The North Experience - Page 36 - The Horse Forum
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post #351 of 498 Old 01-08-2019, 03:07 PM Thread Starter
Join Date: Apr 2015
Location: Gulf Coast
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@DanteDressageNerd -

The biggest things are time and resources. I work 9-5p M-F, sometimes even later, so during the week I get to the barn around 530-6p and it's already dark. Im also at a self care barn, so most days, I am just feeding, cleaning stalls, grooming and turnout and don't get home till around 8pm. If I try to get a quick ride in, it's even later. So the only REAL time I have to devote is on the weekends. When I had him, I worked him 4-5 days a week.

The other part is resources. Ideally he would need to be on joint, vitamin E, and muscle support supplements to get him started. But you already know, when he was healthy, I threw everything under the sun at him, short of taking him to the university to have a full body scan done. We did SI injections, TMI injections, monthly chiro, osteopath, acupuncture, daily stretch routines, pentosan, previcox, multiple supplements, bloodwork, fecal, several lameness exams. We even gave him bute for a week to see if there would be any change. NONE. In addition we worked with the natural horsemanship trainer, tried at least 20 different bits, hackamores, just going in a halter, countless training aids - nothing changed the way he went under saddle. The best I could get was a relaxed walk on a totally loose rein.

I will never know what happened to Forrest in his life to make him this way and it will always make me sad that I couldn't make it better for him. But what I don't want to do is keep pushing him to become something he will never be. If he was 8, 10, or 12? It may be worth it. But with him being at least 20 now, I have to ask myself who it would be really benefiting. I feel like he's been trying to tell me since I got him, and it's just taken way too long for me to actually hear him, because like everyone else who's had him, I could only hear what I wanted and what my hopes were for him.

"Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better."
- Maya Angelou
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post #352 of 498 Old 01-08-2019, 04:16 PM
Join Date: Mar 2015
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No I agree with you. Its not worth doing more diagnostics, I think you have gone above and beyond your call and provided him with the best life possible. I dont think you should feel any shame or sadness when you have done everything you could. It's not worth investing all the supplements or the expense, especially with kids who are yet to go to college. You have to be fair to yourself too. You have loved and provided for him in every way you could, it is enough. Maybe the desired outcome didnt come but you provided him with love and that is very special.

I understand having a special needs horse, no one can understand unless they work with that individual but everyone thinks they have the magic solution or know how to fix the horse or somehow knows the horse better than you do and then when they try end up being humbled the same way or cant get a quarter what you can because there is nothing to compare to them. I dont think you ever mistreated Forrest or were unfair, I think you did your best as did everyone else whose tried. Sometimes that has to be enough even if the outcome isnt what you wanted. You gave him and are giving him a good life. Special needs horses are lucky if they ever find someone who invests in them and loves them.

Last edited by DanteDressageNerd; 01-08-2019 at 04:21 PM.
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post #353 of 498 Old 01-08-2019, 04:33 PM
Green Broke
Join Date: Jun 2017
Location: middle of nowhere
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Special-needs horses who cannot or will not get better are also lucky if their owner is strong enough to do the right thing by them when all options are exhausted. I feel for you. Whatever your decision, I know it will be the right one for Forrest. I have a horse with some mental issues. When I can no longer care for him, I will put him down rather than subject him to the uncertainty of a new home, and the specter of the abuse he so recently escaped from. There are worse things than a gentle death. I think either way, Forrest is very lucky to have had you.
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post #354 of 498 Old 01-09-2019, 08:07 AM Thread Starter
Join Date: Apr 2015
Location: Gulf Coast
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I was not disagreeing with anything you said. I was just clarifying my situation in addressing his needs and why it's so difficult. Also why past attempts at making him better makes going forward seem even more fruitless.

