Tuesday, May 8, 2012

14 - The buck stops here. Part 2 (Power of the Mare)

I wanted answers as to why my sweet, never before marish, mare, was behaving SO badly.  Let me paint you a picture.  We started at a walk, and having a well broke trot, we went through the motions, with little input from me.  I had spent 98 percent of my time in the saddle on the walk and trot, and, it was evident.  She is pretty solid there.  Now that I had a regular riding routine, I was anxious to work on some canter transitions and collection.  Her transitions on the lunge line were fairly prompt, and, her saddle work had been improving.  So, I put my right leg on, and let her know that we were about to canter.  I kissed, and she lunged into a canter, and within a stride, began to buck.  Not a bunny hop.  Some nice elevation in the front, followed by equal effort in the back.  I pulled up her head, and she threw in another, so I and pulled her in a circle, hard.  She broke down quickly, and stood there, seething.

It didn't take long for me to regret having ridden.  All the signals that she was having a bad day, became crystal clear.  I wanted to get off, and fix the disrespect and bad attitude on the lunge line, but, I was afraid that she would interpret my dismount as a relief from work, and a reward.  So, with the weight of my poor choices on my shoulders, I prepared to move her forward again.

I sat, looking down at ears stiff back, head slightly twisted in annoyance that I would have the nerve to be giving her directions.  A slight bump of my legs caused her tail to swish, but no forward motion resulted.  I wished I had worn and gotten her use to spurs before, because my leg alone wasn't very effective.  Three hard, quick, spurless thumps to reprimand her for her defiance only resulted in head shaking and a bounce of the head and neck that threatened a rear with a slight hop.  I quickly pulled her in a circle, thumping her with my legs, shocked that this was my horse.  Unbelievable.  Never in my life have I seen such a dramatic transformation for the worse.  

After struggling to get her compliance with basic maneuvers such as moving off my leg, I tried to determine whether I actually needed to ask for the canter again today.  She was having a bad day.  Perhaps there was something REALLY wrong with her.  I tried several more times, with the same result.  This was not good.  Now we were establishing a pattern.  A really BAD pattern.  Knowing that I needed to try something new, I trotted her  from the center towards a corner, and, with only a few strides distance remaining, I asked for a canter.  She transitioned, and, with the corner fast approaching, I asked her for a halt, while she was still wondering why on earth I was trying to run her into the fence.  Success.  Not a big success, but, a small win.  Transition with no bucking.  Wow had I lowered my standards.  Before I got on her today, I had envisioned a canter worthy of an open show.

Suddenly my dreams of showing her at the AQHA shows was miles away.  My nice little amateur horse, that would help me to make a name for myself, was a problem horse.  Worthless.  OK, I was thinking the worse.  Feeling like my world had fallen apart.  That happens sometimes.

There had to be a logical explanation for her behavior.  This was the same horse I put my kids on for 'pony' rides.  How could I have trusted them with miss Jekyl and Hyde?

Fearful that there was something wrong with her, I dismounted, lunged her once more to look for soundness issues, and called it a day.  So much for equine therapy to clear my mind, and enjoy some 'me' time after a day of juggling 3 young boys.  The days ahead were consumed by thoughts of my bad ride.

I spent the evening going through the checklist in my mind, of probable causes for her behavior:

1.)  Sore back.  I had groomed her before riding, and she may have been a tiny bit tender on her back, but, I was being hasty and using a hard brush (gently), so, I thought perhaps I just wasn't being gentle enough.  Also, I had used a chiropractor once before with her, with good results.  However, I knew she needed a chiropractor because she was traveling with a slightly hollow back, and quite strung out.  I didn't think that today, she had reason enough to behave the way she did.  If I couldn't find a better explanation, perhaps it would be worth returning to the back, but, I didn't think that was it.

2.)  Teeth.  She had been floated a month before, and I had ridden her since, so this was not a probably cause.

3.)  Lameness.  I watched her on the lunge line, and, when she wasn't misbehaving, she looked very nice. Next.

4.)  Tack.  Neoprene saddle pad, so no place for a burr.  Also, checked the girth.  All was well.  Same saddle as I had been using the weeks prior.  As far as fit, I don't know much, so, worth learning more about this as a potential problem.

5.)  Fresh.  She is normally out 24/7, but she had spent the morning in, because I knew I was going to ride.  Could a half day of stall time turn my mare into a she-devil?  Geesh.

6.) Estrus, diestrus, whatever.  She didn't look like she was going into heat, but, the problems seemed 'mental', or 'hormonal', to me.  But, there were no obvious signs of her being in heat.  If I had to gamble, this was my bet.  I've felt pretty angry, for no apparent reason.  Then, the reason becomes apparent.

 So, I turned to the internet for answers, as this provided the most instantaneous gratification.  I posted my 'problem' on the www.horseforum.com for a brainstorming session.  No groundbreaking discoveries, except for the potential of using a Magnesium based supplement for 'marish' problems.  I wasn't familiar, and I found this interesting.

The next day, I went to the barn, and caught Dottie winking.  It was just once.  But, I was a relieved that she was showing signs of heat.  Could she really just have been PMSing?  Her attitude was much better too, but, I didn't have time to ride.

I continued my research that night, on my favorite website, www.thehorse.com.  I found an article called "Mare Madness" and it said:

"Some mares appear particularly sensitive to weight or manipulation that might affect the area of the ovaries during the periovulatory period of the cycle."

Back soreness AND bad attitude explained.  I could only hope that my next ride would be as if none of this had happened, and that all of this could be dismissed as a bad day.  I hoped we would pick up where we left off.  I hoped, but feared it wouldn't.

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