So it seems my horse is causing me issues.
Since Gracie related stories are in less detail on this blog, let me break it down for you.
When we broke Gracie in, she wasn’t much of a challenge at all. She had Lisa off twice, me never (but mostly because I was the one who valued my life more). The first time was because Lisa tried to tighten the girth while she was ON Gracie's back, and the second time was her first attempt at a trot. I think that given the nature of what caused her to buck Lese off in those instances was pretty understandable, and her reaction was quite mild compared to what some unbroken horses can do on their first few rides.
After about a year of Grace being broken in was when we started to get some solid stuff from her. Safe (but a little jumpy) on trail rides, mini road rides and mild schooling (mostly just teaching forwards backwards, walk trot and canter).
So I was thinking to myself "Sweet I've got myself a safe, trustworthy little horse here!"... Well I guess I shouldn’t have been so sure.
When we moved them to Lisa's new property was when she had to start using her brain for everything. She went from a really quiet 5 acre paddock to a 2.5 acre property next to a main road with neighbours that ride their bikes, motorbikes (and I’m talking the whole street pretty much gets their motorbikes out and goes crazy for like 6 hours strait racing up and down the street), kids jumping on trampolines, we even schooled the other day while a neighbour levelled out the gravel on his drive-way with a massive back-ho! For Gracie's brain this is a good thing. She used to be a little spooky and all this stuff that goes on in the street and the main road is great for her bomb proofing. However, she’s a smart horse, and she tries every trick in the book to STILL use these distractions in the street as an excuse for her to go apeshit crazy.
I have had 3 falls off Gracie in the past 4 months. The first was my fault, I was riding bareback and decided to go for a canter, I lost my balance, she lost her balance and lowered her head and I fell off the side. However the other two falls WERE NOT MY FAULT!
The second time, I literally got on, had her take a few step forwards then BOOM, a firecracker went off somewhere in her head and she started bucking like a rodeo horse! I tried to stay on and I managed for about 4 seconds before I half bailed half fell off, after which she had an intense lunging session and Lisa got on and gave her an even more intense schooling session. After this fall Lese and I brainstormed as to what could have set her off. We realised she had been a rotten mole even just to handle the few weeks leading up to the fall (she even bit me so hard I had a bruise for 2 weeks on my back!). I had myself worried that she had some sort of hormonal imbalance that was sending her nutso, so I had the vet out about a week later.
After a $500 vet bill and various tests, it all came down to a behavoiral issue. Let me tell you, its pretty embaressing when the vet calls you and says "so, I have tested for everything and they all came back normal. Im thinking this is probably just a behavoiral problem and I can give you the number of someone who is really good at handling and training problem horses"...Oh he also informed me that she may have had me off because of the saddle and/or girth.
Ok, so I buy a sheepskin girth cover (which I described to the the horse as "like a soft bunny rabbit is cuddling you from underneath") which she seemed to love and went better in it, I nip EVERY behavoiral problem in the bud before it explodes into an episode and I also adjust my own attitude when I'm handling/riding her. And I notice now how in tune this horse is to my emotions and reactions. If I am in a shitty mood, she will be too, If I worry about a loud truck that is about to drive past while Im riding, she will also freak out about it. Basically I now have to ignore most of my survival instincts when riding this horse, or she will simply crumble. She NEEDS me to be the brave one, she looks to me and trusts that I wont put her in a bad situation BUT I need to make her feel like it is HER that is the brave one, like I trust her to look after me too. So I ride on a long rein and I ignore anything that would usually make me worry JUST so she does not worry also. I kind of really like that she is that sensitive to me and my emotions. It makes our bond that much more special. And we were making progress! I am enjoying my rides on her and she is not exploding and being a drama queen. Five steps forward.
Until last Monday, which was my third fall off this horse and probably the most emotional. I was schooling, doing something a little different, being a bit more pushy and she was a little agitated but nothing too bad, just being fussy with her head. Lisa was schooling also and she went for a walk to the back of the paddock as I came around the left corner of our (really shitty) DIY arena. Gracie had a little stare off into the distance at Lisa and Allie and I kicked her on and tried to continue our session. I come to that same corner again and she stops, swings her hind end around, puts in this HUGE rear (I bail/fall at this point) and runs off bucking and being a moron. I completly lost my shit at her so Lisa hopped on and sorted her out. She tried to throw every excuse at Lisa to get out of the job at hand... it didnt work. So this is where we have taken ten steps backwards.
This is Gracie in a nutshell...literallly. And I am boggled as to what the hell her problem is. I think this horse is going to be a constant challenge. I think she will always test me and shes smart enough to think of new tricks to add to her collection of ways to turn into an absolute bi-polar mole of a horse.
Oh, to top off these AWESOME problems. I had the vet out the other day to check out some old warts on Gracie's face and have found out that they are in fact Sarcoids and are VERY difficult to treat... SIGH