I'm a pretty good problem solver. And I know that in general, when a horse starts to change their behaviour in a way that we perceive to be negative, it isn't because they just want to be an asshole about it. Something has changed.
Change can be as simple as not enough exercise, new turnout buddies, or weather. Or it could be due to no longer being comfortable with the equipment being used - saddle or bridle fit. And you always have to rule physical issues.
When it comes to trying to figure out why my horse's behaviour has changed, I generally try to figure out if I've changed anything first. Have I changed any equipment? Did I put my bridle back on the same holes when I cleaned it? A change in turnout pretty well guarantees some stress for a couple of weeks.
If the problem is under saddle, I likely have something to do with the problem. And if I sit square, and stop hanging on my left rein, the problem will probably go away.
If it doesn't go away when I ride properly, I'll probably try a couple of equipment changes, and usually with the goal of finding something softer and more comfortable. Harsher bits don't usually fix the problem.
If I've tried the above options, and I'm still not seeing progress, then it's time to call the vet. I've been around horses for a long time, so I have a pretty good idea on when it's safe to wait for a week or two, or if intervention is going to for sure be required, so let's get it going.
Phantom has taught me a lot about reading my horse for happiness. She has no qualms about letting me know when she is uncomfortable.
I am still learning how to read Cisco. I don't know what is normal for him yet, and what is just extra pep on a cool day.
But we have been experiencing one problem the last couple of weeks that I thought I want to nip in the bud before it becomes a real issue. He has been really antsy when I have been getting on.
The mounting step at the new place is placed in a corner of the arena. The human side is towards the center of the arena, so the horses have to walk into the corner and stand between the wall and the mounting block. It's a little tight in there.
Over the last 3 or 4 rides, Cisco has gotten worse about standing at the mounting block. I had thought that it was because he was rather up most days when we entered the arena, so didn't think too much of it. But then we had two rides where he trotted away from the block before I had a chance to get my right foot in the stirrup. Hmmmm. Definitely don't want this to continue.
I wondered if it was specific to that location. Maybe he felt too trapped in there?
For Wednesday's ride, I brought a smaller plastic step-stool from home that I could park anywhere in the arena and use to get on and test my theory. After leaving from home, and realizing that I had forgotten to grab said step-stool, thus having to turn around and grab it, I realized I could just turn the big wooden mounting block around so that the horse stood on the open side. Genius!
Was my theory right? Well, he wasn't worried about approaching the block, and stood pretty quietly when I got on. Maybe it was due to the heat, maybe it was because I lunged him first, or maybe it was because he was quieter in his brain than he had been the last few times. But maybe I figured out how to solve my first problem with him.