It’s funny how you figure out things with horses. If I hadn’t taken Johnny out for a hack yesterday, I would still be worried there was something wrong. Johnny has always been one of those super laid-back OTTBs who gives pony rides and would rather whoa than go, given the option. I knew having the tie-back surgery would have an effect on him, and I even joked about having it go this way, but the reality is, I’m dealing with a horse bred to run who’s suddenly discovered he can breathe.
Yesterday, Johnny did better in the cross-ties–dancing around less and amusing himself with his tongue instead. I watched him carefully for any indication of gut and/or back pain. He didn’t flinch when I placed the saddle or tightened the girth, and all was well when I mounted. It wasn’t until we left the property that the little light bulb finally went off in my head. My normally placid, poke-along pony on the trails was RARING TO GO. His ears continually flicked back to me as he looked around for something he might be allowed to spook at. It was as if he was talking to me, “Can I go? Can I go? Can I go?” I had planned on four minute trot sets as the terrain allowed, but we did more like six minute sets with power walking in between. I’m so thankful he was at least sane enough to remember his manners. Although he tested me a few times by breaking into trot, he always quickly came back with an “Oh, oops, sorry. I thought I felt your legs squeeze. My bad.” He was simply exuberant, full of happy energy and wanting to release it. I happily let him go for a short gallop just before our turnaround point. I felt the moment he expected his wind to fail him as he sucked back slightly and prepared to trot; I closed my legs ever so slightly, and you could feel the switch as he realized he still had adequate air. Once upon a time, when I let off the gas and asked him to come back, he’d drop from a gallop into a plodding walk–gasping for air. This time I was able to ask him to come back to a trot and bring him back down correctly. He still power-walked home, but with far less tension.
So, now here I am, dealing with the type of horse I haven’t owned in years. I’ll be the one lunging my horse three hours before dressage at horse shows, power-walking him around the grounds, and struggling for relaxation without tiring him out. And, I’m kind of excited about this. I have a feeling that he will settle into his newfound cardiovascular endurance and find a happy balance between exuberant energy and mindful obedience. I will finally have an Event pony who is utterly brave, wants to run, and has the capability to do so. I am beyond thrilled that my guy can breathe now and has the desire to GO. I just have to find a way to manage it. 🙂