Monday, September 25, 2023

restarting the restarting

Charlie has taught me a lot of lessons over the years. Particularly -- patience. He was just so good so soon, and I was in such a rush to "get there," wherever 'there' was. 

Except, y'all remember, he was always all dinged up, one way or another. It felt like we faced setback after setback. A big leg here, a blown splint there, and there, and there

hand grazing 2.0
And I would just get so frustrated, ya know? Which honestly I still feel is normal and natural. But at least now, with the benefit of hindsight, I can recognize that I probably didn't savor some of those moments as well as I could have, if I hadn't been so distracted by feeling like we "should have" been farther along. If that makes sense...

what's one more ugly spot on an already dinged up leg anyway?
And that's horses, right? It's already been a little bit that way with Doozy. So I'm trying to not have to relearn the lessons Charlie taught me, and remember that... I won't always get to set the agenda. Sometimes horses are horses, and they get cellulitis, or abscesses. Or... Ya know, they get sound again and feel good and FRESH AF OMFG lol.... Ahem. 

and sometimes there are giant tropical storms lol, oh hai, Ophelia!
And it won't shock any of you to hear that.... Even with all my droning on and on about how my training methodology relies pretty heavily on routine consistent practice... I still kinda thought I could just pick right back up with Mondese where we left off a few weeks back. 

after a cold wet night in the paddock, Miss Thing was ready to blow off a little steam!
Which, eh, probably isn't a "wrong" assumption, per se. Except, you know what they say about assumptions lol. So I took Doozy for our first little post-abscess hand walk, and found myself quite astonished when the mare acted like she'd never set foot in the dressage ring before in her life, and had strong feelings about leaving right now

checking herself out in the mirror lol
At first, not gonna lie, I was actually pretty fucking annoyed with this horse who was carefully introduced to and regularly hand walks all same little pathways. Like, wtf mare, why so psycho?? 

But... Eh... It's probably even odds that the cellulitis infection, and gigantic abscess which may or may not have been related, was developing well before the leg actually blew up. And rather than thinking of the mare as "fresh" right now, it's probably more accurate to see her as "subdued" previously.

So with that perspective, I decided to basically hit the reset button entirely, and just... ya know... restart the restarting process. Up to and including our first little hand walkies + grazies with zero expectations on how she would react. 

she used all of her gaits + all of her leads, plus a few lead changes!
And now that she's really comfortable again, I can finally lean into my favorite training crutches of high frequency / low intensity activities. In other words, why go for ONE little walkies on any given day, when you could do TWO?!

obvi threw in a few other interpretative dance moves too LOL
And ya know, routine practice is a helluva drug. Just a day or two after losing a few layers of skin off my palms on that first walk when she acted like she'd never seen the dressage ring before... Doozy reacquired her ability to walk in hand like a sensible polite creature. Gotta love it lol.

the look on her face when i gave her something to think about other than the door lol
So continuing on in the same vein, after finishing chores up on Saturday morning, we made our way to the indoor. With basically my view point being, "act like she's never been in here before in her life." 

I also wanted to let her stretch out and let off a little steam after having been stuck out all night in the cold wet tropical storm. Turnout will switch soon, no worries there, but every change of the season eventually finds a couple days when the horses have suboptimal turnout conditions, and this was just one of those days. 

good girl!
So rather than wrestle her into any sort of in hand ground work, I just let her loose to see what she would do. And she was good! At first she ran around and whinnied, a bit upset at being alone in this weird strange place.... And obvi was very very preoccupied with the door. 

opted to strip the cooler off after a few laps to avoid her getting too warm -- she stood well for that! then immediately off to have more fun lol
But after a little while, her ears and eyes seemed to relax and she shifted into a more playful vs worried mindset. She'd periodically come up to me for pets or a bite of carrot, then continue her little tour of the indoor. Also stood quite politely while I held her halter in one hand and pulled the cooler off with the other. Then again, proceeded as she was lol.

the whole video is pretty cute, but i liked how she kept going back and forth over the pole
After she'd done a few circuits of the ring, I dropped a ground pole across the track near the door. And she was hilarious about it. 

Seriously, watch the video bc you can see the first time she trots up to it, she's like, "Whoa who put that there!?" and squirts out around the side of it, but then immediately pulls the little rollback move you see above to trot right back down over it like nbd. 

good girl!! it's supposed to be fun
For my purposes, I didn't really interact too much in the liberty work. Didn't really move her around, didn't really try to guide her in any particular direction or way. And I know that there are like, idk, what some might consider 'technical errors' in how she went around --- like being allowed to turn around by turning to the outside vs the inside... 

But, eh, I just kinda wanted her to run around, let loose a little bit, maybe have a little fun, and see me as a positive and reliable presence in all that. 

pretty sunsets before the storm hit!
So when it was time to leave again, we haltered back up and then just did a very very little bit of in hand stuff to make sure she understood she was attached now and would be staying that way on the long walk down to the barn. We got the cooler put back on easily, and then.... proceeded out the door and made it back to the barn without shenanigans. Perfect! 

And it feels satisfying. Not necessarily bc of what, specifically, we are doing in our time together --- but bc we're able to do anything at all. The nitty gritty process of coming up with ideas, exercises, plans, things to do with this mare to help prepare her both for the eventual 'real' work, and also to cope with the busy bustling boarding barn she now calls home. 

There's a lot of work to do.... as always... but as far as I'm concerned --- that's the good stuff. The whole reason we do this. So here's hoping we can actually piece together a stretch of consistency lol, and see where that takes us! 


  1. "Restarting the restart." I like how you put that! I've definitely been there more than once myself. And the "interpretive dance moves" comment made me laugh. The speed and athleticism of the horse never cease to amaze me!

    1. ha for sure.... and ya know, it's amazing what a difference perspective can have lol. like, on one hand i could be so frustrated bc we lost all that time that we'll never get back... but, eh, wouldn't it be nicer to instead just think, 'ok well let's just pretend the last 4 weeks of lameness didn't happen, pretend she just came off the trailer yesterday!' and then get to enjoy all those silly little 'firsts' all over again lol

    2. Absolutely! I am all for reframing stuff that didn't quite work out as originally planned. Sometimes life with horses can be super disappointing. And I think there's room to be sad about it and mourn the loss of what could have been. But eventually, if you want to move forward, finding something positive to focus on is really powerful.

  2. Fingers crossed Dooz stays sound and the rest of your restarting journey will be smooth(er) sailing!

    1. thanks - i'm feeling hopeful! i also feel like i have a much better understanding of her whole health profile thru all this, which is actually a good feeling to have going into winter

  3. I have been caught more than once thinking things were confirmed when they were not. And with the ‘we should be’ it’s nice to see her having fun.

  4. Looks like she's feeling SO MUCH better! And also is very excited to be feeling better... Lol! I'm sure she enjoyed getting to stretch her legs and have some fun. I love that she was so interested in the ground rail! I think she really wants to be a jumping horse! (YAY!)


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