I was a little vague about how Simon was doing before I left for winter break, but the short answer is – not good. Our rides got progressively worse. I would get on, start fighting with him immediately and end up having to get off after about fifteen minutes of trying to walk/trot/canter. It’s not that he was unsafe or dangerous, but I was getting angry at him… and when I get angry, I make terrible decisions with my riding. I jerk and kick and pull and am extremely unfair to my horse, so instead of going down that path — I just get off.
Even as it was happening, I knew I was being irrational. Logically, my horse wasn’t behaving well under saddle because his lifestyle did a total 180, we were trying to find the right food portions for him, and his feet hurt. I knew this, but I felt something entirely different.
I felt like I depleted my savings to ship, house and feed my horse with me in California. I felt like I didn’t have enough free time to devote 6 days a week to his care and health, but since that’s what he needed I had to make time. For all of this, I expected my horse to be good when I rode him.
Which is like, really, really dumb.
So before I left for NC and TX, I handed the reins to my trainer. I told her that I was an anxious mess, and I needed a non-emotional party to step in and fix things. She assured me everything was going to be just fine and said she was excited to get her hands on him, but the entire trip away from CA I wondered if taking him with me was a huge mistake. I told myself that in six months, if he was still unhappy I’d ship him back to Texas. I’d rather pay board on him or lease him out than keep up the way we were doing.
My new trainer, who is not a super huge texter/communicator (unless something bad happens), only sent one update while I was gone. That he wasn’t a huge fan of his new routine, but he was smart and he tried hard. That he was using muscles he didn’t even know he had, and that he was totally sound.
Thirty days later, I was actually really nervous for my first ride back. I missed our easy going partnership, and I didn’t want to turn into an emotional basketcase again and mess up my horse. I didn’t know what to expect, but hoped there’d be a huge turn around because even on bad days, Simon is such a huge part of my life. I can’t imagine grad school, or anything, without him.
And our ride was… lovely. He felt stronger, but also softer in the reins. My trainer gave a few quick instructions that I need to be thinking about more power, less speed. When I rode well, I felt that power. When I didn’t, I felt him got heavy and quick… but it was because of my skills, not some imaginary vindictive thing that was previously between us. I got off after that ride, and felt like everything was going to be okay.
Since then, we’ve been a little hit or miss getting back into a full program. The day that my first lesson of the year was scheduled, I pulled him out to find him walking toe to heel. Abscess. The farrier helped dig it out, and he was sound enough for me to ride on Wednesday where he was lovely yet again.
Thursday he saw the chiropractor, who said he was out in multiple places. I’ll handwalk him today, lunge him tomorrow and hope to have a light flat lesson on Friday. My wallet feels a little bit like I’m bleeding money right now, but it’s worth it to get (and keep) him happy and healthy with this new life.
It’s a struggle for me to make things work financially, but I’m putting him in partial training this quarter. So three days a week, I’ll have help either in the form of training rides or lessons. This is both a huge relief on my schedule, since I have to be on campus five days a week this quarter, and a way to keep us from spiraling down again.
It felt like a defeat at the time, but putting him with a good pro for thirty days was the best choice I could have made. I love how the trainers work horses at my barn. They’re firm and absolute in their requests, but never aggressive or mean. They’re super used to Thoroughbreds, and they like my horse.
I like my horse too, especially after we’ve had some good ol’ fashioned marital counseling. It actually makes me excited for the year ahead, and new adventures with him in California.