My mare has been letting me know that she's not happy by flattening her ears and baring her teeth when I saddle up. As she is a chestnut, she is already thin skinned, and due to my bad judgment I was riding her in a saddle that didn't fit properly for a while.
These issues were fixed by getting a saddle fitter out and buying a new saddle that fit, and of course doing the girth up is a slow gentle process but well worth it. So to have that very unhappy mare back was not pleasant. I put it down to the fact I was riding a lot more often, as my instructor was leaving town, and I wanted to get as many lessons in as possible. I have to say, that she has the patience of a saint, because most days I'm fairly sure my brain was frozen solid. Since she has left and I continue on on my own, I have many doh moments, where it all becomes clear and I wonder why I didn't get it!
I asked a very trusted friend to come look at my girl and tell me what she sees. My friend, like myself, is into the entire holistic approach and hasn't seen Em for awhile.
The first thing she picked without touching her was that her hooves were being cut wrong, the wear at the front edge was uneven, and that there was too much flare, something sadly I had become blind to.
She then touched her pol and Em near on had kittens, she was so sore. My friend taught me basic upkeep massage, and some strength building stretches, such as girth stretches and butt stretches. We spent an 1 1/2 hours on her that morning, and I massaged for 1/2 hour that night. Wow the difference in Em was amazing, you could see the pain had lessened greatly, her eye had softened completely.
Today I rode, we still had some issues saddling up, but no where near as bad as the day before. I have been doing the carrot stretches for a week now and you can see the difference. When I started Em could only bend to just beyond her shoulder, now she can go as far as her flanks. The between the leg stretch has improved also, she can now reach about half her body length.
Tonight I was standing in her yard talking to one of the other persons who stables there, and Em was standing to my left touching me gently. The lady's daughter climbed on the railing in front of Em. Her rug was hanging on the rail beside her, she put her ears back and grabbed her rug and pulled it towards the girl. I told her she was standing in Em's spot and needed to move, which she did. Em was happy again and allowed the same girl to pat and kiss her. Em has never acted like this before, and the only thing I can put it down to is, the massaging. We have a strong bond already, but I sincerely believe that with the massaging and the listening, I have managed to develop an even deeper bond with her.
My friend is going to get her hooves right, which should stop the back pain, but I will continue to massage as it builds deeper trust between us both. I encourage you to learn how to touch your horse in a way that has nothing to do with work and enjoy the bond it builds.