Baron got hurt and Thunder stood still.

I’ve heard that 10% of horses have 90% of the injuries. I’d say that’s true based on my experience with Baron. He has again ripped a giant hole in his flesh. My best guess is that he did it on the gate. He kicked out at another horse and hit the gate but I didn’t realize he had cut himself until about 2 hours later when I came back to feed and found him like this.

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The vet came out and bandaged him but the bandage only stayed about 24 hours. After that he was supposed to be on stall rest, but Baron respectfully disagreed with the vet. He paced so much in his stall that he started bleeding again and he wouldn’t eat or drink his water, at which point I turned him and Thunder out in the little pasture where hopefully less damage can potentially be done. Baron says he is a pasture horse now, thank you very much. Stalls are for chumps.

After being turned out he was happy as a clam and he’s been healing well. His wound is a giant nasty scab but it’s not infected and the leg isn’t swollen. Again what could have been a life-ending emergency has turned out to be a month or two off work for Baron. I’m starting to think he does this when he wants a vacation.

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Taking care of Baron meant 3 or 4 hours a day at the barn for the first week after the injury. He had to be cold hosed, walked, stall cleaned, etc… so I haven’t done as much with Thunder as I hoped. But I decided to start all over with him from the beginning. He has a lot of gaps in his training and a lot of bad habits. I need to address some of these before I worry about getting him to move like a show horse.

I started free lunging him and doing groundwork. We do the most basic stuff- moving his butt away from me, lunging WTC in both directions, halting and standing still. At first he HATED it, such a sourpuss expression, bucking when I ask for a canter and looking generally miserable. But he’s really smart and now he’s figuring out that it’s kind of a game. I think he doesn’t mind working without a rider. There’s no bit and no one on his back and he’s able to relax and move correctly.

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He’s got potential.
One ear forward, one ear on me.
One ear forward, one ear on me.

We’ve also been working on standing still for mounting. When I got him, he would not stand still. He scooted his little butt over the minute I stepped on the mounting block. When I managed to scramble on with one foot in the stirrup he immediately moved forward. We’ve been working on standing still at the mounting block. I would put him where I want him, then stand on the block and rub his back and give him a good butt scratch. If he moved, I moved him back. Eventually I would lean on him, then put one leg on and just stand there. I didn’t get on him the first day, just stood with my leg draped over. Last night for the first time he stayed completely still for his back rub, leaning on him and even when I slid onto his back. He didn’t move off; he just stood still for the very first time ever! That’s progress!

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Baron: Before and After

I was looking through old blog posts and old riding videos and I have to say we’ve come a long way. When I bought Baron 6 years ago, I didn’t really know what I was doing. I knew enough to take good care of him and keep him healthy, but not enough to ride him well. I hadn’t ridden since I was a kid, and even then I rode little horses, nothing big and exuberant like Baron. I still have a long, long way to go and Baron does too, but it’s nice to pause and reflect on how far we’ve come.

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after

Pretty big difference, right?

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

I worked Thunder hard yesterday, asked him to trot longer than I have before. I am by no means any sort of fitness queen, but I think Thunder is more out of shape than me. I get the feeling that trotting for any length of time is really, really hard for him. He has to slow down and pay attention and I think it’s actually more taxing on him than just cantering full speed ahead. The combination of having to move in rhythm and pay attention to my aids is mentally exhausting for him.

He’s learning that the easiest way to carry me is to trot rhythmically. It takes more energy to constantly speed up and slow down than it does to maintain a steady tempo. As long as he gives me a decently energized trot, I leave him alone. If he slows down to his poky, lazy trot, I add leg. If he does his weird canter hop thing, I half halt. He’s learned that it’s easier to just trot around with enough energy to keep me happy.

I’m going to show you some shots from our last ride. You can see when he throws his head in the air, when he stretches, and when he carries himself in a less giraffe-ey way. Be warned. Our ugly moments are totally, absolutely ugly. Fugly even.

So here’s the ugly stuff:

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See what I mean? Not exactly a show hunter just yet. He throws his head up during transitions and when he’s just plain over it. It’s happening less and less, but this ride I worked him hard and asked him to trot longer periods and I think he was letting me know that he needs to build up his fitness and this is hard for him. Fair enough.

Here’s the stretchy stuff.

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I love the first picture to the far left. He’s doing this more and more and throwing his head around less and less.

Finally, here’s the good stuff. These give me hope that one day he’ll be a horse and not a llama.

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