Kelly Deiter had sent me horses in the past to rehome. Kelly, an extremely hard worker, had a racing operation that included a breeding and lay up farm as well as horses at Delaware Training Center. I had been aware of her since I began galloping racehorses in the 90's but had not met her until I began training racehorses and eventually rehoming them at Bowie Training Center around 2003.
Even before he raced, Kelly had called to tell me about a horse she had that "she knew I would love." "He's big and gray and by Two Punch - a really nice mover, but he's a stall walker, really bad." Kelly knew her stuff about movement for showing, so I knew she was accurate in her assessment without even seeing the horse. Gray, well yes, that color is easy to move on and personally I love Two Punch horses. He is a sire known for throwing good jumpers. So he was definitely saleable. The stall walking would hurt some, but I thought I could probably help the horse with that. I told her I was interested when the time came. He hadn't even raced yet, but Kelly told me he was no racehorse but she had to try. They had invested so much in him and what if he did take to racing? That's a situation every trainer and owner finds themselves in; intellectually knowing the horse is not a racehorse, but in your heart needing to know. After all, you never really know what sort of horse you have until they race - many times a horse will surprise even the most experienced trainer. So to the races Two Punch Willy went.
In December 2010, he raced at Philadelphia Park for no tag, Maiden Special Weight going 6 furlongs. He was last the whole way finishing 10th in a 10 horse field. Wait though, many horses don't do well their first time because they really don't understand it's a race. I think Kelly knew, but needed to prove it before retiring him. There is no doubt in my mind that this big, grand, well bred horse looked the part of a Stakes horse, but his demeanor told the story. Wills was a worrier. He worried constantly, hence the stall walking.
The next race was at Laurel Park and for a claiming price of $25,000. In an attempt to give Wills an advantage, she put him in a longer distance - one mile. Maybe he needed time to get going during the race. He broke 4th and threw out the anchor, dropping back to 10th to finish there in a field of 10 horses. At least he was consistent, he finished last in both races.
Wills was lucky because his owners and trainer truly wanted what was best for him and the decision was made to retire him at that point. He had essentially made his case for retiring from racing and his connections heard him loud and clearl.
I picked up Wills the day of an open house. He was frightened and did not want to load on the trailer. I was told he was a very bad stall walker and that he was very hard to catch once turned out.
While there Kelly reassured me that I would love this horse. She told me he was hard to catch once turned out and he might not want to go on the trailer but he was a good shipper with a calm demeanor. She said she had broken down on a highway while shipping him and he remained calm for over four hours while she worked out a way to get him home.
Kelly had told me he was hard to catch - very hard to catch and a stall walker, don't forget that! The first things I did was to put him in one of the rehab stalls in the annex barn. These stalls allow you to open the side door to give the horse more openness. They are located inside of a big barn that is very open inside as well. I put him in the back stall because there is much less activity behind the barn. He would stay in this stall for over a year. I turned him out with other geldings in the back field on my farm and yes, he did not want to be caught. I never acted like I wanted to catch him. I would ignore him and bring in all of the other horses and then wait for him to come to me. If you don't get them to come to you, you will never catch a horse like this because as soon as you take one step toward him - no matter how far away from him you are - he will retreat in defense of him self. I never looked toward him, but still he stayed out in the field for two days before he finally decided to come to me when I had brought all of the others in. I never did look at him in those early days. This was the beginning of our relationship and because I never made a move toward him in those early days, Wills decided I was no threat. They only make a decision on "what you are" once. You can change their minds about it through hard work, but their initial assessment of you will always be beneath whatever you build on top of their first impression so be very careful when you first meet any horse. Don't be forceful, but don't be tentative either because predators are tentative.
Wills stood about 17 hand when he retired from racing and he had a lot of growing to do. He looked like a giant yearling. This is quite normal for big Thoroughbreds of his age. They need so much nutrition to perform as a racehorse that the body can’t grow. As soon as he stopped racing, he began to grow and fill out. Any boy did he eat a lot! He was taking ¾ to 1 bale of hay per day along with 8 quarts of Hay Stretcher , ½ cup of soybean oil and 4 quarts of Timothy/Alfalfa hay cubes. He wasn’t putting on weight, just growing!
I spent the first two weeks tactfully observing Wills and giving him time to settle in to the routine of Leighton Farm. I could see he was very suspicious of things, but I could also see him begin to consider relaxing. I would like to inject here that he never did stall walk - not even once in the open stalls.
