After my terrible lesson on Monday, I stuck with my riding plan and gave Miles Tuesday off. I went out to the barn on Wednesday to see what I could see.
Mistake #1: I went out by myself because Sam was busy. And as it turned out I was literally the only person in the barn.
Checked the whiteboard to see if Miles had been turned out, but he hadn’t. No big deal, I thought, because there have been plenty of times I’d ridden him without it. I went to grab the beast and before I even made it out of his stall he tried to bite me. Fantastic.
Continued tacking, got on and did our abbreviated warm-up, which was okay. He cow kicked when I transitioned up to the canter, but whatevs. I went back down to the walk to begin bending, suppling and framing. And shit hit the fan. He balked at the walk, balked at the trot. When I put my leg on, he cow kicked. When I used my crop, he bucked. Super fantastic.
I was by myself, and I was scared. So I did what any other weenie amateur would do: I got him to trot one lap around the arena each direction (no bending, no nothing) but at least moving forward and not doing a Western Pleasure jog, and called it quits.
I figured that 10 minutes of “work” probably wasn’t enough, so I got the bright idea to let Miles loose in the indoor for a while. Since he was napping in the crossties and I’ve always seen him be super quiet in turnout, I brought a lunge whip with me. I turned him out and let him walk/sniff for a few minutes before I raised the whip. I was about 20 feet away and I just waved the whip in the air (didn’t touch him or crack it) and he TOOK OFF.
Mistake #2: Using a lunge whip. If you suspect your horse is wound as tight as a bottle cap, do not encourage running with a whip.
Head high, tail in the air, ears forward Miles literally galloped as fast as he could around the entire arena. I put the whip down, tried to get him to slow down because I was convinced he was going to kill himself – either by ripping a tendon or colliding with a wall during his hairpin turns. But he didn’t.
That horse galloped for a solid 5 minutes without stopping. At least I’m now 100% sure he has some Thoroughbred in him. I really wish I had some video for ya’ll, but I was so stunned all I could do was stand in the middle of the arena with my mouth gapping open.
I told my trainer all about my “ride” on Wednesday and subsequent running of the bulls. My lesson ended up being a private, and trainer started out with groundwork, getting Miles to respect her space, etc. Then I got on and we rode very briefly–walk, trot, canter–each direction, with no bending or giving. While he wasn’t exactly moving as forward as I would like, he did behave much better: no cow kicking or bucking.
While she’s not 100 percent sure of the cause, her opinion at this point is that he’s hopped up on grain and that he needs to see a chiropractor. So we’re going to try a multifaceted approach including cutting his grain way back, adding a B1 Thiamine supplement, calling the chiropractor and focusing on very short, happy rides in which I ask for nothing more than fairly forward and I stay up off his back, especially at the canter.
At the end of the lesson she made a comment that Miles seems to be a “glass is half empty” kind of horse and that once things start to slide downhill for him, the worse he feels. Well, at least that’s one thing we seem to have in common. Here’s hoping that both Miles and myself can work on shaking off these winter blues and remember that January means we’re halfway to spring, instead of three months left of winter.