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Part could be size differences, part could be your expectation and PonyKid is probably pushing him into doing things he doesn't care to. It also could be the way the kid rides. If he is just cowboying around and not well versed in "proper" technique Toby may be just saying enough is enough.
 

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Discussion Starter #23
Sorry the weather has not cooperated but glad to see you are back in the saddle.

Eh, it's winter in New England, it is what it is, right? Right now, for example, it's sleeting, and an hour or so ago it was hailing. I'll take what I can get.


Also, PonyKid is about my height if not slightly taller, though he weighs less than I do. I haven't seen him ride much, he used to ride at a more show-focused barn but found it way too stressful. He rides Lavinia, a lovely Morgan mare, without any particular incident that I know of, and Lavi will absolutely let someone know if she's unhappy. Pope, Toby's owner, said Toby bucked on him, too, and apparently rolled afterward, so maybe Toby's just testing who he can walk all over. I don't know. As long as Tobes doesn't start pulling anything with me, I'll just let things play out.


Funny note, though: I often look at ads for horses I can't buy (which is all horses), and there's a horse in another part of the state for sale whose build is nearly exactly the same as Toby's. He's got the same colors, in a different pattern, as well, and they're close in age. I joked to my instructor we should get Tobes to spit in a vial for a DNA test.



Hopefully things are sort of dry by Friday. (I say, hopefully, as it's been precipitating in multiple ways for 24 hours).
 

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I had to have a microdiscectomy 30 years ago. I was forbidden horses for a year! That was the hardest thing I have ever had to do. But like you, my sciatic nerve was being crushed and that's a pain worse than childbirth. You are lucky that medicine has improved in the last 30 years.

My ortho wants to put a plate in my lumbar now, as I have degenerating disks. I've said no for now since riding doesn't hurt. I don't want to lose the spinal flexibility.

Glad you're back in the saddle now. Take your time and enjoy the journey of learning horse. It's a journey without end. 😊
 

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Discussion Starter #25
I had to have a microdiscectomy 30 years ago. I was forbidden horses for a year! That was the hardest thing I have ever had to do. But like you, my sciatic nerve was being crushed and that's a pain worse than childbirth. You are lucky that medicine has improved in the last 30 years.

My ortho wants to put a plate in my lumbar now, as I have degenerating disks. I've said no for now since riding doesn't hurt. I don't want to lose the spinal flexibility.

Glad you're back in the saddle now. Take your time and enjoy the journey of learning horse. It's a journey without end. 😊

I'm in no hurry to do anything really wild, for sure. My MRI was ghastly - the disc was compressing both the right and left nerve roots, and I was basically in constant pain. I don't want to ruin it. I've got physical therapy started to help with building core strength and keeping anything else from going awry, and I'm losing some weight as well.



Yesterday I dropped by the barn because it was just so nice out, I didn't want to go swim indoors and I didn't want to work out in the gym, so I went to the barn. Turns out a ride had been booked, but the owner forgot to put it in the book, and my instructor was back late from the previous ride and there was a little chaos and Tobes of course went and rolled, so long story short I took Jasper. I hadn't ridden Jasper since before surgery, but we'd been riding on the trails together in the late summer and fall when Toby was out for back soreness. Jasper's very smooth, but very forward, so I was a little wary about riding him because as a lead horse he was a challenge for me (like, he would be too much a horse for me to own, but he's good for sometimes-riding while I work with Toby). However, we were last in line, and he went quite nicely - no head tossing, no pulling, I used the bit that I was using for him before. He was utterly polite on a loose rein and leg/body cues, I think even moreso than he's been before. He's a good guy, a wise old man with a lot of go. The terrain was such (and the two guests hadn't ridden before) that we didn't trot, but like I said - I'm in no rush to do anything crazy.



Hopefully I can ride again Friday, as long as it doesn't rain.
 

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Discussion Starter #26
Well earlier this week I was having some sad feelings, because even though I went to ride on Wednesday and had a good time, I was feeling very peripheral. That is, I don't own or lease any of the horses at the barn, and obviously, Pope owns Toby now, so I can't really even pretend he's "mine", and sometimes time on the horses feels very painfully borrowed, like I'm just sort of orbiting the barn's existence, and it's a lonely feeling.


