Monday, February 1, 2016

Inching along

It turns out that starting a new job takes up a lot of time.  While I have been getting out to the barn quite a bit, I basically work, ride and sleep.  Oh, also it turns out that just because you doctor has released you to do things at 6 weeks post op, it doesn't mean that you are magically 100% healed and can do all the things you want. Boo.

 For now I think weekly progress reports are plenty since we are bringing this horse along very, very slowly and how many times can you say "worked on the same things we have been working on, saw no/incremental/much improvement"?
But always handsome

The best news is that he really does show slow but steady improvement pretty much all the time.  Two months in and we haven't had much in the way of regression.  Sure we hit what look like plateaus but he is clearly still learning as evidenced by the ensuing leaps forward.

So where are we at?

Contact - Nothing drastically different here but I have seen a reduction in the mouth gaping and head tilting.  Watching some video I have taken you can tell he still tends to open his mouth when someone has a decent feel but nothing my trainer is concerned about.  As for the head tilting,  we are meeting in the middle.  He is offering it less and we are finding ways to use contact that don't invite it as much.  Again, nothing magical just finding the correct pressure in the outside rein to not encourage it.  And some days are better than others
Mild mouth open, otherwise looking fairly good

Trot quality - I had a great lesson on Saturday where for about 4 strides I actually felt his back lift up underneath me.  It was a lovely feeling.  Overall he is still improving rhythm and consistency.  We are definitely not there yet, tying into contact we have lots of changes in head position (I giraffe?  I root? why aren't any of these things what you want human??) and changes in speed.  But we have gone from holding a good trot for just a step or two up to maybe 4 or 5 steps.

He doesn't really have a "bad" trot in there, the closest he gets is when he gets speedy and discombobulated but he responds really well to the half halt to re-combobulate.  So much of this is fine tuning.

Lateral aids - Between learning and his stifles working better, he is getting much sharper off the lateral aids.  Unsurprisingly, there is still a tendency to assume leg equals faster, especially as our go button has become so sensitive, but we can definitely move our butt in and out much better now.

In some ways, this has made him a little harder to ride.  Straight was easier when the butt just followed the front, now it feels like everything is operating independently and needs specific instructions!  But it is pretty cool to feel your horse unlocking too.

Turns on the forehand have been a big part of getting this progress so far.

Canter - I think to an outsider this would mostly still look like a disaster under saddle, unless you saw us a couple months ago.  Then you might call us a slightly less ugly disaster.  Most of the focused canter work has been on the longe, although my trainer and I think we are ready to start adding more under saddle.  But having a person up there definitely makes it harder for him.  Huge improvements have been made in transitions.

First, he picks up both leads now.  Pretty consistently.  He also canters off when requested or with a very short delay and not 15-30 seconds later.  In fact, that pendulum has swung hard. Sometimes we accidentally assume canter when that has not even been requested.  The transitions have become straighter as opposed to what I assume is a track habit of either swinging the butt over or making our whole body kind of diagonal to the wall.

He does still swap in back, almost always when tracking right and usually when he loses rhythm or straightness.  Which doesn't take long.  As expected, now that he can pick up his left lead he actually prefers it and everything is worse/harder to the right.  So to the left we can go all the way around in something that I believe resembles canter, but to the right there it is only halfway around, sometimes less.

The main goal for us is to ask for trot before it falls apart of course.  The training rides are more consistent at doing this than I am, shockingly.

So all in all, just moving along.  Lest I look back at this and think he is perfect in every way instead of just most ways, we do still have some temper tantrums.  Sometimes during saddling the ears go back and the head flips- sometimes even during grooming.  Under saddle, after standing awhile or walking, going back to work is met with resistance.  A little kick out or foot stomp.  And occasionally when the human applies right leg the same resistance is worth a try.  So not quite perfect.  Yet!  But working on it ;)

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