Everything I did with Wills was training. Any contact I had with him needed to be positive. My approach to training him and all newbies was in stages. When one stage went well, I proceeded to then next. There was no timeframe involved. Each horse reached the next phase in his own time and each phase of training was unique based on that horse's needs. With Wills, contact with me or anyone was suspect. I do not think it was from abuse. I believe it was caused by being a "failure" at racing and his basic nature. Thoroughbreds are bred to run. Running is flight. Flight is the predominant reaction to danger for horses. They fight if they cannot flee. Hence the term "flighty". With the breeding to run comes re activeness and sensitivity. Wills had a very strong sense of flight or reactiveness and I think that is the way God made him. Add to that the lack of confidence in being able to please humans and you have a defensive horse. I do believe that some of his behavior was caused by humans, the difficulty in catching him for one. He was going to be high maintenance and on a race breeding/lay up farm there is little time for individual needs. In my opinion he would have needed time and careful handling from the start because he probably landed on the earth in defense if himself.
Each step, cross tying, grooming, leading was addressed as if he had never experienced it whether I knew he had or not. Gentle but firm handling was required but he must behave as all horses are required to. He must stand patiently on the cross ties. He must lead without dragging the human and so on.
I began the actual retraining sessions as I always do with the behavior modification in hand and then progressing to longe work. The first few days of the walk halts in hand showed me this boy was smart. He learned the voice commands quickly and responded obediently, so after three days I moved on to intro longeing. I always begin longeing at the walk. Longeing is physically very demanding on horses and people often underestimate it's difficulty because the horse isn't carrying a rider. Small circles require quite a bit of muscular development in order for the horse to confidently balance himself. Normally the first thing a horse will try is going faster and faster to keep his balance. This is very hard on their joints. The horse is concerned he is going to fall down and uses the momentum of speed to gain balance because initially he lacks the physical prowess and training to find balance by shifting his center of movement back to the hind. This is why I keep horses at the walk until they are very obedient to the voice commands and comfortable with the circle at the walk.
Wills was very skeptical at the prospect of longeing and wanted to run away, but remained with me in the arena. We stayed at the walk for over ten days and he relaxed and willingly fell into the routine of the training sessions. My goal was not to challenge him but to build his confidence that he could in fact do what I was asking. He needed to be a success each and every day and that would only happen if I was careful not to challenge him more than he could handle. Things were going well so we progressed to trot. Wills responded with his usual skepticism and self-doubt. It seemed to me that he would often ask if it would be okay, so I often told him with a soft voice, soft touch and relaxed posture that everything was okay. I loved that he believed me each and every time.
The first year of training –
Wills lacked confidence. He had been a total failure as a racehorse and he knew it. There are not many Two Punches (his sire) that can't run, but he was big and extremely sensitive. Some would say he had no heart. I don't agree, but I do agree he had no heart for racing. Wills cared very much what I thought of him. He didn't really trust me, but seemed to like me. His gaits were huge and he had a lot of trouble navigating a 20 x 70 area. 20 meter circles were a struggle and the canter - it was an exercise in patience for both him and me.
Wills did not like to longe at all. I expect this in the initial stages with any horse because it is difficult and physically demanding. I kept my sessions short and at the walk in the beginning. After about a month, we progressed to the trot. He struggled at first but when he found the correct tempo and stopped running, he began to enjoy it. When we began canter work, it was an entirely different story. The canter unearthed all of his self-doubt and lack of confidence. Wills’ great big stride made navigating in this small area seem impossible to him. He especially didn't want to go to the right - at least not on the right lead. While it was frustrating, I knew I had to wait it out. His confidence, even more than his physical ability was holding him back. I expected him to make the effort, but wasn’t worried if it didn’t go the way I wanted – that would happen with time. I wouldn't be successful if I tried to push him and “make” him do it right. It is easier to canter on the inside lead on a circle, but lots of horses want to get on the outside lead – I believe it’s in the quest for balance. I kept the canter work short, less than a complete circle for a long time. I let the longe out to the end so the circles were oversize to about 25 meters. I quickly progressed to the "canter - walk" instead of a repetitive 20+ meter circle. The canter-walk is an exercise I use to warm up every horse I longe. I introduce it as early as possible, but not before the horse is able to find at least a bit of balance at the canter. Instead of standing in one place I walk from C to A (the length of the arena) and back again, allowing Wills freedom from repetitive circles. Many times he threatened to run away, but did not. Many times he broke from the canter and I quietly asked him to regain the canter with a quiet “Git”. He would regularly pick up the wrong lead. At this stage of training, if I ask the horse to canter and he does, I reward. He will figure out in time that the inside lead is easiest. If they cross canter I ask for a downward transition and ask for the canter again. I do not like my horses to practice cross cantering. Counter canter, yes, cross canter, no. There were lots of times Will halted on his own, and if he had had arms would have put both hands on his hips, faced me and said, "What the Hell?" As time went on, he slowly began to figure it out and gained a little confidence with each small success.
