This post is going to be hard for me to write, mostly because I have been spending a lot of time thinking and trying to figure things out. You can't always trust your own mind though, and I really appreciate the knowledge and opinions of fellow bloggers. I am trying to decide what is best for my horse at this point. This is not about me, but about him.
I am struggling with whether or not I should continue to pursue a riding relationship with William. Those who have read my blog for some years will know the long road and struggles that have come with breaking and starting him. He is still a very difficult horse, but also, an extremely talented and sweet horse. I want to lay everything I know about him out there for a completely unbiased opinion from readers. Regardless of the decision he will always be my horse. He isn't going anywhere.
I got William fall of 2011. I re-started him as he had a bad start with his previous owners. This includes flipping over and falling down on her. It also includes him broncing throughout the barn a few times while being saddled. When I got him he was not in great condition. He was wormy and his feet were shit. He was malnourished and ugly. I spent the next 6 months doing basic ground work and long lining, spending a lot of time using the John Lyons method of sacking out. He would hardly allow you to touch him at first, and gradually got better.
When I started him under saddle he did this thing I called the "scoot". He would scoot forward and attempt to buck, but nothing serious. Eventually we worked up to walk, trot, canter consistently. He would still scoot in our rides but it never bothered me. After the first year, we started doing more challenging work including jumping. The spring of 2012 I moved to my farm and when I brought William back into work he was extremely sucked back. When I would mount he would refuse to move for 10-15 minutes. This would gradually get better when ridden every day. By the third day he would be completely normal. If he had one or two days off it was back to square one. When he was really defiant, he would stop mid stride and buck from a standstill.
This behavior improved but never went away completely. He had the chiro multiple times and was always in good shape and would get complimented on his topline and muscling. The vet saw no reason for his behavior. Fast forward to last year. Same issues with sucking back and bucking but much improved - until I went to his first event. There, he refused to move and I almost missed my dressage test. It took me half an hour to get him to move forward. Once he got going he was fabulous and won the event.
His next events he did the same thing but not as severely. He was second and first at those events. He is difficult to get going but once going he is phenomenal. He was 1st, 1st, and 2nd in his three events last year. He was jumper champ at his first jumper show and won his dressage classes in the one dressage show I was able to get to with him last year. After his third event he was sidelined with his leg injury and that was that. Now I am planing on bringing him back to work for this season, but I have been wondering if it is the right thing for him.
When I would go to catch him to ride him last year he would always run away from me. Once caught, he would refuse to leave the field. It would take me 20 minutes to get him out. He would just plant his feet and refuse to move. I have never seen a horse do that. After a few days of work he would even refuse to leave his stall. Obviously the horse is not wanting to be ridden. Is it obvious? I can't figure out if he is just lazy or in pain. He is certainly not a lazy horse in general. Overall his demeanor is very gentle and sweet. He aims to please when he is going under saddle. He is VERY fun to ride, even when he is being difficult. He is sound under saddle, and has the movement of an upper level dressage horse. I don't think there is anything in his legs.
He is tense when girthed and often scoots when he walks out after first being saddled. He is resistant to take the bit into the mouth when bridling. He has a parrot mouth, low palet, and small lips. He has seen the chiro, vet, and done acupressure. Nothing has changed. He is on a regular foot, vet, worming and tooth care cycle. He is an easy keeper. He is fat and shiny. He is healthy and retained all his muscle and fitness from last summer even though he had 8 months off.
My head tells me he is in pain. Kissing spine maybe? Maybe something going on in the mouth? My heart wishes it were an attitude problem because he truly is a fabulous horse. I could send him for a body scan but in reality I have three other horses. Is it worth the cost if he does have kissing spine in the end? He seems quite content in his day to day life otherwise. Have you ever experienced anything similar? Do you have any other suggestions of what it might be, or things to try to find out what might be the cause?
This isn't a case of not being fun for me, because he is still my favorite horse to ride. I just feel sick thinking of pushing him to be ridden this year if there is something in there causing him major discomfort. I am curious to know what you would do if you were in my shoes.