Let's normalize time off for your horse
I recently started working on a young OTTB who was purchased by his current owner last spring. She mentioned he was very tight and tense, had difficulty with bending, difficulty with leads and was overall uncomfortable. Our first session included lots of movement on the cross-ties, biting, threatening to kick and trying to stomp on my feet. He was very tight in his front end with soreness along his back and hamstrings. His second session was the same. Before his first session his owner decided to stop riding him since he was uncomfortable and she wanted to find the reason. Instead of riding she would hand-walk, lunge, free-lunge, and do ground exercises.
Her decision not to ride did not go over well with other boarders. She received comments like: "Just give him bute", "He's an OTTB, it is just how they are", "You are losing all of that riding time", "He is just showing you he is boss."
Between massage sessions 2 & 3 the vet came out for an exam and she purchased a new saddle that was fitted to him. The owner started riding him a week prior to his third massage. Please note that this horse's overall diagnosis and issues don't change this story so I am leaving most of that part out. I arrived at the barn for massage session #3 and something was different; the tension in the air was gone. I finished massage and was shocked that he didn't threaten to kick, didn't move a muscle while I worked on him and decreased his biting and feet stomping. His body showed some positive changes like a decrease in front end tension and a decreased soreness in his back, but it was the attitude that really caught my attention. I believe his mind has a lot to do with his body anyways so this was the most important part on my end. What did this horse and owner accomplish by taking 2 months off of riding?
Answers, manners and an understanding of each other.
Through the vet and saddle fitting we found answers to issues the horse was having. Through ground-work the owner was able to teach the horse manners which he was lacking and an understanding of each other; how they speak and body language.
Everything done on the ground transfers to riding.
What would have happened if the owner pushed the horse through all of his antics? No progress, body compensation, an unhappy horse and an unhappy owner.
What would have happened if the owner didn't seek out massage, vet or saddle fitter AND pushed the horse through all of his antics? No progress, no answers, a negative attitude from the horse and an unhappy owner.
While your horse may have a negative behavior causing them to be difficult under saddle, there is a REASON for this behavior. Horses don't wake up that morning and decided not to behave. The time off for this horse and owner team paid off and they now have a direction to move forward in.