Confidence is always something to be addressed with performance horses. Those like Wills, need to build it. The horses that have confidence need to keep it. I always set up each session with the goal of challenging the horse no more than he can be successful. I want every interaction and training session to end with success for the horse. If I find I have asked too much, I ratchet back my expectations for the day rather than push the horse into a stupid fight that even if I win, nothing has been won. Some trainers will assault the confidence of an over confident horse in order to “knock him down a few pegs.” I do not believe that is a good approach. An over confident horse just needs to be challenged enough to find he needs to rely on his rider - partner. I may ask more of such a horse, but I will never try to take his confidence away. After all, I am sure I will need it one day to get us out of a jam that my human imperfection has caused.
The longe work took months to perfect, but when he finally grasped it, he was perfect. He completely relaxed and enjoyed it. He responded to my commands as I was saying them. During this period I also did a lot of hacking around the farm. He was tentative at times and would begin to become uptight, but always believed me when I told him it was okay. I loved this but I felt the weight of responsibility to never be wrong. He believed me and took great comfort in that. If I made a mistake in judgement, would I lose all the trust I had built?
Wills approached trot poles with the same suspicion he approached most things. “Make me a believer.” seemed to be his motto when introduced to anything new. I began as usual with only one pole on the ground. I hand walked him doing the walk halts in hand until I was certain he was in sync with me. We then approached the pole together. He readily stepped over it with quite a bit of doubt, but it did not attack him so when we approached again, he walked with purpose. No pole was going to beat him. This was the successful beginning of jumping. Several days later, it was two poles set 4 ½ feet apart. We tackled them before I got on him and then again after. I worked hard to keep him straight so he would not fall onto one shoulder or the other as he stepped over. It wasn’t long before we were trotting those poles. Wills seemed to gain both confidence and enjoyment from these exercises. Along with the training under saddle, I free jumped him every week. It appeared we had found something Wills very much liked to do. I was very careful not to get carried away by his new found enthusiasm. Wills had already told me he was a horse that needed time and with that time came confidence.
Wills was “mastering” trot poles and I introduced jumping with a rider astride at some logs that are placed around the farm. First he stepped over them and then we were trotting and he popped over them. Then we tried it in the ring. I always begin the same way. Walk then trot a pole on the ground, then put up half a cross rail (one diagonal pole) about 6” in the middle, walk and trot that and then put up the other rail to complete the cross rail. Wills had already seen cross rails, verticals and oxers by this time during free jumping. He LOVED it! This was good, but in no time flat he loved it too much. He wanted to go faster. Probably because he was a big horse with a big stride and he needed to regain his balance, but at least part of it was joy.
Jim Wofford engrains in his students that the reins are accelerators. Do not pull!!! With a horse such as Wills you set up gymnastics to address the running problem which is what I did. I have Jim’s book, Gymnastics: Systematic Training for Jumping Horses. It’s my bible. If you don’t have it, you need to go get it if you are planning on training any horse to jump. It has beginning gymnastics starting with poles on the ground and progresses to address specific problems such as running at fences. With the introduction of the gymnastics, Wills’ slowed down and I could be the intelligent passenger I needed to be, but once he got his confidence, his mantra became “faster is better!” The day came when I introduced one of Jim’s exercises that I was sure would send the message to this more than happy horse. It consisted of a two bounces (10 feet between the jumps so the horse’s landing is the start of the next jump), then two strides to a vertical, two more strides to a vertical and finishing of with two more bounces. You must set up the jumps one at a time, putting a rail between the standards to before putting it in the cups to let the horse know what is coming. Eventually you have the entire line up. It worked wonderfully! He was figuring out on his own that going faster was not the way to jump and I wasn’t interfering or pulling. I was so proud of both Wills and myself. Once he figured the exercise out, he decided to try the faster is better approach again. I did not pull and I have no idea how he pulled it off but he went through there like a rocket – leaving every pole up. I put a placing rail (rail on the ground after a fence to encourage the horse to land where he should) on the ground after both two strides which worked for one trip and then he had mastered it and went back to the “rocket ride.” I asked a volunteer to video tape it and sent him through again. I wanted to show this to Jim. Back through he went with the same “flair”. Unfortunately, my volunteer did not catch it.
