It’s no question – Amber walks so much better outside of the arena than she does inside. Mostly I think that has to do with the fact that in the arena she has to actually lift her leg higher than she wants to or thinks she can at this point in time. It’s just so much easier outside walking on the pavement – she’ll walk herself and she really just enjoys it out there. I really have to push her so much in the arena, and I’m honestly afraid that if I have to do that too much she’ll start grinding her teeth and feeling like a sack of potatoes and not wanting to walk forward again. I REALLY don’t like doing that. Occasionally I’ve had to push her forward, and most of the time she’ll go, but if she doesn’t think she can it’s like she’s stubbing her toe constantly until I REALLY make her go and then she picks it up for a few strides. When I praise her, she collapses back to a “I can’t do this” walk.
Yesterday evening’s ride was not good. Not in the sense that she was bad in any way, but her stifle was either hurting her a lot or just super stiff. She was extremely short and off in the little time we spent in the arena, and then even still just not really herself when we were out on the pavement. I am very disheartened that she suddenly seemed to go back yesterday. She was also really sore on it – not wanting to put a lot of weight on it. I’m hoping it was just a bad day type thing.
So, short of stretching her leg myself and walking outside, I’m at a bit of a loss of how else to help her. Thankfully, Dr. W will be coming by this afternoon to give her her post-surgery eval. Hopefully we can come up with some other things to do and where we need to go.
But I’ve started riding her again. We’ve gone outside on the pavement all of those days, and I was a little worried we’d revert back to her worried attitude before. She was very uncomfortable the first day I rode her outside, really listening to Whisper calling, but when we made it to the end of one street I hopped off and had her stretch for treats. That seemed to be just what she needed to help her reset and understand that things were okay and treats were to be had away from Whisper. I found a hump to get back on but it was certainly awkward managing that.
We proceeded to walk back to the property and she breathed deeply and walked nicely. I gave her many pats and I breathed a sigh of relief. The second time outside was definitely better, but she was still a bit unsure. We stopped a bit, let her breathe, and then continued. We still stuck to just the street and a little bit past it just like I did in the beginning so it becomes routine for her. The next time I rode was Sunday night after my trip, and this was by far our most challenging outside ride but also most rewarding. She was a little unsure but willing to go just a bit farther again on the end streets. When we turned down the scary corridor (goats, big oleanders) the wind picked up a lot. It was causing something in our neighbor’s yard to make noise, and Amber REALLY didn’t like that she couldn’t see what was making the noise. Plus, another neighbor was walking their dog (it’s blind, and mostly deaf) and I didn’t want Amber to get near the dog and the dog to start barking wondering what Amber was, not to mention Whisper was calling frantically and it just looked like it could turn into something much worse. So I turned Amber as quietly as I could and honestly it felt a bit dicey for a few seconds. I already dislike walking a horse with shoes on pavement because of slipping. Amber was ready to bolt, and even hunkered down for a second. Even though I was nervous and she was too, she was a superstar. She walked out, being very careful until we were out of the corridor and back on the main street. I praised her a lot, and she was quickly back to her old self. We went again to the end of the street, a little farther onto the connecting street, and then still had 5 minutes. So, I figured we’d try the scary street again.
She was still very uncertain, but willing. Yet a quick stop/chat with the owners of said neighbor house really helped her settle. The other neighbor and her dog were gone, and so Amber carefully made her way over to the goats. We stopped and sniffed them (she really seems to love them) then calmly turned around and walked back out without issue. I was super pleased with how she handled it – especially that there was no accident on the pavement and that she kept her head and that no treats were needed during the ride! She got LOTS of face loves though. I’m still going to take it slow, but it looks like we’re well on our way to doing just as well riding outside as we were hand-walking. She doesn’t seem to see these rides separated from Whisper as being very bad anymore, so we’re going to keep plugging away at them. I’m just really hoping that yesterday evening’s ride won’t be normal. The only good thing was that when I was stretching that leg after the ride, her lip was going in her usual “this feels so amazing” camel lip. So uh….?
Hopefully, the vet has good things to say about her recovery and we’re on our way to keep going. Keep your fingers crossed for us!