Back To Riding

a monthly web column

October 2011: Aftermath of an Explosion

with 5 comments

By Katherine Walcott, Illustration by Jean Abernethy


Sherlock Holmes: [extremely irritated] Oh, hell! What does that matter?! So we go around the sun! If we went around the moon or round and round the garden like a teddy bear, it wouldn’t make any difference!
Benedict Cumberbatch in “The Great Game” Sherlock [BBC 2010]. Courtesy of Wikiquote.


Rodney has added separation anxiety to his repertoire.

Monday: In the morning, as usual, he had a session with his heating pad to loosen a back scar from a foalhood injury. He stands. I do daily crossword puzzles. Fifty minutes is the longest either of us can go before terminal boredom.

For the afternoon groundwork session, I wanted to restart hillwork. To be as simple as possible, I chose a short, gentle slope within sight of the barn the entire way. He was nervous but in a different way than going towards the ring. Garden-variety separation anxiety. More than I cared to see, but nothing unusual.

Tuesday: Hubby goes out each morning before work to count noses and feed carrots. This morning, he used the daily treat to lead Rodney up the hill sans halter. They got 75% of the way before any stress occurred. During our heating pad session, I pondered how to play off this. Rodney is too much of a carrot mooch to use carrots regularly. Instead, I would put a hay pile at the top of the hill as goal and reward. To be even easier, I would put a second pile for the mare so that he would be walking toward company, thereby easing his separation anxiety.

That evening, we led both horses up and Rodney followed reasonably well. Hubby stayed at the top with Mathilda while Rodney and I turned around and came back down. He wasn’t relaxed but, again, did reasonably well. Then I turned to go back up the hill and


Hooves and horse everywhere. I let go of the leadrope. He tore up the hill (?!) bucking and kicking. Upon arriving, he didn’t stop (?!?!). Instead, he flew around the pasture (?!?!?!) finally fetching up in the barn/run-in shed where I caught him easily.

After one of these outbursts, he calms right down. If I may project, he looks as if even he doesn’t understand why he does this and is a little ashamed by his behavior. He comes over and puts his head down to my chest to be reassured and loved on. After that, he walked up the hill a few more times. Not serenely but obediently. Still, the cloud of despair had already engulfed me.

Perhaps it was time I faced facts? Perhaps, despite two wonderful rides when I tried him out, he would always be too unpredictable? Perhaps, I would never ride, much less show him? It was a dark night.

After mourning the death of my riding career (I don’t see going through this again) and lamenting the loss of the embarrassingly large number of blue ribbons we were going to win, I began to wonder, does it matter? If my darkest dread is realized, how will that change what I do tomorrow?

In 23 years, hubby and I have shared our household with 14 cats, 5 dogs, and 3 horses. The only animals we relocated were one overly-sensitive kitten who needed a quieter lifestyle and another kitten to a friend. One reason we took so long to find a horse was that we knew we would have him or her for the next 20 years.

So, Rodney is here for the duration.
Will I leave him in the field to rot? No.
Will I stop grooming and socializing him? No.
Will I stop working with him – to whatever extent he allows? No.
Many things matter in theory. In practical terms, not so much.
Blog frequency – monthly.
Links to past WordPress & USEA columns, plus weekly commentary, on Facebook at Rodney aka Perpetual Motion. Note, I occasionally forget to switch identities before posting there, so please select “Everyone (Most Recent)” under the photo strip to see all entries.

Written by Virtual Brush Box

October 18, 2011 at 2:15 pm

5 Responses

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  1. […] now the philosophical question. When Rodney has a melt-down of any size [Aftermath], I fall into an immediate tailspin. I think such productive thoughts as ‘Sadness! Despair! […]

  2. […] sung this song before [Explosion]. Probably more than once. Apparently I don’t believe myself. This one feels more permanent […]

  3. […] Yang: The Sports Car Get an interesting young horse, perhaps a OTTB, and start riding, training, showing. If Rodney decides to get his act together, I end up riding two horses at the AEC. Worse things have happened. This would be the road for a motivated, upper-level bound rider. Buy & work a bunch of youngsters. Sell the ones that don’t suit. We would suck at selling. It’s the La Brea Tar Pits around here. Once a critter comes on the property, it stays. [Explosion] […]

  4. […] between the path to the water trough, which is a gimme, and the path up the hill, which caused his come-apart last […]

  5. Nice job, especially the last sentence.


    October 19, 2011 at 10:13 am

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