There are a million things that equestrians obsess about when it comes to our horses. Some of them are seasonal such as right now there is not a day that goes by in our barn that someone isn’t standing in front of their stall yelling down the aisle, “what blanket are you putting on your horse tonight?” or “has anyone heard the weather report?” Then there is always the wind debate. “Well it is supposed to be 40 but the winds are going to be crazy so should I add an extra layer?” AHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!! I could do an entire post on the constant blanketing questions but this post is not about that.
This post is about knowing that your horse is “off” but you just can’t figure out what it is. Because they can’t talk to us we have to play investigator when there isn’t an obvious ailment. We care for these animals day in and day out. We know their bodies, their personalities, the way they move, and when something isn’t right hopefully we can identify it quickly but sometimes it can be a bit harder and if you are like me you obsess about what could be wrong. Right now I am obsessing if there is something wrong with Winifred and, if so, what can I do to help him get back to 100%.
I flatted Winifred in a lesson on Friday. It was cold but not crazy cold. Right from the start, he was a little lazy. If you know my boy you know that I will never complain about Mr. Crazy Pants being lazy. He was moving fine so I just went on thinking it was just a nice break from his usual hyperness. My first clue though was when I asked for the extended trot and he just plain said, “no”. He wasn’t nasty about it at all and he was still trotting but I was not able to move him out at all. Extending the trot normally is his 3rd favorite thing in life (1st is jumping and 2nd is cantering). Again, the trot he was giving me did not indicate any type of lameness though. His right lead canter was good. I had to push a little more than normal but he went around with his amazingly smooth rocking horse canter. His left lead canter started just like the right but after a couple of times around the ring his head started to get heavier and heavier in my hands then at one point he started to turn his head sideways just slightly so that his nose was going towards the right. I picked his head up a bit and he responded but 3 or 4 strides later he did it again. He has never done that. The first thing that came to my mind was that maybe he was gassy since he let out a pretty gross wet fart the ride before. After the lesson I mentioned it but no one else noticed anything wrong with him.
He had Saturday off and then we flatted by ourselves on Sunday. I had to change up my riding schedule so I am now riding earlier in the day which puts the sun in a different position creating beams of light through the windows. Winifred was not sure about the new bright spots on the ground and was pretty peppy our whole ride. Not that I loved him being spooky but I did love that he was not heavy in my hands and no weird sideways head issues.
He had Monday off and then last night (Tuesday) was our jumping lesson. It was very cold yesterday so I expected a hyped up horse and right from the moment I got him out of his stall I knew I was right. We have a new boarder and this was the first time she was riding with us. I really like her horse and since she is a mare Winifred really likes her too. Lol. Pretty sure he was gelded late in life cause he tends to get a bit studdy around some mares especially new ones so that added to his “alertness”. We also had a pretty good size chain reaction of spooking when another horse spooked at TS walking into the ring. Winifred was up but besides the every now and then small spook (he likes to juke a little sideways but nothing big it is kind of funny actually) he was being a good boy. He was moving out without excessive help from me and carrying his head nicely. Once we moved to the second direction though I could feel a change in him. I had to keep a good amount of leg on him to keep him moving. Then when we cantered it took all the leg I had to stop him from breaking and suddenly I had to hold his head up for him again. It was noticeable enough this time that TS saw it. She said at that point he was looking a little stiff too but nothing major. I took him over a small X a couple of times and the mechanics were all there but he just didn’t have his gusto effort over it.
So now I am left with the question, “is something wrong?” I can tell you that even though I am a major worry wart, I am 100% certain that if there is something wrong it is nothing major. But major or not I want to make sure he is feeling the best he can. So here are some of my ideas:
- He has a little bug that is just making him feel under the weather.
- Something in his mouth is bothering him.
- His neck and/or back needs an adjustment.
- He is 19 years old, it is cold in Michigan, and he is just feeling his age for the very first time.