Poor old Magic really doesn’t deserve the random freak accidents that are forever happening to him.
The handsome dude has been behaving really well, actually. For the first year or so that I had him, I was so thrilled with his jump that I spent most of our time jumping, the higher the better. While it was awesome fun, I don’t think it was the best thing for his education. His technique is quite sloppy. Because of his natural ability, he can jump the heights we’ve done from any distance, often pushing off with only one hindleg and dangling his front hooves a little. This might not affect him at 80cm, but if we’re going to go upwards of 1.30m one day, he needs to jump properly. Good habits are best trained early, of course, so right now we’re not pushing the height too much and doing a few little grids and small courses to build both our technique and confidence.
Our confidence has definitely improved. A month or two ago, when I was being terrified of him and he was trying to save me by jumping everything three times higher than necessary, I would start our sessions with 30cm crosses and consider it a success if we made 70cm. It was, but we’ve both rediscovered a little trust in one another and are now jumping 60-80cm most sessions. I am still learning to ride him because he is so sensitive, but I’ve figured out that the softer and slower we approach a jump, the better. This may sound obvious, but I’m used to Arwen and Reed who like a strong ride to the jump; it’s often better to gallop them to a jump than to take a deep or cautious distance. Magic is a bit of a pussy in that he only jumps properly from exactly the right distance, but he is also very willing and doesn’t need to be chased at a scary jump to ensure he jumps it. Chasing him only seems to make him nervous and causes him to overjump. This doesn’t mean I can just sit there, though. I have to give him a very balanced and quiet ride to the jump, but I also have to give him a massive amount of room with my hands. He is very fussy about his mouth and really hates it if I get left behind and accidentally give him a pull. While he still clears everything and nearly never puts his back legs down into a jump (he hates taking rails), he does charge at the next fence quite nervously and throw his face into the air.
The best part is actually that he has overjumped once or twice with me lately, usually out of my own error or just because we’re trying harder things which inevitably brings out a stress reaction, and we have both been able to cope with it. Even if I have a bit of a wobble, I can put it behind me and ride confidently to the next jump.
I’ve also shifted our focus onto flatwork. Magic doesn’t like flatwork much, but he needs to refine it, especially if we’re going to event. There are a few significant holes in his training, so I’m pretty much schooling him as if he was a dressage horse – starting with all the prelim stuff and slowly adding in bits from the novice tests. He has become a lot less panicky about his mouth, particularly as I’m concentrating really hard on my contact with him, and now does even trot-halt transitions without flailing.
I have to be very careful not to be too strict with him, which is weird. The horses I normally work with take a lot of chances and need to be kept in line, but Magic never does; he genuinely tries his best and scolding him only freaks him out, poor sweet dude, and when he’s freaked out he’s a total idiot. Bit of a delicate flower, that one.
So we were making all this awesome progress and getting him less worried about his mouth and then today while I was unwrapping his legs he rubbed his face on the fence, which I actually never let him do, and his bit got caught. Of course Magic freaked and leapt back like his mouth was on fire, causing his headpiece to snap and the bit to swing loose through his mouth. He ran a few steps while I walked after him speaking to him and then froze and stood there whinnying for no apparent reason. The poor guy shoved his head worriedly against me when I got there, so maybe he is starting to trust me after all.
I was instantly stressed about his mouth. He let me prise his lips open and there it was, Magic’s latest freak accident injury: one of his tushes had been broken. The top seemed to have been snapped off and was hanging by a thread and bleeding. My stomach did a little somersault of sympathy, but he didn’t seem to be in a lot of pain, so I gave him a little piece of carrot to see if he could eat (he could) and phoned the Mutterer.
I was pretty much ready to call in vets and dentists and all sorts of expensive people, but luckily the Mutterer saved the day by snipping off the piece of broken tooth with a pair of pliers and recommending an injection of penicillin. Thankfully, the root is undamaged – only the tip is broken off – and Magic seems to have forgotten all about it. Thank God (no really, thank Him) it’s only a tush. Tushes (canine teeth) are never used to eat with; found mostly in male horses, they’re used only by stallions in serious fights. Since Magic is not a stallion and doesn’t fight with anyone anyway, I don’t think he’s going to miss it.
Poor sweet guy. I’m starting to love him even more now.