I'm hoping that I've found the source of Mac's hesitancy in the saddle. I was noodling (get it, Macaroni...noodling) about what the situation could be and I was wondering if maybe he's got a bit of a tummy ache.
Since fence-gate we put Mac in the front pasture because the repaired fence isn't 100% (Skipper is out there now and he's harmless when it comes to fence damage...probably because he can't see anything!) and we don't want to put him out there until it gets properly fixed. I think I may have mentioned this but the front pasture is haunted. I really don't know why, but the horses always seem to get freaked out over there. Maybe it is noises coming from the neighbors' house. Maybe it is critters in the bushes. Maybe it is the Indian burial ground that the run-in shed was built on. In any event, despite the yummy grass, it is a spooky place to be.
I started thinking that Mac might have a tummy ache. He has been eating his hay well but he hasn't been wandering all over the pasture like he should and I wondered if he hadn't been drinking enough water, what with the proximity of the water trough to the Indian burial ground.
I took him out for a short ride on Friday - he did the biting-at-the-leg thing when I first got on and we were walking out to the trail. We weren't turning right, we were just going straight, and I was only asking him to walk. Since I hadn't been able to determine the source of his irritation the other day when I got off and on and off and on I figured if it was muscular then a short walk in a straight line shouldn't be too much trouble. I wasn't going to ask him for anything strenuous, and he likes trail riding so I figured if he was feeling sour toward arena work then this would be a nice alternative.
When he hesitated and didn't want to go forward I gave him a tap with the whip and that pretty much stopped that behavior. We walked down the ditch, up the street to the neighbor's house (which is right above us and where there's a trail to our house that is now closed off) and then turned around and came home. During this ride when turning right I didn't get any of the biting-at-the-leg behavior so the turning right theory is out, I guess.
But what did happen is that he dragged me to the ditch, put his front feet in the water (which was scary because his front feet were a lot lower than his hind feet which were up on the ditch and I didn't know if he was going to just try to jump in so all feet would be in the water or somehow back out) and GULPED water. That led to my theory that he's not drinking enough water.
Since I was worried that he wasn't drinking enough I wanted to put him somewhere that I know isn't haunted and that the water trough is easy to get to. I put him in "the strip" pasture. The strip is where we've been piling our manure. Ok, back up. There was a small pasture next to the strip where we've been piling our manure and since I started spreading the manure pile a couple weeks ago I realized I needed more room to maneuver the tractor so I took that fence line out so now the small pasture and the strip are one. Back to the strip. I put Mac out there and he seemed very happy. Went straight to grazing and would not give me the time of day. He found the water trough and had a nice drink so I left him alone. This pasture shares a fence line with the triangle so he had Pippa for company.
That night we put him back out in the front pasture because I still had one section of fence line to take out in strip and Colin had to get in there with the tractor to move some rocks in preparation for me spreading the rest of the manure pile. This was a good chance to test my theory of not drinking enough.
Yesterday Mac got the day off from riding but I did want to groom him in the barn, work on his feet, and get him into the stall since that's where his dental work will be done on Tuesday. So, I did all that and when I got him into the stall he went straight for the water bucket and gulped it down. Ok. Took him outside to the barn pasture and led him to the water trough there and again he took a big drink of water.
So I think my theory is right in that he's just not drinking enough in the front pasture and I think that makes his tummy hurt.
I left him in the barn pasture, put Paddy in the triangle, and put Pippa back in the barn while I finished spreading the manure pile and removing the last remnants of the fence line. Mac seemed quite happy out there and walked around, grazed, ate his lunch, and watched what I was doing.
So now I have a pasture with composted manure spread out, waiting to be tilled and seeded, and a horse who is in there because he's afraid of the boogey man. At least there is some grass there in the areas where I didn't spread the manure, so there is plenty for him to eat and lots of room for him to stand in non-manure-dirt areas.
You can see Mac in the bottom left of the picture - there's lots of grass to be had still even though there's also lots of poo dirt.
He does seem to be quite happily grazing!
I'll try to get on him today for a short ride down the ditch again and see if I can notice any difference in his behavior. I'm hoping that I found what the problem was!