Spending every day with your horse can sometimes mean that you miss subtle changes in both their behavior and in their performance. We get so used to seeing them move a certain way or paw when we brush their belly that we can miss clear indications of pain or unhappiness. Groom to the stars, Max Corcoran, is no stranger to analyzing every little detail of a horse’s program to determine the cause of an issue, and she's back for the second installment of her two-part series. “It’s so easy to not pick up on that if you’re the one riding it every day,” she says. “You don’t notice the change because it’s happened very slowly over a period of time.”
Bring in a New Set of Eyes
If your horse isn’t his usual self, it can be helpful to ask someone who doesn’t see him every day to evaluate the way he moves under saddle or acts in the cross ties. “I always ask if anything has changed in its program recently, even something small. Sometimes we forget if turnout has changed or if the turnout buddy has changed,” says Max. “You never know. How does he feel when you ride him? I always watch them get ridden and sometimes when you ride them so much, you don’t notice those subtle little changes.”
Related: Older But Not Out - How Daniel Duesser's Cornet D'Amour Proves There's No Such Thing As 'Past Your Peak'
Don’t Forget to Switch Things Up
If a horse starts displaying new behaviors in the ring or on the ground, chances are, something in his regular program isn’t working. “A lot of times, behavioral issues start coming up for horses that aren’t happy,” says Max. “They start getting nappy, they start getting sour and something needs to change. Some pattern of their world needs to change.”
"Sometimes when you ride them so much, you don’t notice those subtle little changes"
Your Horse Might Not Actually be Sour
Some horses put on a tough facade, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they have an attitude. Max agrees: “I know some horses who pretend to be real grumpy and they just sort of learn this weird defense mechanism. There are some that they’ve just learned to be defensive somewhere in their life, [maybe] when they were young horses because something was bad for them and that’s how they learned to tell everyone to back off.” If that’s the case for your horse, shift the narrative from “grumpy” to “quirky”.
Photos by Thomas Reiner.