After finishing all Exavior’s groundwork in the beginning of the year, I turned him out somewhere in mid-March to go grow up. The dude was only two years old and had his saddle, bridle, long-lining and voice commands all in place; there was nothing left to do except get on, and his brain had cooked. So I forgot him in a field for six months. It was longer than I had intended, but that’s just how the logistics worked out, especially with him being a colt and starting to really act like it.
Then in the middle of September we squashed him into a horsebox (seriously, you guys, it is scary how much space he takes up in his partition compared to the ponies) and shipped him off to the vet’s to be gelded. This turned out to be a very impressive thing to see. I’m used to the rural vets, who sedate it, anesthetise it, lie it down and then tie up the legs very securely before they start any cutting. This vet did him standing, and it was amazing. Because the horse was actually still on his feet (and thus presumably could still kick if he was so inclined) it was virtually impossible to work on him if he could feel anything, so the whole experience was pretty much pain-free for him. The most traumatic part was putting a catheter in his vein because of somebody being incredibly needle-shy, but they got it done (and after seeing how much fun he was to inject, sent me home with a tube of local for next time I have to do it). It was all over and done in an hour and we could take him home.
For the next week, I had instructions to lunge him for 20 minutes twice a day. This on a horse that hadn’t even seen a lunge line for the past six months. My preparation, as you can clearly see, was woefully inadequate, but we got it done. I had to lunge him in the field because he was still quite the stallion and couldn’t be safely brought down to the ring amongst the mares, but he surprised me by being quite manageable. And within about six or seven days his attitude completely changed. Suddenly and magically, he was my quiet baby horse again. He didn’t bite, he didn’t fuss when you groomed him, he didn’t call to other horses and he certainly didn’t rear up in hand. You guys, there is a reason why they call it brain surgery.
By the end of the week we were bringing him in to the ring in a headcollar like a normal average horse, not a psychotic warmblood stallion. And even before then, I was on him. I hadn’t realised exactly how much I’d been wanting to look between those particular ears until I saddled him up again for the first time, and as it turned out he lunged quietly with the saddle so I clambered up. I can tell you that after backing Midas (13.1hh), the view from up there was quite different. It is a terribly long way down! But he was as quiet as they come. Probably one of the quietest I’ve ever had the first ride on.
In the next two sessions, the Mutterer assisted us with an amazingly simple quick fix (more on that later) to get Exavior to actually move, and then things were pretty much peachy. Within three more sessions we had whoa, go and turn without any drama. He does like to get stuck in reverse gear and wander backwards across the ring while I kick and kick, but I’ll take it over doing handstands any day. I was fairly convinced that this horse was going to kill me during his first rides so I am one hundred percent content with the miracle monster.
It’s incredible how quickly we bonded. We’d never been really close like this before, but the better he behaved the more I trusted him and the more I trusted him the more I actually had hope for our future together and the more I hoped the more effort I put into him and the better he behaved. Soon I was looking forward to our sessions instead of fearing them, and he was asking for ear scratches instead of trying to bite my arm off. It follows, of course, that just after I had fallen head over heels for this horse, he became suddenly and spectacularly ill. (This appears to be a requirement for all my own pet horses – Skye did it, Magic did it, and now this monstrosity has done it). Naturally, since it was my own horse, I the practical and coolheaded yard manager melted into a puddle of panicky mush. We rushed him to the vets, who gave him antibiotics and reassured me that my creature was not actually going to die. He brought it on himself, of course. If he would let us inject him he could have had more effective preventative antibiotics after his surgery and would probably never have gotten an infection, but he’s a horse, i. e. has the self-preservation of a lemming.
Either way, just as he got over his infection (like seriously, his first session back), he smacked his hindleg against the side of the lunging ring and lamed himself. Because horses. So he’s back on paddock rest again, but I have faith that he’ll be back in work before very long. And after that, well, with his miraculous journey so far, who knows where God will take us next?