The Answer You Need
Dorian started doing this strange thing under saddle on the trail. And we'd ridden these trails probably hundreds of times. If I tried to transition him back from the canter to trot, or trot to walk, he'd stop dead.
No slowing the canter and easing into a trot. Just an immediate halt! Slam, bam, thank you mam!
A little dangerous to say the least.
So we had a few talks about that. And then he started doing it at the walk (I'd stopped cantering and confined our outings to trot and walk). He'd be going down the path fine, then lower his head and freeze.
I tried to figure it out. Somewhere in this mess, we'd been trotting up a line next to a pasture and he'd shifted into an electric fence.
That was fun.
It was quite a shock, too--even I heard it zap him! Dorian bucked, and jumped to the side, and probably some other antics I can't remember. Things like that happen in a nanosecond, and there he stood a few feet off, quivering, staring at me on the ground.
Sweet guy, he didn't run off. He just stood there staring at me with that "What the ???" look. So I stroked him and murmured, remounted, and off we went.
In trying to figure out what was going on, I wondered if his nervous system had gotten frazzled from the shock. Or, I thought, was his vision impaired? When he lowered his head, it seemed he saw something that scared him, and that made him freeze.
I couldn't figure it out.
We always have the answer we need. We can trust that it's there, and be patient enough to let it unfold to us.
Liz Buck, a great equine massage therapist and horse trainer, suggested I sign him up for an appointment with Dr. Linda, the equine chiropractor who is also a vet. I generally don't call on others when things go awry. Normally, D. and I work things out together.
But I kept getting this message--Make the appointment! So I did. Dr. Linda talked to me, palpated him along the spine and withers, did a vet exam, and said "Have you changed your saddle pad recently?"
I was shocked. Yes! I had changed his pad--from a lusciously thick one, to my old ratty thinnish one. The thick one was a pain to manage . . . . for me. Evidently, though, for Dorian is was just perfect!
Up to the barn Dr. Linda and I went and she asked to see my saddle and pad, which I promptly brought out. She examined the padding (called "flocking") on the underside of the saddle, plopped my ratty pad on and the saddle, cinched him up, and took a step back.
She took the whole thing off, and turned to me. "He's getting pinched," she said simply.
Turns out she'd probed him at the withers and felt him flinch on one side, so she knew he was sore there.
She showed me the saddle, where the flocking on that side was worn down more than the other side. So when we were out riding, he'd extend his front legs more than on a lead rope, and he'd get an "Ouch!" from the lack of padding.
No wonder he stopped! I would, too!
I gave Dr. Linda some hugs and thanked her profusely! I had been really worried!
As it turned out, his vision is fine. His nervous system is fine. In fact, she said he looked great and didn't need an adjustment (hence the photos of Pinecone!).
I was the one needing the adjustment! A mental one, for sure!
And so, the lesson was a good one for me. I realized that even if the message seems odd, listening to it can result in some surprisingly nice results.
Here's another example. Miles, a wonderful--not to mention beautiful--gelding belongs to Liz. She'd just finished a lesson with a young girl who was under her tutelage. Liz was with another student in the arena so she wasn't aware of what happened.
I was a short way off and saw Miles begin pulling back hard from the tie rack where the lesson student had secured him. As I moved closer, I saw he had somehow gotten his entire mouth clamped hard around the iron beam where he was tied, and he was held fast. He couldn't move an inch.
It was a really dangerous situation--he could have broken his teeth or his neck if he'd panicked and started thrashing about.
And--he not only had a bridle on, but a halter as well, and they were both pulled tight by Miles trying to free himself. So his head was a tangle of buckles and straps, and it looked like chaos!
The lesson student seemed more panicked (thank goodness) than Miles. I walked up to him and calmly undid a buckle as he stood there quietly. What I did freed him.
What was interesting to me, after the fact, was that for about a week before, I'd been struggling mightily for the answer to a really serious personal problem. I just couldn't hear the right path to take to solve the problem for the life of me.
The more I struggled, the less I heard. The less I heard, the more anxious I became--I really needed to know what to do!
In the situation with Miles, I didn't have time to think. There was no time to assess the halter/bridle, clamped jaw situation and figure out what to do.
But I somehow walked up to Miles and undid exactly the buckle that freed him on the spot. The rope halter was pulled too hard to undo and the other buckles would not have released him immediately.
What I learned from that is something I think is true for so many of us--we always have the answer we need. We can trust that it's there, and be patient enough to let it unfold to us.
I sometimes get so in the way of myself I can't hear it.
Dorian has been such a good and patient teacher for me in this. Watching him I see what I could be doing instead of my mental gyrations, which of course only sidetrack me. He's so graceful at being himself and moving forward exactly as he should.
I'm incredibly grateful to have him in my life. In so many ways, I'm not the leader. Wherever we need to go, he so often leads me, moment by moment, every step of the way.