So I was supposed to have a lesson Friday, and my instructor wasn't there (a note in the book said she would be, eventually), and I didn't want it to be too dark so I tacked Tobes up and was riding in the ring, still feeling sort of sad and peripheral. He was being a little bit of a butthead, not to frustration just - flicking his ears in that way he does when he isn't sure what I'm asking, so I know it's my fault and I have to try something else. My instructor showed up and I didn't notice at first, but she watched me for a while from outside the ring, so I got to show her some of the stuff I've tried with him on my own. That was nice. The shoulder-ins we did were not as nice as I think we've done before, but she said they weren't bad at all, considering he doesn't do them much and I'm still novice at the whole thing. (Naturally, things never go as well when someone is watching).



We ended up riding longer than usual, and longer than I thought we would, and I felt better about things. My instructor and I got to sit and talk, which we haven't gotten to. I came to an epiphany of sorts that's probably not a surprise to more experienced riders - we were talking about horses, and certain horses being too much, or just being different.



I was thinking that for riding horses, most of us are asking them for a fundamental set of the same things (forward, back, turn right, turn left, go faster, go slower, and variances from there), and there's a commonality in how we ask riding horses for these things (reins, body language), and it's like literally learning a language - and different animals require different levels of fluency in that language. It seemed analogous to practicing Russian with my hockey teammate: he's a native speaker, and knows me well enough that even if I was clumsy with phrasing and pronunciation, he'll understand me and respond in kind. Conversely, if I spoke with someone I didn't know, they might just give me a blank stare, or, they'd respond but at a level I couldn't keep up with. If I ask Toby for something in a clumsy way but it's at least vaguely familiar, he'll most often try and answer me with at least what he thinks I want (which is how we learned he can side-pass). But if I asked, say, Steel, or even Jasper, it'd be a different conversation, because I'm not fluent enough at this point in our lingua franca. I suppose looking at it this way might seem kind of "woo", but it helps me to think of it this way, because it connects back to learning from riding many horses - just like speaking a language, it increases fluency, and the ability to converse and connect.
 

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Discussion Starter #27
Had an awful call at work last night, so I went to the barn today. Horses don't solve all my problems, but they're not far off. Toby & I led on the trail for the first time in a long time, there was a sudden snow squall that was strangely beautiful, and it was utterly quiet on the trail aside from the trees creaking in the wind. Toby gave me some trouble at a turning point - they all know the trails, so he knows if we go x way that's the way home, so he wanted to go x but I didn't. So I kept at him, diligently. My trainer mostly watched with a little assistance, and eventually he got going. But for our first time back lead in at least 4 months, it's not bad. Anyway it was beautiful out and I felt much better after.
 

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I am so glad you got to hit the trails for a bit, horses really are the best therapy. Like if we are ever in bad moods, or have a bad day...we know we can count on them, always. Good for you for leading, too! :D
 

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Discussion Starter #29
I am so glad you got to hit the trails for a bit, horses really are the best therapy. Like if we are ever in bad moods, or have a bad day...we know we can count on them, always. Good for you for leading, too! :D

My instructor/teacher/guide knows, I think, that since I work Tuesdays, if I'm coming to the barn on Wednesday (I come off work 7am Wednesday, get home around 8:30 usually, and take a nap), something rough has happened. I think that's probably why she had me lead - she knew I needed something to settle me, and having a task is good for that. It also gives me a chance to talk to Toby largely uninterrupted about what's going on around us. ("...yes, I get that you see/hear something, buddy, but whatever it is, it won't get us. It's probably deer. Thank you for telling me. No, that's the train. The train can't get us. It's big and loud, but it can't get us." etc) When I have a rough call like Tuesday's, it helps to know there's something concrete I can do, some physical way to connect with the world. I'm fortunately that I should be able to ride tomorrow as well (the weather seems to be holding).
 

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Discussion Starter #30
My riding instructor has an approximate temperature limit (low) of 20F. It was not 20F, not with the windchill, when I arrived. However, I'd come all the way, and dressed in at least 2 layers on pretty much every part of my body, so I figured why not. We played in the ring at a walk while my instructor hid out in the barn office and checked every so often to make sure I hadn't frozen. Tobes was good, a little up at the strong wind and the three in the paddock next to the ring being knuckleheads to each other. Working on bending through the neck - he has an easier time to the left than the right, I noticed. We'll stand and I'll have him bend his head toward my foot, back to center, then the other side, and repeat. Then we'll do a long serpentine down the ring, making relatively tight turns back and forth, circle, and repeat from the other side, and he'll generally be easier turning left.
 