Maybe the girl is just young and not perceptive? Most people dont particularly understand conditioning or horses and if she's young she might just not understand he can do a 3 day trip. Doesnt mean you should sign him over her to her but I think people people mean well in general, they're just not always aware. People are complicated and when I read something or hear something, I try to understand from their perspective to be fair and objective. Doesnt mean you trust people or have higher expectations of them, just a basic understanding. I agree. Most people want what they want and they dont care about the condition the horse is left in and they dont mind bullying or pushing a horse past breaking point. A lot of times I think people are just clueless and misguided, sometimes just mean but it doesn't sound like she is. Maybe just inexperienced? Special needs horses often dont fare well because most people cant afford or take care of them properly. I think there is an emotional component that most riders and trainers are simply clueless on.
She is young (early 20s I believe?) but with a good amount of experience with horses. She rides fairly decent and has worked with quite a few green horses, so I thought she'd be a good fit. But there is not a lot of "great" horse management/care with people in my area it seems. Over and over I see horses being ridden lame, out of shape, and being asked to do more than they should. Horses with clear hind end issues are being jumped 3ft and then called jerks because they're bucking after every jump. There's also a lot of miseducation. I heard about one girl at my old barn who's plan to combat her horse's lameness issue was to give him a previcox before she rode. That's not how previcox works. It's not like a tylenol you take when you get a headache and doesn't work if you only give it to them before you ride. But yea, it just seems fairly common in my area to just "ride them through it".

Regarding North, thank you. He is a super fun kid to work with. Tried to get a ride in last night, but it was dark, most of the horses were already turned out, and I just could not get his head in the game, so I called it after only 15 minutes. He's a good boy and tries really hard for me, so I think it's okay to give in sometimes. I love spending time with him either way. Oh, and new accomplishment. He now stands after mounting for me to get situated! Lol. He used to just walk off as soon as I swung my leg over, but now he will stand, let me get my stirrups and wait for me to cue him. Pretty proud of that. He will be 4 in just a few months so I'm pretty excited about the coming year and introducing more things.

"Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better."
- Maya Angelou
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post #355 of 498 Old 01-10-2019, 10:37 PM Thread Starter
Join Date: Apr 2015
Location: Gulf Coast
Posts: 2,363
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During the worst years of my marriage, the stress and anxiety would get so bad that it seriously impacted my brain function. My brain would often get foggy, I couldn't retain stuff, and my short term memory would get increasingly worse. In the years since my separation and divorce, it has gotten increasingly better, but there are still periods where it can get pretty bad. I often wonder if I'm not a guaranteed candidate for dementia later on in life.

Work this week has been brutal, and the effects have taken me back to those days. I shed a lot of tears this week in sheer frustration about my current situation and the fact that my only choice is just to continue to push through it and do the best I can. The other day, a coworker yelled at me in disbelief because I couldn't remember the server and codes to get to a data table that we had just looked at the day before. He thought I was joking about my short term memory issue and just making excuses. My mind draws total blanks under stress and becomes so foggy that it's hard to get anything done and it's frustrating. But him (also a good friend) yelling at me in disbelief, caused me to just shut everything down and call it a day.

The only thing that has gotten me through this week is being able to go to the barn after work. At the barn, I don't have to think through complex code or deadlines or pressure from executives. I'm not buried and I can BREATHE. Riding clears my head and blows away the stress and anxiety, if only for a couple hours. But the sheer relief it gives me... Yesterday I drove to the barn just sobbing to myself and when I left, I left smiling and singing along to my favorite tunes and I never even rode. Just spent time with my horses and knocked out some barn chores. It has never been more evident how much I need this small part of my life.

Tonight I rode North. After our unsuccessful ride a couple days ago, I honestly wasn't sure it would go well, but he was SO great. From the first few strides, I knew it was a going to be a good ride. He was with me. We worked on bending and counterbending at the walk and then walk, halt, trot transitions . He was so with me. And it didn't take long for him to anticipate the changes, so that I had to switch things up. But I gave him lots of praise, and he loved it, and tried harder. We didn't ride more than 20 minutes, but it felt like we accomplished so much. I hopped off and smothered him with rubs, hugs, and kisses and then he quietly followed me back to the barn.

Without a doubt, this horse is my once in a lifetime. He is so smart and kind and eager to please that I can't even wrap my head around it sometimes. He's like a big puppy dog that just wants to do the right thing. He listens when I talk to him from the saddle and its amazing to watch him actively work for the positive praise and correct himself when I verbally correct him. I seriously can't believe how lucky I was to find him. He is perfect for me. Perfect.

"Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better."
- Maya Angelou
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post #356 of 498 Old 01-11-2019, 09:21 AM
Join Date: Jul 2010
Location: MD
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I understand completely. I'm sorry you aren't having such a good week. Things can get to be too much sometimes & it all happens at once.

I suffer with anxiety, and it makes me shut down at times. It's more of an internal thing, so people don't 'see' it. But it's there.

But...once I get to the barn, it all kinda, goes away. It's like therapy. I know if I'm having a crappy day, I will be at the barn afterwards and it'll be OK.

That's how it SHOULD be. You need that! I know at your other barn it wasn't like that, it was stressful and you didn't really like being there. But now you are at a much better place, and it is making a huge difference. <3 And of course, you have North. Makes everything better. I'm glad you decided to ride, despite your bad day.

I'm glad you ended up having a good ride! There are going to be 'bad' days and good days with these babies. There are days where we wanna cry (I remember talking to you the other night about my little moment with Promise), but then the next day goes much better. All that matters. You and North are meant to be. Period. He is your heart horse, and I love it!!!

I'm excited for what's in store this year for you two!!!

Ride more, worry less.
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post #357 of 498 Old 01-11-2019, 09:50 AM
Green Broke
Join Date: Jan 2015
Location: Australia
Posts: 3,953
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I am very sad to read about your anxiety but I am glad the horses are helping you loads!
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post #358 of 498 Old 01-11-2019, 11:22 AM
Join Date: Apr 2015
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My husband and I were just talking about the horse therapy. He had a wonderful lesson yesterday and talked about how that one weekly ride (it is mid winter here) just carries him through the next few days. He suffers from depression and for the past 15 years or so has kept the worst of it at bay - but I will say that horses and in particular the one he has now - are a life line for him

Glad you had a good ride!
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post #359 of 498 Old 01-13-2019, 03:51 PM
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That is very sad. I think that's everywhere to be honest and really varies barn to barn. I think in the US in general from what I've seen people will spend more on diagnostics and invest more in the individual horse. From what I've seen in Denmark, as well as Germany people push them through it. The horses are fit and if a horse is clearly off, they dont push but if the saddle doesnt fit or the horse has ulcers or that sort of a thing. It's more of a well he just has to get over it or throw draw reins on it. And then I've also seen people go to the other extreme and try to diagnose there horse with A, B, C and the problem is that they're not pushing through or addressing the issues. It's a balance. Sometimes I think people just want to do what they want to do and dont care about the longevity of the horse. Lot of those top world class stables are like that, they run horses into the ground and few horses stay sound after the abuse they take. It makes me sick. Not all international stables are like that, the one I worked at wasnt like that but I know of a few whose programs are built off of super talented, high quality horses and they just push and push, inject and inject until the horse breaks down and is dead lame. But nobody cares they just see the medals, ribbons and trophies and to them horses are a dime a dozen and they dont really care. Just see a horse as a platform for their career. And that's what makes Carl and Charlotte so unique. They invest in horses the rest of mainland Europe wouldnt look at twice. Guarentee in mainland Europe nobody would have thought anything of Valegro and if developed under them wouldnt have become anything special. And their program is dedicated to the longevity and care of the horses, not just use them until they break.

For instance I can understand if a horse is mostly sound but something seems not 100% so the person tries bute for a week to see if it makes a difference. Sometimes can help isolate what is wrong but to use it as a mask or to push a horse harder I dont understand. To me it's miserable working with a horse who clearly doesnt enjoy their work.

I also think a lot of people are misguided and dont really have anyone in the area to really help and guide them or a trainer who really knows or they dont listen to the trainer who does. Or sometimes the trainer doesnt say what a person wants to hear so they fire them.

But that's a shame, so she should know better.

I know the feeling. I think sometimes it's hard to relate trauma and how it changes you. I still struggle with some residual from my exs, that kind of trauma you just cant to explain to anybody because it affects something deep and internal. Anxiety and stress can mess with the brain's ability to maintain memory, if people fail to understand that then that's a shame. I think empathy can be really difficult for some people. I also think people think with mental health you can just steam roll through or push yourself into overcoming it and mental health doesnt work like that. It isnt an excuse or a mental fabrication. I think it's much harder for people to understand what they cant see it or feel it. The worst feeling in the world is when your mind becomes your prison and you cant control it. Management is possible but very tricky.

