Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Outstanding Ride on Red, Saddle Fit, Trailer Repairs . . .

A lot happened today, most of it very good.

I took my 4-horse gooseneck - a Featherlite - in for service this week.  I asked them to repack the bearings, but to also check it over for anything else that needed fixing: tires, brakes, electrical, condition of floor, etc.  It turns out that the brakes were in need of serious maintenance, so that got done - it costs some money - likely $600-700 - but well worth it.  Everything else was good - I've had the trailer for 8 years, so I'm not surprised it needed some major maintenance.  Better to find this sort of thing out when it's in the shop instead of when it's on the road.

Today I had an outstanding ride with Red.  Our session started with him nickering/whinneying to me as I went to get him out of the pen, and he came to the gate to great me.  I think this is the first time he's really greeted me when food wasn't involved - I was pretty pleased by that.  Heather said he'd been pretty feisty yesterday, with some head shaking and crow-hopping - she'd given him a day off and it was windy and chilly, so she got off and did some ground work with him.  After he'd worked off some steam, he was good for her ride.

Everything about our ride today was good, from the moment I got on.  He was reliably soft at the walk and trot, and his halt and back were as perfect as they could be.  There was almost no bracing at any point - his head did pop up a bit on a couple of early walk/trot transitions, but he didn't brace and the head popping up stopped almost immediately - I just ignored it and kept on working.  The quality of his trot was amazing - big and strong and engaged, with lovely softening and a real live connection with the reins.  That was going so well that we moved up to canter - we did little canter work last year since I had my accident in June, didn't ride until August, then he developed EPM, then it was winter (with no indoor at the old barn).  The canter work was very good from the start - it's a bit easier for him on the left lead, but the right lead isn't bad at all, and we had almost no bracing and some very nice softening work from the start.  And the quality of his gaits is amazing - his canter is big, and round, and engaged. All I had to do to get really nice canter/trot transitions, where the forward was preserved, was just exhale while thinking the new rhythm. It was just all around lovely!

 Red's looking very good - lean and fit and his summer red coat is really glowing.  At long last, his corneal ulcer on his left eye seems to be starting to heal up - I brought him a new fly mask to wear in his paddock.  Heather and I agreed that he's a real blast to ride, since he's so sensitive and athletic - not always the easiest horse but a very fine one. Red would be about ready to go home with me at this point, but the Mark Rashid clinic is in about 3 weeks, so I'll be leaving him with Heather until then since he's already up there - less stress for him.

Then, after sharing an apple with Red, I drove home and rode Dawn and Pie.  Dawn, unusually for her, had some fill in both hind legs - not sure what that's about as she never stocks up - but walked and trotted sound on the lunge, so we had a quick 30-minute ride with only walk and trot work.  She worked very well, and the swelling was reduced when we were done.  Before I rode, I adjusted the saddle fit - she's been telling me for the past few days by shaking her head and snarking that the saddle wasn't right, and when we cantered, the pad was working its way under the saddle even though the girth was snug - a sign of bad fit.  Somehow, the saddle and shimmed Mattes pad that used to fit her no longer does - I expect she's developed some more back muscles and that's throwing things off - she's naturally a bit downhill and the lift in the back is throwing the saddle down and forward.  I added two more small felt shims to the front pockets on the Mattes pad - we're up to three shims on each side now - and that seemed to do the trick.  "Her snarkiness" was much less so, so we must be on the right track!

Pie and I had a quick 20-minute vigorous walk work session.  He's improving neurologically - he's on day 7 of his EPM treatment.  His backing is almost normal again, he does the turning test well in both directions with good hind leg crossover, and he's starting to really resist putting his hind legs in the wrong position in the foot placement test, and corrected both hinds on his own pretty quickly.  I'll likely lunge him to watch him trot before doing it under saddle, but we're very close to that, I think.

It was a very good day with horses!

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