A Little Background
I acquired Cinnamon back in February 2019, as she was going to be the perfect lesson and trail horse. The man I got her from had ridden her all over Mexia, Texas, taking her down the county roads and even highways. She’d been to town and through drive-thrus. She was exactly what I was looking for.
Unfortunately, just a week after bringing her home, our neighbor’s stallion realized he was able to jump the fence. The result, in addition to quite a bit of property damage, was a broken tail for Cinnamon. She was unable to lift it, was very sore in her withers, neck and hips.
With a broken tail, there’s not much you can do, so we let her heal and had her adjusted by a chiropractor. While the adjustment helped tremendously, she became very agitated with day to day handling and was living in constant fear of pain.
In May, I began working with her again, just lightly in the round pen. The focus with her was quiet and low impact. She was ridden a few times in the round pen and the arena, but mainly on a lunge line while in the arena. She then had two months off in the summer to do nothing but be a horse. She transformed magnificently over the summer, putting on a ton of weight and her attitude improved significantly as well. However, she is a textbook for equine body language and has the mare stare down to a T. Saying that, you do have to be cautious and head her warnings at times.
Project Cinnamon Begins
One of our previous students, Hannah, has begun riding with us again as part of the Riders Up! program. Hannah is very eager to learn and is incredibly empathetic. While she loves riding, she is also very interested in the training side of things, so as a working student, Hannah and I are going to be working with Cinnamon on a weekly basis and experimenting with methods to help relieve some of her pain and overcome some of her emotional issues. We are calling it “horse therapy on the horse that needs therapy”!
This week, Hannah and I experimented with some essential oils to start. We tried out Young Living’s T-Away. This oil is for animals that have fear or trauma. Cinnamon has definitely had her fair share of trauma. She wasn’t very interested in this particular oil, but they do say that if you’re turned off by one, you probably need it most.
Another essential oil blend we used was Peace & Calming. We let her smell it but also applied it to her poll. We want her to have a peaceful and calm attitude about life in general but especially when we’re working with her.
Finally, we topped it off by applying Deep Relief to her withers and hindquarters. Deep Relief is a blend of oils that includes peppermint.
Once she was all oiled up, we saddled her with the dressage saddle and a Back on Track saddle pad. Back on Track products are made so that they generate heat and help loosen up muscles. I have used this pad on her several times and as soon as she starts to warm up, she begins stretching her back and it really relaxes her. More than anything, I think this pad helps any wither pain she might have. Hannah worked on lunging her in the round pen in a very calm fashion. Instead of taking her in and trying to wear her out, which she doesn’t need, we focus on steady gaits with a nice working walk and then the occasional trotting.
Hannah and I both recognized that her left leg was moving differently than her right. She brings that hoof more inward than straight, so that suggests to me that she’s either compensating for some pain or she needs another chiro adjustment. We do know from the last farrier visit, that she doesn’t like her right leg pulled forward for rasping, so things started to add up after yesterday’s work with her.
After several trips around the round pen, we brought the mounting block to her and Hannah laid across the saddle, gently as a test to see what Cinnamon thought about it. She was actually very non-reactive, but we did decide not to push things. The other thing we did was massage her hindquarters while we had the mounting block there, which she did seem to appreciate as she let out a big sigh.
Not only was this a great session for Cinnamon, Hannah was able to learn a lot about body language and the signs of acceptance and relaxation that a horse provides whether it be stretching, sighing or licking their lips.