The thing about horses is that with them you never know what you’re going to get. One day they could be calm and quiet, the next forward and flighty. Affectionate or standoffish, willing to work or not. But one thing is inevitable when it comes to working with horses. At some point in their lives, and if you’re lucky it only happens sporadically, they come up a little off. Not head bobbing lame, or limping so badly that you immediately think they’ve suffered a career-ending injury. Just ever so slightly stiff and not themselves.
To someone who didn’t know your horse, they probably wouldn’t notice. But you just get that feeling like everything isn’t 100%. That’s how Luc was when I went to ride him this week. It was soggy out so we were relegated to the indoor arena – not his favourite place on a good day. He was relaxed enough, which was a bit of a surprise given how last week he behaved more like a rocket ship than a level-headed horse.
We walked around in each direction for a few minutes and while he was a little on the pokey side, I wasn’t immediately concerned. We picked up the trot to the left and he seemed a little lazy heading down the long side. When we went to turn the corner, he felt ever so slightly off, but just as quickly as I thought I felt something, it was gone. Three more corners and I was beginning to convince myself it must just have been all in my head, then we hit that same corner and there it was again. I asked Luc’s owner, my sister Jen, to watch him, and she had trouble spotting anything as well.
Then I changed direction and picked up the trot. It became very clear very quickly that Luc was stiff or sore or something. He just didn’t seem right. I tried trotting for another minute just to see if it would pass. When it didn’t, I hopped off and called it a day.
Back in the barn as Jen was cleaning out Luc’s feet, she noticed a very small cut on his front left – the very foot I thought was giving him a bit of trouble when we were riding. We cleaned it out, slapped some antibacterial cream on it and called it a day, vowing to have the vet out to evaluate him if it turned out the cut wasn’t what was causing him to be ever so slightly off.
The next day I was back at the barn, but not to ride Luc. I had been offered the chance to ride Pebbles again as her person was away for the weekend. There was one catch. It had to be a walking trail ride only. It seems that Pebbles is recovering from an abscess and was still minutely off at the trot. Hmm, this was beginning to become a trend, as a few others at the barn have also dealt with injuries and lameness. Both Luc and Pebbles have it better than some, as at least one horse has been placed on stall rest for the next six months. Sigh, gotta love horses.
Jen hopped on Luc and I got on Pebbles and we hit the trail. The sun was shining, the sky was blue and it was a beautiful fall day. We walked peacefully through the fields and even attempted the newly marked trail heading to a small pond on the property. There were a few hairy moments when I had to flatten myself completely down on Pebbles neck to make it under some low hanging branches, and a few moments when the footing got a little deep and I had flashbacks to Pebbles tripping. But she was a trooper and navigated the trail flawlessly. Once we reached the pond it was magical. Luc and Pebbles were both great, standing calmly as we admired the sunlight glistening off the water.
We headed for home and then after feeding both beasts took care of their feet and turned them out to enjoy the rest of the day. Pebbles owner will continue to monitor her to ensure all is well with her, while Jen will keep an eye on Luc to make sure once his latest minor injury is healed that he isn’t still suffering any unusual stiffness or soreness.
And as I started off with, that’s the thing about horses. You can never guarantee they won’t have an off day, but you can always be sure of one thing. A day spending time with horses is a day well spent.