I just got done posting about how my gelding, Walker, is perfect for me because I am a reining weenie and my gelding is an Earth horse personality. He bears my mistakes and doesn’t try to kill me.
But … and this is a big but … I just realized that Walker isn’t bearing the stress of my lack of knowledge as well as I had thought. I rode him 3 days in a row and we worked on flexing and bending laterally. I noticed that while the bending was getting better, Walker was starting to grind his teeth when we worked. He even ground his teeth when he licked and chewed during our rest breaks. I thought this was odd and I wondered if he was body sore.
Sure enough, my muscle-bound little Earth horse was as sore as could be. All of his muscles were tight and I couldn’t get my hand between his elbow and his rib cage. I checked in with Madalyn, who suggested that he might have a rib out. Well, I adjusted him and did some bodywork and he was much better, but still holding a lot of tension in his body.
I thought back to what we had been working on and realized that I had inadvertently caused him to worry. Out of sheer frustration, I told Walker one day, “We are going to figure this out. You and I, together, WILL learn how to do this flexing and bending thing if it takes all day and all night.” I frequently give this kind of speech to my Wood horses and they deal with it just fine. I now realize that Walker took this talk in an entirely different light. He began to feel “responsible” for our success and it really stressed him out! He didn’t show his stress by bucking or kicking or biting, but by grinding his teeth. He was working with a rib out of place and all he did was grind his teeth a little. Oh dear.
I should have known. I used to have an Earth horse, my long-time jumper horse, and I now remember that he internalized a lot of stress and tended to hold it in his muscles. He also cribbed to release stress. Well, poor Walker was on the same path. So I whipped out the Agrimony flower essence, which works great to help stoic horses release and express themselves, and put it on Walker’s face, mouth, and nose. He licked and chewed and relaxed. I also, on Madalyn’s suggestion, am going to start giving Walker some grain treats when we train so he can start to associate training with pleasant things — like food. And what Earth horse doesn’t just LOVE food?
More soon. We go back to the trainer’s next week to ride and while I’m proud to show off the progress we made my main focus will be keeping my little Earth horse stress-free and focused on the pleasant things in life — like grain treats!