Know Your Own Horse

Today’s Tip: You have to know your own horse, it’s more valuable than any vet’s evaluation…Sorta. Read on to figure out what I mean.

Life is getting busy again. I’m taking online classes and we’re getting busy with one right now that I swear expects us to read a whole novel just to understand what we’re supposed to do for the class. Honestly, I’ve heard more concise explanations of collecting a horse than how to do an annotated bibliography!

Anyway, that meant that my only horsey time yesterday was running errands and today it was just feeding. On the plus side – yesterday my saddle came! It’s a used Tennessean, and it’s very used. Watch for updates on what I hope will be the miracles of saddlesoap and leather conditioner. I also have a barn stocked full of grain, cat food, supplements, and salt blocks. Not nearly as exciting for me, but the critters were rather pleased.

So my point about knowing your own horse…The other day I thought it would be good do some exercises for the horses even when I just have a minute or two. A dressage instructor long ago taught me to apply pressure under their bellies to get them to round their back up. If you’ve never done this, stand on the side of your horse facing them (like you were grooming). My preferred method is to put my hands palms up, stick all my fingers straight up, put them on the underneath side of the horse’s barrel, and push up and wiggle my fingers. It will be a little closer to you than their center, so I do it on both sides to make sure they get an even stretch/muscle builder. Classy was just fine with this exercise, especially since he’s done it plenty of times before. Both my mares, at least one of whom I know has done it before, pinned their ears and generally expressed dissatisfaction with the whole thing. Although I have two mares and only one gelding, I’m really more experienced with the boys. Part of me wonders if they’re just “being mares.” They probably would have preferred to have just been left alone to nibble hay and sun themselves, but here I was sticking them with my pokey fingers. On the other hand, there could also be a physical problem.

Most of the time when I read about responses like this, “experts” say, “Ask your vet.” I’ve done that. Evee has been cinchy for a long time. She didn’t used to be and I’ve tried several different approaches and I can’t help but think there’s a physical problem. It’s just an instinct. Several vets, though, have said, “No, it’s just bad behavior.” I feel kind of stuck because short of spending tons of money and energy hauling her around to specialists, I’m kind of out of resources.

What now? My plan is to wait a week or so, try the exercises again, continue pushing and prodding (gently) in different contexts, and see if I can isolate the issues myself. For all I know, they could even bee in heat and it’s just a “time of the month” pain. Again…less experience with the girls, so I have no idea… If I ever find any trends, any specifics, I’ll share them with my vet. If I don’t, I’ll be happy to chalk it up to bad behavior. I can fix that! (maybe…)

Moral of the story: Know your horse because your vet doesn’t have the daily interaction you do, so you have to be the one to speak up for them. Years of education and experience give them one advantage, but not the whole package.


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