I went into this whole ‘rehab plan’ deal ready to follow a strict schedule of timed walks spread out over four to five days a week. I’d go to the barn, pull Goat out of his jail pen, hit the start button on my phone stopwatch and off we’d go. Down the road or in the arena we would march until the little jingle of the timer gave us permission to stop. A quick brush, a few treats and back to the jail pen Goat would go.
Simple. Easy to follow. No problem.
I continuosly find myself baffled at how often I’m wrong when it comes to horses. Even after 20 years of handling and riding, showing and training, and so on and so forth I frequently find myself having to re-evaluate my plan of action.
So it shouldn’t be a surprise to me that our ‘simple’ straightforward walks were going to get complicated.
You saw it coming, I’m sure. Dummy, you’re thinking, what did you expect with a thoroughbred?
I expected to have to ground the occasional horse sized Goat kite but I didn’t expect to have to put so much thought into our phase one 15 minute walks.
Flash back for just a moment. Goat came to me as a mental disaster. A nervous guy who didn’t suit life at the track, he didn’t trust a single move anybody made. Reason for track retirement? There were many, but we’ll chalk it up to a supposed tendon bow.
A little then and now comparison, for those who don’t know my troublesome guy.
Then; An introverted, sun bleached, flinchy, hard to catch, terrified of life, skinny, shell of a horse.
Now; Fat, sassy, playful moron who convinces everyone he meets that he is a rambunctious two year old. Treat monster. Loves attention.
Can you see why my plan might fail?
I found myself trying to control every step. Every. Single. Bouncy Step. Which of course mostly led to a pulling fight that involved a lot of dodging teeth – occasionally unsuccessfully – and some flailing front hooves in the general vicinity of my head.
So, a few walks ago, a revamped my plan. No timer. No tug of war. Instead, we did a few minutes of ground work to reinforce the whoa and the go and then… I let him go. And you know what he did? Planted his nose at my elbow and wandered along behind me like a dog. Just like he did in our sessions pre- injury discovery. Funny how a foundation of work can pay off and carry over. Not so funny how it took several bruises and bouts of severe frustration and an upset horse to realize it.
This, of course is not without its oopsies. Our last ‘walk’ turned into a mass explosion when Goat decided to go for a roll on the line as soon as we entered the arena. He didn’t take flipping a rope around in his face while flailing around in the dirt very well and leapt up and took off. I ducked for cover and watched in slight horror as my delighted dog and equally delighted horse both took a good three minutes of freedom for themselves and a good five years off my life.
Our rehab sessions now involve a lot more than just walking now. Tarps and tires help keep Goat doing a little more thinking and a little less trying to bite my arm off.