Our Story So Far
(Written March 2012, Updates appended periodically.)
“A thing I never know, when I’m starting out to tell a story about a chap I’ve told a story about before, is how much explanation to bung in at the onset.”
Code of the Woosters by P.G. Wodehouse
[Herbert Jenkins 1938, Google books 2012]
Short version: Bought a fancy, shiny horse to take me to new competitive heights. It didn’t work out that way. Or if you chose to be optimistic, hasn’t worked out that way yet. The plan is to get him relaxed in hand before riding again. The plan is taking a long time. The plan causes me serious doubts on daily basis.
Long version: We began looking for my new horse in September of 2009. I rode two dozen horses, had a few near misses [How I Won the Training Level AEC], and – after almost a year – found Rodney, then named Roscoe [Horse Hunt].
[Links to previous posts are offered for additional diversion but are not required reading. They will not appear on the test. What, the words Required Reading don’t timewarp you back to a college library reading room? You don’t picture yourself holding a stack of books that you will take back to your dorm and never open? But I digress.]
I started off with all the enthusiasm and optimism inherent in a new horse [The Cast Assembles]. He has his first lameness [New Horse Blues], I bought new tack [Buying a Horse is Only the Beginning], and I went to an event to check out my future competition [The AEC, a Realization in Five Phases].
I knew there would be an adjustment period. He went from living in a stall and exercising in a ring to living out and exercising in a corner of our pasture. For lack of ring rails, we overshot a lot of turns. On the upside, he went from being one of 40 horses to being the Big Horse in the barn. He seemed to like that. However, instead of getting better, the riding got progressively worse. He began to buck and spin. We finally realized that his food was too-high octane [Back to Square One].
We dialed everything back to zero with a goal of getting him to be a happy, relaxed horse in his new home. In the spirit of starting afresh, he was rechristened as Rodney in honor of jumper rider Rodney Jenkins. I started on groundwork [Getting to Know You], took up swimming [Spring Fitness]. and in an unfounded spirit of optimism signed up for a Jimmy Wofford clinic [Forward Planning].
[The first nine posts appeared on the USEA Website under the series title, Back To Eventing. Their emphasis changed and I continued to blog monthly as Back To Riding.]
Last summer, after almost a year, we appeared to have made little progress on rider issues of nervousness, inadequacy, and basic adjustment to a new horse [SITREP]. Husband frequently points out that horse and rider are not that far apart in personality [SIT[uation]REP[ort] II – The Horse].
In September 2011, Rodney had another inexplicable come-apart during a short handwalk where everything had been done to maximize his comfort level. While it was unpleasant, it made me realize that I will not stop working with him, no matter how slowly it goes, nor how cranky I get about it [Aftermath of an Explosion]. I continued to do ground work, tried not to think about our aborted show career, and tried to focus on the present and on the positive [My Two Horses].
In October, I audited the Wofford clinic [Weekend with Wofford] and got reinspired to Make Progress. I took him out for a handwalk around the perimeter of the pasture determined to get him over himself. This resulted in his worst meltdown yet [Livin’ Large]. Followed quickly by meltdown on my part. In the subsequent dissection of the incident, we decided to mess with his diet yet again: taking him off corn/vegetable oil [The Oily Truth] and putting him on daily gastric medication [Say Ahhhh!]. The results are increased flexibility and a better, if not serene, attitude.
Since switching to a daily blog in late December 2011, we have stalled. I started the year working on ground exercises [We begin. Again] but ended up waiting until spring: bad weather, bad mood, and a horse who seems to behave better in the warm [The Weather Outside Is Frightful (for us)]. He had a small relapse, but not a complete come-apart [Resuming The Doom Spiral]. It’s hard to tell if he’s holding it together better or we are getting better at reading the signs and stopping before the rods melt.
I can report progress on loosening up the scar on his back from a foalhood injury. [What A Stinker & Daddy Dearest] Current configuration, starting from the back just behind the withers and working up: towel, microwaved pad, sheepskin pad, overgirth. Second pad & faux sheep on his hindquarters [Immersed in the Equine Idiom] While there remain massive (relatively) amounts of scar tissue in the muscle, the first step is to break up the adhesion between the muscle and skin. If one section of skin is fixed in place & the surrounding skin moves, I would think that would lead to wrinkles in the skin. Since it is in the saddle area, I would furthermore think skin wrinkles would pinch. OTOH, he showed for years as was, so perhaps a change will have no effect. Still it can’t hurt. Plus it’s one of the few things that we do together that doesn’t freak out the horse or frustrate the rider. Most of the time. [Point of 100 Meetings]
I see two possibilities for our current state: real but imperceptible progress or stagnation.
1) Our eventual triumph will be so resounding that our story will get sold to Disney. Therefore, we are now suffering the heartwarming difficulties that we will overcome in the final act, complete with background music and our own Breyer Model.
2) I am kidding myself. Any illusion of progress is just Brownian motion.
Husband favors the former. He feels that day-to-day progress is lost to noise in the system.
April & May. Started to make small progress as the weather warmed [Rays] until derailed by mare rehab [How] well into June.
June, July & August. Plus ça change plus ce meme chose. [Spinning Wheels]
September. Met my first American Saddlebred [Sam I Am]. List of saddleseat posts here.
December. Until further update, assume we (Rodney & I) remain approximately here.
August 2013. Behavior improvement from dosage change in Feb [Rodney Update] appears to have lasted. Yeah!
January 2014. Barn behavior tremendously better. Riding behavior, not so much. [Zeno’s Horse Training]