"And, when you want something, the entire Universe conspires in helping you to achieve it." -The Alchemist, by Paulo Coehlo

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Munchausen by Proxy

Last Wednesday I rode both of the girls in the indoor because the outdoor was frozen like concrete. It was SUPER dusty inside, despite the open doors at the ends of the arena. So dusty, in fact, that when I got home it looked like I'd used white mascara on my lashes from all the arena dust accumulated on them!

Jezebel had a bad, BAD case of the zooms. I think she is starting to see me as "that lady that asks me to canter!!!" as every time I shifted my weight, she grabbed the bit and sped up! Circling would bring her back. I laughed at her antics, and eventually did ask her to canter. But her balance isn't the best yet, and like I've said before, this is a fairly small indoor, so her little unbalanced self was having a hard time with the turns. She was also having a really hard time with that left lead. We finally got it right, but subsequent attempts at repeating our success were met with incorrect leads where Jez proceeded to swap in front but not in the back, and there were even some tiny squeals and pinned ears, to my surprise when I insisted. Sally did confirm that she is in raging heat, however, so I'm going to attribute the attitude to that. She was great otherwise! Rounding up and softening in the space of a circle, and staying that way down one long side of the arena at a time. Sally was there to watch, and she was very happy. We trotted A LOT, and when Jezebel had finally settled and had stopped trying to zoom around at a mach 3 trot, I handed her over to her mom, who hopped on for a short ride. The little mare was a good girl-happy and relaxed! Gotta love those OTTBs. :)

Lily was a good girl too, and I was sitting way straighter & more balanced than the previous day, because all of our issues had vanished.  We had a good session but I cut it short at 30 minutes because I -could- -not- -STAND- the dust anymore.

On Thursday, Heather, Sally and I were going to attempt a trail ride. Heather had had some major dental work done on Wednesday, and initially didn't feel good Thursday morning, but ended up coming after all. Sally had made plans to meet us, but got stuck at work. So it ended up being Heather and Nate, and Lily and me.

The ride started out with a small freak-out from both horses. There is a small puddle right at the trailhead, and Lily, who was first, decided she wasn't too sure about it (never mind that she crossed it Wednesday just FINE!), so Heather went with Nate first. Nate took a look at it, then, after some hesitation and protest, decided to jump over it. He leaped as if he were going over a water complex at a Grand Prix stadium competition, and landed with a sliding stop! Lily flung herself around excitedly after seeing that, but I reminded her that we're not playing monkey see, monkey do, and she pranced over the puddle without a problem.

Both horses stayed prancey as we continued up the trail. We tried letting Lily lead, which helped her settle, but made Nate become more worked up, so Heather went ahead on him. We continued on towards the "new" trail that Lily and I have taken twice before, and made it to the first bridge. I dismounted to lead Lily across (I didn't want her getting Nate even more worried with her balking), and she came with me without a problem. Heather dismounted to lead Nate, too, but he refused by all means to cross the bridge. She tried for a good 10 minutes, but he was not having it. He hated the mud in front of the bridge a hell of a lot more than Lily ever has! I suggested to Heather we take the back route, across the main bridge, and I remounted and we headed that way. Heather decided she'd get back on Nate after we'd crossed the bridge.

Lily balked a bit at the idea of crossing (this is our first time crossing that bridge under saddle going away from home), but with some coaxing she went over. I gave her lots of pats, and we waited on the other side. I  was in no hurry, but Lily didn't understand why I was making her stand still, so I let her turn and fidget as long as she wasn't escalating in her restlessness. Heidi struggled with Nate to no avail. We tried having Lily cross the bridge and getting Nate up close behind her so he'd follow, and this almost worked, but then Nate was back to dancing by the bridge. I had Lily wait, standing ON the bridge, to see if this would encourage him to try again. After a few minutes waiting, Lily decided that she'd waited long enough, and very slowly and politely backed herself all the way off the bridge, back to Nate's side! I had to laugh-I didn't ask her to do that AT ALL, but she did it so well that I decided to not argue with her...plus I'm not in favor of arguing with a 1,000 lb animal while on a bridge 4 feet above running water. I made her cross the bridge all the way back to the other side, and we waited again. Heather was able to get Nate on the bridge backwards! He finally stood on it with all 4 feet, then he stepped off of his own accord. This was a big success, and we agreed it was a good idea to end it there, on a good note. Heather re-mounted and we headed home.

