What in the world was I going to do with this horse?
The big dun mare had problems way beyond my experience. It was like she was a marionette with her strings cut.
I insisted on an evaluation from the vet.
He had me trot her around (I use the word trot very loosely) until I was as wobbly as she was.
DixieAnne wasn't lame. She wasn't sore. Her feet actually wore evenly. She didn't seem to be progressing, so he ruled out most illness. She was bright, alert and pretty happy. He finally came down to "undiagnosed neurological issues, probably due to injury."
Now there's a big fat heap of nothing.
We discussed her breeding. She was heavily line bred back to Poco Bueno. He was known to produce a lot of pacing quarter horses. Te vet wondered if this was part of her problem.
"This is not what I would call pacing," I pointed out.
"Mmmmm, no, me neither. There seems to be kind of a pace in there somewhere though."
"You know, if we're going to blame this on breeding we could go way back."
"What do you mean?" the vet asked.
"From what I understand some of the dinosaurs were so big they had more than one brain distributed in various parts of their bodies. So one brain could work one part and the other would work another."
"Uh, I'm not getting your point."
"DixieAnne might have more than one brain rolling around in there."
"I see," he began to laugh.
"...and they're fighting."
"It's as good as anything I've got, good luck with this one."
If that was all he had then I guess it was time to roll up my sleeves and get to work.
The first few weeks I planned to just ride around on her, thinking, feeling and generally being very confused. I tried to figure out what was actually happening with her. Which led us directly into teaching her some manners.
DixieAnne was a big galoot and had no interest in personal space. She was easy enough to catch, I have to give her that. I would walk into the broodmare pen and she would come shuffling, waddling, swaying over to me, on me, over me. All I had to do was stick out the halter and she would slap her face in it. Then the music would start and I'd start doing a pretty fancy impersonation of a clogger trying to keep my feet clear while I buckled her in.
DixieAnne would push into her halter, shoving at me with her head and cuddling up as close as she could. Her tongue would begin to wag, foam would start flying and she would lip me in wild affection. During the entire display of undying love she would wing those wonking feet in closer and closer to my own.
"She sure likes you," Marilee said.
Maybe so, but I felt more like the poor weenie guy that gets picked on by the outlaws in a spaghetti western than Roy and Trigger.
"C'mon little feller," DixieAnne seemed to say. "Ah think it's time for you to dance." Her feet were every bit as effective as any bad man's Winchester.
I ended up doing sort of a reverse Ray Hunt. I didn't teach her to join up, I took my longe whip with me and taught her to join the hell OFF.
I would go to her pen and drive her away from me. When she moved off a few feet I'd relax the pressure. When she moved in I put it back on her. There could be no steady pressure with Miss Dixie, she would immediately lean into it. I had to flick my whip, tap my fingers, kick her in the butt (very short kicks mind you), anything but give her a place to lean.
When I haltered her I would send her off the second I felt weight in my hands. When I saddled her I would move her three or four steps away from me every time she leaned into the pressure of the cinch. As I swung on board I would hang on her side and bump with my knee until she curled her ribs away and stepped away agin.
It took the butt of a crop to get her to truly understand that when I said off, I meant OFF! Always an optimist, I would give her the gentle touch I wanted her to respond to, followed with a firm bump with the end of the crop, followed with a steady poke, poke, poke until she would finally shift away.
As long as I never let her slide and always made her move at least three or four steps from me, things progressed slowly. If I let her go even an inch, it was like we were starting completely over.
When I rode her it was more of the same. Nothing worked on DixieAnne the way it should. Her head bobbed up and down and to the side. She shuffled, she jerked, she popped in the air. She couldn't hold a line or a circle. She was amazing.
One afternoon we were wandering around the arena. I would lift one rein and wait to see what happened. Bump, bump, bump, eventually she would turn and her nose would drop a bit. I switched to my leg. Bump, bump, bump, she didn't respond. Bump, bump, bump. She stepped in, she stepped out, she came into my leg and then tripped as she stepped out.
I had felt something though. I emptied my mind, and deepened my seat. I stated relaxed and simply focused on her crazy movement. I went back to bumping between hand and leg.
There. I felt it again.
DixieAnne had two, separate, different responses between shoulders and hind. She wasn't one crazy unit. She was two off balance ones. I shook my head. She really was a dinosaur. It certainly seemed DixieAnne was working off two brains.