I'm sure it isn't a surprise to you that I spent most of last night thinking about Winston. The more I thought, the more I became convinced that he may very well have ulcers. Sandy had mentioned the possibility Thursday and it makes a lot of sense.
1. Winston was not reactive the first year after I bought him. He was forward and sensitve but also level headed. He tried hard. He couldn't wait to go to work; always meeting me at the gate. I took him to a couple shows and he was solid as a rock, even in cold freezing wind that drove most of the other competitors to scratch.
2. Then we moved. He was already a bit more reactive, but still a happy partner. I think that even though he enjoyed the shows, being there with all the noise and activity was stressful. It was a far cry from his peaceful paddock life. The move to our present home involved a very long trailer ride. I've tried to block out exactly how long; but I'm guessing it was in the neighborhood of ten hours. Then he had to adjust to a new place.
3. Winston didn't settle in peacefully. He harrassed Jackson in the pasture so we had to separate them. Then he started goading Mufasa. When we were finally settled enough that I could ride again, I had lost six months. He was belligerant and hard to catch. He started resisting work. I was baffled. Where did my steady Eddy fun horse go?
4. I trailered him down to take a few lessons with Sandy and we did well. I loved how Sandy had me ride with focus and I loved how she used softness as a reward. Winston seemed to be doing well. I was feeling encouraged. In answer to Kates (valid) concern, Sandy always goes to a very soft place- and stays there - as long as the communication is flowing. The horses she trains are happy and relaxed. This is not an issue of having the wrong trainer for Winston.
5. Winston became more and more reactive; to the point where I didn't feel safe. Initially, Winston made a lot of progress with Sandy and riding him was like being on a different horse. He was soft and forward and fun. But he still had reactive days and lately they've been increasing. He flinches visibly when touched. Sometimes, he does more than flinch. In the past week, his demeanor has changed.
6. The plan: a full course of ulcer medication; a full work up by the massage/acupressure therapist; ulcer prevention supplements and, lastly, more time with me. Sandy will still work with him -- she is much clearer and I don't want confusion to add to his discomfort. But, I plan to visit him in the evenings after work -- grooming, hand walking, hanging out. We've been out of town the last few weekends with my mom's memorial and my birthday, but I plan to spend more of my weekends with him now. Some of you may remember Kalvin, a horse who stayed at Aspen Meadows for a little more than a year while healing from an injury. He was a sweet horse, but he never bonded with us. His heart belonged to his owner and he lived for her visits. The difference in his attitude, the shine in his eyes and the spring in his step when she came to visit were impossible to miss. I know Winston misses me; he tells me so when I visit. I need to spend more time with him.