her, that this pad forces my saddle up off of his back and it bounces there kind of oddly. And when I lunged him with the saddle on that particular day, he hopped up on all fours once then reared straight up, something I have never seen him do. I thought he was just full of it, because he didn't do it again.

I began to wonder if this pad was causing the saddle to fit incorrectly, perhaps pushing the saddle down on his withers? Or, it caused the saddle to rise and hit his back uncomfortably, even with my weight in it (all 105 lbs of me.) My Boy can be very quivery and sensitive about how things feel on his body.

Tonight, once it cooled down, I brought him out and saddled him with the old fleece-lined pad. And when I longed him, he did the same hopping behavior a bit at the lope when going to the left. He was better going to the right. I also rode him, and when I loped him short distances both directions, he seemed to be okay. My sister watched and said he did not hop, but he did shake his head and swish his tail more going to the left. I also think that head shaking can be a sign of irritation or pain. So I did not push it.

Since the saddle pad may not be the reason, my second theory is that his back or hips are out of whack and he really feels this at the lope. I was overdue in my wish for making a chiropractic appointment for him, so I now have one the second week in July. He is also out of shape, in regards to using his loping muscles. I try to lope him out on the longe line as much as I can in the rainy season, but not when I felt the footing was too slippery.

It is always an adventure with horses. It just shows that you think you have no issues and then your horses surprises you with a behavior you have never experienced before. I think the important thing, at least for me, is to weed out physical reasons for misbehavior first. If there is not a physical or equipment disturbance and My Boy is just being a balky pill, then we'll work on it from there.

As for the humgo to-do list, I have to admit, we actually got quite a bit done today. I'll catch you up on all of the adventures (including the pool we put in the backyard) tomorrow.


  1. He is beautiful and bet he is loving having you all to himself. Hope you find out what is hurting him.

  2. I am assuming you checked his feet well. I have never had anything like that happen in all my years of owning horses. Do you think it has to do w/the way he threw his head before?

  3. You know-I just don't like some of the designs of the new saddle pads. The only time Moon has bucked in his life(while saddled) was when we used a new neoprene pad on him while roping. He has a tendency to push his saddle back, so I thought the neoprene bottom on this pad would help keep it in place better. He came out of the box, with Megan on him and about 3 strides down the arena, he blew up and bucked my poor little girl off. Not really knowing what to think-I got on and ran a couple steers on him and he tried to buck with me. At first I blamed my mom for overdoing his vitamin supplements-but after a lot of analysis and one more ride with that pad-I came to the conclusion that the neoprene was pulling his back hair and it hurt. I use it on another horse and have never had any problems with it-but then again, that horse isn't doing strenuous activity-so I suppose it doesn't pull on his back hair like that.
    I guess what I am saying is-if the pad your mom gave you makes your saddle fit differently-not in a good way-it probably is causing some discomfort in his back. Of course I am a die-hard chiro fan-so if you have access to a good one-I would schedule an appointment too.

    Trailboss is right about checking the feet too. I would also suggest the teeth-but I know you just got those done recently.

  4. Oh you have gotta love his whooooaaaa!! I love a good reiner! It sounds like he might have not liked that other pad, and now he might be acting like a little pill!!
    One thing I do know is that I always use a navajo (sp?) pad. If you put just plane neoprene that gets hot and if you rub your hand over it fast it will burn your hand, imagine you are the horse's back. That's a lot of friction and heat.
    It always amazes me how horses can be so funny like that. It sounds like he might just be a bit excited about getting into a higher gear. He might just like his laid back life of walking and trotting. That is more my speed too!!

  5. Funny, I looked at a saddle pad like that recently. It is very expensive and opted out of it as I wasn't comfortable with the lack of padding in the center and in the end went with one that had wool all the way through. The best one that I've ever had and still do is the Todd Stone pro-pad. Awesome pad!

  6. I applaud you for working so hard to analyze the problem and not assuming that My Boy is simply acting up or being a jerk. He's very lucky to have you and your patience and perseverance will pay off.

    I also think it's great that you're just hanging out with him, like buddies, instead of asking him to work every time you're together.