Short article on stress and memory

But horses are good therapy. And I'm so glad you have North. You really deserve this and a horse who you enjoy being around everyday and can learn on, have fun and have a deep emotional connection with. Nothing like it in the world. That's a blessing
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post #360 of 498 Old 01-14-2019, 05:06 PM Thread Starter
Join Date: Apr 2015
Location: Gulf Coast
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Another great weekend with my little puff and stuff.

We finally got our makeshift dressage arena set up. Helen brought letters, buckets and pvc pipes from her parents house for the corners and I picked up some cheap orange and yellow cones I found at Academy for the sides. We hope to make it a little better later, but for now it's working okay.

I've come to realize that North is definitely an arena horse. He just works better when he has a defined area to work in. He's less distracted and more focused on what I'm asking. When I ride him in the pastures, it can take 20 min before I can get him focused and paying attention. He's a baby, so he's easily distracted. In the front riding area, there's tons of jumps, cavaletti's, barrels, etc. so he tends to be all over the place checking things out or snorting at suspicious pink crossrails. Lol. I've also realized that he's better when we don't ride with other horses. It just seems to be too much stimulant for him when other horses are working around him. He also prefers to have a human on the ground nearby when we school. I can't explain it, but he trusts us and feels more secure when someone is nearby. Like when we were doing the tarps. He didn't care that his pasture mate walked over them with no issue. It was when the girl's mom walked over them that he thought, "Okay, I can do this." Lol. He's so cute.

So yea, having our makeshift arena has made it really fun. He just understands that we're working now and pays attention. We rode in it for the first time Saturday morning and it was a really good session. Sunday we had our first lesson with Helen since before the Christmas holidays and she was ecstatic with both of our progress. She loves North so much and can't stop remarking how lucky I was to find him. "He is just a REALLY nice horse." She swears that her next horse will be a baby. Lol. I think she agrees with me that the journey is 10 times easier when you're starting with a clean slate as long as the temperament and willingness are there.

So advantages to having the arena is, of course, having boundaries - corners and lines to work from. We really worked on keeping him consistent in changes in the bend, keeping the bend on straight lines, and using the boundaries for changes of direction. For the first time since probably August, I put my spurs back on. Helen watched my video from Saturday and said I'm using too much leg to get what I want, and especially on the left side, I've just got too much going on. It's causing me to lose my position and for my lower leg to be way to active. He's stiffer on the left, so it's harder to get the bend and get him into my outside rein.

It was really a big difference with the spurs. I tend to be more conscious of what my lower leg is doing when I wear spurs because I don't want to poke him unnecessarily, so it really helped me to keep my lower leg more still. When I need a lot of leg (which I tend to with my lazy pony), I have the tendency to turn my toes outwards and really push with first my calf, then my heel. It's a bad habit and something I will be working to re-train. Helen showed me that I need to keep my toes pointed forward and kinda wrap my leg under him and squeeze. Then if I needed more reminder, I could touch with the spur. But having the spurs made a big difference on keeping him forward. He knew they were there and really worked to give me what I asked. I was worried that I would be clumsy with my lower leg and hit him too much and get some objections, but it didn't happen.

Towards the end of our lesson, Helen wanted me to try cantering him, but I said, "You first!" Lol. After hopping on and giving it a few tries, she agreed that I was right to ask her to try first. It's just so hard to get the canter together with him. She started on right lead and he'd pick up left lead. Then switched to left lead, and he picked up right lead. Then cross cantering! Not to mention that he really struggles with turning in the canter and to him, canter means go fast! Lol. After several tries, they finally started to get it, and I was so proud of him cause you could see how hard he was trying to figure it out.

Below is a short video with clips from our lesson and then Helen cantering North at the end. You'll notice how much she pats him. He really loves to be told he's doing well and responds so positively to it. Did I mention how freakin cute he is?? Lol.

"Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better."
- Maya Angelou
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