I decided to go to work today. It wasn't too bad. I'm definitely still stiff and sore, especially my neck, but I am feeling better compared to yesterday. It was a slow day at work so it's all good.
I'll forewarn you that this post is long and wordy and.... inconclusive lol. I've been obsessing over the fall since it happened. I switch between mentally chewing myself out for being stupid enough to ride him bareback in a halter when he'd had several days off and being mad at him for being such a stupid idiot when he's normally such a sensible horse, but humans will be humans and horses will be horses and I need to let it all go.
I've been thinking over the spookiness and I thought it was the cool weather, but then I realized that I started feeding him Empower Boost (a fat supplement) about the time this all started..... STUPID!!! He lost weight last winter for the first time so I was trying to get a jump on the calories before the cold really hit. Not my best idea. It was too many calories and has been making him very energetic and up. He's also developing fat pads so I am taking him off of it and all he will get is hay and his ration balancer unless he actually does lose weight. So hopefully that will solve one of our problems. Too bad it takes so long for me to figure crap out. :(
So here are the details of the fall. I walked outside just before dark and called Chrome. He came out of the barn, his mouth full of hay and nickered at me. I put his halter on, then used the round pen panels to get on bareback. As soon as I asked him to walk I could feel that he was very energetic, but he only walked and was listening. Then Jackal started trailing rabbits and I was watching him and laughing.
I finally asked Chrome to walk toward the back of the pasture, but we were still in the front (I don't like to ride in the back when bareback and in a halter). I was planning to circle around toward the front, but he was trying to turn that way toward the barn on his own. I corrected him twice (just steering him away, not scolding him or anything). The next thing I know he spins to his left (toward the barn). I manage to sit the spin, but it felt like he was going to bolt, so I was pulling his head around. Unfortunately I shifted off balance at the same time and was pulling on the rope, trying to hang on. At some point while all of the was happening he went from bolting, to running sideways out from under me and I came off.
So what I've been obsessing over is this... did he spook, spin and then decide to take off because he was feeling frisky, then panicked when I started to fall? Or did he spin and bolt to be a barn sour asshole and then panicked when I started to fall? I honestly for the life of me can not figure out if he spooked or if he was being a jerk... and that really bothers me. I don't know if I should give him the benefit of the doubt or crack down on him for being bad... When I fell he took off and stopped under a tree (didn't go all the way to the gate or to the barn) and stood frozen with his head straight up in the air. The whole time I was on the ground, trying to breathe, then relaxing until I caught my breath and the pain subsided, then standing up and dusting off, then limping over to him, he NEVER MOVED! That seems like fear to me. Was it fear from whatever spooked him, from me coming off or was he afraid I was mad at him? Also the tree he was standing under is on the other side of the round pen so he had to run toward the gate, then cut around the panels and then spin to face back in the other direction.
He let me walk right up to him and followed me out to the spot where he spooked. He stood still while I untied the rope. He was very up, but didn't seem afraid of me or anything, until I popped him on the butt because I wanted him to longe and he was ignoring me. I think that's when he realized I was mad because he scurried around me. I made him change directions several times and longed him both where he spooked and where I fell. This was on a normal length lead rope and he was even cantering around me at times. I've never seen him canter such a tiny circle. I don't know if I overreacted or not. The only time I hit him was when I popped him with the rope for ignoring my initial request to longe.
At one point I asked him to change directions and he spun around, leaped into the air and kicked out toward me. I went ballistic, screaming at him and making him run backwards. When I finally let him stop, he stood frozen. Then I walked up to him and led him back out into the open so I could longe him some more. He let me approach and he walked right by my side. I longed him again. When the pain started getting to me (couldn't have been for than five minutes) I led him up to the house and tied him to a tree.
So that is the entire sequence of events. I'm not leaving anything out. I'm not fudging on details. I'm not sugarcoating anything. I was so shocked (once inside I started shivering like crazy) and angry that the details are definitely not clear (except for the part where I was laying on the ground and couldn't draw air in... that is excruciatingly clear), but I remember everything. I remember when I undid my chin strap because I thought I was suffocating. I remember where he spooked, where I fell, where he was standing, everything. I did not black out and I was not disoriented. Even with all of that I have NO IDEA what the heck happened!!!!!! I could analyze this for days and I still don't think I'll ever know the truth.
