Friday, November 19, 2021

The Good The Bad And The Ugly

I finally got to see my new trainer in person. And the weekend covered all the emotions. To start off with, I was really nervous. It is a 4.5-5 hours haul and I wanted her to have some time to relax before our first lesson. For whatever reason the virtual lessons have less pressure for me than an in person lesson. My last in person lesson was about two years ago. So between the travel, rednecking it out of the trailer, and in person lessons I was too anxious to be excited.

Fall has turned into winter, but I am in denial and still looking at fall pictures

Karma traveled like a champ. She ate hay in the trailer, promptly drank water, and settled into her stall with zero issues. She hasn't been stalled for more than overnight pretty much ever and has lived out except for bad weather her entire life. But she handled being stalled quite well, although that might have had a lot to do with having a very big weekend and being tired.

The first thing trainer said to me was "OMG SHE IS EVEN CUTER IN PERSON" and then promptly drug out the bit bag so we could play with some bits. After a couple of tests, we found one that Karma liked. Trainer is relatively tall and when she walked over to Karma, she said "oh wow Karma is taller than I expected." Followed by "oh wow you are TALL" when I hopped off. It is kind of funny meeting someone in person when you have been working with them regularly, but you don't have any frame of reference for sizes.

It was cold and windy but the lake is still beautiful

The first lesson was quite good. With the bit sorted we were able to get down to working on the contact issues. I love to throw away contact and Karma loves to sit just behind the contact. It is a bad combination. I was informed that I am probably the only student in the history of students that I need to think pull. I grew up riding hot horses in curbs and I always want to default back to super light touches. Most of the ride was spent focusing on me not throwing the contact away and letting her sort through her feelings about that.

The next day lesson two forced some issues. When I don't let Karma hide behind the contact, she flips and braces with her underneck and tries to run through things. Without someone telling me to keep pushing I back off too easily. So there were some ugly moments while I convinced her that she could do it. The great thing about Karma is after you show her what you want, she lets you keep accessing it. Sometimes you have to work through some stubborn pony mare moments to get to that place.

You can see how she is getting more reach in the front than with the hind

The third day things went down hill. She felt tired. Trainer asked to get on and I let her. The good was trainer said Karma has had a really good start and in terms of ridability she feels like a 5 year old. The bad was she felt really weak behind. After getting off and doing some tests trainer was concerned about EPM.

Which of course sent me on a huge spiral. Thankfully the diagnostics came back completely negative for both EPM and Lyme. After much dithering and pestering people for their opinions (thankfully I have an excellent group to bounce ideas off of), I decided to go with a conservative approach.

She is heavy on the forehand and just not getting the reach and push with the hind

I didn't go down the diagnostic rabbit hole trainer would have preferred. I get it, but I don't have the funds to chase down something that may or may not be there and I have ruled out the diagnoses that rapid treatment is important. I also decided against carrying on as I have been.

The plan is to back off of saddle time and use groundwork to help build up her topline. This will also let her mature more. She's not quite 4.5 yet, she has a longer back, and I add a significant amount of weight. There aren't any negatives to not riding and there are potential benefits, so despite my disappointment to my grand plans I am taking the conservative approach and backing off a bit.

Hopefully we will be able to shift her balance and get her back to moving more correctly

I have felt her struggling with her right hind and she has been expressing some anxiety about riding. So while it is cautious and might not be necessary I do feel like it is the right move for ensuring she doesn't lose faith in her rider. I also got further insight from the a new lady I tried for body work.

The scan showed very little (a tiny bit of reaction on her left front hoof point), but when she went to work on the hind it was a different story. The right hind was much much tighter than the left. Karma was a bit protective of it, but she also gave some really big releases and by the end of the session the right hind was much looser.

Hopefully by keeping on top of it and releasing the big restrictions she will start using it more and we can get the strength built up. That way when spring rolls around Karma will be feeling good and we can hit the ground running. But at least now I am feeling confident in my decision instead of slightly crazy.


  1. I'm glad it was overall positive, even if you did have a scare in the middle. Sounds like it's too the squat rack for Karma!!

  2. That's a lot to tackle in a weekend. You two are doing so well!

  3. My heart dropped when you said EPM! Im glad the test was negative. When I first started with Carmen she was very uneven in hind muscles.

    Part of me wonders if she just wasn’t tired. With careful work it improved to be balanced. She will still want to be uneven to the right but that is coming too.

    If you are able to hack her out on some hills that will help a lot too.

    1. I was a mess waiting for the test results, especially after going through it with Stinker.

      I do think that tiredness made it more apparent but overall I think time, exercises, and not having weight on her back for a bit will help jump start getting the muscles evened out.

  4. Oh goodness, you must have died a little inside. My experience with epm in younger ones has been better than my old guy, but still something you don't want to deal with! I wouldn't have jumped to that conclusion so quickly with such a young horse though. Not knocking the trainer, I just expect they'll be weak places. She sounds similar to Shiny in personality and body stuff. Once Shiny understands a question, she's learned it, it's kind of amazing. But there are days where I have to tell her rather than ask. Pony mares. She also has a very tight right hind that we think is compensating for something going on with the left side. I just had her stifles injected for the first time, so hopefully that will help her out.
    I think your plan is solid to try and build her up from the ground for a bit. She's so young, I think it's good to change things up now and then for them.
    You're doing a great job, and it sounds like MOST of your time at the trainer's was pretty positive!

    1. The trainer definitely tends to be very proactive about possible medical issues. Which I get coming from a place where your horse is your advertising. But she also understood where I was coming from when I said that chasing diagnostics that wouldn’t change the course of my actions wasn’t something I wanted to do.