Yesterday was the first time I got to see Ben after our vet visit- which was on Thursday. I noticed a dramatic change- and even those around me did too.
Ben has always been fairly quiet, and easy. No one has had any major problems wit him, and in general he's been a joy. But I had been starting to notice some little things come up- the head tossing being one of them, being spookish here and there, a little nervous in his stall, etc. He was also doing this thing where he couldn't make up his mind- he'd put his head down as if he wanted you to pet him, but then he'd quickly take it away before you have the chance to touch him.
I attributed most of that to his age, feed, lack of work, and lack of movement when he's turned out, the combination of things that could make a horse a little bit extra spicy this time of year. But now, I'm thinking differently.
Yesterday, I got my sweet, loving gelding back. Ben was so calm and cuddly- he WANTED to be pet all over his face, he really wanted to be groomed, and he was very quiet for it all. The barn staff mentioned that the last couple of days he's been chewing better too. Overall, he seemed much more comfortable in his skin, and around people. Very confident, happy, and solid- just like your typical standardbred. I feel like I got my horse back, a horse I didn't fully recognize that was gone.
He's never been naughty while working, or even just particularly naughty in general. He has shown some signs of discomfort or even just stress about things- like bridling, and then the whole girth/saddle issue I posted about a few days ago. All these things we've worked through as training issues, and while in the back of my mind I suspected some discomfort at the root of it, never full attributed the behavior to that. In truth, his dental issues were likely causing him pain and stress, and as a result I was seeing small behaviors come out that were his way of coping/responding to it, behaviors that were completely opposite of his general nature. So the result was that I had a nice, quiet horse that was acting out here and there. Working through it reminded him of his manners, but never really solved the problem.
Its like we didn't even realize what was missing until it was there.
So, once again folks, listen to your horse.