You see, being under saddle continues to be Crimson's happy place (believe me, for that I am grateful), but a week or so ago, things started to go awry on the ground.
Before I get any further, the first clue that something was not right was that, although we had tripled his hay intake and added 3 quarts of haystretcher to his diet, he took a turn and suddenly started looking ribby.
Suddenly, he went from a horse that was generally easy-going, to dancing, pawing, biting his girth and half-rearing. It got to the point that last week, it took two people to tack him up. During that time, he moved his bowels FOUR TIMES and peed TWICE. He wasn't being bad (well, yes, he kind of was) but his anxiety level was through the roof. I felt terrible for him. It seemed like if he could have, he would have crawled out of his own skin.
The thought had already crossed my mind, but Heather voiced it. The dreaded U-word. Ulcers. I immediately formed a plan to make dietary changes and picked up ulcer meds.
But, in the meantime, I was incredibly stressed myself that my horse was so unhappy. I had visions that I was permanently creating bad associations with myself, stalls, and barns in general.
That is when I had a conversation with my friend H. She said "You have to help him find the joy in this" and "Change the conversation".
Armed with this new way of thinking, I schemed ways to make tacking up and being in the barn a pleasant experience, not a fight or a struggle.
I was so excited/anxious to try out my new plan that I could barely wait until the end of the day to get to the barn after work.
First, I had Heather give him 1cc of Ace about a 1/2 hour before I got there. Some might not agree with that. I think of it as giving him a cocktail. A horse margarita, if you like.
When I got to the barn, I put Crimson's favorite horsey friend in the stall next to the cross ties. I brought all my tack and brushes in, so I wouldn't need to leave him to grab anything. I filled my pockets with treats and turned on the radio.
I grabbed Crimson from the field, brought him in and put him on the crossties. I brushed him, sang to him, and fed him and his buddy treats. There was no pawing, dancing, biting his girth or rearing. I fed both horses handfuls of hay. I just generally tried to make it a fun, pleasant experience for both of them.
Once Crimson was tacked, l led them both out of the barn and put his buddy back in the field, then proceeded to go have a good ride.
My plan is to repeat this for a few days. Crimson won't always need his hand held on the crossties. But for now, I want to make this enjoyable and fun for him. So, for now, I am romancing my horse.