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

Friday, May 17, 2013

Fun and Games with the Stall Rested Horse

So I owe you guys the story of what happened on Wednesday with Lily...I'll try to summarize what happened with her this week. All of the following activities have been cleared with my vet, including the longer walks and long lining. We simply aren't allowed to do more than an hour total of walking each day. We do HUGE circles on the lunge-I walk a large circle in the center, and we move all over the place, so she is often going in straight lines and ovals, too. (We don't stay in one spot in a tight circle.) We are also allowed to hand graze all day if we want to.

Here it is:

Charles and I were going to go hiking and so I was at the barn by 9:00 am to give Lily a 15 minute walk and head back home. It was overcast, humid and chilly. All of the horses were inside, so I had the BRILLIANT idea of taking Lily for a walk in the big field.

I put her lunge line on with the rope halter, and had her walk on the lunge in giant circles around me. This lasted for all of 2 minutes before she decided to trot. When I asked her to walk, she decided to bolt. When I reined her in to halt her, she took off sideways and backwards trying to get away from me.

Fantastic. Exactly what she should be doing with her leg.


I tried again. We repeated this scenario 2 more times. Why does she do this? This is how she acts out. This has always been the way she acts out, and it always drives me insane because she behaves like I'm going to hurt her. I have NEVER hurt her. You'd think after almost 2 years together, she'd get it. Her way of being bratty is to act like she's terrified when I don't let her have her way.

Normally, I would have had her canter and just get all of that excess energy out of her system, because that's one of the main reasons behind this kind of behavior. She doesn't know what to do with herself.

But we can't do anything with that energy, because she is recovering from an injury and is only allowed to walk.

Frustrated, I took her back to the barn, put her in her stall, pulled up 4 mls of Ace, and gave it IM. Discovered that without any preamble, she was WAY better for it-she did not realize I was going to give her an injection until I was already pushing the plunger.

Wait for 15 minutes.

Went back into the barn, and was met by a sleepy-looking mare. Off we went into her paddock, where we worked on walk-halt-walk-halt in both directions on the lunge for 30 minutes. She did fantastic. She was still "up" and looking for excuses to try to trot, but was a lot quieter and easier to control. I was really happy with her in the end, as by then the horses were being turned back out in the field next door, and each one was galloping all the way up to the back field as they were set free; the geldings in the paddock on the other side were racing around; and one of the horses that was being lunged in the outdoor got away from his handler twice, tearing around and around the arena. Lily did her job:

So sleepy...

"I'z a good girl! What you talkin about?!"

After our hike, I returned in the afternoon to walk her again. It was warmer, and she seemed tired. We practiced more walk-halt on the lunge, and then called it a day.

Started GastroGard. Walked her with the surcingle and side reins for 30 minutes, doing very large circles on the lunge. I had her wear a bridle with her mullen mouth snaffle. Ran the lunge line through the bit ring and attached it to one of the surcingle dees, to work on bend a little.

We did some desensitizing with the new lunge line (finally got my Parelli line!), and Lily didn't even flinch, no matter where it touched her. Belly, legs, rump, back? No problem. Remember this for later.

Sally arrived, and I removed all of Lily's equipment so Jez and her could be hand-grazed together. We did this for an hour or so. After Sally and Jez left, I put all of the tack back on Lily, then took her into the barn to attach long lines. I had purchased them recently, and am hoping to train her to use them so I can drive her on foot down the trail at some point.

I think all horses should be trained to drive before they are ridden. Not necessarily while pulling a cart or buggy, but they should be able to go in long lines while driven from behind. I had a feeling Lily had never been trained to do this and would probably be overly sensitive about the lines touching her legs, which has to happen before you can teach the horse to go forward with the handler behind.

Jane Augenstein lunges her horse with long lines. Note the left long line is touching the horse's back leg.
Using one long line, I attached the snap on the right bit ring, ran it under the surcingle (the darned Dover cheapo long line snaps and buckle are too big for my surcingle's dees), around her hind end (I went super, super slow, but she still tucked her tail and squatted in fear. *sigh* Remember we've done rope desensitizing with this mare A MILLION times, including on this day), and tied to a surcingle dee on her left side.

I attached the lunge line to her rope halter, and led her forward. Super calm.

In her paddock, I clipped the side reins on and had her walk in a circle around me to the left for 5 minutes. She was a really good girl, and there were no theatrics over the line touching her legs.

This was our  Intro to Long Lines getup. Notice how uphill her movement is!
Then it was time to switch directions. I undid the long line, attached the clip to the left bit ring, and then tried passing it slowly and carefully behind her legs.

