Sunday, June 28, 2009

Zip's Slippery Slope

Don't bother critiquing my jumping position. I already know it sucks. I put this picture here because I needed to see Zip in the days when our rides were fun for both of us. Sadly, neither of us are enjoying them anymore.

Zip still has all the talent to which this photo does no justice whatsoever. He can still jump and run and collect and lengthen and do lateral work, just not under saddle. One moment in time set off a chain of events that seems to have no end and no chance for resolution. What's an owner to do?

Confession time: I have laughed heartily and pointed fingers at owners who spend endless resources trying to overcome some horse-related issue. I'm not laughing now. Did a minor slip in a trailer really set off a set of orthopedic problems, or is something more going on? Am I being played by my big buddy? Should I launch yet another round of vet checks, adjustments, tune-ups, medications, supplements, and training remediations, or should I just call it quits and pronounce the big guy Pasture Puff Extraordinaire? I am at a loss.

"Ride the piss out of him," my daughter suggested. "He's bored." Okay, fine. So we moved from dressage back to barrel racing, and for a minute, when the Zipster gave me a lovely canter without asking if he really had to do it, it looked like we had a winner. Ten minutes later the balking began and we were not just back to square one, but somewhere in the basement with the squares that didn't make the cut.

"Longe him!"
"Never longe him!"
"Ride him more forward!"
"Stop before he quits."
"Don't let him quit. Force him forward!"
"He needs time off."
"He needs more work!"

...and suddenly I'm a beginner haunted by rail birds, mostly professionals, and riding Zip has become a project instead of a joy. Sadly, it's a project that seems to be destined for failure.

Worst, he's still begging for my attention, doing whatever tricks he can think of to make me smile, and working, working, working right up to the moment when he slams on the brakes. Monday it was 20 minutes. Today 32. That could be progress. Only Zip knows. That today he actually seemed sad when I took him out into the ring, that he balked at walking through the gate, is testimony to how much we're not accomplishing in terms of our relationship.

To my Fellow Sufferers: I feel your pain now. All I can say is to trust your instincts. If the weight of the project seems to be out-of-proportion to the outcome, maybe you don't really get what the project is. I have a feeling mine is more about things I haven't figured out yet than about getting a good horse back on track.

Time.... That's all there is left to spend.

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