Since Amber’s abscess has been dragging, I haven’t been blogging much “real” content lately. There’s only so often you can talk about it, and I don’t necessarily like discussing it all that much because there’s really nothing to say, I’d be really repeating myself, and I just want it to HEAL! lol But things have also been busy. It was a bit hectic for a while, and has since calmed down, and hopefully I’ll be able to share it with everyone by next week!
As the weeks have gone by, I’ve tried to assess a sense of weirdness I’ve felt during the weeks. It’s been strange, and I’ve been trying to figure it out. I’ve just felt really….off. As I thought about it and I would look at Amber, I’d see her get upset, too. I could see a sense of unrest and unhappiness in her eyes, even if I did get her out. She’s been kicking for no reason so much more now (seriously, look at the freaking dents in the door). She’s been binge-eating just about everything, and has just been upset. She just doesn’t seem herself.
The last weekend in February I’d hopped on Amber to see if it was my mom’s way of asking Amber to do something or if Amber was just half-assing things. It’s what helped me decide to have my mom and I switch ponies, but the previous day I’d played around in a bit and she remembered contact. That day, as I started to move my hand up to the notches that were Amber’s “perfect” contact for now, Amber just lifted and pushed into the bridle. It was absolutely like coming home. It felt wonderful. It almost felt as if we’d never been out of work since November.
I sat there the other day thinking of that one moment, that little moment where everything felt amazing, and finally realized – I’ve been depressed. Whisper is a great horse to ride and I still love her, but I miss riding Amber. And not just toodling (which granted I love to do and she’s down for, too) but really riding and working on things. Amber actually likes to be in work and shows up every day. Some days we’re not successful because things didn’t click, but the both of us want to be out there working on things and improving our relationship. We love the toodle days because we’ve also been working. But with her knee and stifle, I know too much more than a walk is very difficult for her. And I’ve missed doing more than a walk on her.
So as I went over that, I started thinking about the way she’s been kicking, very moody, and pushy, and honestly, I think she’s depressed, too.
It makes sense to me. She went from being in a lot of work to suddenly no work. And I suppose the thought is – can horses feel depression? I don’t see why not. I mean, not like a person of course, but I can see where a lot of it is coming from. She isn’t getting ridden with real purpose, we aren’t having as much bonding time as before, and I think she’s confused and upset. I do also think she’s been giving me the cold shoulder because I’ve been riding Whisper too LOL.
Part of my thoughts of this came due to the 3 word blog hop, and I got to thinking what 3 words I’d use to describe Amber. And I realized that those 3 words suited her still, but in other senses she was different. And I think the lack of work is why. Perhaps then depression wouldn’t be the right word to use to describe Amber, but I think the word encompasses all that I’ve witnessed from her for the past month or so. It’s difficult because I want to ride, too, but with her in pain I don’t feel comfortable riding her. But, she also wants to work, so I figured I’d try something.
Since I had short days Tuesday and Wednesday, I made the plan to get out there and do….things. Not just a walk. But not cantering, either, which is hard for her. Just a bit of trot here and a bit of trot there. She looked upset as I tacked her up and had a lot of side-eye going. This was after we had a big grooming session with her SleekEZ to get a lot of her hair starting to come out. Shedding season is officially in, and she was absolutely ecstatic about all of the scratches.
We walked for a bit and I set about reintroducing/reminding her about contact and pushing into the bridle. It took her a little to remember, but not for want of trying or because of her mouth. I could feel her trying to get the right amount of push I was asking for. When she came into the contact and I could feel her stride even out, I found it interesting that she seemed to have less trouble with her knee and stifle.
So I asked for a trot. Pushing into it she took quite a few very lame steps, and instead of letting the reins go, I picked up contact. And amazing little mare that she is she just put her head right into it and stepped up. And it felt amazing. I mean, honestly it really didn’t feel that amazing in terms of what we’d been doing, and she was still off, but definitely not as much. She was pushing into my outside rein, I could feel her moving through her back a little, and so I asked her to walk. Even her walk transition she tried to push into the bridle.