With time and good gymnastics, Wills did figure out that rhythm and a relaxed pace were the correct way to jump. I was so proud of him and myself because I had stuck to my guns as hard as it was and didn’t pull. With those fantastic gymnastics and classical dressage flatwork, we had gotten to a good place.
Wills began free jumping periodically during his first year of training. I like to introduce horses to jumping without the rider so they can find their own way without being encumbered by the rider. At first he was very skeptical and unsure but it wasn't long before he began to like it a lot. This exercise allowed him to gain confidence in himself, something he desperately needed.
It was time to get Wills out. He had enough fundamental training and even more importantly, he had some confidence in himself and me. I wanted a quiet and easy going first show so I selected a dressage schooling show that would be held at Kings Landing Park. This park was quiet and did not have the “big show atmosphere.” Some friends came to help another friend brought her horse which made for company for Wills. I parked away from the others because you just never know who you will be near and I wanted to be sure he was surrounded by goodness. Wills was alert but handling things better than I thought he might. I tacked him up and went to a corner of a field to give him what I hoped would be a relaxing longe. It went well so I decided to go to the warm up area where he would have to contend with other horses and people who were watching. Well, so much for quiet, as we walked to the warm up a father climbed atop his van to video his daughter. I cringed but Wills handled it in stride. Whew.
The arena was surrounded by a white chain that went through a series of traffic cones with holes drilled through them where the chain passed through. At C there was a white tent where the judge would sit. I was to do Intro B and Intro C. These are very simple tests and Wills was capable of much more, but I wanted to keep his fragile confidence intact. We waited at the entrance as the competitor in front of us finished their test. The steward told me it was okay to go in and opened the gate. It creaked and squealed as it opened and for a moment Wills said, “No way.” I gently nudged him and he went in. We walked around the arena toward the extremely scary tent. All along the way Wills pointed out the things he did not like or trust. He did not like any of the white cones, or the white chain or the white letters, but he especially did not like the white tent. I told him it would be okay and kept my body as relaxed as I could. The whistle blew and he didn’t like that either, but we began to trot and made the turn to go up the center line. “You’ve got to be kidding,” Wills gasped as we proceeded toward the menacing white tent. My legs gently told him to be brave and face the monster and he did. As the test progressed he became more comfortable or maybe less fearful is a better description. He began to show off his fabulous gaits and before I knew it our first dressage test was complete. I was still on and he had remained in the arena. Shortly thereafter we had our second test and he was so good he won the class. Not bad for a first outing and more confidence for Wills.
I have pictures.
Intro B, 3rd
Intro C - 1st - I have a picture of his win ribbon
Exalt Farm Dressage Show
With our first outing as a complete success in terms of providing a good experience for Wills, I was excited to see how much progress we would make at his second show. His race owners had expressed interest in coming to see him so I let them know when I entered him in the Exalt Farm Schooling Show. It was local and a quiet location. I told them we were not competing; we were laying down the ground work to develop a competitive horse.
The day before the show I learned a valuable lesson that like many lessons, I should have already known, because it was common sense. I have a rule that I will show horses to prospective good homes whenever the person wants to come if at all possible. A trainer I knew wanted to bring a mother and child to meet Wills. The child would be the rider. They wanted to come the day before the show and since my goal at the show was to provide another positive experience for Will, what was the harm of showing him to them the day before? They arrived and I rode him at the walk, trot and canter in both directions and then the girl got on him. I had a good idea of the kind of person Wills would need. She did have a trainer I respected so that was a plus but she was not an accomplished rider which was a negative. The walk and trot went okay but when they got to the canter the girl’s weight was all wrong and Wills proceeded to pick of the wrong lead five times in a row. I say the wrong lead because it was not the lead the girl wanted, but it was actually the lead she was asking for since she was sitting to the right and he was picking up the right lead. The trainer got involved but never told her to get her weight to the left. I had seen all I needed to see. With this kind of training, Wills would be frustrated and unhappy in no time. He was very sensitive so it made riding him wonderful if you rode classically but there was no way he would react to being swung and thrown into gaits or movements which is what happens when riders are not in the correct position. In effect he would have to learn that right means left and so on. Wills is a horse, his brain is the size of a peanut and that would likely create a lot of anxiety for him. He had already shown himself to be sensitive and reactive so I felt strongly he would need someone who knew what they were doing.
