Tuesday’s ride almost didn’t happen. I hadn’t been feeling well, but decided to ride at the last minute, and I’m so glad I did. It was close to feeding time, and at the other place Amber would let out the general extent of her mareness to me by being very unfocused and all over the place and calling. This time, I fed Whisper first, bridled Amber up and headed out. She was not the happiest about that, but she actually settled into her work pretty quickly.
It felt like Tuesday it might have finally clicked for her that our dressage work is still work. (Although I feel like she gets very excited about the days we do the baby jumps-that-aren’t-jumps and our outside hacks) She actually jumped into a good trot from the beginning. It was a little bit of her faster pace, but it didn’t feel bad. It felt….different. Which I know is very descriptive. But it didn’t feel like her usual lengthening huntssage, yet her body didn’t feel like a coiled spring. It felt somewhere in between with – dare I hope – a bit of actual lift and actual collection.
We of course didn’t have it all the time, but the fact that I think about half of the time we did have that was a really good indicator. And I think most of it came down to the fact that I changed a few things up with myself. I really tried to be more aware of my hands and create firmness in my wrists and remember that when I thought my thumbs were up, they weren’t nearly up enough. I also decided that I needed to up the contact. I prefer to be very light and let them stretch into my hand, but Amber already does that (almost too well) and I think that’s one of the reasons why we’ve been having some issues with consistent trot work. I think that’s also why I felt we had more lift and collection but still maintained a good forward stride.
Amber was very good with the increased contact. Sometimes I worry that since she’s had little to no prolonged contact for the past 5 years of her training life that if I up the contact she’ll get very confused and worried. But she handled it really well actually, so I don’t think I rushed anything.
I also actually remembered to squeeze with my thighs and point my toes forward most of the time. The only problem with that was now that I’m getting used to putting weight on my left hip, my right foot came loose of the stirrup a lot. But I got the right pressure a few times without letting my lower leg drift! Work in progress.
We worked on circles, staying straight, transitions in contact from walk to trot and trot to canter, and she did those well. I was expecting some shenanigans and I wasn’t really into the ride until I could tell she was really trying to focus, and so we ended up riding for 45 minutes instead of the 20 to 30 I thought we would.
Her canter is actually becoming really really nice. It’s still a bit of hassle at first – laughingly of course because every time we canter she always has to blow her nose. Each direction. Many many times lol. Which of course throws her off because she’s snorting so hard. So, while I’d like to be able to nab a good canter from the get-go, I’ll probably just relax on the first time around the arena and let her blow it all out, then bring her back and get to work. As with the trot I tried to keep a steadier contact but still giving (which I may or may not have achieved) and she felt really soft. I didn’t pay much attention to where her head and neck were, mostly just concentrating on the feeling. And it felt great.
She’s kicking her hip in again to the right on the right lead, and feeling as if she kicks it out in certain areas to the left, so I’ll wait and see how that progresses. She only just started it again recently, around the time that she started to get long, so I think that’s potentially why she’s not feeling 100% anymore. Looking at her feet you can see that her inside grows more than the outside – the right hind is also a little more cowhocked than the left and the foot has a more pronounced flare than the left foot.
It does look like she’s growing more evenly, though, probably due to the flatter arena. After a while at the other place the farrier and I discussed that she’d been recently loading her legs differently due to the way we could see how her feet were growing. Her right front already looks much better. I thought the farrier was supposed to come this week, but it’s not until next Tuesday. So I won’t do anything about her hip just yet, other than massages and stretches. But, if it extends past the shoeing, I’ll probably have someone come out to look at her again.
It seemed that Wednesday we really hit the “too-long” phase for her feet. She walked out really nicely, eager to get to work, but as soon as we trotted she just felt labored and really slow. Since the past few times she’s given me really good work, it immediately set the warnings off in my brain. I did get some really nice trot work with her – just a few short spurts, but after trying a left lead canter, I called it quits. She was trying her little heart out to do well, but it just felt choppy and she was evading the contact. Considering how fluid it’s been feeling, the choppiness meant something was wrong.
Plus she kept losing her feet and tripping so we just walked out, got more used to walking on contact and then hopped off. We had an impromptu rain on Wednesday, so of course since the rain hadn’t stopped yet I had to protect my saddle.
I won’t ride today – probably just lunge her or turn her out to get her muscles moving but I’m not too worried. It looks like it’s going to be a quiet couple of days again, so hopefully her uncomfortable-ness will go away when she’s trimmed!