Monday, October 24, 2011

That 'Thing' He Does

So as you guys know, every since Moon jammed his back in July, he's kind of been doing this 'thing'. He doesn't do it so much at home, but then we mostly ride out in the open. I have gotten increasingly careful about the amount of tight work we do. To be honest, I completely laid off the horse for 2 weeks and since then riding has been hit or miss. i knew Moon was slowly losing his peak condition, but since we haven't been running much, knew that he was still in good enough shape to make a run here and there.

Moon isn't a stationary horse. He moves a lot all on his own, so I don't ever worry too much about his muscles getting tight like say, Frosty and Spooks do if they aren't ridden regularly. He isn't prone to getting fat and even though he has a chronic cough, which is only slightly mitigated by supplements that are supposed to help, he maintains good wind.

When we get to barrel racings is when I really notice Moon starting to do his 'thing'. Which is stopping and acting like he needs to pee. Although he never stretches out. When he does have to pee, he does stretch out and has no problems taking a healthy pee. He is also carrying his tail higher than normal. Moon does have a high tailset, so even when his is fine, his tail does not lay down between his buttocks. When he starts to get uncomfortable acting, he really raises it up and has actually started wringing it on occasion.

Every since I found those beans, I have been cleaning him every month and specifically checking for beans. I've gotten a bit of soft stuff out, but nothing hard again. Moon always has been rather nasty in his sheath. I actually clean that every few days cause he gets those chunks of goop and grunge. I'm really lucky because Moon likes to be cleaned. He's very accommodating.

When we got to the clinic, I figured Moon would do his thing right off the bat because of the length of the haul, but he didn't show any discomfort until Sunday afternoon.

I have eliminated every possible physical thing I could think of-chiro, flex tests, electro/myopulse treatments and finally a blood workup and urinalysis. Nothing is showing up of a physical nature and I was starting to think that this was possibly a mental thing. I've talked with several of my friends about this and had them watch Moon, but I think they think I am over-reacting. Moon certainly does not look like a nervous horse.

When Moon started doing his thing at the clinic, I pointed it out to Ed and told him the history of what I have done to 'fix' Moon. He watched for a minute and told me exactly what I was starting to conclude myself...Moon is exceptionally nervous. Ed could see no physical reason for Moon's discomfort, except that he internalizes his nerves and that is causing his loin to tighten up. That's when the physical discomfort comes in. It's like when a person gets so stressed that their stomach knots up and pretty soon their lower back starts hurting.

I have always said that Moon is a difficult horse to read (for most people...apparently not for Ed). He acts so calm and laid back. Few people ever believe, until they see him run, that he is capable of the explosive speeds and turns he has. From what I have read, this is characteristic of the Lady Bugs Moon horses. As race horses they were very quiet and almost dead-head acting until that gate popped and they blew everyone away.

This explains so much about Moon's behavior and the last couple of runs we have had, where he was difficult at the gate. The poor horse is just a bundle of nerves and so uncertain about how things are going to go.

I wasn't completely oblivious to the problem. I've never made a gate-sour horse in my life. So I know if one of my horses starts having gate problems, there is a reason. Now, I know I've had this conversation before...But there is a HUGE difference between a horse that is gate-sour and one that is just amped to the gills and has difficulty getting moving in the right direction. The differences are sometimes subtle and sometimes obvious.

For me with Moon, it's obvious. When Moon is amped and ready to go, he may get to going sideways or even kind of suck back a little bit, but I can feel the energy in him. The last time I ran him, he sucked and ducked every direction but toward the gate and I felt resistance, not energy. He was definitely saying...Uuhhh-UH! I am not going in there!

That is when I decided I would drive to hell and back if I had to to get to an Ed Wright clinic this year. This roller-coaster ride of up and down for Moon and I HAS to come to an end or I need to just stop trying to run him. I am not about to ruin a good horse because I cannot seem to figure out what I need to do next. Moon has made it very clear, he is done with the BS too. For his sake, it's time to get it right and keep it going in the right direction.


Cut-N-Jump said...

I'm glad something has finally come to a head as far as explaining the why & what the ??? for you on this. Knowing he is amped up and nervous, at least you can work with that. And no you aren't nuts. You just know your horse well.

Shirley said...

It will be interesting to see the follow up to this post; I'm sure Mr.Wright had some suggestions.

GunDiva said...

What Shirley said.

BrownEyed Cowgirl said...

