Friday as I was browsing through some more horsey blog posts to read while I had some down time at work, I came across A Enter Spooking’s blog and her post about straightness. And it was as if a lightbulb – or really a dozen lightbulbs – fired off in my brain. She spoke about how her horse’s weak hind leg attributed to her hand and the general crookedness of rides. And it was the right hind leg. With him bulging to the left in his shoulders and doing weird things with his neck and head to compensate.
And it was an OMG AMBER moment. She does all those things. And it’s been recently, in the last 6-9 months that I’ve noticed her doing things she’s never really done before. She ALWAYS dropped her shoulder to the right. She dropped her shoulder to the left but it was her naturally better side. Suddenly she doesn’t drop her shoulder to the right. If nothing else, it now severely bulges to the left. We’re getting deeper into connection and dressage and now her head and neck do weird things. Coincidence? I think not!
I’ve attributed her lack of straightness recently to her hip that was twisted, and while that is absolutely without a doubt still true, I think I’ve been thinking about it the wrong way. For the moment, she’s not short on that leg anymore, but I’ve been thinking about it as taking it easy on her and letting that heal. It’s been a little over a month since our chiro and acupuncture appointments, so I don’t think her hip is twisted anymore. If she is sore, though, mostly it seems to be muscular now from harder work or so like last week so consistent massage is still definitely needed. But what this blog post was talking about was strength training. And suddenly, it made sense. That is her weak leg. It’s probably been her weak leg most of her life but she was pretty close to even I think when we were pursuing reining in earnest.
But now I get it. Strength training. Like when your right side is weak so you train in a gym to target that weak area. That’s what she needs. She needs to get that leg stronger because it will not only help her in her body, but it will be easier for her to do everything. I’ve known she needs to get more fit and that it’s a process of building muscle, it’s just the way that this was worded suddenly put two and two together for me. So Friday I set out for a super short ride, but with that strength training in mind. Megan was suggesting a lot of really great stuff to do for strength training, but me being uneducated a lot of the things she was describing really escaped my brain. A lot of it was lateral stuff and Amber and I are just not there yet (mostly me). But she did suggest forehand turns, and I figured that even though she didn’t mention it, there is one thing we could do that’s in our arsenal that is established – spinning.
It’s an advanced maneuver. Doing it right requires the horse to really sit on their hocks and lift their front end. Amber has never had the most success to the right – mostly because I believe she gets a bit uncomfortable with the stress the spin puts on her knee that direction. But again, with her twisted hip I noticed a huge decline in the success of that spin. It was never as good as the left, but it was still good. Now she really leans out to the left, and spins around her outside hind. Ha, weak hind leg!
So Friday was short but to the point. Warm up. Spin. Walk out. Spin. Walk out. Spin. Walk for a bit and do a very slow side pass to the left so she had to put that hind leg under her. End for the day. Emphasis was placed on weight bearing the right hind. Success? Yes. She was really good. I just asked her to spin slow and steady, and she delivered very well.
However, even at this point, her left hind is weak in terms of spinning. So it won’t need as much strength training, but I’m going to work on it, too and see if it gets better. Will she still need an injection in her SI? Perhaps. I’m absolutely not ruling that out, but I really want to see if this strength training begins to work. It’ll take time – lots of time, but it’ll just be one day at a time.
Saturday we worked on pretty much the same things, just with more circles and cantering and jogging involved. A little bit of “stop” and a little bit of “rollback” with some good circling and cantering. She was even better to the right this time, and she was even able to hold her canter with her head level nicely. I tried to get my hips out of the way for her, and when I was successful she got very soft in her body and it was easier for her to canter on the right lead as well.
Once I looked at her weakness as one of the hind leg and not she’s letting her shoulders drag everywhere, it changed how she rode. By me thinking to put her weight over that hind leg, not to “fix” her shoulders, it just felt different and more successful. Lots of work for us but I think it’s going to work out better. But again she tried her heart out.
Even though we’re rusty she still spins pretty nicely to the left. She was a little sore when I palpated her after the ride, but I did some stretches with her and gave her a massage that evening.
Sunday we did things a little different by working in the arena for a spell first and then going on our usual hack. This time we worked on our Ranch Riding pattern, and I think we’ll have more success in that one than the reining. Either way it may or may not work well on Sunday lol. I’m not worried, though. She was absolutely super, and did just enough to get her warmed up, doing some more turns and strength training on her butt. We worked more on transitions, and after a few mild protests of “really, mom, I simply can’t rock back on my own and canter off collected” she gave some really super tries and we called it a day with a quick cool down before hopping on out of the arena.
She walked great, nice and calmly. Until I decided it would be great to walk down this street where she’s kind of enclosed by trees. And seeing goats for the first time. While on asphalt. Smart, Mandy. Real smart right there. I had a hand wrapped around the horn because she may not be bothered by a lot but she’s still only 7 and I could just imagine everything going wrong and her skittering on the asphalt and us going down…. But she was actually quite fine. After looking at the goats and snorting, I tried to have her back to go the other way, but she was like “no, mom, I’m going past those things and don’t try to stop me”. And it wasn’t a big deal at all. Reverse psychology, everyone. Took a few years off of me but we’re okay lol.
I’m a little sad to be going back to English, but really that’s mostly because it may be a lot more work again getting her back up for dressage. This time will hopefully be better since I didn’t let her collapse on her forehand (too much) like last time, but it may still be a challenge. Either way, I’m thinking I may even add western days mid-week of English simply to add spinning to the repertoire as a type of strength training for her. So far it actually seems to be really helping, especially when I’m sifting through the basics and making sure she’s on the inside hind or interchanging her hind legs instead just on the outside.
I’ve had a few new things come recently, which I haven’t used yet at all but am excited to, so we’ll see how that goes. I have a few other things (hopefully) coming soon too so I’ll put together a list with a lot of pictures so you guys can see!