The next day, Wills was fairly calm when we arrived at the show, which was a good sign. He waited patiently in the box stall in the trailer as I checked in and got things organized. I tacked him up and headed to an area to longe him. This went extremely well as he focus on me and not the happenings that surrounded us. There was no reason to put off getting on him so I did. He was a bit uptight at first but this did not alarm me, after all it was only his second show. We headed to the indoor arena to warm up. I don’t have one so this is an added pressure for the horses I train. They do work in them when I ship to clinics or lessons, but these shows were our first “forays” into shipping off the farm together. As we walked in he asked me if I was sure this was a good thing to do and I replied with my relaxed body that yes, it was. As always, he believed me and had little more to say about the accommodations. We worked at the walk looking to supple for twenty minutes or so and then progressed to the trot. He had stellar moments and tight moments, but all in all it was on track for the Training Level tests we were about to tackle. I gently asked for the canter and he started running faster and faster at the trot. “Whoa, wait a minute; you step beautifully into the trot, where is this coming from?” Hello, remember yesterday????? I had made an error that I now had to pay for. Horses learn what you teach them and although yesterday he had stepped cleanly into the canter upon asking when I rode him he had then had a lesson on “run, run for your life into the canter.” That was where we had left him yesterday. Ughh, now what do I do? The bigger deal I make of this, the worse it will get. I calmly did several trot canter, trot transitions asking for only 3 to four strides of canter and this ratcheted down the anxiety level considerably.
Wills former owners were the nicest people and his biggest fans. They arrived in all their excitement to see their boy in a dressage show. I cautioned that we were not here to win, but instead to give him a good outing and build his confidence. They understood all too well what I was talking about because he had been a mess as a racehorse. They remarked often they couldn’t believe how relaxed and friendly he was.
As we made our way down the hill to the arena for the first test, we came to a table where a kind you lady sat. Wills wanted no part of this. “No maam, that is suspicious.” The tension pulsed through his body and he became as still as a board. There was no evidence of the suppleness we had just developed in the indoor. My body let go as I attempted to make my bones disappear and folded into a lump of shapeless matter atop Wills. The he received the message from me and cautiously walked by the table. He didn’t trust it but believed me enough to risk walking by.
There was a grass area, secretary’s table and the sand arena at the bottom of the hill. Wills immediately spotted the other dreaded table he would have to conquer on this trip. This one was less menacing as it was on the edge of the woods and out of the way. He would not have to pass by this one, but he would keep a watchful eye on it anyway. We waited for a short while and then proceeded to put in a flawed but uneventful test. He was tense for each canter depart but I left it alone because I knew this was something I would need to work on another day. It was improving, so there was little to worry about anyway. We had to wait for one ride before our second ride so we stayed outside the arena while the other competitor rode and then headed back in for our second test. Wills was more comfortable this time and put in a nicer, yet still flawed test. Wills finished the day with two thirds at Intro C and Training Level 1, and the judged remarked how much she liked him. Mission accomplished – another successful outing for Wills.
Training Level 1, 3rd
Intro C, 3rd
My next outing with Wills would be at Greystone Farm in Brookeville, Maryland. K.C. Cowles was the head trainer and rider there and I liked her so I looked forward to going. I parked in the field amongst the rest of the competitors and went to check in. On my way back a man across the field headed over to me. he remarked how nice Wills looked and inquired about him. It told him he was “for sale” (up for adoption) and I was getting him out in order to help him to develop into the horse I knew he could be. He said he would be interested in him as a steeplechase horse. I knew Wills would never want to do that and told him that he had always been a worrier and I thought he wouldn’t be a good fit.
Once tacked up we went down to the indoor to warm up and Wills was very concerned because it was very busy. As I did suppling exercises I told him he would be just fine. He believed me. Before long it was time for our first test and we headed to the outdoor arena. Wills was tense but receptive. It was shaping up to be a solid test when a very large German Shepherd appeared along the drive beside the arena. Wills immediately spotted it and decided it was a ferocious bear about to attack. I found myself on a rock hard horse about to explode. I soften my body and allowed him to look. He took a breath and returned most of his attention toward me and what we were doing. Upon leaving the arena, the dog had made his way to the secretary’s stand which we had to pass to go back to the arena. I felt Wills realize that it was a dog. The second test went without a hitch and with that we concluded our third successful outing.
