My talented and sweet young horse Remington has been recovering from injuries he sustained several months ago. Although his fractured splint bone is healing nicely, his sore back is still a challenge. Last week, we decided to see if he was ready to carry a rider. Niki, a kind, gentle and very light-weight young woman rode him while his new trainer and I observed. It was obvious to us all that he wasn’t happy. He was unable to relax and enjoy the ride, his tense body language and the stressed look in his eyes telling us he was uncomfortable.
Unfortunately, there are many people in the horse world who would categorically just write off this type of behavior as “being a brat”. It has been my experience that horses just don’t do “brat”. Yes, they have their moods and their ups and downs just as we do, but when a horse is displaying obvious signs of distress, especially under saddle, it is never about being bratty. It’s about being in pain. And time after time when they are not heard, they will do the only thing they can to get their message across, which can sometimes include bucking and rearing. There are countless stories of horses with sore backs who end up being crippled for the rest of their lives because no one believed them, but instead kept riding them and forcing them to submit to training.
I will be having a veterinarian come to the ranch and do a thorough exam of Remy’s back so we can address the discomfort and help him heal. In the meantime, we’ll work with him on the ground, lunging, hand walking, enjoying his daily roll in the round pen and our hand grazing on the green lawn. He’ll have all the time he needs to feel better, I am in no rush for him to be ridden until and if he is ready and willing.
But more importantly, I am honoring my sweet boy’s attempts to tell me about how he feels. I am listening to him. I am respecting him. I am treating him like the sentient and loving individual that I know he is.