On Tuesday and Wednesday I attended a seminar at the San Francisco Zoo addressing the care and welfare of elderly animals. It was an incredibly thought provoking and enlightening seminar, though at times really, really sad. The most difficult part was discussing hospice care for animals — which you would expect, at a conference about caring for elderly animals. It really made me think about the way we make end of life decisions for our pets and horses, and how even in “hospice” our animals can still have valuable and meaningful lives.
There were cuter and happier things too – like a geriatric polar bear playing in artificial snow and digging dens in her enclosure on the reg. And a really old rhino who likes to sneak out of her night house in the dark, roll in a secret area of her enclosure, and then head back to bed. And an ancient gray seal who has no teeth left and is blind and pretty deaf but still loves doing her training activities and doing ring fetch games with her group. It’s so easy for us to marginalize older animals and diminish their lives because of our own perceptions of their experience. But they can have meaningful and valuable individual and social lives well beyond our expectations.
I turned Murray out on Thursday with some friends to see if he wanted to have a little play before I rode, but none of them wanted to play for more than a moment. So after a little gallop we went back inside and tacked up. I’ve been taking a hard line with tacking up lately because Murray has been so horrendously reactive and absurd about girthing. So I now do his girth up very, very slowly while he’s tied to the safety ring. I don’t respond to him at all (positively or negatively), unless he’s standing still(ish). It’s certainly easier than chasing him up and down the barn aisle with a girth, though the jury is still out on whether or not it’s working. We’ll see in a few weeks.
Tucker is absurdly cute and human-oriented. Not that old, just really cute.
After thinking a bit about Murray’s constant leaning/falling to the right, I decided that I would try to be extra accountable for my bend while riding him. Because of both of our weaknesses I tend to hold my torso facing a little to the left even when we are tracking right. So I exaggerated my own inside bend and found that it helped him keep his shoulders underneath him a bit more. I can’t figure out how to employ that strategy tracking left, so it still requires a little more thought. We’ll see how it holds up under trainer scrutiny next week.
We practiced JM’s straightness exercises at the trot and canter, which also needs some trainer scrutiny honestly. I feel like we’re getting pretty straight, but now I can’t tell if I’m over-doing it with the haunches. Murray got super connected cantering left though, and for a few strides on each of the long sides his canter felt so fucking good!! Like we were floating! Not pulling or brace or rushing, just powerful and forward and balanced. I’m terrified I will NEVER get it back.
As always, Murray struggled with being through + forward at the walk. I just can’t seem to get him to maintain impulsion and connection, it’s a one-or-the-other situation — and realistically, neither. I’m kinda addressing it by doing a lot of walk work and trying to keep him forward and with some connection through it, but I’m a little worried it’s just teaching him to lean on the bit with his underneck…
I finished up with a some test movements (10m half circles at the trot, canter transitions and 20m circles) and some sitting trot circles, which were shockingly not the worst thing that have ever happened to us. Maybe next year will be the year I actually learn to sit the trot? Probably not. Hasn’t happened yet.