It seems I never learn.
The horse I was working on earlier this evening has always been sensitive. He is a thoroughbred, inclined to be compliant, but gets nervous easily (which he shows by developing instant diarrhea if pressured too much) and is sometimes restless and resistant.
He always has a good reason. But with monotonous regularity, I come to the conclusion that this time his fussiness is just him being stubborn. I am always wrong.
Today, he kept on and on talking to us about something. He leaned over and nosed his foreleg repeatedly. When I didn't get the message, he moved to the other foreleg. I knew he was talking to us, but did not figure out that - omg duh - he was talking to us about ..... his legs!!!!!
After completing work on his LF, it became virtually impossible to work on any of his other legs. I noticed he kept stretching his LF out in front of him. So we walked him around, and sure enough he was limping. (Note to self: forgoodnesssake, remember to always see them walk first.) Didn't seem to be the foot, as he was squarely weighting both heel and toe. So, we figured somewhere in the leg was sore. The owner got some liniment, and as she was rubbing it on, he gave a strong ouchy reaction whenever she rubbed the inside of his left knee.
Mea culpa. I should listen better.
Of course, as soon as we said, "Poor darling, we'll stop work for today," he kicked up his little heels and galloped off to join the other horses, but, well, I guess even injured horses have to keep up with the herd to avoid the carnivores and such. Sometimes I wish they thought that untrimmed feet were the equivalent of a hungry puma.
Very different is his pasture mate. A strong, dominant, stoic buckskin mare. She has a sore LH stifle, and if you insist on holding up her foreleg too long, she'll rear (politely) to get away. But if you give her every consideration, and listen to all her requests, she will go out of her way to cooperate and make it possible for you to work on all her feet. It probably is uncomfortable for her, but she does it anyway. No way you could force her to do it. We didn't start out this way, her and me, but she taught me to listen to her, and rewarded me for doing it.
The Thoroughbred today was so much more calm than he used to be. He didn't get anxious - he just kept talking to us about the problem. So I'm glad that at least he feels encouraged to communicate directly, despite our obtuseness. And anyway, I'm always glad when it turns out that it's just me being dumb again. I'd hate to find out that there really was such a thing as a stubborn horse.