My previous journal was called "Why I Gotta Trot." It was getting insanely long, so I decided to begin a new one with a new phase in my horse life.
This is Hero in May of 2018 shortly after I first ended up with him. He had recently undergone a name change from Rascal to Hero.
Hero was an off track TB who was raced at 5 several times, then retired. He ended up at a rescue, where he was rehomed three times and returned. My friend was told this was because he was still green (he was 9 years old by then), and no one had taken the time to work with him. Later I was to find out that one of the people who returned him to the rescue was a horse trainer.
My friend took him, hoping to give him some experience and then her beginner boyfriend would have a horse to ride. Unfortunately, Hero turned out to be too much horse for her boyfriend. I was the one who had put most of the riding on him in the five months she owned him, so she ended up giving him to me. I knew by then he had "issues," but had grown attached.
This is Hero more recently:
Here is a timeline of how things have changed between when I first met him in October of 2017 until now.
Oct 26, 2017-Feb 22, 2018:
My friend adopts Rascal. We think of him as being a green horse. Her beginner boyfriend get tossed off right away a couple of times. I mostly ride him, keeping things calm for his new owner. At first Rascal seems fairly calm - overwhelmed, and somewhat shut down. When we begin taking him out more, he starts spooking more and begins to buck at times.
He cannot really pick up canter, which I chalk up to him being green. On the lunge he canters disunited. The vet does a check, does not find anything really wrong. He does not seem to like bits but finally we try an mullen mouth Kimberwicke, which he seems to prefer.
Feb 22, 2018-June 1 2018:
I begin to notice there is more than a green horse here. I suspect serious physical issues. I wonder about SI joint damage. He acts like he has been treated like a machine. He is tense when handled and defensive. On April 20, it is decided he will not be a good match for his beginner owner. I take over ownership, knowing there may be some physical problems as well as behavioral ones, but I have grown attached. He begins to get better at understanding cues and after lots of rides responds well, although he still is spooky and bucks a lot.
June 1, 2018-August 28th, 2018:
A pattern is emerging. I notice that I can predict when he will buck, hop or kick out. He has issues especially in deep footing and going down hills. From online information, I decide he may have locking stifles. Trimming his hind hooves based on that idea seems to help a bit. The vet diagnoses him on July 18 with Intermittent Upward Fixation of Patellas. He is started on Equioxx. By the end of July, he is having rides with less bucking and even sometimes no bucking.
August 28th, 2018-Nov 21, 2018:
The trial of Equioxx is over. More riding and rehab including massage and stretching. At times he seems better, but has serious toe wear on hinds even though using boots for riding. Gradually seems to lose strength again in hind end despite exercise.
Nov 21st, 2018- March 24, 2019:
Restarted on Equioxx. I see Hero gallop for the first time on the lunge line. Suddenly, he begins using his hind end more and starts rearing under saddle. Apparently he would always have liked to rear, but was not strong enough. On Dec. 8th he gets stifles injected. By the end of December he does not seem to mind being brushed all over with a soft brush, his canter is getting stronger and there is less bucking.
Hero continues to improve and have better and better days. By spring he seems to push off with hinds in the trot with some spring and less toe drag. On the 24th of March I note in my journal “Best Ride Ever.”
March 24, 2019-Jan 2020: Many good rides. Now it seems any residual bucking and behavioral issues relate to learned behavior rather than reaction to pain. If upset or nervous, he will throw in a buck or hop. Now they are basically his “spook.” On occasion if the footing is bad or we slip on a hill, I can tell his stifles do slip and he gives a buck or kick.
By July I feel I know Hero and his reactions, and can give a reprimand if he gets too worked up, and he will settle things down again. He begins to calm down very fast, within seconds after getting upset.
Jan 2020- Aug 2020: Expressiveness has come down in intensity. He does not feel the need to displace nerves onto the handler with snapping teeth or barging, and if I brush too hard or do something he dislikes, he does not feel he has to pin his ears, glare or show over the top body language. I can tell we are communicating much better and that he has crossed another threshold of trust, really believing it is safe to go out with me unless something very scary shows up.
August 2020- present: Continuing to build a relationship, it is starting to feel like we are real partners. I’ve learned that Hero is more fearful when out alone than I realized, similar to how Amore used to be. Since he tends to stop and look more often than prance and snort, I thought he was braver than he really was. In a new environment it is easier to see. This year I am working on gradually improving on his bravery with frequent rides around a 2.5 mile route by himself.