Tuesday 22 February 2011

Things as they stand

To be honest not a lot has happened (my) riding-wise since I last posted. Between Kika receiving her annual injections, a masseuse/homeopathy lady checking her out and a stressful week at work for me resulted in Miss K have 3 leisurely weeks of loose and normal lungeing.
Probably the most interesting things that happened to us was that the saying animals are like their owners would appear to be very much true in our relationship. *roll-eyes*
The equine masseuse/homeopathy person had a look at her one evening when i wasnt there, my mother and a friend from the barn (the girl I had been riding with, and by all accounts she was quick to let the masseuse know that the horse was not allowed to get away with rearing as a form of stopping/avoiding work - according to my mother my friend made the point that after Kika's carry on she was still made work on until she had settled again, which made me kind of happy that people don't think me a complete waste of space) were able to answer all her questions and a diagnosis was made.
Anyway the prognosis was that the mare has an issue with her left ovary acting up and that was part of the reason for her crankiness & foul humour and explains the narkiness with rugs going on and off. Coupled with this, she apparently has a tendency to keep things bottled up and stresses internally before it has to explode out of her. Now for those of you who know me well, may well recognise this characteristic in me! *blush*
So I was left with instructions and homeopathic remidies to give to her which are to help her caml down and not let things pile up on her, thereby stressing her out. If you'd seen me stressing over work last week you'd probably have told me to injest some of that stuff as well, ;-) She was to get this for 2-3 days while being walked by hand before going back to luneging/riding. So we went for some leisurely strolls, myself and my mahoosive dog! *sniggers*
That was the week before last...last week I had so much on in work that i just about made it up to the barn in the evenings to let the poor ould gal run around and blow off some steam after being in her stable all day. This weekend came and it was time for me to re-face my "fear" and get back up and ride her. Easier said than done considering the confidence cisis I had following her escapades a few weeks ago. But went to the barn on saturday and lunged her for a good 20mins before i got up and we walked and trotted around the place, pulling tight circles and or/figures of 8 to keep both our minds occupied. Proud of myself for having faced my fear and gotten up, we went for a small walk around the grounds/towards the woods to cool herself down afterwards.
As I was leaving the barn on saturday i got chatting to another yard friend, who has had her fair share of problems with a fiery red head (also a liver chestnut mare), she has been very good to me in offering advice and "coaching"/ morale boosting when I was feeling down about the horse - she was the most vocal in reassuring me that the mare is not mean or dangerous as some people had been telling me and she reiterated again how she wanted to have a spin on the mare to see what she was like. Ayway, she often goes trail riding/hacking in the woods so I asked if she would fancy accompanying me on sunday. She agreed although stated that if it was raining (as was forcast) she wouldn't go out the trails, which was fair enough. Typically when sunday morning dawned and i dragged my backside to the yard for our agreed meeting time of 10.30am, it was snowing!
We decided that this would be as good a time as any for her (my friend) to take Kika for a test run. We tacked her up gave her a few spins on the lunge line and then she hopped up, happy enough with her. All went well in walk and trot and K was listening and obedient, issues arose when she was asked to canter, and i mean literally arose, as in up she stood again. I said nothing and left them to it, half afraid of what she'd say to me when she was finished working her. But continue working her she did, she got her going again and K settled back down and although they had a few more tustles when it came to cantering, they weathered the storm and ploughed on. When she was happy with her she finished up and came to give me her verdict, which we discussed after putting the mare in the walker to cool down as we went for a stroll with her two dogs.
She reckoned that the mare's back is not strong enough to support the work being asked of her and that she needs serious work to muscle her up correctly. This led to a lightbulb moment as well as guilt in my mind. Kika first reared back in November when i asked my intructors to ride her while i was away in NYC for a week. The teacher had told me that for the first 3 days K had been very good, then towards the end of the week from nothing and without warning she had reared (now that i think about it this is not unlike what has just happend to me) - I have never seen the instructor ride, but have been told she asks the horses to work correctly all the time (not a bad thing when the horses are correctly equipped to cope with the work load). That outburst led to all manner of tests, osteo visit, teeth done, x-rays taken and ultimately 2 months off work. After christmas i brought K back, and now realise, I made the mistake of doing too much sitting trot work - again her back cannot have been equipped to handle the work i was doing with her. Hence my guilt, as i have unbeknownst to myself been the main reason my horse was reacting as she was, man do i feel like a useless numpty. I know we are always learning when it comes to horses, and I would never ever claim to know everything about horses, but i did not until now realise exactly how clueless i am! *blush*

