All of Eli’s extra energy last week was not totally unexpected — adding rice bran provided more energy to burn. The quality of that energy, however, was somewhat unpleasant. Where did my Summer Eli go? It’s 100° and I had a horse that felt as though he’d been stuck in a stall for 3 days in 40° weather. Every. Day. He just seemed very quick to overreact, including to my leg, especially at the canter. This flew right past Winter Eli into Eli of 2013.
And then I thought perhaps I am overreacting myself. Perhaps it’s all in my head … but I like the Eli of 2018 who lets me put my leg on without jumping sideways as if from electric shock. How could we possibly work on collection with him so worried and agitated? On Friday after another tension-filled ride, I gave Eli a tube of Quia-Cal, hoping he could at least relax a little in his stall. Best talk to my trainer before making any other decisions, though.
Saturday morning, my trainer walked over while I was tacking up Eli and I said he’d been a not-nice word all week. She immediately agreed! She doesn’t really handle him except to turn him out. She said he usually nickers at her first thing in the morning and can’t get his head into the halter fast enough in anticipation of turn out. Except this past week, she said he would pin his ears and walk away from her (as much as that is possible while he’s in his stall). This wasn’t just that he had extra energy — he had extra grumpiness. He might have even seemed a bit uncomfortable, although that would be harder to say for sure.
We discussed how uncharacteristic this behavior was compared to the horse that Eli has been recently. He was acting like the horse he was 4-5 years ago. So … what was different? He had time off for his stifle injections, but when I rode him the following weekend, he felt very loose and relaxed. I didn’t ride Monday or Tuesday because of extreme heat, and Eli started getting rice bran on Monday. Not much — just a 1/2 scoop, about a pound, if that. I expected Eli to have the extra energy on Wednesday, but he came out of his stall ready to spook and throw himself around at a canter cue on Thursday and Friday, too. While it was nothing I couldn’t ride through, it felt like a huge regression when we had been steadily improving.
Thankfully on Saturday, perhaps in part because of the Quia-Cal, Eli felt a bit more rideable even though not totally back to himself. At least, through some flat work. My trainer and I had discussed the possibility that maybe the rice bran was the root of Eli’s behavior and that I did NOT want to jump him. She and the head trainer/barn owner set some canter poles for us instead.
I don’t really like canter poles.
Eli threw a few temper tantrums; I’ll spare you the details. We managed to trot through everything a few times, and the trainers wanted me to work on the exercise over the next few days. I let Eli walk on a long rein through it a few times before calling it a day. I gave him another tube of Quia-Cal after lunch, and Eli would get a slightly increased ration of his regular grain. No more rice bran.
On Sunday, I had trotting through canter poles in my riding plan, maybe cantering each piece of the exercise separately. While tacking up Eli, I noted his docile and relaxed demeanor, back to the horse he has been lately. Still very bright and a bit nippy, but the sullenness had disappeared.
I worked on a loopy rein at first, then played with shortening and lengthening the trot: I asked and Eli complied. He felt much quieter than he had all week. I walked him through the canter poles once. I trotted him through the canter poles once. I cantered each piece of the exercise separately with a halt after each. I cantered the whole thing, somewhat awkwardly, but Eli happily accepted everything I asked. No head-flipping, no attempts at bucking, no blatantly ignoring my right leg entirely, no overreacting to any leg pressure, no squealing. He stayed on the same lopey pace for all of it. Eli of 2018 came back.
I can’t decide how relieved I should feel, because we can’t be certain the rice bran was what turned him into a bit of an ogre. It’s just the one thing we could tack down as being different, so we’re guessing that’s what did it. But maybe not. We could be overlooking something else, I don’t know. The next thing I may try to get some meat on him, other than the increased grain (the “grain” is a locally-made, alfalfa-based, fortified pellet) ration, will be supplements, but I’d like to give Eli a week before experimenting with that to see how he feels under saddle sans rice bran. And maybe the increased ration will be enough.
I have heard anecdotes of alfalfa making horses “hot” but rice bran? Anybody else have a similar experience?
For this week, I will try the canter poles stuff with Eli one more day and hopefully get it less awkward.