Nate was SUPER worked up on our return trip, LEAPING over a fallen tree, and doing a canter piaffe at the "T" where the trail turns back towards the barn before attempting to launch himself down the trail at full gallop. Heather did a beautiful job of controlling her thundering boy. However, Lily thought this was a fantastic idea, "Oh if he can gallop home, so can I!" and she tried bounding forward, but I checked her, and she ended up pogo-sticking up and down in the same spot, head up. Both horses pranced the rest of the way to the barn, and we took them down to the arena.

This is the part where Lily got really weird.

I know she is in heat right now, and she had quickly developed a crush on handsome Nate. She was doing a very, very "up" trot in the arena, and getting so riled up that I was able to ask her to do circles in haunches-in and shoulder-in. (Those are best done when she's in Miss Zoomy Kahbloomy mode (there! I used it, Liz! *lol*)) We cantered a circle in each direction, but she was literally trying to launch into outer space, so after working through that, I immediately brought her back down to a trot.

Sally arrived around that time, and I stopped by the arena fence to talk to her.

Lily actually stood quietly on a loose rein while Sally and I talked, even cocking a hind leg. But then all of a sudden, she jerked her head up. It was almost as if something had stung her on her nose, but of course there were no bugs out because it was 31 degrees.

We went back to work, and she surprised me by being super wound up again. The violent head jerking continued, and I initially thought she was being bratty because she was trying to go fast and I wasn't letting her. However, I did not have a death grip on the reins, and she was doing it even when going in a straight line. Last year when we had issues with the Spanish bit, she was tossing her head only when I asked for lateral work, and at the time she would toss and/or shake her head until the pressure was released. Today was different in that each time it would be a single head jerk. She wasn't doing it constantly, just occasionally, but it was a violent head toss each time it happened. She'd even grunt sometimes when she did it. I started to get annoyed, and tried working her through it, even allowing her to extend the trot on a longer rein to see if going long and low would help. When she jerked her head again despite the loose rein, I decided to stop, have her back up (she did not complain about that), and got off. I checked the entire bridle and bit, trying to see if there was anything twisted or out of place, but everything was where it should be. The curb chain on the pelham was as loose as I always make it, on the very last link (I let it hang a good inch and a half under her chin-you have to really crank back for it to really do anything; she hates curb chain action.) I could find nothing wrong with the bridle, and she did not react when I squeezed her jaw and nose. Befuddled, I walked her into the barn, got her rope halter and lunge line, and walked her back out to the arena. I removed her reins, placed the rope halter on, and let her do as she wished on the lunge. She took off at a mad gallop, bucking and crow-hopping, and I let her get it out of her system. I did notice that a few times she still jerked her head mid-run, though not as violently as when I was riding, and each time she ran faster afterwards. We switched directions, and she went all wild woman again in the opposite direction. The flaps of the saddle were blowing back in the wind from how fast she was going, and this made her tuck her tail and gallop faster, but eventually she settled into a nice snappy trot.

At this point I asked her to halt and come to me. I had to reel her in a bit to get her to slow down, but then she would halt and come on her own, with no pressure from the halter. She came to me with ears pricked, appearing calm and happy, but as she got closer, she suddenly jerked her head up. I had not moved a muscle, had put NO pressure on that lunge line, and while it had been windy all afternoon, there was barely a breeze blowing at the time. What frightened me was the change in the look of her eyes when she did that-she was clearly saying, "Help!" I checked her whole head again, and squeezed her nose again under the halter noseband, and nothing.

