Sunday, December 9, 2012

Back in the Swing of Things, with Pasture Visits

Today was a rainy, drizzly, dreary day with a high around 40F.  But I was feeling better, so all four of us were back in the swing of things.

I had a very fine ride on Dawn in the morning - it was about 30F at that point in the indoor.  She was more relaxed than yesterday, and we did some very nice work at walk, trot and canter.  She was even able to do some nice relaxed, although very forward, trot work after her canter sets.  I worked very hard on having a soft, allowing contact, and that allowed her to offer some really nice softness on both canter leads.  She's a horse who always tries very hard to please, and I need to honor that with my full attention and softness.

After I rode Dawn, I went out into the pasture to say hi to Pie and Red - I often do this when I'm not bringing them in to ride as I think it helps our relationships, and I really enjoy seeing them during the day.  Red always comes to say hi, but a new thing in the past several days is that Pie has also come right up to me to say hi, seeming happy to greet me - this is very nice as he has always been very standoffish.  I also greet many of the the other horses in the mare and gelding pasture whenever I'm out there.  Although I never have treats, many of the horses, even the hard to catch or nervous ones,  take the time to come up to me and put their muzzles in my cupped hands for a minute for a greeting - I know all their names and say hello to them - it's a part of my day I enjoy a lot.  Some of them I have to shoo off as they tend to follow me around.

In the afternoon, Red and Pie were back in action as well.  I put Red on the lunge before I rode him - the first time in about 10 days.  He's continuing to improve - the trot to the left was completely sound, and to the right, unless you were looking very closely and knew his history you would likely have said he was sound as well, but I detected just the barest hint of a shorter stride with the left hind, but it might have been my imagination since I was looking so hard.  And this was on a fairly small circle.  I was more than delighted!  Red and I do very little groundwork, and it was a major issue for him when I got him.  Today, our tracking left to tracking right transitions were very smooth - I just take a step or too towards the inside of the circle and then shift my body and shoulders in the new direction and he turns and redirects smoothly - but the right to left ones were sticky - he tended to stop and face up.  I'm pretty sure this was a defect in my body position/orientation - next time we lunge I'll pay close attention to that.

After our short lungeing session, I got on and we did some vigorous walk work for about 30 minutes.  His attention, bending and softness were excellent, and his walk was big and swinging.  It was delightful!  Tomorrow we'll walk again, and then the next day if he's still looking good on the lunge, we'll try a bit of trot under saddle and see if his soundness holds.

Pie and I had a really excellent session as well.  First, I cleaned up a wound on his neck right behind his  throatlatch - he got this wound several days ago and it hasn't been healing up as well as I'd like - I think it's getting irritated by his eating hay from the outdoor feeders.  I used some surgical scrub and really worked on it to remove all the ickiness - the wound is small but in an awkward location.  Today he's got what seems to be a swollen gland just next to the wound area.  I looked at the wound closely, as did two other boarders, and none of us saw any evidence of a puncture wound or other problem that would cause an adjacent abscess.  I'll be keeping a close eye on it.  So far Pie seems to feel fine and is eating and drinking well, and when I touch the swollen area, it's firm and although he reacts to my touch, it's more as if it is itchy rather than painful.

Pie's canter work is coming along very rapidly.  His departures are now prompt and much smoother, and he is able to do a very nice, not rushed canter.  I've been starting each set of canter work on a fairly loose rein, and allowing him to set pace and posture, working on maintaining rhythm and relaxation.  His "starting" canter is fairly slow in tempo, and relaxed - his head isn't inverted but he's not really engaging or softening - it's an easy canter without much effort on his part.  But it's a very good place to start, and we do several laps so he can relax and breath before I ask him for more.  I've been working on helping him through the corners by "riding right (or left)" with my upper body and thought, while directing him to bend with my inside rein and inside leg, and being sure not to block his bend with my outside leg - it's neutral unless we're circling across the arena where he needs some support from my outside leg.  His "starting" canter is very smooth and comfortable.  After he's cantered for a while, I begin to ask for some softness and elevation - he's able to do this now for a while on both leads, although he has to speed up a bit for now to do it.  This is not a problem, and will work itself out as our canter work progresses - one thing at a time.

I told all three horses how wonderful they were after each ride, and I think they felt pretty good about things themselves.

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