Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Recovery

Judging by Panama's behavior since our disastrous trail ride on Friday, it will probably take a little work to get back to where we were before.  I rode Sunday and Monday, and both days he was a nervous wreck to begin.  He did eventually settle down both days, and we were able to get some decent work done, but I think it'll be some time before we can get back to riding in the field on our own.

First of all, I'm positive now that it was my jacket hood flipping up in the wind that caused him to lose his marbles on Friday.  He's always been rather scared of this jacket, because it's a light jacket that is somewhat rainproof and windproof, so it makes some noise when I take it on or off — as well as in the wind, evidently.  I've had to desensitize him to it three or four times now, counting the work we've done with it since Friday. 

On Friday when I rode him in the arena after our incident on the trail, I noticed he was scared of any sound I made with the jacket while we were riding.  Simply scrubbing my fingers back and forth on the jacket made him throw his head up, ears back, and lurch forward like he wanted to bolt.  I figured it could have been that he was still nervous and fired up from bolting and running home, but on Sunday he was still behaving much the same way.  I dismounted, took off my jacket, and just messed around with it and him until he stopped jumping around like a confused grasshopper.  By the time I stopped, I could rub it all over his body, drop it on the ground beside him, shake it over the saddle, etc. with a minimum of reaction.

Then I got back on.  As a rule of thumb, we don't go faster until he is calm, because trotting an anxious Panama is insane (let alone cantering).  We walked for quite a while, and then finally got some decent trotting in each direction.  I was even able to work a little on circling to get him to maintain a steady pace at the trot, making sure I was weighting the outside stirrup and using my inside leg as we circled (per a conversation with Kate in the comments on her blog).  It took some work, but eventually he calmed down and stopped rushing, and we were able to achieve some nice trotting in either direction.

Yesterday I went out in the morning to ride too.  It was clear right away what kind of ride I was going to have, as several of our trail buddies were getting ready to go out on the trail, and he was extremely anxious about being left behind.  (I, of course, had no intention of going, but he didn't know that.)  Although it was sunny when I arrived at the barn, storm clouds were coming in over the mountains by the time I was ready to ride, so we went inside.

Even indoors, where Panama is usually very good, he was quite anxious.  He repeatedly spooked at the sounds of the horses in turnout on the other side of the wall — something he hasn't spooked about in a very long time.  Once again, I got down and did some desensitization work with my jacket, as he was still throwing up his head and threatening to bolt if it made any sound at all.  And once again, it took some time before he was able to settle down and get some work done.  Eventually he did, however, and we were even able to canter for a few laps (but no more, as I found that caused pain to the bruise on my bottom more than anything else).

When we came out from our ride, I discovered that it was snowing, so the storm coming in could have been affecting Panama's peace of mind.  However, I think that most likely the incident on Friday has set him back, and we'll have to do some work to get back to where we were previously before we do anything too exciting, such as another trail ride.

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