I have to say that a lot has changed in the last month. Groundwork lessons with our new trainer, Katerina (who goes by Ponti Kriti on social media), have gone incredibly well. After just two sessions with her, there was a tremendous difference in Ria’s overall attitude. We still have work to do, but Ria hasn’t had any more “panic attacks” since starting the new training, which is a huge step forward. She is much easier to calm down once she gets a little anxious now and just seems to be a much happier, more relaxed horse. It’s been so rewarding to see her like this, particularly when I’ve had numerous people tell me that Ria would “always have a lot of anxiety” and that that was “just who she is.”
A new style of training
Much of this training has involved becoming “attuned” (as several great trainers call it, including Warwick Schiller and Katerina) to Ria’s thoughts and body language. The general idea is that when horses feel like you understand what they’re trying to communicate, much of their anxiety and concern falls away. Ria has really responded to this sort of training, along with general positive reinforcement training with rewards like treats and praise.
A new home
Ria moved to a new farm at the end of April, which is a beautiful little place in southern Maryland with just eight stalls. While, unfortunately, this place is further from home for me, it has impeccable care, which is incredibly important to me. I get photos of Ria from the barn owner and manager on a regular basis, and I know she has Ria’s best interests at heart. She has also been wonderful and patient with helping Ria make the transition from a dry lot to the lovely grassy paddocks they have. Already, Ria has become great friends with her next door stall-mate Ollie, who has also been her pasture companion.
New health updates
I had Ria checked out last week by the new vet, as Katerina suggested that Ria looked slightly off behind. After a thorough evaluation and some x-rays, we discovered that Ria has very mild kissing spine (grade 1 of 4). The vet indicated that this shouldn’t affect her performance long term, but it’s something to keep an eye on and continue to work on improving her topline. The vet also mentioned (as the farrier had recently) that Ria may need to get hind shoes, as the soles of her rear feet are pretty thin. My guess is that was due to the bluestone surface of the dry lots from the previous barn, so hopefully things are already improving with the change to a grassy surface.
And maybe a new saddle fitting
I’m also having a saddle fitter out next week to make sure that Ria’s saddle still fits her, as her body has changed a lot since she was last fitted in December. In addition, I’m looking into a number of options to upgrade her half-pad to something that would be more supportive for a horse with kissing spine. Once those items have been taken care of, I expect to be back in the saddle on a more regular basis. I think Ria is better able to cope with her anxiety under saddle now, so hopefully we won’t have any more bucking fits.
Overall, I’m thrilled with how the past month has gone and look forward to the next one!
To read the previous update on Ria (AKA Sevilla Sangria) click here.
Submitted by Lauren Floyd, WVS club member