And then we got sidelined by snot! Ah, horses.
Well, Eli is fully recovered from the tooth extraction & two sinus surgeries, and we have been merrily trucking along, going about our business with grids and courses, usually topping out at 3’6″ and we’ve been perfectly happy with that. Even the other day, we were cruising through a grid, building up to what I had thought was 3’6″.
He was so easy through the grid, and I just kept telling my trainer, “yeah, let’s just go up another hole.” I thought we had got to 3’6″ the last time through, because I had thought the top hole on the short standards holding up the back rail was 4′. Well, it’s 4’3″. So the back rail of the oxer was actually 3’9″, not 3’6″. My trainer even said to me later that she didn’t say anything so that my head would stay in the game and not questioning the height. Even so, I did not think too much of it until I remembered back before Eli’s veterinary expedition into blood, snot, and heavy sedation that I had set this goal for us, and had never revisited it.
So here, I’m revisiting it. I am also revisiting Eli’s personality prior to the surgeries and after. In many ways, he is still the same horse: bites, kicks, spooks, bucks, does that capriole spook/leap thing … but he is also changed. His brain is there, and is very often accessible, when before it was a crapshoot. He accepts contact in the leg, and seat, and even the hand as long as I allow him to find it instead of insisting on it first. He is, as always, game for jumping anything, understands the leg without shooting out from underneath me when I close it, now is much steadier and easier to control in the turns, and he has learned to adjust his stride himself (therefore making up for my eye’s shortcomings all the time). Many other factors come into play related to Eli’s rideability, such as tack choices, feed, turnout, consistency of riding (only me since May 2014), quality of flatwork, variation in activities (he does get bored easily now), and keeping up with maintenance. But truly the horse was performing with what must have been a raging toothache and headache, so it’s no surprise he was brain-addled daily (and with no clinical symptoms until the snotty nose, I simply didn’t question his personality because it had been steadily improving the longer I worked with him, and such a personality was not unusual in an ottb with some wacky training in his past). Everything about him now communicates to me he is so much more comfortable and so much more confident about his job.
I did not think when I set that goal of 3’9″ on film last September that we would have gone through quite so much to get to it. We had a brief setback, but now with that goal not only within reach but firmly in our grasp there is no doubt in my mind that Eli is unquestionably the right horse for me and anything I want to do, he wants to do, too.