I had an email from Isha's owner earlier in the week and it deserved a blog post of its own. She is saying something that I wholeheartedly believe and which I have seen time and time again with horses here.
"Took Isha out for an hour yesterday and today, mostly roads with a little bit of lane work, she's picking her way around the rocky areas and tucking into the hedge to get onto softer ground when its rough underfoot but is stomping along beautifully on the roads. Very calm, very happy with a long swinging stride, and stretching out really well on the way home
She is a totally different horse to the Isha of last couple of years, I think she has been very uncomfortable in her feet for a long time as her attitude today and yesterday was that of the happy go lucky 5 year old I remember from the past. I don't actually think she's been right for the past 3 years but has been putting on a brave face, I am still on a massive learning curve but the most important thing I have learnt this year is, above everything else, listen to your horse. Tense, spooky and explosive behavior is saying 'help me, something is wrong!' Seems so blooming obvious looking back, its hard when experienced horse people and professionals give so many reasons for bad behavior and usually not one the 'solutions' actually address the cause of the problem."
So often horses come here having developed "bad habits"- or are described as being "sharp". Others, like Isha, have reacted to long periods of box rest by becoming explosive. What I see repeatedly is that once these horses are more comfortable, of course their behaviour improves. It IS obvious, with hindsight, but sometimes harder to recognise while it is going on, especially if its crept up on horse and owner gradually over time.
ETA: Some brilliant insights in the comments below - well worth a read...