A few more rides and lunging sessions later, Murray’s NQR is invisible and I’m quite happy about it. Sure, it could come back, but if it’s intermittent or related to being stiff from being stuck inside, then that worries me a bit less. I plan to keep an especially close eye on him, and we will play it by ear and continue to evaluate as Winter progresses.
Unfortunately, while Murray’s body seems fine, his brain seems to have gone awol. I had a jump lesson Friday that was just an exercise in Murray antics and opinions — he was generally uninterested in going anywhere near the chairs in the corner of the arena, which have been there for a solid two years, or near the gate which we had just come in through, or over any part of the footing that had been smoothed or looked in any way out of the ordinary. My insistence that he actually do these things resulted in some mild body flailing, a tiny bit of screaming and, of course, many tail swishes. He took a really hard look at one of the fences, tried to stop, decided he was going to go, LAUNCHED himself over it, bucked upon landing, and somehow I managed to stay in the saddle. After convincing him to just go forward over a few more fences I called it quits as clearly something was up.
I have a few theories.
It is vaguely possible that whatever magnesium product I am using right now is not really working or I need to feed more. But given that I’ve had problems on this batch of magnesium before, I think it’s time to give another brand a try. I’m going with Performance Equine’s MagRestore and — just for shits and giggles — I’m going throw in some Focus too. Focus promises to “Promotes a willingness to please and a winning, confident, cooperative mood. Use prior to and during competitions, workouts or rehab. Useful in any stressful situation. Decreases excitability while maintaining energy for work.” (straight from the manufacturer’s website) It sounds like witchcraft to me, but with a money back guarantee on a 7-day trial… why not! (If that doesn’t work, I’ll try Quiessence, a fan favourite at our barn. If that doesn’t work, we’ll move on to SmartCalm, or even SmartCalmUltra. If that doesn’t work… we go digging for a hidden testicle.)
Murray could also be intensely sore from our dressage work, and letting me know the work load is a bit intense in the only way he knows how. An insane amount of spooking doesn’t seem to be the most straightforward method of presenting this fact to me, but it certainly is one way of expressing feelings.
And then there’s the turnout situation… We’re going on three weeks of no turnout at this point, and with a flooded outdoor arena we can only rotate horse through the indoor for as long as we have before someone wants to use the indoor to ride in. I had turned Murray out alone in the indoor a couple of times to absolutely no positive effect — he just wandered around, rolled, and then chatted with his friends stabled near the arena. But on Friday I turned him out with one of his besties, Connor, and it was a completely different story. He and Connor have, as Connor’s owner puts it, “a deep understanding of one another” and played pretty constantly for half an hour. The next day they played for an hour. And then I had a couple of really nice rides.
I’ve always know that Murray isn’t exactly a good-on-no-turnout kinda guy…. but for some reason this year he has really managed to keep it together in the barn. In the past, when he’s been locked inside he has struggled to mind his manners inside the barn, so I would lunge him or turn him out before even attempting to tack up. But this year I have a strangely reasonable horse inside the barn, and then this super unreasonable horse under saddle. Maybe Murray just really, really, really needed to get out and get some playtime and excess energy done away with?
We will see. I’m basically throwing everything I have at him — such a good scientific method — to see if that improves anything. Then I’ll start to eliminate things and see where it leaves us.