I am sorry to say I am terminating my lease of Hank.
I was wrong that his mounting block issue was a behavioural one. It is not. The things we learn when things go wrong…
Hank was moving away from the mounting block because he didn’t want me to mount. Because when I ride him, it hurts him. Even bareback.
I won’t go into the whole thing, but basically, Hank is unrideable. He has impinging back vertebrae. Whether this is due to compensation from his so-called navicular forefeet (which I’ve not found) or from an accident he had (that I just learned of today), it still means he cannot be ridden.
I called the trainer yesterday, requesting her help on what I thought was still the ‘vice’ of moving away while I was mounting. She immediately went on the defensive. It was ME causing the problem, he ‘was always supersensitive’ in his back due to someone ELSE riding him in an english saddle. Didn’t I see the saddle sore scars on his back? That was caused by an english saddle. I said I rode bareback. That sent her on another tirade. I was NOT supposed to be riding him bareback, everyone knows that is painful for a horse. No, the only thing I was supposed to ride him in is a honking big western saddle.
Right away, I knew this was the beginning of a story that I’d not learned yet. She sounded like your typical insecure western rider/trainer. They’re like uncompromising Republicans, or religious fundamentalists. Their way is right and yours is WRONG, period, amen, end of statement. People who are so set upon one specific way of riding to the utter exclusion of even the finest points of another tell me that they suffer from anal-cranial inversion. I don’t like western riding, but I’ve done it many times, and so have a base on which to make my preference. English riders can be anal retentive too, and so I’ve pretty much hobcobbled three different ways of riding into one: I ride bareback in a classical dressage seat, I don’t see the need for constantly being on the bit and so have been known to drop the rein to the buckle, and posting makes a choppy trot easier to sit.
In addition, the trainer refused to come out and even evaluate the horse. Once I had him in a saddle again, only then would she deign to come out and take a look at what I was doing wrong.
Again, this is poor horsemanship. Using tack (i.e. big curb bits or tie downs), as a crutch, using tricks as shortcuts to get a result, is not horse training. It’s making money-getting a horse to do one specific thing long enough to collect a paycheck from the owner. The fact that she trained this horse to ‘spur-stop’ means to me that she isn’t a horse trainer at all. Rather than go the traditional route, she resorted to a wacko cult training. It’s quick and appears to be successful, but in the long run, it’s cheating. The fact that she didn’t want the money I planned on paying her for what I thought would be a rapid fix tells me that she has no idea HOW to fix it.
How do I know this? Huh. I saw Sheila Varian ride Ronteza, a little bay Arabian mare who beat the big name Quarter Horses at their own game. She didn’t turn and burn that mare in a month. It took years to get that horse to carry a spade bit. You don’t get a horse so finely tuned to win with that monster bit over night. She had that mare light as a feather.
So I believe the trainer is as much to blame for the problems Hank’s experiencing as the physical ones. And so I segue to that. I knew something was seriously wrong with him. Today I learned ‘the rest of the story.”
Hank was a total nutjob today. I have never seen him so anxious, so wild. I thought he was going to break loose while I was GROOMING him. He was terrified that I was going to ride him. He was acting as if we had just come back in from last week’s fiasco, not almost a week later. I checked his meds bin, and he has a new bottle of isoproxine, (sp?). So I believe he’s back on medication.
I could not reach him. He acted as if I were a total stranger, or worse: someone who had hurt him in the past, and was demonstrating full intentions of hurting him again, today.
What in the hell is wrong with this horse. I have hurt him but how? By bareback riding him at a walk?
Gandolf stopped and asked me what was wrong. I told him Hank’s back hurt. Then Gandolf, the stable hand lead, told me Hank’s history.
Last year, Pete, Hank’s owner, took him on a four-day trail ride back in the woods. Long story short, Hank flipped on the trail (I mean physically, not mentally, although it may have been related) and rolled down a hillside. With a saddle on his back.
The scars on his back are NOT from an english saddle. They’re near his hipbones, farther back than an english saddle can reach. No, they’re healed over scars from the lacerations he received in the accident. As he is shedding out, I was finding more and more scars all over his back and sides.
Jennifer came by, took one look at Hank and said You’re not going to RIDE him like that, are you? Hank was still just frantic at my prepping him to ride. She is a homeopath and a chiropractor. She managed to feel his spine. She says that, while she’s not an equine chiro, she does know bones and horses. She thinks he has impinging vertebral processes. This is known as ‘cold back’. They’re ‘kissing”, they’re rubbing together. And that part of the back has no fat on it to protect the bones from a rider.
The impingement may have come from him overcompensating for sore feet. But I think it was from the accident. I think he may have broken a couple of the processes…he is a bit low in the back where I sit. Not only that, he has jumper’s bump. I’ve never seen it, as I’ve always been on endurance or dressage horses. So I didn’t recognize it. Jen saw it right away. Did that come from the accident as well? Maybe. He does seem sore in the back end, too.
So all this time, I’ve been riding a horse, bareback, with a back so sore that only the drugs he was on allowed me to ride him at all.
The owner didn’t tell me this. Nor did the trainer, or her husband, Hank’s farrier, or Dr. Grubb, the vet who treated him last year and this past January.
No one told me.
Everytime I talked to Pete, I got the feeling he was hiding something from me. There was always that sense of conspiratorial silence. Now I know I was right.
I’ve been allowed to hurt a horse out of ignorance. I was so careful of not pushing his legs, and all that time, I was hurting his back.
I apologized profusely to Hank. I don’t know if he accepted it. I think so, but sometimes they will hold a grudge.
I’m going to terminate the lease. While I like Hank, I’m not going to hurt him again. I don’t think it’s ethical to ride a horse that must have drugs in order to carry a rider. And let’s be honest. I can’t afford to pay for long-term vet care for a horse that’s not mine. Nor am I willing to be hurt by this horse. I’m too old to bounce.