I am starting to think that I am not a good mom when it comes to the 4 legged being who has trusted me to keep him safe, happy and healthy.
On Saturday, I show up to ride (after a great day on Friday in which Jen took me on a hack around the property and showed us all the fun galloping hills and paths that I can't wait to make use of. Chester was in fine form, neck and head up in the air like a giraffe, snorting at everything and spooking at blades of grass), and as I am tacking up, Chester doesn't really seem too happy - he is fidgety, shifty and tense. I chalk it up to the friggin brutal weather we were having: wind, rain, wind, rain, COLD. ALL the horses were acting like a bunch of donkeys. I get on and needless to say, it took me 5 minutes to get him to go near the far end of the arena, and I couldn't get him to jump a 2 foot vertical without him feeling the need to plow into it. So, rather then say, forget it, I get mad at him...really mad and have a frustrating ride in general, again blaming the weather. His hips were still a little sore, but not to the point where he would flinch away in pain because of it. My vet and coach have both said, working him is good, keep him long and low and give a lot of positive encouragement...well, there was definitely NOT a lot of positive ANYTHING on Saturday. That is for sure.
On Sunday, I show up (after being outside in the rain and wind and wind and rain helping out at a horse show with the kiddies) and start grooming so I can ride...this is AFTER he was a the far end of the paddock, I called him, and he trotted right up to me with his head low and ear pricked...super cute. As I am sweeping the dandy brush across his back, he flinches. I stop immediately. THAT has never happened before. So, I run my fingers along his spine and sure enough, on the back half of his back, he is sore to the point where he flinches away. Well, that stopped me in my tracks from riding. It just so happened that while this was going on, Jen and a trailer load had just gotten back to the barn and Jen goes 'Laurie is a masseuse, you should have her look at him'...Well, isn't it great to know that I have a resident masseuse whose horse is Chester's neighbour.
Laurie takes a look at him and in a nutshell goes "As it is right now, he is still holding on to his injury. He still for whatever reason, feels like he has to protect himself and doesn't want to let it go".
He doesn't want to let it go. Interesting. - I'll come back to that.
She did a quick 10 minutes on him and basically his back is becoming sore now because he is over compensating in his hips because he is still worried he is going to get hurt again. Laurie was able to loosen him up a bit, then we lunged him for 20 minutes...which by the end of it, his nose was to the ground and he was snorting to himself...and the pickle even made its appearance...Laurie does not think he needs any adjusting, simply loosening up and positive reinforcement so he can understand that he is in a GOOD PLACE and he is NOT GOING TO GET HURT AGAIN. She is going to do a full 70 minutes on him tonight at 6:30... :-)
Now, let me be clear here. There is NO LAMENESS at all on this horse, he is just very very ouchie...and very very scared about being hurt again. I spoke at length a couple weeks ago to Lesley (his old mom) and something she said to me really stuck out in my mind, especially after seeing the change in him yesterday from when I ran the brush along his back, to when Laurie worked on him to the end of the lunge. This horse thinks he is more human than horse, is super sensitive and probably doesn't understand WHY he went from being in a full program 5 or 6 days a week, feeling GREAT and enjoying his work to being ridden less times then I have fingers on one hand in almost 6 weeks. (On Wednesday, it will be 6 weeks since his injury happened). So he is probably upset with himself that he is hurting and doesn't understand why. He doesn't understand that when he tries his heart out for me (while he is hurting mind you), I get MAD at him when it is far less then a desirable outcome.
And that is just it, he tries so HARD and I should be much more aware that when it doesn't go as planned (especially in our current situation), that it is because he is hurting and NOT because he is being a donkey.
It breaks my heart to see this horse feeling the way he does. I can't imagine how it would feel to try so hard while hurting and being frustrated, knowing it doesn't feel right. I KNOW he is frustrated and doesn't understand why we aren't doing the 'fun' stuff and why it doesn't feel as good as it did before...yet underneath it all, I can still see the quirky, inquisitive, sensitive and eccentric guy I love to death. He tries so hard and he doesn't understand. It just crushes me and makes me feel horrible.
My job is to continue to give him positive encouragement, make a big deal of everything and try to help him understand that he is in a safe place and he won't get hurt again. He doesn't want to let it go...because he doesn't trust me enough again that I will be able to protect him. He doesn't want to let it go because rather then praise him for trying his ass off for me while he is hurting, I get mad at him. He doesn't want to let it go, because he is a sensitive dude, was really hurt both physically and mentally which had a HUGE affect on him as an athlete. He doesn't want to let it go because he knows I know I let him down. And that absolutely tears me to shreds inside.
I think a lot (not all) of the trust he had in me before is gone and it is going to take some time for him to believe me that I will make him okay. That bond we had that was so strong isn't as strong anymore. Our cohesiveness as a team is dwindling. It's my fault and I have to get it back.
Chester - I wish you could talk to me, just for 5 minutes...