After feeling stalled for years on horses, things are finally moving in the right direction again.
Two months back I moved Dancer to a friend’s place after Dulce’s death. That has worked out really, really well. Dancer loves having a new minion that she can boss around, loves having someone live on the property that sees her everyday and has basically won the acclaim of everyone.
Being on a true drylot, her feet have improved slightly though she remains a bit too heavy even after having her feed cut back (again!). We also have had several major storms but I went to sleep easily knowing she had her own 24/7 access to shelter. It has also helped with my time management as I now have only one horse to focus upon on a daily basis: Dante.
Dante and I have had starts and stops over the 2 years of ownership. That first year was the most difficult as it turned out he wasn’t what I thought I bought. This caused me to feel a lot of resentment, frustration and yes, anger. This all was not helped by the continual health problems (abscessed tooth, injured leg) that I had to deal with it.
However, since Dulce’s death I’ve been thinking over the Problem of Dante and decided that I needed too (now that his wound has fully healed) make some Major Decisions about him and me.
With this in mind –
1.) I ordered a custom bitless bridle for him. The expensive cavesson I bought him simply doesn’t fit and causes a lot of issues when he is in it. If this new one doesn’t fit, I’ll simply send it back and get whatever changes I need made on it as they are in the US like myself.
2.) His broad back has caused saddle fitting issues. I don’t ride Western – have no interest in riding Western and don’t like to ride in those saddles even though that would probably be an easier fit-find for him.
Instead I’ve ordered a demo on a Ghost treeless saddle. I know treeless saddles have some controversy but it will probably be the easiest to fit him. Once the saddle actually gets here and I try it, if it fits and feels great, wonderful. If not, back to the drawing board.
3.) I’ve started a rehab strengthening program for him. Some of this is what I did after Tristan’s pelvic fracture and part of it is combined with Clicker Training.
This brings me back to some issues I was having with Dante. Clicker training with food excites him too much. I mean it REALLY excites him too much. I’ve talked and discussed this problem with some other CT trainers but never really could get a plan together that had success.
A few months back I had started waiting until he would retract his dropped penis before I would approach, click or treat him. This was having limited success but I felt I was on the right track. Then I came across this clicker training R+ article and the lightbulb went off: Dante was truly not in a state of relaxed attentiveness but in a state of anticipative tension.
I had created this by being too eager with treats, too fast with my clicker to reward increased activity instead of mind-state, and because of looking for bad-ass (Intrizen) this quickly developed into something we both don’t want (and in any other horse might have become aggression).
I decided to back things off – half of my time spent with him now is done without food. I put non-clicker training/food reward work in between CT work. If he starts to drop, I walk away and wait until he starts to retract. Slowly I feel we are making some progress back to a better mental place but this problem (which I created by being too eager) will take time to get corrected.
While this little victory will seem very small – he has now ON HIS OWN – gone over my ground poles without knocking them! This is something that he wouldn’t have done 2 years ago and while it is small, it gives me hope that we can get him moving in better shape and form.
I’m also going back through my Linda Tellington-Jones TTEAM and TTOUCH work and will be incorporating some of this with his rehab.
4.) I’m not sure his PSSM is being managed so I’ve decided to add some additional supplements to his feed (L-glutamine and L-leucine) and see if we get any improvement with this lameness that keeps coming back (hind leg lameness seems to be a typical PSSM problem). I’ve had him x-rayed and examined and he only has some slight arthritis not unusual for his age.
Oddly enough husband seems to have some sort of muscle issue that is also helped by ALACAR (Acetyl-L-carnitine) and and watching him struggle with aching muscles after a strength training workout, I have a better feel for what Dante may be going through.
Although how much of this is due to the leg injury (that didn’t cut tendons) or to arthritis I don’t know (and my never know). I do plan on having the vet back out after Christmas.