Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The Rehabilitation of Storm........ the Deer Trails........

Part 1

Storm and I continued on up the little grassy knoll heading towards the woods. As I walked beside him, the Arabian stallion intensely studied his surroundings. What should have been an inquisitive walk in an open space looked more the horse had seen a bear or some other strange form of wild thing. Storm was not trusting one little thing about this walk to the woods.

As we arrived at the fringe of the woods, I looked for the widest place to lead this horse through. I wanted him to experience the closeness of the undergrowth without scaring him half to death. I chose an opening where I knew the shrubbery would touch him without being too claustrophobic. I wanted to give him a chance to process the similarities between this situation on the one where his hock had been touched by the killer troll bush.

To my surprise, Storm barely reacted as the branches of that bush rubbed up against him. His head did raise but just a little and there was no audible snort. Without that snort, there was also no increase in his pace, he walked with me without pushing me or lagging behind. I was pleased with this response.

There were specific trails that I wanted Storm to be able to handle. Because his restricted gait was affecting him even when he was turned loose, I wanted to put him into situations that would cause him to use himself more correctly. The best way I knew to do that was putting him onto some hills. The steeper the hill, the more likely I would get the desired response from Storm. Travelling up and down inclines should force the horse to open up his stride. The steeper the inclines the deeper the stride should be.

To work the steepest hills available to me meant Storm had to be able to tolerate the narrow little deer trails that intersect the woods. Barely the width of a horse, these trails are brush laden and could be threatening to a horse that was looking for trolls behind every bush. As dense as the underbrush is on these trails, if the horse got spooked it could be a real wreck because there would be no place to escape the brush closing in on a frightened horse.

As we walked into the woods, I pondered my choices. Would I take Storm to the trails he'd already travelled behind Dandy? Or would I head straight for the deer trails? The wind was beginning to pick up so I knew our time out here was going to be restricted.

I decided I'd let the horse decide what he could handle. A portion of the trail that leads to the steepest of the deer trails starts off much the same as the trail we'd already travelled. Storm had not been on this particular trail because the only reason to do so would be to head to that deer trail. If Storm handled this strange section of trail all right, then I'd lead him down that hill to see what we had.

Storm was very attentive to this new strange trail but he was not stupid. He paid close attention to me even though he was clearly on high alert. I had no problem pushing him closer to the brush instead of walking right down the middle of the trail and he was not reacting to having small branches rub against him. With the way he seemed to be listening to me and responding to the trail I decided to try going down the steep grade of the first deer trail.

The only problem with this plan was the trail was too narrow for me to walk beside Storm. To lead the horse I would have to be in front of him. If the horse spooked and jumped forward he'd be right on top of me with no other place to go besides into the undergrowth itself.

I looked at the opening to the trail and I looked at Storm. As I moved closer to the hill, Storm dropped his head and looked at the trail dropping away in front of us. He kept his head low and carefully followed me carefully down the hill.

We went at a snail's pace because the trail is a little uneven and there are some rocks mixed in. I had to go slow just to maintain my balance and still keep my eye on the horse. Storm never took his eyes off the trail placing one foot slowly in front of the other. I could see the branches glancing off his legs with no response from the horse. He was completely focused on where he was putting his feet.

At the bottom of the hill, there is a small downed tree that lays diagonally across the trail for about ten feet. The easiest way for a horse to maneuver it is to actually straddle it at the mid point for a couple of steps before switching completely over from one side to the other.

Storm looked closely at that tree but he did not slow up at all. Walking the length of that tree he tried to stay to one side until he would just no longer fit. Then the horse moved his front feet to the other side leaving his back ones on the original side trying to figure out how to keep up with me and still deal with this tree.

I could see the wheels turning as Storm looked at that tree and the underbrush all around it trying to figure out where to put his feet. If he had eyebrows they would have been wrinkled as the questioning washed over his face. There didn't look like enough room for him on either side as far as he was concerned but he had to go somewhere.

