Tuesday, January 20, 2015


Or . . . Look! I'm stupid!

Months ago when I discovered Ashke had broken his left patella, I figured a good joint supplement would be a great addition to his daily bucket. I talked to Diane and she suggested a product called Vet Flex (by prescription only) and said she could send me some if I wanted. I had already gone online and purchased my first Smartpak in the form of SmartFlex II Support pellet. (I like the cunning little paks they come in, I'll admit.) The price is a little high, but right at what I was willing to spend for joint supplement. It seemed to help and once Ashke was on the supplement, the short striding in his RH disappeared.

Somewhere in the back of my mind was the knowledge that there is a product that Diane recommends that would be about 2/3rds the cost.

I decided back in September to try the Vet Flex via Diane, if only to save a little money right before Xmas. I ordered it, replaced the Smartpak with it and suddenly Ashke was short striding again. At first I thought it had to be the joint supplement and ordered the Smartpak back in, putting Ashke on it as soon as I could. Within two days he was better. I didn't believe it. My brain told me that it had to be something else, like a strain from turn out, or a kick from Cali. I was really happy that he was better.

And then I forgot. Two weeks ago, while getting his bucket set up, I figured I would finish using up the Vet Flex (because I had decided it had to be something else) because I was being frugal. Ha! That will teach me. Within a couple of days, Ashke was short striding on the right hind again. I replaced the Vet Flex with the Smartpak (because I had Smartpak here) and within two days I can tell a huge difference.

Smartpak forever!

Tonight, I got to ride. I have been talking with Saiph about some of the issues with Ashke's feet and she recommended giving him a half flake of alfalfa when I am getting him saddled up. The alfalfa helps with stomach acid and hopefully will make him less girthy. I opened my bale bag and Ashke was right there, very excited about the alfalfa. He munched while I got him ready. He was not reactive when I groomed his right hip and the knots over the hip bone was gone. We did a lot of fast, smooth walking to start.  Then we trotted in both directions and I worked on slowing him down to a smooth rocking trot on a moderately loose rein. We did some cantering in both directions and then worked up and down the wall, stopping in the corner and turning on either the forehand or the haunches. Finally, we did some elongated teardrop figure eights against the short wall of the arena, asking him for bend through the neck as we went around in our circles.

He was amazing. There is no more spooking at the far end of the arena. He worked really well, using the entire arena area. It was a really fun ride. Every time we finished some piece and I told him what a good boy he was, he would snort in agreement. I worked a little of everything, trying to change up what I wanted so he wouldn't get stale or bored. One of the times we were walking around, stretching, I became aware of a 12 or 13 year old girl getting really frustrated with her horse and not wanting any help from her mom.

The girl had been trying to mount her mustang mare for about twenty minutes and every time she would try to get on the mare would back up very slowly, twisting away from the mounting block and preventing the girl from getting on. The woman was venting and said this had been going on for six months and they couldn't figure out how to keep the mare from behaving this way. The girl was alternating between trying to coax the mare into standing still and getting frustrated enough to lash out. I asked if I could help her fix the issue and her mom agreed. I handed over Ashke to the mom to hold, picked up a carriage whip and went to show the girl a couple of things she could try. There were two things I noticed right away: the girl was expecting the horse to move and so was waiting to mount until she did, and two, the horse wasn't clear about what was expected of her to do. The mom told me she didn't behave this way with the trainer or her mom, so it was something the mare was doing with the girl.

The first thing was making the mare work harder if she was unwilling to stand still. I walked the mare up to the mounting block and told the girl to try to mount. She walked up and then kind of stood waiting for the mare to misbehave.  The mare backed up and away from the stool. I sent her out at the end of her rein in a circle around the mounting block. The mare didn't want to work and instead tried to spin in a circle, keeping her shoulder towards me and swinging her butt away. That was corrected with a tap of the carriage whip, which resulted in the mare rearing in protest, but I made her continue to move until she was trotting around me. I asked for a stop and then positioned her next to the mounting block. I told the girl to make her mounting process quick and smooth. It took four or five tries before the mare stood still.

Finally, the girl was able to get on the mare three times in a row, with the mare standing quiet on a loose rein. I turned the mare over to the girl and told her to try. Of course, by herself the mare wouldn't stand, but this time the girl was ready. She made the mare move out at a faster trot and sometimes a canter, before asking her to stand. The mare fussed and reared a couple of times, and threw a buck the third time the girl made her move out, but finally, she stood still and let the girl mount without shifting. The girl made a big deal out of the accomplishment and then went off to ride. I told her mom that she now has a tool in her toolbox to help her work through the issue.

Her mom and I talked a little about some of the things that might help her daughter. I suggested some of the Parelli games, mostly because it might give the girl a little more confidence and break her out of the relationship she has going with the mare at the moment. It will also teach the mare to listen and respond to the girl's authority. She is at that point that we all were at twelve where our relationship with our horse is like our relationship with our first boyfriend, and every little thing can send us into tears. We take it personal when the horse doesn't behave and vacillate between anger and frustration, tears of hurt mingling with tears of frustration. It's sad to me that they have been dealing with this issue for six months and no one had been able to help the girl out.

By the time we had worked through the mare and girl's issues (the girl really had inadvertently taught the mare to back up at the mounting block) Ashke was ready to go back to his stall and I was pretty much done. We unsaddled and blanketed and I headed for home.


  1. Glad you had a good ride, and happy you got to help the girl out! :) That was one thing that my horse Red always did with me (he still does it on occasion but I have enough courage to stop it now before it gets out of hand) and he never did it with anyone else. I know how frustrating that issue can be, so I'm happy you helped her get on! :)

    1. I could tell the girl wanted to fix the issue on her own, but had no idea what to do. Once the mare was moving forward instead of spinning in a circle, it was pretty easy for her to figure out what I wanted her to do. This was also an easy technique to show the girl and it put a tool in her box for the future. I think that sometimes when we are being predictive in our thoughts "don't back up, she's going to back up, I know she's not going to stand still" our horses pick up on that and think "back up? Ok."

      The other thing that was obvious to me is that the girl was standing on the block waiting for the horse to misbehave, instead of mounting matter of factly. That was the other thing I encouraged her to do, step up, position and mount. No sense in making that process take all day.

  2. That's great that he responds to the joint supplement so well! Glad to hear it.

  3. You should tell smartpak this story, maybe they'll put your picture in their flyer.