trash human: activate

I had a spectacularly bad ride a few Wednesdays ago. I really set myself up for failure by planning a lesson the day I got back from five days out of town (with an extra long and stressful drive the night before because of a snowstorm blowing through), less than 24 hours after Speedy had a dental and his annual vaccines.

I know Speedy gets punky and sore after vaccines, and I am aware that five days off isn’t a great setup for a good lesson, and I could tell in the moment that it wasn’t going well. Yet when Speedy told me “I can’t” over and over in the lesson, I bullied him rather than listen to him. Which is a direct route to feeling like peak trash.

Something alarming happened in the pasture during lunch, so Speedy brought a snack with him to observe the happenings.

I don’t have a lot of straight up Bad Rides these days. Even if we have a hard ride or aren’t on the same page or spend a long time struggling with an exercise, we almost always find some good in it and end on an improved note. This lesson ended with sobbing and lunging on a decidedly not improved note.

Among the things I adore about Speedy is that no matter how rough our ride is, he is always cuddly and sociable in his stall, and doesn’t seem to take it personally. But this go around…. he wasn’t quite as forgiving. The day after my Trash Human performance, Speedy was so sore and miserable that I cancelled my lesson and gave him 250mg of bute. The next day he was fine, but I just turned him out and played liberty games with him in the arena instead of pushing it.

The new barn also has cows, which Speedy love. Until one of them looks like it’s trying to die in the fence. He does not love that.

(Which, side quest, I’ve never personally managed a horse who had such a serious reaction to vaccines before! When I got to the barn Speedy looked dull, and was crankily pawing at his alfalfa and then rapidly snatching bites of whatever he pawed up. At first I thought he might be colicking, because this horse not eating alfalfa is a major red flag. But I quickly realized he was uncomfortable lowering his head all the way to the ground to eat, so put his hay up in a net and gave him bute at the advice of my barn manager, and a mashy-grainy water bucket to ensure good hydration. But I was pretty worried there for a second.)

Finally on Saturday, eight days since any kind of consistent or quality work with one shit ride speckled in the middle, we got back to it. My goal for the ride was just to keep it mellow but see if I could get him moving over his back and stretching into the connection a bit. I swung up on Speedy, gave him his traditional standing-at-the-mounting-block treat and he promptly went full pony on me, taking charge of the situation by trotting away from the mounting block. He was positively buzzing during the ride, bouncing off a tiny pony from the other lesson program, pushing his neck back against me, and only very halfheartedly listening to my efforts to chill or woah.

I built a boot organizer for the barn to go under this window so we could declutter our tack room! I love it, such a nice way to use a weird space and keep my boots and helmet out of my trunk.

For my next few rides, Speedy was distinctly not buying what I was selling. He’s not automatically the most “submissive” guy anyway, but more often than not he’s willing to try for me. But he fully reverted back to “I go with my head in the air, the steering is marginal, and I have exactly two speeds: fast and faster.” It got better through the week during my lessons with TrJ, but even now — two weeks later — I’ve still not clawed my way back into Speedy’s good graces entirely. It’s like we erased months of progress and are back where we were well before Christmas, which is such an insane bummer because after Christmas we had some of our most amazing flat and jump lessons ever.

It’s possibly more than just my trash human riding a few weeks ago. TrJ’s whole program moved facilities at the beginning of February and we’re right in the thick of winter training right now. And, well, he’s a horse. TrJ has been saying that an awful lot lately, to all of us. “He’s a horse, he’s gonna do horse things.”

Teefies v. teefies with Hazel’s new shark toy.

But after basically a straight year of what felt like nothing but a magnificent rocketship to the sky of progress, this setback smarts.

With a bit of distance from the event, it’s fine. It’s…. fine. It’sfineit’sfineit’sFINE. I would obviously rather not have massive setbacks with my horse or be an asshole to him. But I’m a human and I’m going to make stupid mistakes, and I’d rather make these discoveries early and at home, when I have plenty of time, space, and resources to come back from them.

So… onward and hopefully upward from here. I know a few more things now about how not to be a trash human to my horse and how much I need to baby him during vaccine week. Plus, building trust is a process and rebuilding is part of that process too.

Also I’m teaching Speedy to stationary target at this duct-tape cross on the wall and his cue is “let us pray”. I kill myself, really.

(Funny enough, it looks like the last time I was an awful human being to my horse [big caveat there since I’m an awful human being to other humans all the time] was right after he was vaccinated last Fall. A pattern. Hmm.)


6 thoughts on “trash human: activate”

  1. I feel this post in my soul. Carmen was very much like this. I’d feel like ‘oh that is all behind us’ and then everything would go to shit. If it helps, this rarely happens and when it does, it is very short lived.
    Understanding that the vaccines have an impact is great. you can build a plan. I wonder if giving the bute the day of before the vaccine would help? I’d ask the vet. I have had various reactions to the covid vaccines and some made me pretty sore and cranky for a couple days.

    It is hard though to figure out what is soreness, what is a training/behaviour issue. I’d love to order you to not beat yourself up (if only that worked). He’ll get through this and be fine. we all have our moments so you are not alone.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. So not alone and I feel this very deeply. I had a moment with my lito 2 weeks ago and I still feel like trash for my lack of ability to listen and change plans. Rode anyway. SHIT. AWFUL. BAD. He was mad at me after that.


  2. You’re are not a trash human at all! We all make mistakes, and we all fail to listen to our horses at times. That just makes us normal humans. I neglected to realize last week that Cinder was having her painful transitional heat cycle and it ended up with her dumping me on Monday. But as long as we learn from our mistakes, and do the best we can, we’re not trash.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. My gelding who I had for 15 years only ever got vaccinated in the hindquarters after a similar performance over his neck. Fortunately he was the most tolerant horse so it was never a risk doing it. As he aged he also developed the tactic of laying flat on his side in his stall the evening he was vaccinated and telling everyone he was dying. Not thrashing or colicking, just lateral. So then he also started getting 10cc of IV banamine every time he was vaccinated.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I hear you on this – my usually cheerful happy go lucky guy has turned into a *handful* at home recently. And saves his best behaviour for going out to new places! Which has its benefits but he is a lot at home at the moment.


  5. I have done stuff like that to Connor more times than I can count. Don’t blanket label yourself as a bad person based on an incident, you deserve better than that. You’re doing the best you can, and you learned a tough lesson. He will get past this and so will you ❤


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s