She tried to fly backwards again. I had to yank on the lunge line hard to get her to stop as of course she managed to get her legs tangled in it. Of course the barn manager was outside grooming one of her dogs at this point. She probably thinks I'm another crazy boarder now...

I carefully untangled her from the long line, rubbed her all over her body with it to remind her that it didn't eat horses, and tried again. Success. Once the long line was rigged appropriately, I had her walk to the right. We had 2 episodes where she stopped and backed up a couple of steps, but I halted her and encouraged her to walk forward. After a pause each time, she obeyed.We repeated this once more in each direction, and she was much better. It ended up being about 30 minutes total, if you included the time it took me to undo and redo the long line setup. She walked for exactly 20 minutes.

To the right.

She received a bath afterwards.

Today, Friday
2nd dose of GastroGard. We hand-walked for 20 minutes up and down the road. It was what I call comfortably hot, not particularly humid, but Lily was in heat lethargy mode, and after just 20 minutes walking, she was panting. She got used to the cool weather. This mare hates the heat.

We have a little "round" pen (it's rectangular) that is commonly used as a small rehab paddock. It's tiny - maybe 20'x16'. A lot of good grass has grown in there lately, and since Lily was so calm, I let her loose to graze while I went about setting up her hay cubes and cleaning up. She was in there for about 45 minutes, and was finally able to roll in the dirt for the first time since all of this started. She was a really good girl-didn't even try to run around or act like an idiot.

She was sweating by the time I took her out, so she got hosed off and then got put back in her stall with her hay cubes and ice boot.

After about another 30 minutes, I took her out and tacked her up. We were going to try this long line thing again. I put the dressage saddle on her, and ran the overgirth through the stirrups before buckling it up, to keep the stirrups from moving. I then ran the long lines through the stirrups, and attached each end on her opposite side, on the saddle bucking strap. She tensed up but didn't squat like she did the day before.

The lunge line was attached to her rope halter again.

We did about 2-3 minutes of walk in each direction in her paddock, and then I undid the long lines, holding both in one hand, and the lunge line in the other. When I asked her to walk to the left, the long line from the opposite side ended up under her girth instead of going around her hind legs. We had a little spaz-out moment when she felt the opposite long line touch the backs of her front legs, but I had her whoa, wait, then sent her back into a walk. She soon became used to the feel of the line behind her legs and relaxed. I didn't fix it because it seemed like there was a lot less potential for tangling with it the way it was.

I figured out the best way to switch the lines so we could change directions was to just throw them to her opposite side going under her belly. She jumped the first time I did this, but obeyed when I had her stop.

Her right side is her much more sensitive side. Lily is a classic example of a horse who got used to having everything done from the left and very little from the right. It is going to take me years to undo the initial poor training she had. I've actually had her block me when approaching her right side with things she's worried about (ex: the inflatable snake). This is why you teach your horse to tolerate things from both sides EQUALLY! Horses aren't left-sided. We MAKE them that way.

I had the lunge line and long lines in separate hands again, and had her walk forward towards the right. She did, and then the opposite long line touched her front legs. She reared (!) and tried to back up when she felt the contact of the longe lines on the bit. However, when combined with the contact on her poll thanks to the rope halter and lunge line, she stopped. Phew...

"Walk" I said firmly. She paused. "Walk." She did. We did quite a bit of stopping and starting, a lot more than to the left, as she needed quite a bit of reassurance to understand that it was okay and desired that she continue walking even when the lines touched her legs. Thankfully there was no more backing up. We changed directions twice more, so she did a total of 25 minutes walking. We had no more theatrics over throwing the long lines from one side to the other under her belly, and before doing it each time, she let me rub her shoulders, neck, belly and rump with the line. Towards the end, she was stretching her neck out for scratching with the long lines...Silly mare.

"Mom, don't you know ALL white snakez eatz horses??"
I will bet you $100 that she forgets all of this by the time we attempt it again next week.

Gotta say, though: every single time I asked her to "whoa", she did. Every time. Even when she was scared. This was a first!

Note to self: next time we attempt this, it will be in the "round" pen. We'll only be doing this once or twice a week, as a substitute for what should be a riding day. Technically 6 days a week are supposed to be riding days, but I'm waiting until her belly isn't sore anymore to start riding again. We'll just do other things in the meantime.


  1. Simon does the exact same thing! When he throws his head up and if I reprimand him a little with my hand AT ALL he flies backwards like a crazy horse. I've never once popped him or been overly harsh with his mouth, so I don't know what the deal is.

  2. Oh Lily do as you are told its better for you!