  7. Hey...we put a pool up in our backyard too!!! It was finally up, chlorinated, and ready for swimming by Saturday AM. It definitely sounds like the new saddle pad could be causing some trouble. Shadest was very sensitive about "things" as well, but I also think that he just liked to give me a good buck every now and then:)
    There's that darned ole' helmet issue again (lol)!
    I like that you are cautious when riding by yourself. I know a lot of people who are not, and it is really a good way to be asking for trouble. When I started riding again--after about eight years off!--I was nervous to lope/canter, and gallop. You kind of lose your confidence, and you no longer have the carefree attitude that you had as a child/teen...when it comes to potentially getting hurt. The first time Amber and I took off at a gallop down the trail, I was like "Please, God, do not let me get killed," but after that, I was fine. You definitely have to have "trust" in your equine partner as well. Maybe you are a bit nervous, and My Boy, being an experienced horse with a quirky attitude, picks up on it? Have fun with the chiropractor! Hopefully My Boy checks out just fine:)

  8. whats a tootie-ta????

    My thought is back or hip pain.

  9. Don't you wish you could read their minds sometimes? My Morgan is not good about picking up his leads to the left but does it perfectly to the right so I am wondering if he has something uncomfortable about going to the left. I am going to make an appointment with the horse chiro and have it checked out.
    Saddle pads can make a huge difference the way your saddle fits. I don't think he was just being a pill, there's usually a good reason why they do the things they do. He is such a beauty!

  10. He's definitely trying to let you know that he's not feeling good. I think the chiropractor is a good idea. When you run your hand down his back and put pressure on him, is he sensitive to it? Maybe you should also check if the fit of the saddle has changed. Put it on him without a pad, not cinched up. Run your hand between the saddle and his withers and back to see if you feel any pinching or pressure spots, especially across the back of it. Does the saddle sit well in the back or kind of pop up? Hopefully, it's just the pad, but if it's made him sore, he'll still be sore for a while, even with a different pad. Poor guy -I hope you figure out what's going on.

  11. he does sound like he's trying to tell you something! i hope he's alright and its just minor!

    keep us posted!

  12. Thanks for all the great insight, everyone! My Boy has put on a few pounds this spring. It hadn't occurred to me this could be causing the saddle to fit him differently. But it is another possibility!

    Trailboss, I think the former head-shaking was due to the fly mask (irritation or claustophobia.) Or, an eyelash (those super long ones they get) that had curled in towards his eye; and perhaps the flymask was pushing it into his eye further, tickling him. I have since cut the offending lash. But I am too afraid to try the flymask back on, I don't want a reoccurence! However, he still kind of shakes his head at times during work, often due to flies, but sometimes, just a unknown reaction to something for no apparent reason. That is why I am beginning to wonder if it is pain.

    Victoria, I will try the saddle on without a pad and check out the pressure points, great idea!

    Andrea, oh yes, I do think My Boy likes his laid back life of walking and trotting, too. Hee!

  13. You rock for not ignoring My Boy's signs and signals that not all is well. I hope you can get it figured out soon and let us know the consensus.

    I enjoyed this post and appreciated knowing that everyone experiences issues with their horse at one time or another.
    Thanks for taking the pressure off.

    Also good reminder about the helmet, especially while riding alone.
    I rode bareback on Baby Doll the other day, with just a halter. Usually she listens well and does as asked.
    She went around and did a few turns for me, but then decided to stop and nothing I did would get her to move.
    She hates to be kicked due to her earlier cowboy/roping/barrel racing days, so I only gave her a few light taps with my feet, but when she started to hunch up and get tight, I didn't push it.

    Some would say that I let her get away with being lazy and that now she doesn't respect me. And I do worry that might be true, but without a helmet, riding bareback with only a just wasn't worth it to me to find out what her next move was going to be.....

  14. You make me realize just how little I know! It is awesome to read how much you care about your horse. The love really shows in your posts! Sounds like you definitely found one of your passions!

  15. I hear ya there about trying to read when you can be watching our beautiful beasts. I sit at my computer to read blogs and end up looking out the window at my horses more then anything.
    Also, the way my bed is situated, I have a clear view of the horses when I look at the window and I will look at them all through the night.

    Good luck with the tack fitting, I hope it is just that and nothing wrong with his back.


I love hearing from my readers!! I truly enjoy all of your feedback, advice, helpful tips, and stories. You all make me laugh and I learn so much from you, too. I will try to post replies to your comments as often as I can.

Related Posts Widget for Blogs by LinkWithin