Our work had been going very well. We had been following Mogie's advice for reintroducing jumping and started going out of the arena for trot and canter sets. Jumping was finally coming around. Starting Phinn back jumping was something akin to letting a tiger out of a cage for the first few weeks. Of course we were relegated to the indoor arena which is the source of all evil according to Phinn. Everything is spooky in there and Phinn reacts accordingly. Add to that the excitement, and completely unchallenging nature of small 2' jumps and well, you basically have yourself a mustang playground. I couldn’t put him in a gymnastic to slow him down or make him behave and was stumped for a few sessions. Brain storming ensued and I recalled using placing poles in a Buck Davidson clinic last year. Voila! Mustang under control. The placing poles worked beautifully to back Phinn off and respect the fences and it let me let go of his face, which I'm sure he appreciated. As the fences got higher he also backed off and in a few short weeks we were jumping up to 2'9" oxers comfortably, with a soft balanced approach.
Our work out of the arena included trot and canter sets at a nearby state park and we had worked up to gallops without any cause for concern. Until we added in terrain last week. Phinn came up short after our workout and I knew we had an issue before I even got off at the trailer. Que the sad violin music and what I like to call "end of the world prep".
End of the world prep is what happens when something goes wrong and you're immediately sure that it's the beginning of the end of the world. A short stepping mustang, with moderate heat and reaction to palpation after a trot/canter set is cause for end of the world prep. Do not pass go, do not collect $200, the world is ending. Period. There is no stopping end of the world prep once horse soundness paranoia sets it in motion. The sulking, the snapping at significant others, drinking way more than your fair share of chardonnay, justifying to yourself that 'it will be what it will be', and that surely you will be able to bring him back to do dressage, even if galloping and jumping might not be in your future. Then you remember that you're really not even that good at dressage, and your last dabble in a dressage arena that included the letters "R, S, V, and P" took an entire support team to pull off, including a reader, who bless her heart, did her best to keep you headed in the right direction during a late afternoon third level test. There is a lovely photo on Terri Miller's site that captured that moment, http://terrimiller.exposuremanager.com/p/thomas_margaret_10tvj/10tvj-2718_4_15_7_2_21 proof 22 (if the link doesn't work, try looking for Temecula June 2010 proofs, proof 22) just happened to capture the exact moment when I looked over at my reader in a state of pure confusion and utter disorientation wondering where the hell "S" was, ah yes, turns out that's the letter I had passed, oh….TWO letters ago. These sorts of memories do not quell the end of the world prep because you know in your heart, you are not a very good dressage rider and you really like galloping and jumping.
So then you realize that you have a lovely young horse (Condition One) and that you are blessed to have two horses and life will continue to go on even if you have a snazzy bay mustang who is only sound enough to be a trail horse and a lovely young gray event horse. Your friends step in and are sweet and kind. One kind friend agreed that if it wasn't mean to be, it wasn't meant to be, better to find out now than later. Another, who rehabs lots of bowed tendons in OTTTBs reminded me that they see a lot of flare ups when they move their work outside of the arena because the very nature of riding over terrain stretches the tendon fibers and can cause soreness. Your dear trainer, who has rehabbed more than her fair share of tendons, reminds you that you did nothing wrong, you were bringing him back into work slowly and methodically and it is very possible that he broke loose some adhesions in the tendon. Friends are good to have.
Meanwhile a few days pass and you realize your mustang is not off anymore, the tendon is only slightly thicker than the good tendon, and just barely warm, and not reactive to palpation, and the lovely gals at the barn who brave turning him out note that he is back to being a complete pain to walk out to turn out and you wonder if there might be hope. Hope is not without caution and Phinn will have time off until the tendon is back to 'normal' and a follow up ultrasound to make sure we can start back to work. More after that.