Sunday, April 1, 2007

Rachel and Grandma and an Arabian Horse

Youth Nationals Here We Come! Part 3

Part 1

By the second day of the Daffodil Arabian Horse Association event at the Western Washington Fairgrounds in Puyallup, the old Rachel was back. The picture of D_ _ _ riding Rachel's beloved Arabian horse so heavy off her hands it actually left large white scars on the corners of the Arabian horse's mouth had etched itself into Rachel's mind. The vivid picture was the motivation Rachel needed to correct her riding problem. She finally understood why her Arabian horse was behaving the way he was.

Before Rachel rode the Arabian horse that day, I got on him and schooled him through the issues Rachel had created by not giving the horse a release. It didn't take too long before I had the horse using himself correctly and going softly. But it was going to take some time to build back the confidence that Rachel had destroyed by hanging onto the horse's face. This was going to have to be worked out between Rachel and Dandy, the Arabian horse.

Part of her problem was her insecurity in the hunt saddle. Posting in the western saddle, it had been easy for her to balance herself but in the hunt saddle she was insecure. Her instinct was to grab with her legs and her hands. The Arabian horse would increase his stride because of her increased leg pressure but the horse would run into the pressure on his mouth because Rachel was relying on her hands to stablize herself at the expense of the horse's mouth. The horse was confused and began rooting through the bridle looking for relief, sometimes even beginning to raise up and out of the bridle altogether.

Because Rachel is dyslexic,I wanted to help her find a way to be more conscious of her actions to overcome her instinctual urge to hang onto the horse. I instructed her to "chant" her aids to make her more accountable for their use. Leg, Leg, Leg.......... squeeze, squeeze, squeeze, in no time at all Rachel and Dandy (the Arabian horse) were going around the arena working as a team again. The horse still had some insecurities and would occasionaly root a little but Rachel soon realized that as long as she reinforced her request with more leg, the horse settled back into doing his job.

Because this was a schooling show, there were walk/trot classes available for Rachel and Dandy (the Arabian horse) to try before any canter classes. The classes were huge but the pair did quite well getting a second and a first place ribbon. Then it was time to canter. Rachel hadn't really thought about the fact the judge could request a hand-gallop in a canter class. She had only practiced the hand gallop a couple of times back at home. Watching from the rail I saw the Arabian horse moving into the hand gallop and turned quickly to Colleen asking if they had requested that gait. Colleen's eyes were big and so were Rachel's (and probably Grandma's too) but the horse looked soft and the kid looked in control. Rachel and Dandy (the Arabian horse) won their walk/trot/canter class.

At the lunch break we changed tack and prepared for the western classes in the afternoon. Again I schooled the horse getting him nice and round and soft going on a draped rein. Rachel hasn't quite got the feel for where the horse needs to be but she was definitely doing much better than I'd seen the day before.The horse was happier just not as round as would be needed to do well at the National level.

She rode the Arabian horse in a couple of walk jog classes and placed in the ribbons there as well but not quite as high as she had in the hunter pleasure classes. We went back to the warm up to work on the lope but then things got dicey. Dandy was getting more and more resistive and I attributed it to his being insecure with Rachel after her spell of heavy handiness. Unfortunately, that was not the problem.

This particular Atabian horse has very high withers and a very laid back shoulder. This makes it difficult to find a saddle to fit him properly. Over the years I've gone to saddle fittings and all sorts of things trying to find a saddle to fit this horse properly. I've come across a couple that fit him better but nothing that is quite right. As a result, I've learned over the years to apply some padding at the withers to adjust for a more correct fit.

Rachel had been shown how to do this but had not quite understood what she was trying to accomplish. As the horse's muscle structure changed from the way she was working him, the padding needed to be adjusted as well. This had not happened and the horse ended up with a bare spot on each side of his spine in the area of his loin. The spots were not very large but the area surrounding them also had shortened hair from the rubbing the saddle was doing.

The hunt saddle didn't come in contact with this area at all. The western saddle was the culprit. As we asked for more and more collection for the horse, we were asking him to lift that portion of his back right were these spots were located. As the horse's back became warm, it started to sweat and the sweaty pad grabbed the bare patch of skin and pulled out even more hair. Of course, this was all happening while we were toatlly unaware.

As Rachel tried to get the horse to lift up his back even more, the pain must have gotten too much for the Arabain horse. The end result was a horse that took off with his rider heading back for the barn. Colleen realized the horse was heading for the out gate and blocked the way. The Arabian horse stopped. Rachel burst into tears and I got back onto the horse to fix the problem still oblvious to it's real cause.

I schooled the horse through the problem and then sent Rachel back to get the snaffle bit for her to ride him in, still thinking we were dealing with a problem with Rachel and not the horse. By the time she returned, the horse had sweated more under the pad causing even more problems with grabbing hairs. It didn't take but a minute or two of trying to flex and bend the Arabian horse for me to realize that something odd was going on with the horse. The horse I was now riding, I had never seen before.

We took the Arabian horse back to the barn and unsaddled him. Then I discovered the now huge patches of bare skin and even an area that appeared to be burned . I cannot even tell you how bad I felt looking down at what had happened to my Arabian horse's back. It was no wonder that the horse had decided to leave the arena, we had been causing him a great amount of pain.

Now we had another obstacle to overcome before Rachel and Dandy, (the Arabian horse) would be able to be competitive enough to go to nationals. Rachel would have to work through her fear because the horse had bolted. Dandy would have to heal and work through his fear of Rachel hanging onto him. The Arabian horse would also have to work through the fear that using himself correctly would cause pain.

To be continued....

Part 4


  1. Rachel and Dandy sound like a good pair! They are lucky to have your support and help!

  2. Another great reason to double check your tack when you tack up and to check your horse when you untack. Isn't it amazing how these things can escalate so quickly when we fail to be meticulous?

  3. I'm sorry that happened - it's always so frustrating to make a mistake that an animal suffers for. He sounds like a good horse, though, and I'm sure he and Rachel will work through this quickly. She's so lucky to have your help!

  4. Wow MiKael I nearly missed this post!!! With you guys being behind us 3 hours I normally only see your posts the next day, you must have got todays in early or I am running very late LOL.

    I am so glad that you found the root of the problem. I know it is awful to find that it is something you have done or missed that has caused the horse pain, but thankfully you did find it and can now resolve it.

    I am enjoying this series. Looking forward to Part 5