Last weekend a big piece of the mystery that is Petey fell into place. More accurately, I should say the mystery that is figuring out how to best help Petey. Because this journey that he and I are on together is focused on how to help him heal both physically and mentally from his spinal condition.

What was baffling to me was Petey’s discomfort (lovingly referred to as meltdowns) during our cowboy dressage clinics. Last year, he didn’t seem to have such challenges and I couldn’t figure out why this year things were so tough for him.

I felt that Petey was feeling better, looking better and making progress in general. It was baffling to me that he would be in such discomfort that at times he would let me know that he just couldn’t let me on his back. I have gotten much better at listening to him so that he doesn’t have to shout at me anymore. (Rearing and bucking being an example of shouting. Not a place either of us want to be.)

This past weekend, the morning session on Saturday went well, and I was able to ride Petey at the end of our time. The afternoon presented very differently, though. I knew that my brown horse was uncomfortable as soon as I got him in the arena. I brought him in there to saddle him. That took some time. I was “tardy” joining everyone else outside on the court. What I love most about these clinics is that we are taught, encouraged and supported to do what our horse needs. So, no one complained a bit about our tardiness.

We all did some cowboy dressage tests on the ground with our horses. When it was time to ride the test, Petey let me know that he could not. When I got on his back, he felt tight and chaotic. It felt as if there was a huge knot of tension right behind my seat. I got off before Petey had to convey his discomfort to me any louder. I promised him that I would not ignore his communication.

On Sunday, I put together a few clues, and figured out a puzzle piece that had to have had a big impact on Petey’s discomfort. I had noticed previously that he paced in his stall at times. It wasn’t continuous or consistent, but concerning to me as I took it as a sign that my brown horse wasn’t comfortable, either mentally or physically. So on Sunday, as I watched him move around in his stall, I noticed that his movement was causing him to disengage his pelvis, and his body would move in a way that we have been working hard to eliminate from his vocabulary. My heart sank a bit as I watched his movement, because I knew that it would not be in his best interest to bring him to the cowboy dressage clinic next month.

When I shared my findings with Phil, he responded, “I guess you’ll be bringing somebody else next month.” No questioning, no trying to persuade me differently, no doubting what I was perceiving from my horse. This is one of the reasons why these clinics are so important to me. We are given the space to put our horses and our partnership with them first. That isn’t always as common in the horse world as it should be. Thank goodness we have support and guidance on our journey. Petey and I will continue to have our adventures, they just won’t include a trip to Grand Blanc in October.

Having a tangible and visible reason for why these clinics were hard for Petey helped me a lot. Not only can I adjust our plans to participate in the clinic next month, but it helps me feel that I have permission to continue more confidently with his rehabilitation. Having that mystery solved clears up a lot of the wonder and doubt I had about our journey. Plans adjusted, onward and forward to our future adventures.

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