We trotted a little more. To the left she was very quick and uncertain, and I had to remind myself and apologize to her that I was getting defensive again and forced my left side to stretch out and she was better. Not like before because I think that push is hard for her right now. She was also expecting to canter, and I think expecting it to be uncomfortable, but she settled once she realized I just wanted something light. After that we walked for a while and once we stopped I swear she felt happier.
Her mane and tail got washed afterwards, and as I left the barn, she looked to have her usual sparkle in her eye. She was affectionate before dinner and not just food-food-food centric.
Wednesday was cloudy, and she was ready to go. She still was giving me some major side eye, but she didn’t look upset when I started tacking her up. She just about grabbed the bit when I put it in front of her mouth, and seemed quite happy to get out there and start going. I’d noticed Tuesday that I had a lot of trouble getting my left leg to lengthen and I just couldn’t seem to sit straight. I figured it wouldn’t hurt anything to try lowering the stirrup again, so I lowered my left stirrup one hole. It….actually wasn’t bad. I felt more able to sit even, but I knew the kicker would be the trot. When I tried it once before it was a disaster, but that was probably when I was unaware of my unevenness.
Her walk was much better starting off, and she didn’t have much of an issue with her stifle. And just felt a lot more steady. Happier if you will. No rushing. Just nice, even steps. I asked her to track right first since that’s her easier side, and as she started off I heard her grind her teeth. She’s never done this so I was a bit worried, but kept trotting for about half a circle. Her trot was good – still off but not as bad as she would have been without contact. In the walk transition again she tried to push forward. I asked her to trot again shortly after – if she ground her teeth again then I was just going to call it quits and get off. But no grinding, and she actually hopped into it pretty enthusiastically. She was initially quick again, but a lot of encouraging words and tone and she relaxed pretty well. I got some good work and let her walk. Then we kept walking for 5-10 minutes, and I worked on having her push into my outside rein. To the right she’ll give me really steady contact. To the left she feels the contact but after only a second she’ll come off of it, then touch it and then come off of it again. Which I completely understand – that’s how I wanted her and trained her to be for western. So for dressage I just have to work on getting her to understand that.
Which makes me feel a lot better actually. We have “something” to work on – it won’t just be mindless walking. But since she was so good and we had a few good moments of contact, we practiced going out of the gate (which she aced – I was so surprised there was no rushing no nothing – like we did it every day) and went on the teensiest walkabout ever. Which was up our street to the intersection (not that far) and back to the house and down the driveway. She very much enjoyed it. She was a bit lit and quick-stepped but I practiced a moderate pushing into the bridle for those long, reaching steps. She got it pretty well by the time we quit.
And she just looked….happy.
It isn’t that I haven’t been getting her out. It’s just we don’t do anything but walk a bit (and that’s really nothing to blog about, either). But I think she was happy to have that purpose again. To really do something.
After my lesson Trainer G and I had a long discussion. It’s really nice that she’s also my vet’s vet tech, so nothing has to be repeated twice. She was actually more apprehensive about Amber’s knee than her stifle in terms of jumping. Her knee did take a lot of damage, and something has been bothering it recently. I’m hoping it’s just in need of an injection like last time, but of course my brain jumps to “there’s still a bone chip in there so maybe it’s moving now – she’s special remember?” But as sad as I am that realistically Amber may not have even a short eventing career, I’d be okay if we only did dressage or western dressage.
This whole thing has really caused me to look at everything going on and really assess what it is I want to do if certain things happen. I want to do English. I love reining and will go back to riding it again one day, but for now I want to do English. I really want to event, but if realistically that can’t happen, I’d enjoy continuing with dressage for her or western dressage. It’d be a better carriage for her since she likes to be downhill and on the forehand anyway, and while we may not go very far in dressage, we may have potential in western dressage. Which kind of defeats the English and “dressage” aspect if I’m doing western dressage, but I’d simply be doing dressage in a western saddle.
It’s a lot of potential planning even if we haven’t assessed her stifle or knee yet, but I like to have an idea or plan of where to go. Hope for the best but prepare for the worst, right? Amber’s always been a good healer, and I’m really hoping for the best with her. There’s just a lot we need to check and a lot of options. Either way, we’ll see how it goes, but man, waiting is HARD lol.