Training Level 2
Training 2, 5th place
Both stifles done for ocd.
I have pictures
finished second - Pictures - Rosaryville
this one was outside.
Not certain of the day - will try to find out. Training Level 2 - 6th?
Training 2, 2nd
Training 1, 4th
I have the dressage tests
Aviva Nebesky Judge
High Score Award
Training Level 3, 72%
Training Level 2, 69.286
Training 1, 3rd
Was planning to jump. Rode into the jump area and began to trot. I could hear him displacing. I thought to myself, "this guy needs a figure 8 noseband." It was the racetracker coming out of me. I began to think that may have been the reason he was coming undone. Was it possible he had been quietly displacing and I was just now hearing it? It made sense that he was resistant in the canter and panicked at the jumping.
went completely off the rails. How did I lose this wonderful horse? Now that I had found he had a breathing issue I knew it would take time for his confidence to come back but I also knew Lucinda would work with me if he needed individualized work. Her clinics are wonderful that way. Besides, there would be no refund this far in and it was over $400 we were talking about.
after coming back from the Lucinda clinic, I said to myself, "I've lost this beautiful horse and I don't have a clue how." So the next thing I did was arrange for Morgan to come out and see him again. I jokingly told people that Morgan had seen Wills so many times that when he closed his eyes to sleep at night, he saw Wills. As usual, he was sound, but we talked a lot about his behavior and agreed there was something awfully wrong.
The only thing we had was the displaciing. I had rushed him to the Lucinda clinic in hindsight because I was certain I had found the problem, but with only two weeks to the clinic. He had shown improvement - as any horse would if he was having a breathing issue and it was suddenly addressed. We decided Wills just needed more time to realize he could breathe and regain his confidence. Morgan suggested I give him a half pill of acepromazine before hacking him cross country - which Wills loved to do. Scale back any work and don't challenge him for awhile. I had already stopped asking Wills to progress in his training.
I didn't really like tranqualizing horses while I ride them and Wills absolutely loved to hack around the farm, so I decided I would just spend a month or two hacking about and we didn't really need the TQ. The next day we set out to hack about and while Wills was tentative at first, he relaxed quickly and it was a glorious day. Really fun. The next day I looked forward to riding him much like I had before he had begun to act unpredictable, but now I knew the reason and felt he just needed some time and I would have that wonderful horse back. I walked him up to the mounting block, put my foot in the stirrup and the next thing I know, Wills is gone. I fell backward to the ground onto my back like a turtle. I sat up a bit stunned at what had happened and then got up to look to see where he had gone. He was nowhere to be found but Gus, who was turned out in the field with the best view of the farm stood facing to the back of the farm fixated on something. As I reached the top of the hill I looked where he was focused only to see Wills in the back of the farm standing in the forest. He looked frozen, but when I finally reached him, he was quite relaxed and allowed me to come right to him and take the reins. "Okay, Morgan, you were right, I'll use some acepromazine."
I have a protocol for most everything so my procedure for giving acepromazine to train on consists of putting a half pill or pill into a syringe, pulling up 5 cc or so of water, allowing it to dissove the pill and then shooting it into the horse's mouth about 40 minutes before I plan to ride them. I think this is better than giving it to them IV as they are not stumbly. I liken this to having a couple martinis. You are still you, you just don't care so much about the little things that normally get on your nerves and you are more relaxed. And so it would be for Wills.
