Unfortunately Drifter still hasn’t seen the physio. That’s a story I’m not going into. While we wait, we’ve carried on with gentle rides where I ask very gradually to see what he can give me while we keep him moving to avoid stiffness. We went for a lovely in-hand walk at the weekend as well, this time going through the village.
The Village Hack, as it is known, is shorter than The Belfry (which is the way I usually go) but I very rarely do it because I hate the parked cars by the village shop, which go around the corner with a nasty blind bend, so everyone is on the same side of the road with blind corners and it does not make me happy. I hate being a vehicle there, whether I’m in my car or on my horse. Apparently though, I’m absolutely fine with being a pedestrian. It’s really odd, but going through that part of the route I felt fine as a pedestrian with a horse in hand, striding down the middle of the only part of road available. As we carried on through the residential bit afterwards I felt so proud to be out in the sunshine with my shiny, beautiful and obedient horse. I never feel proud when I’m hacking. I feel scared and embarrassed and somehow in the way, even when there are no other road users in sight. It was really nice to be out enjoying the sights and sounds and sunshine with my shiny horse-boy for company.
But I had to get back on the next day to get him to work a little. After a busy Monday at work I was not in the mood for much riding – I planned to hop on, do a very little work and hop off again. Hah. Fate heard me again.
After a quick groom and tack up, I mounted near the H/C corner and we walked along the short side towards the C/M corner. This walk was tight and uncomfortable. Drifter was definitely not happy, but perhaps he’d relax into it? We reached the C/M corner and instead of turning around it to proceed, he stopped. I nudged him and he bucked. And bucked. And bucked. Not with any great force, but with a consistent insistence. If I asked him to come out of the corner, which was the only way to go, he bucked. I wanted to get off, but the fence was there on our left hand. I couldn’t get down unless he came out of the corner and he seemed quite firm that he did not want to come out of the corner. So I held onto the saddle, asked and he bucked his little bucks of refusal. I didn’t feel in any danger of coming off, unless he was going to ramp it up a lot more, but it was not a great situation. I could hear a staff member within shouting distance so I asked her to bring lunge line and whip (deja vu anyone?) so if I managed to get off I’d be able to assess him from the ground.
For some reason, this request seemed to be the trigger he needed to get out of the corner. He set off suddenly in a panicky trot, interspersed with a few tiny bucks. I was not letting go of the saddle, because I had no idea what was going to come next and sat in to wait untill he stopped, doing little in the way of asking for anything apart from suggesting he come away from the fence. Eventually we negotiated a stop away from the fence and I got off.
Lunging gear arrived, I ran up the stirrups, swapped the reins for the line and started lunging on the left rein; he was stiff but not awful and not bucking. So I switched him over to the right rein. Head up, he squealed and immediately went into “running away trot.” So I had a horse that couldn’t bend/turn right, but could manage left. That explained why we got stuck in the corner.
What could I do now? I knew I was supposed to keep him in ridden work, but I was not happy to get back on a horse that was obviously only able to turn in one direction. I took him out of the school to find someone for advice.
A staff member who I don’t know that well suggested I trot him up for her and then suggested the saddle might be a problem. “Oh no”, I said confidently, “It’s only two and a half weeks since we had [the saddle fitter] out.” But as I spoke her hands were under the saddle, finding a tightness over, (did you guess it?), the right shoulder.
I felt really stupid for not finding that myself, and have given myself a sharp talking to about it. I do trust my saddle fitter. I do believe she is very good at her job and I will still use her again. I also believe even the best of us make mistakes or have off days, and I think this is what happened here.I do not believe that in less than three weeks he put on much weight, particularly as I reduced his food two weeks ago and the grass in their field is eaten so short there’s virtually nothing there.
I took the saddle off. I lunged him in each direction. He was a different horse. He still didn’t move brilliantly (but we know he’s sore at the back) but he was so much calmer. In fact, he didn’t want to move. When I tried lunging in the saddle he wasn’t interested in walking because he needed to run away. Without the saddle he just wasn’t interested in moving at all, but in a lazy way that was far more positive than the panicky trotting.
So, the saddle. Choirs of angels sang the praises of the Bates adjustable air flocking system. I knew that when we saw the saddle fitter she’d inserted a pair of inserts and I knew how to get them out again. Once I had tracked down a suitable screwdriver to borrow from the yard (I keep meaning to buy one to keep with my stuff in the tack room but it hasn’t happened yet) I opened it up and had a look. She’d put in 8mm inserts. Rather than just whipping those out I switched them over for some 4 mm ones we’d used before so the saddle would be that little bit wider at the front pads. I put everything back together and tried it on him. It looked good and felt good.
I got back on. Once he got over his initial expectation of discomfort Drifter relaxed. What a relief. We were back to just having issues at the back-end, which we know about and can deal with. We had a decent-ish ride. I am supposed to try for all three gaits, so we had a little canter in each direction, even though it’s rather unbalanced and unpleasant to ride. Unfortunately on the left rein he had a little stumble. It wasn’t enough for either of us to fall, but after it he was reluctant to do much more work (he was happy to slob around on a loose rein, but resisted my shortening it, which is not like him), so I suspect he may have some soreness from the stumble now as well. Argh! To be honest though I’d had more than enough myself, so we just wandered around on the long rein for a bit so he could stretch everything out.
I’m used to horse owning being a rollercoaster, but I’m not sure I’ve ever been up and down so much in one evening!
The next he was turned out but not ridden. When I got on the day after that he felt really weird. I felt like his right hip was really coming up and forwards under me but the left side wasn’t moving much. I walked for a bit to see if it would go away, and then got off. In hand he was stiff, particularly turning, but trotted up sound. Actually I think he hides it better in a trot up than in a walk, but all advice was to get back on and take it easy, which I did, and the oddness did reduce over the ride as he moved through the stiffness. I know that when the physio comes she will wave her magic wand and he’ll be back to feeling fabulous, but the waiting is not easy. Hopefully next week…
I suppose the silver lining is that this is stopping me from overdoing it in the saddle. Meh. The chance would be a fine thing!