Actually he didn't say much. He basically said that if I get back to riding Moon like he needs to be ridden, then his confidence will come back and the problem should disappear.

But I've been so tentative about warming Moon up that I have actually contributed to the problem. I think that started to dawn on me at the NBHA Finals when on the first day, Moon started doing his thing and I put him to work instead of backing off. We had a great run that day and no gate problem. The next day, Moon acted so docile that I didn't work him as hard and he was a bear to get in the arena and ran totally wild. Apparently, the horse sits there, acting like he is asleep, but is actually 'thinking' about the run to come and stresses himself out. Afterward, I was like What The Heck was that all about? and that is when things started to click. I haven't run him since then. So we will have to see how my theory proves out in a couple of weeks. I'm hoping by then that we are clicking together again through consistent riding and slower work. If he's freaking out, I only intent on slow loping him through the pattern. I have to get his confidence back that I am not going to just leave him out there hanging or ask him to run faster than he is comfortable with. This may come together quickly or it may take a few runs. We are back on 'welfare' for a bit.

Vaquerogirl said...

Have you thought about ulcer meds? Some working horses really get wrenched in the gut and the gastroguard stuff seems to work.
Also I had a mare that did kinda the same thing, and it turned out she had many small stones in her intestine. Not enough to block her but enough to make her uncomfortable. Just a thought...

Crystal said...

Interesting. Good to have something to try out, you will know soon enough if it is working.

cdncowgirl said...

Do you think the "Dragon Lady" riding has contributed to the stress/nerves that Moon is internalizing?

fernvalley01 said...

Very interesting . Also about the Ladybug Moon line . the little dun filly I had here (Bug ) had some of that breeding I believe , and I saw both the uber calm(yoda ears and easy with me) and amped up beyond recognition.I think the nerves for her come from where she was bred (they are not known for easy handling ) and some of her other blodlines .But I could see where a horse like that could be very deceptive . She often looked half asleep, but when she woke up...Holy hell we had a firecracker!

BrownEyed Cowgirl said...

vg-He's on an ulcer preventative. I backed it down to 1 oz. when we stopped competing heavily, but since I got home from the clinic, I upped it to 2 oz. again. He'll just have to stay on a full dose.

I hadn't thought about entroliths because they are not common in the areas I have lived in. I don't feed much (if any) alfalfa and I never feed bran? And Moon's bloodwork and urinalysis came back perfectly down the middle. Vet said whatever I was feeding seemed to be a really good balance.

How do they check for those if you don't find any in the poop over an extended time?

Cdn-Without a doubt! Poor horse.

fern-Yup...sounds about right. LOL.

Laura said...

Interesting stuff - sounds like you have narrowed the problem down and you can now hopefully work with Moon to sort out his nerves... Fingers crossed that you guys work it out - 'cause when you do, you'll be winning stuff all over the place! :-)

kestrel said...

I've got a horse that is real similar in temperament, it's just who he is... I've learned to ride him with focus, and make sure every stride is accounted for and he's a winning fool, but only if I've planned the trip. He's taught me a lot! It took some time and grade for him to be able to switch between amped and calm also, I had to learn to enjoy and direct the energy because otherwise he'd get amped and my dismay translated as disapproval, and he's surprisingly tender hearted for such an ungainly lughead! His feelers got hurt!

Anonymous said...

I have to wonder, too, if some of it's fear of hurting himself again. If it started after he jammed his back feet and hurt his back, maybe he's remembering that and it's contributing to the anxiety?

BrownEyed Cowgirl said...

I don't think a horse carries thoughts of one time instances around the same way people do. A horse may be a bit tentative one or two times doing something after a bad incident, but they are not capable of randomly or intermittently worrying about something that happened weeks or months or years ago. Minus a true physical issue that continues to create pain, it's people's memories and fears that create habitual problems.

I probably created the problem because after Moon was hurt, I went back to riding him like I did before he was running so hard, but I didn't slow him down. I was riding slow, he was running fast. Now he doesn't know what to expect and that is what is worrying him.

Danielle Michelle said...

You know what? In following your comments about Moon I have been checking my geldings sheath, had him at a chiropractor, everything...he just behaves so similarly. It's like a friggin' rollarcoaster- he rocks or sucks and is a bundle of nerves. I wonder....keep us updated on what you are doing to work him through this. I really would like to start applying it to mine. I've gone back to lunging him before riding - and it does seem to put him in the right mindset and after I've asked him to lope he very obviously starts to relax a little.