I am going to ramble a bit here (ok, a lot) and hope by putting things down in writing that I can sort them out for myself. Bear with me.... or just skip this one.
The little bit of history I have gathered about Nina is, to state in mildly, incomplete and I always assumed not totally accurate. When I picked her up I figured the chances of having a riding horse or putting her down were 50/50. I was just drawn to her and couldn't leave her in the conditions were I found her. But now I am looking back over the last two years and re-evaluating what is going on.
1. She was presented as just difficult. Bolted when ridden, reared when pushed, nasty on the ground etc etc. And I certainly experienced that myself, but I found that she came around pretty darn quickly and I just figured she had been owned by people who agreed to fight with her, which is always a loser.
2. She had a deep infected cut on one hock which I was told was from a kick. Odd that a kick that hard didn't break bone, but one thing I have learned with horses is never say never. When this healed she was very weak on this leg, which seemed like muscle or ligament weakness. This leg is now almost normal, not quite.
3. She had a huge swollen area along her spine on the neck and another smaller one near the poll, very hard, not painful. Both vet and chiropractor said they would not touch either without lots of x-rays but they appeared to be scar tissue from an old injury. Spending a thousand dollars on my $200 horse who might not be with us long seemed like a non-starter so I never got around to that. Massage, Rolfing and Reiki have reduced these two spots to one very small and kind of soft area.
4. Her rearing problem was solved in ONE session where when she threatened to rear, I threatened to pull her over backward. End of rearing. Come ON, really? One confrontation?
5. Her owner rode her in a big honking western bit with a bit port and long shanks and tied her head down with a training fork, which is a running martingale adjusted about 10 inches too short. When I put a metal snaffle in her mouth she was fine with it until I moved it around and then I got a BIG pain reaction. Vet found the same thing and said it might be nerve damage to the bars of her mouth which would be permanent. A rubber bit did not cause problems so we have worked in a rubber bit.... more on this in a minute.
6. Her first chiropractic treatment indicated that she was all out of whack, not unexpected since she moved like a board. She was especially touchy in her withers and poll. Perhaps like a horse that has gone over backward?
7. And along that theme, I have never seen a horse so body sore and stiff. Much worse even than racehorses just off the track who have been racing too hard. Stiff, painful to even turn around, head carried almost to the ground with a hunched look. Again, massage, rolfing and Reiki loosened things up over a few months.
8. No matter how nasty she can get over something when ridden, I have always felt that the underlying cause was fear.
So where is this going? I have been mulling this over a lot the last few days. It started with the bit. I have been riding her in a rubber gag, which a lot of ex racehorse like as the cues feel different and they are less likely to lean on the bit. I have also ridden her in a rubber pelham, which I am not fond of because I am thinking ahead and jumping with two sets of reins is a PITA, I know people do it all the time, but I hate it. What I found with both bits is that she would either grab the bit and pull, trying to pull me loose, or she would go behind the bit, which I think she was trained to do. Both of these bits can encourage this as they are poll pressure bits. They work best with bold, forward horses who do NOT have a tendency to curl up. I have ruled out a plain metal snaffle because of all the above but yesterday I decided to try it anyway. I dug through my bits and found an eggbutt three piece snaffle with a big fat bean in the middle. This is a mild bit without a lot of movement. I stuck it on her and lunged her in it with sidereins adjusted to all sorts of different lengths. It not only did not bother her, but when I adjusted the reins long she stretched forward to find the contact herself. She did pull down a little but not too much.
|3 piece eggbutt snaffle|
While I still don't know how long she has been a problem to handle and ride, I have come to the conclusion, ok a guess, that she was in a serious train wreck shortly before I bought her. Perhaps she was pulled over or threw herself over backwards. I have seen horses ridden with their heads tied down to their chest do this when they have either just had enough or they panic. Maybe on very hard ground or maybe she landed in a fence or equipment or something that she got tangled in. Or maybe she bolted and ended up in a wreck. What I have assumed were chronic problems that I would have to deal with forever were actually traumatic injuries, never addressed and they are healing, getting close to being completely healed.
This helps a little with changing my attitude and giving me more hope that I will have a horse to compete with in the spring and that I am not wasting my time, which is a thought that creeps in often.
This assumes that we don't have such a cold winter that my 40 degree rule doesn't ground us both for months.