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[RC] Dealing w/ a horse that won't pulse down due to excitement - Karen Casemier

I did the 25 LD at Wolverine (Michigan) this weekend - my first ride ever with my Morgan mare. The ride itself went wonderfully well, better than I ever could have expected. She drank like a champ, which she rarely does on training rides, my pace was really good (I wanted to get to the vet check in 2 hours and made it in almost exactly 2 hours), and considering she was riding without her regular buddy, did remarkably well, calming down and getting to business after the first few miles. I was so thrilled with her.

However, when we got to the finish back at camp, I could not get her to calm down. She became a different horse. She was trotting circles around me, bucking on the end of the lead line, etc. This was not a metabolic problem, but a mental one - she was so overstimulated by all the other horses and being back at camp (and probably hearing her buddy call to her) that she wouldn't drop below 70. I'm sure you can understand how frustrating it was to have such a great ride for my first time, on a tough trail no less, and then not get a completion not because of lameness or metabolic issues, but simply because she was too wired to reach the pulse critieria. (She did pulse down fine at the vet check in the middle of the ride - it took me about 10 minutes, but she was at 55 when they took her pulse, and I thought that was pretty good for her first time)

Note that we also had an issue at the vet-in. She wouldn't settle down for that either, so we had to bring her buddy down to keep her manageable. In theory, we could have brought her buddy down for the final check, but to me, that would have just been a band-aid - I would still have the exact same problem the next time. I don't want to have to bring her buddy to every ride just to get her through the vet checks.

I also believe this issue is deeper than simply being attached to a buddy. I've only had her act this way one other time before - when I was acting as an outrider at a combined training event. Exact same thing - bucking, rearing, wouldn't settle down, etc. It has something to do obviously with all the other strange horses (although again, she did pulse down fine at the check outside of camp).

The only thing I can think of doing, is to start round pen work with her. I've been hesitant to do this in the past, because this is very *complicated* mare. Methods that work with other horses often don't work with her. However, as great as she is on the trail, she will NEVER be an endurance horse if she can't settle down for the vet checks. And that would break my heart, because it was clear to me that she is capable of a lot more than I originally thought as I rode her on Sunday. I'm thinking if I do some basic "herd dynamics" type of round pen work that I can hopefully get her to focus in on ME when she gets stressed, instead of completely tuning me out (which she was very obviously doing - you could see in her eyes that she was totally "off" mentally).

If you have any suggestions, especially if you've been through this with a horse, please let me know. Except for that final vet check, I was absolutely thrilled with how my little mare did (she was a bucking bronc at the start of the ride, but I expected that and I do believe that will get better simply with experience). This mare and I have been through a lot together, and as much as I want to do this sport, it is just as important that I do it with HER.


Karen and Mazzie

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