Sunday, November 29, 2009

Tough times

Part of what has been taking so much of my time lately is dealing with Panama. We have been going through some tough times lately, and as a result I've been spending a lot more time than usual out at the barn.

My trainer and I have both been struggling with Panama's lack of patience, inability to focus, and extreme sensitivity. A lot of it seems to occur in the indoor arena, which I know scares him, but it is also coming out in the outdoor arena, and even the cross ties. Last week, my trainer suggested that he may be going through a rebellious stage, and that we need to be careful to be consistent and try not to get frustrated.

Not getting frustrated is hard. Panama is really smart and my trainer has always commented on it, but lately it's like all his positive qualities went poof, leaving us with nothing but his stubbornness and his fire — traits that have previously been balanced by his intelligence and his cute personality.

Don't get me wrong, it's not all bad — but most days we have at least one battle of wills. Bad days, we have a lot more.

For a long time I thought it had to be because of the new surroundings. There is a lot more going on than he's used to at this barn: more horses, more activity, more to see and more to get used to. But it's started to drag out longer than I would expect for a difficult transition.

I'm also considering a physical issue. I've noticed a couple of possible problems. Panama has been slightly reluctant to let me pick his left front foot lately, and actually bit me on the butt while I was picking it out a few days ago. However, I can't see anything wrong with it, and the farrier didn't see anything either. The vet is coming tomorrow morning to give him his fall shots, so I'll ask him to take a look too. He has been getting a lot of stones in his feet in the corral, so although I do pick them out daily, I suppose that could be it — but I don't know why it would be just that foot that hurts, as it's happening to all of them.

I've also noticed that despite our ongoing problems getting him to relax when we ride, he was very relaxed the other day when I rode him bareback. It was our first bareback ride at the new place, and it was something of a leap of faith for me, considering the problems we've been having. But he did fine! So the question is, was it because the saddle is causing him physical discomfort, or because the lack of a saddle also coincides with a lack of expectations? (I don't do much with him when I ride bareback — just walk and work on leg yields.)

My trainer suggested that I ride him both ways and see what happens. So Thursday and Friday of last week, I rode him bareback, and I think tomorrow I'll ride him bareback again before saddling him up so that I can get a same-day comparison. I also bought him a more comfortable wide fleece girth to replace his narrow fabric one, so we'll try that as well.

Although it would be nice if the problem were physical, as it would provide us with an easy answer and an obvious solution, I actually rather suspect my trainer is right, and he's going through a rebellious time. Perhaps triggered by the move, and I'm just overestimating his ability to adapt? I don't know. I suppose for now, all I can do is try to rule out physical issues, and then be consistent like my trainer says until he (hopefully) gets through this.



At November 30, 2009 at 4:38 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry to hear about your struggles. One thing I try to do when a horse is feeling bad about working and really not wanting to focus or do the work, is to start with something they can do easily and know they have done right. And then always end with something like that. At least then they get some good feelings to associate with the training. The foot thing could be the opposite front leg, or it could be back/neck, and if it's back that would explain the bareback/saddle difference.

Good luck!

At November 30, 2009 at 1:26 PM, Blogger Katharine Swan said...

Kate, the problem is that lately there isn't much we can focus on that he wants to do or will do easily. Even a relaxed walk is difficult for him these days, and we've spent plenty of time trying to get him to relax.

The foot may have something to do with it though -- perhaps it's bothering him enough to make him crabby, even if he's not lame. The vet thinks he has some discomfort in the fetlock and put him on 2 weeks of rest. You can read about it here.


Post a Comment

<< Home