Friday, March 27, 2015

Mixed Results

First, I have to appologize that I have no media from last night's cowboy ride.
I have issues with technology, which is one of my struggles with this blog in general.
I tried to video last night's ride, but I found it really distracting and I couldn't focus my attention or see what was going on through the tiny video camera screen, so I gave up pretty quickly.
The good news? Boca went exactly the same under saddle with the cowboy as he does for me. He started off with mini-cow kicks, and rushing off, exactly as he does with my rides. So, it isn't me. I'm not ruining my horse with a crappy ride.
The cowboy noted all the same things I do with him - his lack of balance, his tendency want to go counter-bent left with his ribs shoved in right.
At the canter, he got the same sun-fishing transitions. He got the same bucking after the transition. The difference was that he put a stop to it immediately, by disengaging his hip and making him go forward (whereas I am usually wondering "Is it me? Am I doing something wrong?") He did get one decent 20-meter canter circle in each direction.
We talked about roping horses, and how, often, if they can run in a straight line, track a cow and stop, they're considered broke enough to do the job and that's it.
We talked about Boca being older (he is 10 this year) and how it is harder for your body to learn to do something new when you are older, and don't have the muscle memory of youth to rely on.
The end result was there was no magic answer. He didn't jump on and have a perfect ride. He couldn't even say with certainty that it wasn't pain related. He said that with 3 or 4 rides, he could give me a better idea of what we're working with.
I have a lot of thoughts swirling around my brain. I feel like there are two paths to take - pursue a pain-related root cause, or a training-related root cause.
The issues present as: cow-kicking, ear-pinning and tail swishing when we start out. This is new behavior and he works out of it as the ride goes on. Walk/Trot is usually fine. We've always had issues with canter transitions and holding the canter. The issues present as: Sun-fishing into the gait, bucking and tail-swishing in the gait. He doesn't cross-canter or swap leads.
Here are a list of things it *could* be:
Lyme disease
Back issues
Left Hip
Lack of Training

Boca has never taken a lame step a day in his life. He tracks up evenly behind. The Chiropractor and Saddle Fitter said he is not in pain.

My instructor thinks it is weakness and lack of training. She believes I should work him on the longe 2-3x a week, to build up fitness in the canter without a rider.

The cowboy thinks he should learn to canter under saddle, with a rider, and that longe work will not teach him to canter under saddle with a rider.

The barn owner recommended having a pro ride him 2-3x a week to see if it is in fact a training issue, before going down the rabbit hole of seeking a medical diagnosis.

So I have a lot of thinking to do. I don't have unlimited funds and this all could get very expensive, very quickly.

I was a little discouraged last night. I have owned Boca almost a year now and we can't even w/t/c. But today, I feel better. Boca is a good boy. He tries hard for me. He isn't perfect and neither am I. My budget isn't unlimited, but I will do my best with what I can for my horse.


  1. Always so tough to decide if it's training or pain, isn't it? It never ends, just part of horses, so you're right to not let yourself stay discouraged for too long. One trick I learned with my guy that will give you some clues without breaking the bank -- if you want to rule out ulcers, give him 10cc of Maalox twice a day for three days. It won't do anything to cure them but it will temporarily relieve the symptoms if his stomach is bothering him. If his attitude changes during those three days (or if it doesn't change at all), that might give you some idea of what to try next. As for riding or lunging... I sort of think they are both right. It could be he needs to learn to do the work but he also needs the strength to do the work. Can you try to do some combination of pro-rides and lunging? Maybe in loose side reins if he'll tolerate them? I'll be interested to see where this goes... hang in there! He's a cutie :)

    1. Thank you Marissa! Those are excellent suggestions! Much appreciated and thank you for the complement on my boy :)

    2. Came back to revise my comment! In case you decide to try this - I just realized it's actually more than 10cc. If you try it, use one of the big dosing syringes and give him 30cc twice a day.

    3. I will definitely try this. It will ease my mind on ulcers. It seems like an easy way to determine if his stomach is bothering him at all.

  2. Hmm, Blogger just ate my comment. Grrr. Basically I was saying something similar to Marissa. Longe a few times first - to build up strength at the canter but also to observe his behavior. Then a couple of pro rides. If he is still displaying the same behavior with no improvements, then start to look for something physical. If it is physical, hopefully you can pick up something that he's doing while longing or pro rides that can point you to a spot to start.

    It's scary and it's frustrating when dealing with pain vs attitude/training. I've been there with my guy and while I was ready to call for hock injections, my trainer had a nice little CTJ ride with him and it worked wonders. Once I was saw that and knew it wasn't pain, I ws much more assertive and I had my boy back. Good luck and keep us updated!

    1. Thank you so much! I really appreciate the input. It is scary and frustrating as it could really be so many things, or even combinations of things!

  3. it could be many things. I'm still wondering about either ulcers or saddle fit. However, I would try a pain reliever (bute) and if he improves then it's pain.

  4. so sorry this is happening - Boca seems like such a cool, neat horse, bummer that he's got all these odd new behaviors cropping up! i don't have any great suggestions beyond what the others wrote - but just want to wish you the best of luck!!

  5. I tend to agree with the cowboy and the barn owner. If the chiro and the saddle fitter say he's not in pain, then I would try some training rides before I started looking at medical issues.

  6. I'm going through the same thing. If it helps, it's a fairly common 'baby' issue due to lack of balance/strength. My current horse isn't the first I've had like that and they've all got better with consistent work! All the suggestions are good ones. I'd certainly lunge until he can do that easily, then add a rider (trainer/pro if need be). Cantering on the trail helps build up strength and confidence too, if you have an uphill section that would be perfect!

  7. Feel for what you're going through. It's a hard spot. My 2c is to have a pro ride him a few days a week. I have employed that plan for several of my horses and just find it is super helpful (though expensive).

  8. Totally agree with Marissa. Try the lunging/pro ride combo and see what happens. Cowboys don't make magic fixes overnight--it's the consistency (and non-emotional-ness) that seems to do the trick.

    And hey--I've barely cantered this year because between training issues and physical issues, there hasn't been much of a point. It's all part of the journey.

  9. Ugh, this is so tough! You've gotten a lot of good advice on here already, so I'm just offering moral support / a shoulder to cry on / whatever else you need!

  10. I was just flipping through your posts that I missed. My only advice is to rule out the physical issues above before you lunge him too much. Circles can really aggravate a lot of the things you listed above. Wishing you the best of luck :)