I sent her out at a trot in the opposite direction. She was much calmer, but every once in awhile she'd still jerk her head, though not as violently.

At this point, she was breathing rather hard, so I replaced the reins, on the snaffle rings of the pelham this time, and got on just to walk her out on a loose rein. She still jerked her head a couple of times and I tried circling her to see if I could figure out WHAT was bothering her. It almost seemed like it was triggered when the light from the setting sun hit the left side of her face, but I couldn't figure out the exact angle. The gentle breeze was blowing her fuzzy forelock back, and it was tickling her ears, so I thought maybe it was that? Of course the wind had been progressively dying down and I couldn't establish a direct relationship between the breeze and her ears.

I gave up and dismounted, making sure it didn't happen immediately following a head toss.

I was especially bothered when I removed the bridle and she rubbed her nose vigorously on her front leg. This is a new thing with her that has started over the last 2 weeks. Granted, some horses do this all the time, especially when they're sweaty, but she has never done this before and I had taken note. She has not been sweaty when she's done this.

Lily happily stuck her nose in her regular halter when I held it in front of her, and gave a deep sigh when I loosened her girth. I poked and prodded every inch of her on both sides: muzzle, jaw, teeth from the outside, feeling for lumps and bumps and looking for some sort of reaction. I put pressure on her nose, under her chin, on her poll (all of the places where the pelham puts pressure), stuck my fingers in her mouth and looked at her teeth, tongue and gums; put pressure over her forehead in case she's clenching her jaw. Nothing-she was closing her eyes as if it all felt really good. Her neck was fine; I put pressure all along her spine, on the areas that the saddle panels touch, under her girth, and I even put pressure on her belly to see if she has an ulcer brewing. Nothing. Lily either had her ears were pricked and she was paying attention to something in the distance during all of this, or she was quietly licking and chewing with a sleepy expression in her eyes. I threw her cooler on and took her into the wash stall to rinse off her legs and feet and inspect her legs for anything. Of course nothing was wrong with her legs either.

I've read about head shaking syndrome. And I looked it up as soon as I got home, and freaked myself out, as everything Lily had been doing was a sign, down to the nose rubbing. I talked to BQ about it, and I'm going to schedule her dental floating for March-she is overdue, and Cody needs to be done. This way we can start ruling things out if this problem continues. 

I'm still hoping this was just a fluke, and she was just being a weirdo due to being in heat, and that I'm just being a worrywart...


  1. I want you to use your art skillz to draw a caricature of Lily in Zoomy Kahbloomy mode complete with action lines...

    And I hope you're being a worrywart, too, and that it's nothing serious. Q does psycho things when she is in heat, too. While I worry, I've learned to just let things play out a few days before I really truly freak. Hell, she had a huge lump on her chest the other day that I don't thing I even bothered mentioning on the blog because I wanted to see how it played out. Days later it was gone. She must have pissed Mayer or Mocha off in the field and gotten a boot to the chest. Silly horses being horses... Maybe Lily was thinking about her boyfriend doing *things* to her and got a jolt every time her mind drifted that direction.... ;-) Anthropomorphize your mare? I'd never do such a thing. :-p But seriously...I hope it plays out to be NOTHING!

  2. Lmao! I totally should draw her in Zoomy Kahbloomy mode...hadn't even thought of that! For next time, for sure! Hahaha...

    Speaking of visuals, we had some awesome groundwork sessions this weekend that I wanted to video (just place the camera on the arena wall and go), and each time I realized I'd forgotten the camera after we had started working. Arrrgghh! This needs to become a habit.

    Thanks, Liz! I really hope it's nothing! Normally I wouldn't have written about it but I wanted to note when and how it happened in case it ended up being significant later on. I guess we'll find out this week. It's supposed to be nice out! And mares in heat...sheesh! 75% of my favorite horses of all time have been mares, but it's always a process learning their ups and downs. At least we get a break from it here with winter-in FL it was year-round! Ugh.