The friend who rode her on sunday is lending me the use of her pessoa and last night showed me how to use it by lungeing K in it for the first time (made for interesting viewing - K thought she was a lamb/bunny hopping a bit). She reassured me that at no stage did she feel unsafe and reiterated again that she did not think the mare dangerous. She rightly noticed that Kika has a good and a bad rein, and unsuprisingly the problems arise most often on the bad rein (which has indeed been the case each time she reared - twice with me and once with my friend). Throughout all the walking/trotting and cantering work (cantering on the good rein) there were no problems with K and her attitude - the only issue was when she was being asked to canter on her bad rein. She maintains that Kika does not have the correct musculation to take off correctly on her bad rein and needs to kind of run/skip into the canter on her bad side.
So all in all i feel really horrible for what i've put my horse through, and yet feel reassured that we have caught on to what is going on before it developed into a more serious problem. As i said each time after rearing, Kika would settle back into work with minimal fuss, so she is not a bad apple - her reaction was a bit extreme admitedly but it was her coping mechanism with being unable to do what was being asked.

I am now developing a new weekly regime which revolves around 3 days of lungeing with the pessoa a week. With two days of riding (no cantering - mostly walk and trot) and 2 days playing/leisure a week - I'm hoping to make one of our leisure days a trail riding day to get out into the woods again now that the snow and ice should hopefully stay away (but alas, no guarantees!)
My friend has also said, that once K's back strengthens up she's more than happy to help me with my training/schooling of her and has said to come to her at any stage with any questions queries.
My plan is to hop up this evening and do some walk/trot work just the pair of us and then tomorrow night she'll get lunged in the pessoa again. Thursday will be a chill out day for Kika, where I'll play games with her loose in an arena then friday pessoa again and either sat or sunday - trail ride methinks.

So that's me all caught up again, feeling decisevely more positive now and am hoping i can plug away and put my fears behind me. The masseuse is coming back towards the end of this week and i'll get another bottle of the homeopatic calming stuffs from her as well as getting K another once over maybe a bit of a massage to help her relax encourage & muscle building, ;-)
Fingers crossed that this might be the return to form we need, just in time for the weather to start warming back up and the days getting longer, Kika'll be back out in a paddock before she knows where the time went! :D

Hopefully I am not counting my chickens and all that, but this is the first time in a few weeks that I am actually looking forward to going up to ride my horse. It was not all her fault, work had me pretty stressed until last week, so fingers crossed that is all behind me now also.
I had just been feeling so rotten about the whole Kika thing, whenver things start to go wrong or the road gets bumpy i keep finding myself second guessing myself and worrying that i have done wrong by shipping her out here, leaving the support system I had in Ireland. I am just glad that i didn't give up hope in her, the horse i have known and loved for 3 and a half years is still here and was reaching out to me i guess, i've always told her it is a massive pity that i don't speak her language as well as i'd like. We could avoid a fair few disagreements if i did!


  1. Remeber even with the pessoa system you need to start slow, with less time being spent on it and adding more time overtime. Same thing with working underneath herself. You have her work under herself and give her a break, have her work under herself again and give her a break.

    Best of luck Aoife!

  2. Definatly take it slow with the pessoa. They are fab, but i'd start off easy and remember to give her lots of stretching time before and after! I generally use mine once a week to begin with, generally with a lot of hacking/trail riding to keep things fun, and a session or two of ridden lateral work in the school. You know what works for your pony best though! Good luck! I'm sure you'll do just fine!


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