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I don't miss the days riding in the cold. At all. I would say never again but every time I say never those things wind up coming to pass...
 

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Discussion Starter #32
As long as I am properly attired, I generally don't mind. My feet and hands are usually cold, been that way since I was a little kid - they'll go bluish and look terrible, but nothing's really wrong. But as I said to my instructor yesterday, as long as my vital organs are still perfusing, I'm good. Besides, I figured I shouldn't waste a trip out there, and I know Toby will be alright, he lives outside all year and has a good coat.


Sometimes I think Toby gets sort of ... pushier? When his owner's been around. But he gets his act together pretty quickly. It's funny, how he reacts to me, vs. Pope, vs. the Ponykid. He's getting fussy about having his saddle put on again, which my instructor thinks might be due to how other people saddle him (ie tightening him up too quickly). He doesn't try anything, but some days he's putting his ears back and grinding his teeth before I even put a blanket on him. I try to do his girth slowly and praise him for behaving in between rounds of tightening, then wait to do the final tightening til we get to the mounting block. That seems to work alright.
 

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It would not surprise me at all. I've noticed with ours, with the lesson horses and with leased horses the order in which the humans come in contact often determines the attitude the next human down the line experiences.
 

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Discussion Starter #34
It would not surprise me at all. I've noticed with ours, with the lesson horses and with leased horses the order in which the humans come in contact often determines the attitude the next human down the line experiences.

He does change his attitude pretty quickly, with me anyway - even if he tries to sneak in some attitude, if I make it clear that's not allowed, he shapes up.



I would like to look up some ways of improving his bend and suppleness. If I can't trot that much (d/t weather, ground conditions, the alignment of the planets...) at least we can work on other things. My trainer agrees he does it nicely, all the little moves I ask him for that I can't exactly quantify (sidepass, travers, back and turn, more turning, "horse yoga"), just that he isn't asked for it very often.
 

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Discussion Starter #35
WELL TODAY WAS AN ADVENTURE.


Went out to the barn, gotta ride Jasper today because Toby's owner is coming at some point. Cool beans, Jasper's a challenge but I'm feeling pretty good and it's a nice day without any major adverse weather conditions. Also, Jasper has already been out at least once, unlike last time when he hadn't been out at all that day and walked himself out of his saddle.


So everything was going pretty smoothly. Leading, outbound, he's doing well - not outwalking my instructor (much). He's a bit fussed because there's a freight train blowing its horn in the distance, close enough that we might see it (there are trails that cross the tracks, but not today) but behaving. Through the woods, up the gas line, around by the lake, etc. I'm feeling good and considering the possibility of a trot. Having not trotted on Jasper since before surgery, that's a big decision because he's a big horse with a big stride. His trot is super smooth - you really can just sit it - but it covers a lot of ground.


As we make the turns to go home, I make a series of strategic errors. One, I am in the lead. Two, we are headed back to the barn and the horses always have more pep in their step for this leg. Three, I decide this is the point where we should trot. Good idea! So we pick it up and I'm sitting back when he starts going faster and I feel his mechanics changing and I think: "...oh, wait, this is - "


Long story short I cantered for the first time today and it wasn't entirely my decision. But he came back down to a trot nicely he was just still really excited and frankly, so was I. Firstly, it felt quite smooth - his trot is nice and comfortable anyway - and honestly almost slower than his trot. It was a very distinct change from trot to canter, like I couldn't tell you what leg went out first but I could pinpoint when it changed, because I had that slow split second to realize what it was. Second, it was fun - exhilarating, even if it wasn't my choice. I told my instructor I'd like to try it again but on purpose next time. She said I looked really good - I kept my legs relaxed, didn't squeeze him, and just kinda rolled with it. With his trot, one sort of - if you set back and lean like you're on a chopper-style motorcycle, it's fast and smoother than trying to post. So I was already mostly set back. It was pretty comfortable, honestly, and didn't hurt my back or anything.



He was still excitable for the rest of the ride ("HEY. RIDER. WE DID. THE FUN THING. LET'S DO. AGAIN.") but I kept him to a walk, and we did see the freight train pass but he wasn't too freaked out.



It was an adventure!
 