It was a windy day and my allergies were bothering me fiercely so rather than go directly from horse to horse, I was taking breaks between each ride, during which I would sit in the door jam of my tack room out of the direct sun. The tack room is straight across from Wills stall so as I rested, I looked on at him. I was going to ride him next and had treated him with ace about 30 minutes before. He was completely focused on cleaning up every last morsel from his breakfast. I feed all horses in rubber tubs on the ground and many times the turn the tub over to eat off the ground. Wills meal was a very common one consisting of Hay Stretcher pellets, but he got A LOT of food. Wills had always been a very slow eater which I thought was very healthy, he normally left the food he dropped, but I fed him so much, that didn't bother me. This was several hours after he had been fed breakfast and I have never seen him eat so ravenously. As he cleaned up each and every pellet, I thought to myself - "You have stomach ulcers." I stood up and reached around the door and took a gastrogard off the shelf. I walked across the aisleway and gave him half a tube. I wrote on the board that he was to get half a tube for one month and then one quarter each morning after that. Every horse, including Wills was on Neighlox, but I realized at that moment that he was eating slowly and not cleaning up because he had a tummy problem. I felt stupid but elated at the same time. No wonder he went off at the Lucinda clinic. The shipping and stress of being in a new location without the routine he was used to had exacerbated the stomach ulcers causing him more pain than he could handle - sending him right off the edge. We had been skirting this edge since early winter of 2013 and now it seemed we were finally getting to the bottom of it - or were we. One question that kept ringing in my mind was, "Why are you having stomach ulcers two years after leaving the track.? Maybe because you were displacing??? Or were you displacing because you had stomach ulcers???
I thought that he had been through so much with the displacing, ulcers and epm. That with time, he would emotionally heal and gain confidence. I was trying to help him trust himself and the poles by working with him from the ground so he wouldn't have the balance challenges that carrying a rider adds. I think it's significant to see how frightened he is of a pole on the ground and then later a 2' jump. You can see in the video that even when he is stepping over the pole or jumping, he does not trust. He is very wary. My hope was to develop his confidence over time with good experiences. In September the previous year he had done a cross country clinic at Rosaryville Park with Jim Wofford and had been a star, even schooling a few of the simple Training Level and Preliminary jumps. A year later he was frightened of a pole on the ground. My heart was breaking but I refused to give up on him.
Training 2, 3 and First 1
1st, Training 3, and 2nd Training 2 - may not have done First 1, don't remember
had taken Fellow, arrived home very late in evening because I went with Lucinda to meet Tad.
had not done that since early spring??
I had been riding Wills for approximately one month. He seemed fine but my studies of Dr. Andrew McLean about how the horse's brain works coupled with my work with Tad Coffin led me to the belief that Wills just wasn't right and I needed to face this in order to help him. I had always believed that the epm and delayed diagnosis had caused Wills to have emotional damage leading to defensiveness. I had used the approach of giving him positive experiences to show him that although he was weakened by the epm, he was not still damaged and his physical condition was improving, rather than progressing. Through the work with McLean and Coffin, I had come to the realization that horses are much more "forgiving" and adaptable than humans. They live in the hear and now, relying on past accurate memories, but Wills, still had this underlying worry. That led me to contact Morgan for an examination. Morgan found only a positive reaction in Wills' right stifle. I continues to describe what I had been dealing with and the behavior Wills' exhibited in the weeks prior to the fall. Morgan reiterated that the only thing he could find was some pain in the stifle. As he began to step into his vehicle, he stopped for a moment and turned to me. Morgan said, "You might want to treat Wills for hind gut ulcers." I responded that I had him on both Gastrogard and U-Gard. He then told me that would not address the hind gut ulcers and they were extremely difficult to diagnose.
In only three days on the misoprostal I saw a change in Wills. I was extremely hopeful but afraid to mention this to anyone because this was more than I could hope for. Not only was he different when I rode him, but the look on his face was different even while standing in his stall. I realized he had been suffering for quite some time, now that his eyes had the look of relief and calm. I had not seen the calm for almost two years - at least not like that.
Morgan had suggested using a product called Gastrotec. I set out on an internet search to find and order it. It came in a tube just like Gastrogard but had both omeprazole and misoprostal in it to treat both front and hind gut ulcers. I found that Gastrotec is not approved by the FDA. As a consequence, Tristar had ceased all production and sales of Gastrotec . Learning the active ingredient was misoprostal, I wen to the site where I got my omeprazole and ordered a 30 day supply for about $120.
By now I knew it was hind gut. I had my boy back. He was calm and easy to ride. The guy I had known so many years ago. I had even begun to doubt myself, wondering if he really had been such a sweetheart of a ride. Now, I had confirmation that he had been that wonderful boy. He was back and I began to think about the future for the first time in a very long time.
1/2 - 4th and 1/3 - 1st I have video
I have the tests. I got on him without help. I did it in a secluded area and pointed him at the trailer. He was calm and easy to ride and work with.
First Level 3 - 67.794 - 2nd
First Level 2 - 68.594 - 3rd