I am re-starting the groundwork on my boy Castle. There is a mini-novel to give some back story, but if you don't care about that, just skip down to the bolded lines. Some of you might remember me posting him in critique, but here is a pic from January:
He's 3 coming 4 in May, and is a papered QH. I bought him untrained (other than halter) in October 2010. We did two months of groundwork, including lunging, sacking out, and ground driving. On Dec.1 I had JUST started to putt about the arena on him bareback (about three "rides", all uneventful) when he had a random spook. I was unbalanced and went off. He stood there and poked me with his nose, but was otherwise unconcerned. I took him over to the mounting block and got back on, and he was perfectly behaved. It was at this point the tears started, though, so I climbed down (ungracefully), stalled him, and went home.
At home I was in a TON of pain, and went for X-rays the next morning. Those results were inconclusive, so I had to wait until just before Christmas for a CT scan. THOSE results were conclusive - a hip fracture!! It was shocking because I was walking normally, other than some twinges here and there. The doctor told me no riding for at least three months - that's the end of March.
So that meant Castle was put on hold for all of December, and other than a bit of lunging, all of January. At the end of January, I could tell that he was going a little bit stir-crazy from boredom. I thought that it might be good to get him started under saddle by our barn's trainer. She's new, but I was told had a good seat, and good head on her shoulders. So it was decided she would start February 1.
Feb.1 came, and she had a great ride, though I didn't get to watch it. The next night, however, I was out there, and Castle had a MAJOR hissy fit on the lunge. He bucked high and HARD for about five minutes on the lunge. Mind, he wasn't doing it in one place, he was doing it as he ran around the lunge circle. I was impressed at his athleticism, but NOT the attitude. She was unable to shut him down on the lunge, but he eventually did slow down and she was able ot get him to settle a bit. However, the rest of the lesson was shot. He wouldn't stand for mounting, and would crow-hop the second she put her foot in the stirrup. It was a complete shock, seeing as he was so even-tempered when I had worked him. She never did get all the way on that night.
The next night I came out to watch again, and it was like watching a different horse. He lunged down nicely, and she was able to get on him all the way with only one minor misdemeanor. Once in the saddle he moved nicely, and she even had him doing a beautiful jog - almost WP. I was relieved, she was relieved.
Fast forward three great rides. On the fourth, he was acting up on the lunge a bit, but nothing too serious. Then she tried to get on. He had a mini fit about the mounting, but she ignored him and got all the way on. KA-BOOOM! He exploded straight up into a rear, and then crashed down and went into another MAJOR bucking fit. She went off over his shoulder, and my BO ran over to stand on top of her as Castle was charging around the arena bucking and carrying on. The trainer called me, and told me that she wouldn't do anything else with him, and that I might want to sell him to a stock outfitter.
I, of course, was crushed. I took a couple days to think about it, and talk to a few other horse people. Given some advice and ideas, I decided to go back to basics and re-start his groundwork. After all, she did just hop on him with no refresher when he had two months off. I had a good friend come out with me to evaluate his attitude and to do some pressure testing on his spine. She was of the opinion that he was high-energy, but listened well enough. And then she did the spine pressure. He shot sideways when she put any pressure on the right side of his withers. We immediately decided to give him time off until a chiro could come out to check him. We also played around with "mock mounting". I would stand at his side with my foot up on the mounting block as though I was using a stirrup. Then I would bounce a couple times and stand up on the block. Then I would pet him on the back. We still do this, and he still is really leery about what I am doing up there...
Chiro came, and found that he was out in a few places: withers (right side), one rib (right side), one vertebrae (right in the middle of his back, which interferes with the way he can carry extra weight), hip (left side), and shoulder (also left). So we had the adjustments done, and gave him the night off. The next day I just lunged him and did some basic yielding. He was moving MUCH better, though he was very high energy and being a bit of an ass. I am desperately hoping that the pain was his issue in saddle - it certainly does point that way.
So the question I have now, is what can I do to get him ready for saddle work? He knows how to lunge and ground drive (and we don't just do circles, I've also walked him over small jumps and around barrels, etc). I am going to do more sacking out in hopes of teaching him a better way to deal with stress. His halter manners are decent, but not perfect. He is a lot stiffer on the left side, I imagine from having two major joints out of place. I'd love some bending ideas to help loosen that side as well.
I will be using a completely different saddle (from Western to English, so no comparison), and I won't even think about mounting from the ground until I know he has passed his mounting issues. We do a "mock mount" after every lesson, and he is getting better with it, but is still pretty concerned about it. I am also going to be tossing a surcingle on him starting next week. I may or may not use side reins, but I want to be taught how to use them first.
Anyway, sorry for the novel, and thanks to those who read it! I would love some advice, and some other things I can do with him on the ground to prepare him for the saddle better. I cannot ride him until the end of March anyway, so I may as well use this time for something, right?