Friday, February 17, 2012

Decisions ... decisions ...

Ok, horse-friends, I need some advice.  Actually, I need a magic answer and someone else to make decisions for me.

So, when I bought Toad in September I figured she'd go through 30 days of training and then I'd start taking lessons on her.  I figured I would not be riding her alone for a few months while she was getting more training but that was ok.  I figured my amount of time riding her would increase over time.  But I haven't ridden her now for a month because of her sore neck, then her hurt leg, and now she needs lots of work to get her back to where I can even ride her in a lesson again.  So, I probably won't ride her for at least another week or so - so it will be 6 weeks since I've ridden her.  I've had her six months now.  This is more frustrating now because I can't ride Girlfriend anymore because she is just too stiff and sore. 

Part of my dream of having a horse is to also continue to improve my riding in dressage.  And to do that I actually need to be *riding*.  More than once a week when I follow Trainer K. around and beg her to let me ride one of her other training horses that needs exercise.  So, I'm very frustrated that Toad has not been in either physical or mental shape for me to be riding her.  She is really nice to ride, but of course I have to actually be able to ride her for that to be nice.

Now the other issue.  She is a green off-the-track Thoroughbred and 98% of the time she and I have this awesome connection and she is strangely quiet with me (especially when it's just me and her without the vet or farrier or one of my friends interacting with her).  But that 2% of the time she's not ok is horrific to me.  So far I had not seen the 2% until today.  And thankfully, no one was hurt.  Well, I did get hurt right afterward because it's just not my day - I jammed the sharp end of the hoof pick under my thumb nail on accident trying to pick out the rock hard dirt in her front hoof. Gah.

Anyway, she tried really well in training.  Trainer K. did the lunging because she as a bit of a goofball.  But not so much so that I was worried about her.  She was definitely trying hard.  And she was definitely feeling a lot better physically than she has for awhile because she had another chiropractic day before yesterday.  But then we went into the grooming area and she was being nice and mellow.  Then - and this in detail is exactly what happened.  We're in the grooming room and I went to put the cross tie on her halter but she had the stud chain on so I dropped the cross tie and turned her head so I could unhook the stud chain from her halter.  She threw her head up and said quietly but firmly (like I always do - it was just second nature the way I said it) "No ..." and reached up to unclip the chain and in a split second she swung her butt around so she was no longer facing forward in the grooming room, but facing sideways, kicked both her feet out as hard as she could and knocked the shelf that separates to two grooming rooms down.  This of course made me yell, "HOOOOOOooooo!" at her, which did no good because everything on the shelf - my tack bag, my coffee, my water bottle, tack other people had left out - it all went flying everywhere into our side of the grooming area which made Toad fly straight up in the air and off into the wall on the other side.  Luckily through all this I was in front of her and when she spooked from the stuff flying she moved away from me.  And where I was standing I was blocking the doorway so I put my arms out and said "Whoa ... easy ... calm down ..." and by then Trainer K. had appeared at the doorway too and was saying the same thing.   I put her back on the cross ties and Trainer K. went and grabbed her hammer and quickly repaired the shelf (luckily, she just pushed a board back in place, unbent the nails and hammered it right back in).

That freaked me out.  She has not done anything that has freaked me out until now and that really freaked me out.  Why? Why this more so than when she kicked me and bruised half my thigh? Because there appeared to be NO reason for it.  And god forbid one of my friends had been visiting and was standing there? Or someone had been in the grooming area next to us? What if M. had been picking Favio's feet? Someone could have gotten seriously, badly injured!  The sense I got from that move was it was a direct "Fuck you!" move - not a spook or self-defense move.

After Trainer K. got the shelf fixed we both just stood there in the grooming room looking at Toad and I said, "She may have just crossed the line.  So far I've felt like I can handle her fine but I feel like that was way outside of what I'm willing to put up with."  Trainer K. of course didn't tell me what to do like I wish she had.  She empathized that it was worrisome because it came out of nowhere for what appeared to be no reason but she also said that horses are unpredictable and that with any horse you will run the risk of something causing them to do something dangerous because they are instinctual animals.  Grumble.  I wish I paid her enough to tell me what to do!

So, I am frustrated and torn.  I'm so incredibly in love with Toad and what a wonderful horse she is becoming.  But she's just a kid - 5 years old - and she's off the race track and has not been handled by anyone for a year before I got her and before that just manhandled on the race track.   She's already a wonderful horse with me, I just feel frustrated because she's needing so much training and right now it feels like a lot of work and sacrifice and I'm not getting to enjoy practicing riding with her, I can't take her out on the trail or have any fun with her - it's just work, work work.  I guess I figured after six months I'd at least be riding her in lessons consistently.  But she was a race horse then sat in her stall for a year and now is in training regularly, so of course she's physically a mess and we have had to do a lot of chiropractic and vet work on her and she's needed non-riding downtime.  It's not her fault, it's just not what I thought I was signing up for.

So, what should I do? Should I stick it out? Or should I sell her to someone who's far more advanced than me and can train her to be whatever she'd be good at?  Then I could get a horse who might need some training but I could at least take on trail rides and ride by myself without having to have Trainer K. right there.  But when I think about that it breaks my heart because I just love Toad.  She would have to go to someone I really knew would work with her well and not mistreat her.  Even just being a "cowboy" and being harsh and pushy with her could potentially end up mistreating her because handling like that freaks her out and that's when she becomes "dangerous".  And I don't want her getting that label and possibility being tossed out to auction or something because someone didn't know how to connect with her and decided she was dangerous and untrainable.  But then I just wouldn't sell her to a bozo like that.

I don't know what to do.  I feel horribly guilty if I give up on her after six months.  I'd feel like an even bigger failure than I did giving Sinatra back to the rescue because she would be the second horse I'd gotten that I decided wasn't right for me!  Maybe the lesson I need to learn is not to "save" horses any more than I used to want to "save" my boyfriends.  Maybe I should get a horse that I can already ride and work with instead of one I can "eventually" ride.  After all, I'm not the only horse owner out there that can connect with Toadie.  Surely someone else can.  But is that what I want?

Aargh.  I really wish someone would tell me what to do so I wouldn't have to make decisions!  Maybe I'm just being fickle the way I often am and thinking the grass is greener somewhere else?  But the truth is I want a horse I can actually ride right now too.  But I don't want to be a jerk.  Urgh.

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