Storm could have rushed it like many green horses would do but he didn't. He maintained the same rate of travel as I and carefully picked his way through actually straddling that tree with his hind legs for a couple of steps before he moved them both to the off side. Along the way I did hear a couple of very little snorts but nothing to make me worry that my horse was doing to explode. He was handling this confined situation about as good as anyone could ask.

Around a small bend and we began ascending again. There was a bit of an opening but Storm didn't look for an escape. He still followed me step for step through this path over some exposed roots without question and with only a modicum of concern. He continued to be cautious but he was clearly trusting me. We continued on twisting and turning our way around trees, downed logs and brush until we finally came to one of the wider trails. With the way Storm had maneuvered this part of the trail, he should be able to handle anything there was in these woods.

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

Riding Solo......

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  1. Smart boy. I like how he was listening to you and trusting you to lead him. Sounds like a good start to your plan for Storm.

  2. Good Boy Storm! I think those tyoes of trails are just the ticket , focus his mind on where his feet need to be and the act of maintaining his steady ballance is good for his rehab. Sounds like he is doing well

  3. Arlene, he is really a smart horse. I couldn't have been more pleased with how he handled this.

    FernValley, it was really good for him to have something specific to focus on. Took his mind off the trolls I think.

  4. i remember how rocky and technical some of those trails are, and i'm so glad he paid attention to the ground and respected your space.

  5. I am in awe of your communication skills with your horses Mikael. It almost seems like you read each others minds and that is a gift. Loved how you described how Storm acted when you started laughing!

    Why is it horses always seem to find things to get into when it is a holiday weekend?! Hope all is healing well and that you didn't have to drain anything????

    I have been right on screech around here for the past few weeks so I have not had much computer time. Now we are starting a construction project which will take most of the summer. I will be bonkers before that is over! I will have to put up some temporary fencing to keep the boys out of harms way. Seems soooooo good to have them home. They just walk off the trailer like they never left and start grazing. They nuzzle me and just seem to take a deep breath and relax. She is good to them at the stable but there is no lovey dovey stuff. She refuses to get attached to them as she lost her old 32 year old Morgan horse some years back and it was too painful for her to go through again.

    I'll find out what the name of that tick issue is when my vet come in ten days and let you know.

    Picture with the dog is awesome!!! Love it!

  6. I am so impressed by how well his mind works. He was obviously thinking very hard about what you were doing and making some very good decisions.

  7. Wow he sure seems to have figured out he needs to watch where he is going rather than worry about whats gonna jump out and get him. Seems like the trail might be the right place for him after all.

  8. Seems to be working well for you two. He is trusting you and focusing on the important thing of where to put my feet?

    It is such a nice feeling to have a horse who may get a little squirrelly out of concern, but you know they don't go full blown stupid on you.

  9. lytha, looking back I wondered what I was thinking taking him on that particular trail because of how technical it was. It could have been a real wreck had he not listened to me but then I guess the other side of it is I think it went well because of how technical it was. I knew he had been taught to maintain his space properly and I'm sure glad he remembered that in this.

    MM, I have always felt very connected to horses and I have worked very hard to learn about them so they can trust me and we can build on that bond. It's very rewarding when it pays off like this with Storm.

    Gypcy is imporving and while there is some fluid, I think we'll be ok without a drain. She really appreciates cold hosing of her wound.

    You always seem to have some kind of summer building project going on. I look forward to hearing about it and to knowing what that tick disorder is.

    That is Legs with Brandy. They were quite a pair. I sure miss that dog.

    smazourek, I was pretty pleased he used his head so well.

    Also want you to know your blog is one I cannot comment on. You don't have an email link on your profile so I didn't know how else to let you know than here but I am reading and trying to figure out how to fix this stupid thing that stops me from commenting there.

    Crystal, yes, trail work did turn out to be very important for Storm. Now if the EHV-1 thing could turn around so I can take him back there, it would be good. They closed down the park for now.

    CNJ, you are so right and I really wasn't too sure how he was going to handle this. I was quite pleased to see him hold himself to gether so well.