Saturday, April 5, 2008

Baby Boomer Dreams - Dandy's Story - Moving On

Part 1

After the catastrophe the schooling show scene had turned out to be, I decided just to put my focus on getting the Arabian horse ready to show in the A system Arabian horse shows. I didn't want to risk any more incidents that could wreck Dandy as a show horse forever. While the horse might not be used to strange horses or strange surroundings, I knew I could count on the Arabian shows to be less chaotic.

Right about this time is when I noticed that Dandy began holding his tail to one side or the other. Up until this time the horse had always had good straight tail carriage. Now he seemed to use his tail like a rudder. Depending on what he was doing, he would hold his tail to the inside sometimes.

I guess I was particularly conscious about his tail carriage because Arabians are known for having wry tails. Scandalous had carried a crooked tail. I knew I needed to be on top of the situation because horses are scored down for this fault. It is actually listed as a breeding fault in the USEF Rule Book for Arabians. However I see from the information in Wikepeida that it is now considered to be a sign of injury. Interesting how things change in fifteen years.

There was another thing that was beginning to happen to Dandy as well. I would notice when I moved the partition of my slant load trailer aside for the horse to exit, he had a burn on the hair on his side at about his flank. Eventually this evolved into the horse actually falling down when I opened up the partition. It was frightening for both me and for the horse.

I had Dandy seen by my vet countless times trying to figure out what what happening. I even had the horse examined by a chiropractor and a massage therapist. While the horse always benefited from the work of the chiropractor and massage therapist, no one thought there was anything serious going on with this young horse.

I kept on with my schooling program and began taking him to Silver Aspen Ranch for hunter pleasure lessons and a little bit of trail. I thought the horse was doing well and really enjoyed my hunter lessons with Cheryl Fletcher. I got the impression that the horse was doing well and I was happy with our progress.

It wasn't until the first Arabian show that I realized that I was not getting the job done. I was having a problem even getting a ribbon in large classes. Something that I had not struggled with before. In the smaller classes I could get in there at the bottom of the heap and even beat a few horses but it was clear that there was room for improvement.

Granted a couple of times, I had trouble with Dandy getting frightened. A horse coming up behind him would cause him to fight the bit and act like he wanted to tip his head upside down instead of going forward. This happened on and off throughout our first and even second season, particularly in the hunter pleasure class.

I have always made it a point after the shows to talk to the judges about my horse. I wanted to know what they thought of him and what we needed to improve. Every judge I spoke with told me he was an impressive horse, he just needed to be rounder and softer, more committed to the bridle.

It wasn't until I received the photographer's proofs from those early shows that I was able to see what they meant by rounder. Looking at those pictures I was finally aware of how really difficult it was to judge the horse's frame from on top of him. With his mile long neck, it was easy to think that his frame was correct. The arch of his neck just seemed to go on forever. Yet in those pictures the horse was clearly flat, not using his neck the way an Arabian is expected to.

This was going to be a difficult thing to fix. I had no frame of reference and there was no one around when I was riding who had a clue about how an Arabian should look. For a quarter horse or paint, the horse would have been too archy, for an Arabian he wasn't archy enough.

I've never been successful at getting my husband to take pictures or video for me. Through all of my time riding, I have had to figure out things like getting correct leads and frame on my own. If I didn't get the feel, I was dead.

Do you know how hard it is to "feel" the correct lead when you don't even know which lead you are on in the first place. I started off about as insecure about knowing my leads as a person can be. I can't even tell you how many years I was into riding before I became confident that I could identify my leads correctly. What I know for sure is it was later than when I started this horse under saddle. Sometimes I was confident but then I'd find myself doubting again and confusion set in.

This whole thing was a real challenge for both Dandy and me. It was a good thing we didn't have to get qualified for the Bonanza Program at Regionals. That gave us a bit more time to get our act together. As it was I began to think that maybe I needed some help with this horse.

To be continued................

Dandy's Story - Regionals

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  1. That is an impressive reach in that picture even if his neck isn't archy enough. I knew an Arabian mare who cocked her tail to the side and subconsciously I think I would pin a horse as an Arab if I saw that same tail set.

  2. We need to talk about this wry tail thing a bit more please. Abu has one. A previous trainer suggested I have it "nerved" and I of course said no.

  3. At least you were able to figure out what the problem was! Did you figure out what the problem was with the tail and falling down? Downs neurological....

  4. molly, the horse has a beautiful stride, that's for sure.

    20 meter circle, Nerve blocking is the solution for many unscrupulous trainers but it is illegal and doesn't always work.

    beth, it took several years before Dandy's problem was diagnosed.

  5. Does the Association still consider a "wry" tail a fault?
    I know the Western Pleasure industry was and probably still is bad about nerving or blocking tails back when I was training them. But I recently read an article that it is a huge problem in both the cutting and reining circles now. I think it is just disgusting.
    Anxiously awaiting to hear what is going on with Dandy...

  6. When I red your stories, I can almost feel the connection you have between the horse and you. It's amazingly beautiful to imagine in my mind. You are truly the horse whisperer.

  7. I'm curious to read on and find what you discovered about his tail and the rubbed hair on the flank.

    I know what you mean about feeling the leads. When I came back to riding after so many years not, I struggled to "feel" all the things I used to know w/o even thinking.

    I was absolutely thrilled one day about a year ago when I could feel Keil Bay's canter was off to the left and I realized by the way my own body was moving against his that his pelvic joint was rotated. I'm getting more sensitive to these things now but it's taken several years to get that sensitivity back again.

  8. It is so hard to have to work by yourself when you are unsure of how some things should feel. With someone on the ground things seems to go more smoothly, another set of eyes is helpful. I will be interested to know how Dandy was diagnosed.