To me it felt like a spook and spin. Then, because he was feeling up and barn sour, he decided to bolt. When I screamed and started to fall he panicked, went sideways, I came off and he ran away. That's what I think happened. So it was partly innocent and partly him being a jerk. If that's not what happened I really don't want to be unfair to him though.
So I've decided to keep working him consistently from the ground, because I hurt too bad to get on and frankly at this moment in time I don't ever care to be on the back of a horse again. I'm going to stay cool headed and calm when I work him. As pissed as I am I will not take it out on him because I'm as much at fault for poor judgement (bareback/halter/fresh horse) as he is.
After work today I decided to longe him because I don't want him thinking longeing is a torture session. I wanted to remind him that the longe is okay.
I put the halter and long driving rein on him so he wouldn't be on a tiny circle and took my long longeing whip. He wanted to take off as soon as I asked him to go, but I insisted he walk. He calmed down pretty quick when he realized all I wanted him to do was walk. I walked him in both directions for seven or eight minutes and then asked him to trot. He again wanted to bolt, but I insisted and he trotted around me with his head in the clouds. After switching directions a couple of times he started lowering his head and chewing. I immediately praised him vocally. He obviously tried to stop when I said good boy, but I insisted he kept going. I made sure that when I asked him to stop so we could switch directions that I asked when he had his head down.
He was doing great and I was about to quit when the goats started tearing through, around and on top (okay on the fenders) of the horse trailer. His head and tail went up and he started being stupid. I scolded him and insisted he walk. Once he could walk calmly again I asked him to trot. Once he was trotting calmly with his head down I let him stop. He never threatened me, never bucked, never kicked, never spooked, never spun, never avoided me when I approached him, nothing. All he did was put his tail up, bolt and was slow to respond to my cues when he was distracted, but we worked through all of it until he was calm. The whole session was only 16 minutes.
Because I'm just weird I put my husband's cell phone in a pouch around Chrome's neck with Endomondo on because I wanted to see how many miles a horse covers while longeing, but the stupid thing didn't count the distance because I guess it thought he was standing still. Darn! GPS has it's limitations I guess hehe. That has no relevance to anything. That's just me being weird.
So after everything his stifles seem fine, so I'm probably going to keep doing some longeing and handwalking for a few days until I find the nerve to get back on. I will NOT be riding him bareback or in the halter again until he proves he's trustworthy. I really hope taking him off the fat supplement helps calm him down some. It's nice having a horse with some energy, but having a spooky, stupid horse is not nice at all. :\
Well that's where we are. I still feel like I have no idea what happened or what's going to happen, but I'm trying not to worry about it. I have a tendency to obsess over things I don't understand or that are out of my control and I've been working really hard on trying not to do that. So I've written all of this out and now I'm going to let it go. Thank you for listening. If anyone wants to stick up for Chrome and remind me why I love him, go for it. If you have suggestions on how to work on our confidence, I appreciate that too. Please don't tell me how stupid I am though because I'm already aware of that.
Sorry for the double post today. I only have today and tomorrow to finish up my recap before it's January (how did that happen??), so I had to post those. I'll keep you guys updated on what is happening. Here's hoping 2015 is a fresh start and that we can move past this really quickly and not dwell on it or backtrack too much.
P.S. I also forgot to mention, we will no longer be having piddly rides. When I ride I'm going to be working on teaching him something and paying one hundred percent attention to him. I will no longer be a passenger! I've always known how dangerous that can be, but it's easy to forget sometimes and just let yourself get swept away in relaxing and enjoying the scenery. Maybe in ten years when he has a LOT more experience I will do that, but for right now he will have a job when I'm on his back. That job is to pay attention to ME, listen to ME, respond to ME and submit to ME. I'm not going to be mean. I'm going to be consistent. No more coddling. We can enjoy each others company on the ground from now on. If that makes him sour to riding because he's a lazy baby who wants to do whatever he wants to do when he wants to do it, that's just too damn bad. Safety is key. Once he learns boundaries we can get back to doing what he enjoys. Until then, it's boot camp time. Now you guys have to remind me of this when I get lazy because I'm the most consistently inconsistent person in existence lol. I probably have no right to be raising a greenie, but I'm not backing out now. I gave him a great foundation and we can build on that if I remind myself every ride that I am riding a green horse. Anyway I'll stop rambling.