Friday, November 18, 2011

Good Horse, Bad Horse

Everyone knows the syndrome - this horse just doesn’t want to work, that horse is lazy and won’t frame up/go forward/take direction/calm down, whatever, yada, yada, yada. I suppose that sometimes this is true - I have a horse who has what can only be described as Attitude - but still, I wonder. Recently there have been so many instances here at BAF of horse behavior which, when looked at differently, were NOT a result of Bad Horse-ishness - the horse just could not do what was being asked.

Example: a dun mare who just wouldn’t go straight. She was used as a demo at the Open House in September, and turned out to have fairly significant spinal alignment problems which, when adjusted, helped a lot.

Example: an Andalusian semi-rescue horse ended up here after a series of life mishaps, informed - in part- by alleged Bad Horse behavior, such as being intransigent under saddle. He was also semi-starved when he got here, which guided quite a bit of his treatment at first. But even after he gained his weight back and light work was begun, he had real problems in moving, particularly in his hind end. It turned out he had serious and long-standing leaky gut syndrome which produced a whole host of seemingly unrelated physical and behavior problems - but once the diagnosis was made, were susceptible of remediation. He looks and acts like a different horse now.

Example: a large draft mare who, again, just couldn’t seem to get to self-carriage, to collect and go forward even after the most gentle and consistent of training - such that her most patient of owners began to think that she just didn’t want to work. Actually, after a recent very scary episode which we all thought was colic, it was discovered that she had suffered a bad “tying up” episode, instead. And that her breed is very susceptible genetically to this disease, which, guess what, produces the same symptoms as led to the suspicion of a Bad Horse stubborn refusal to go forward.

In each of these cases, I was the not-directly involved observer - and a lay person at that. But because I see now a lot of horses - and have seen many over the years - I can see patterns. I have yet to meet a horse who isn’t gentle, willing, and forgiving once they have the chance: once they are dealt with in terms they can understand, and once they have become comfortable in their bodies. Sometimes the bodily comfort isn’t possible right away, or at all, but I swear they know when we are trying to help. A recent eye injury here necessitated hot wet compresses twice a day, and the mare in question was more than cooperative. She stood calmly even when there was some discomfort, and seemed to know that this was necessary to relieve her pain and speed the healing. Her eye is just fine now, although it looked like a train wreck at the time: she is a Good Horse.