September 18, 2019

Headshaking, Part the Last

I had my first lesson last night since Connor's adjustment, and it was fantastic.  He felt so good, so relaxed, and I had such easy access to all of his body parts.

Going to post a bunch of 'before' pictures for comparison from the last show.  Thanks Karen!!

Partway through I asked my trainer to get on him.  I think she was surprised because I usually only ask her to get on when he's not going well.  "I mean, I'm having a blast up here but I want you to feel this too."

Tense, worried

Getting to see him undersaddle is what finally confirmed everything I was feeling.  His eyes were soft instead of worried.  His topline was so relaxed, and the shape had changed for the better in everything from stretchy trot to the canter.  His ears were casual and moving instead of fixed, flicking back to listen to my trainer, and then forward for no discernable reason.  His throatlatch was so open I could have stuffed an orange in there.  He didn't headshake, try to get his tongue over the bit, or go around pulling his bottom lip back constantly.  My trainer said, "Wow, that is a big difference."

He was the opposite of this picture in every way

I feel bad for him having been in pain for so long, but I'm not beating myself up for not figuring this out sooner.  It was one of those things that came on gradually as we went up the levels with enough good days that I couldn't have put my finger on "pain". 

He's such a stoic guy, and he's not one that's going to say no.  He just makes it the best he can, and I try to do the best I can for him as we stumble through Dressageland together.

So what are my takeaways?  First, bodywork can work.  Do I think it's a silver bullet in every situation?  No.  Do I think every horse needs it regularly?  Also no.  Do I think it will magically fix your horse?  Don't put that on me Ricky Bobby.  😂  I'm here to tell you my experiences and that's it. 

I think we were in a unique situation where Connor was out enough in his body but also educated enough in Dressage that we were able to see a massive change when he got bodywork for the first time in at least the last 8 years.

Mid-roll after our lesson and a bath last night
Second, I've always known this horse is stoic about pain, but I need to double down on being observant and thinking thoroughly about the signs he gives me.  If his ulcers flare up, when his hocks eventually need maintenance, he's not going to put it on a billboard for me. I'm not going to turn into a helicopter owner, but I will be more diligent about checking things out.

Finally, even when you're trying to do everything right by your horse that you see every day and know better than you know any other pet you've ever had, you can miss things, and that's okay.  You fix them, and you move on without guilt tripping yourself.  You have to.  That's all any of us can do.  


  1. Learning to forgive ourselves is probably the hardest lesson we will ever learn

  2. My favorite is the last part. It's so easy to feel guilt ridden about these things, but we're all doing the best we can for them.
    I'm a huge fan of body work, but not for every horse. It didn't do anything for Jampy ever, but I notice a big difference with Eros.
    I'm so glad Connor's feeling great and everything is coming together for you guys!

  3. I’m with Stacie. The last part is so true

  4. That is super interesting! Good on you for finding this. And good boy Cons!

  5. Love this, it is tough that they can’t tell us verbally if something’s bothering them.