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Discussion Starter #38
It was really fun! It didn't hurt and I didn't fall off. My instructor commended me on not panicking (I don't think I had time to panic). It's fascinating to me how very distinctly (for those few strides) I felt his gait change, I mean in the sense that it was clearly a one two three, one two three. Clear enough that I think if/when I try it again, I might be able to sort out a lead. I credit this to Jasper for being so smooth - I'll have to see what Toby's feels like.

I am not about to just go canter all the time, because if nothing else I genuinely enjoy perfecting myself at slower gaits, but it's really cool to discover a new tool in the box to explore. It also makes me less afraid of trotting, because hey if I don't fly off at canter (didn't even lose my stirrups), trot should be fine. (It's like work: if I survive working a code in a cramped, chaotic ambulance and ED, then doing a stable intubated transfer seems easy.)
 

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Discussion Starter #39
Rode Jasper again Friday in the hopes of cantering again. (I could've picked Toby, but Jasper, while fast, is smoother at trot and canter, so I weighed the options).

It was... Moderately successful, if not nearly as smooth as last time. Tensing because I'm anticipating. But, once again, I did not lose stirrups and did not fall off. Notes:

-I need two hands to ride trot/canter with him. My hands need to be redirected. (So I don't do dumb things like grab the saddle horn)

-As with all horses, he goes faster on the way home, so we'll try an outbound canter again. I tensed up and couldn't quite push him into it, so the inbound canter was, uh, a bit big because he was just Up.

-Riding Jasper is a little like when you're learning a language and decide to practice with a native speaker, but the speaker gets so excited they forget you are not fluent. Jasper does what you ask, even when you don't mean to ask for that. The difference between asking for вода/voda and водка/vodka.

-That said, while riding him all the time can be exhausting, it's overall a pleasant challenge. For example, he can now go outbound on a fairly lose rein without leaving everyone behind. We can stop, stand, and look back (which I do on purpose, hoping to teach him that this is A Thing that lead horses must sometimes do).
Yesterday, he was antsy going back and my trainer had me put him in circles - making him work and work (you would not think a 16hh horse could make a circle that tight...) and then stop and hold. We did this several times. Next time, we may have to do it again.

-I'd learned earlier that he can jog/collected trot. It is almost twee - it's distinctly two beat, but floaty, like you're just sort of there. Anyway, mostly he's done this for a few strides and then either walked fast or actually trotted. I had been trying to get him to sustain it, and yesterday was finally successful for about 30m or so (on the trail, there are specific short places that are safest to trot or canter, between 25m-75m or so.

-Jasper's actually really good about listening as far as direction of travel. He doesn't fuss over much about not turning immediately home. ASAP. For some reason yesterday he really, REALLY wanted to go downhill on the gas line, even though there is nothing down there but ice and mud. (The gas line is cleared, but follows the line of the hills, so there's a few dips where it gets super cruddy).

-He is fast and tall and my brain keeps trying to convince me we will die. We will not, because all you really need to do is relax and roll with it like a rocking chair, but it's a rocking chair on the bed of a tractor trailer on I-95 so.

The Ponykid will be riding him in the local St Patrick's Day parade (the barn goes every year). I am not totally sure how this will work out but I hope it goes well. I wish I could go, but priority is to staff & leasers (owners can ride their own horses as suitable), and Toby's owner is taking him. Toby will be fine. Jasper isn't at all spooky he just goes. At any rate I'll ride whichever of them on the trail (or in the ring, as with Tobes) and try not to teach any bad habits in the meantime.
 

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Discussion Starter #40
I had a great plan on Wednesday to solve this partially downed sapling (a pair of saplings, but one is still high enough to pass under), and it didn't exactly come off the way I planned but we solved it. I brought a small handsaw, my trainer ended up cutting the lower sapling from the ground and I picked the protruding branches off the higher one. You still have to stay to the right, but unless you're 6'5" on Jasper you'll be alright. I rode Toby, because I can maneuver him more subtly than Jasper, and he'll listen. But it wasn't like the last tiny sapling - too big and awkward to cut or move from horseback. Oh well.

Toby tried to pull some nonsense - thought he wanted to turn and drink after we crossed this little stream, but no, he wanted to go home. So he fussed but I made him cross back. Brat. I told him he might be able to pull that with Pope (his owner) but he better not try with me.

On the way back Toby took a big bounce back over the stream (the banks are angled, so you have to go down but right up again) so I guess that's his way of saying thanks. It wasn't a jump really, just popped over.

Sometimes I wish I wasn't so attached to him. But, here we are.
 
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