Sunday, April 25, 2010

Thanks, I Needed That

Last Wednesday Chiro Lady came out to adjust Sofie. She definitely needed some adjustments in her pelvis, low back and up by her withers as well. She was very good for the adjustments despite being nutty because it was cold/her friends were running around like maniacs/a dog had wandered into the arena earlier and pissed off her kitty friend, Leo, therefore she decided It Must Die. She stood well and just made nasty faces, which I can understand because I go to a chiropractor, so I know how it is to get your back cracked.

We also told Chiro Lady about Sofie's arthritis and her yucky x-rays, so we got our "third opinion". Chiro Lady's take on it was that the arthritis is not new, that Sofie has been coping with it for some time and that she will be okay. She recommended warming her up on the ground before I ride (we're already doing that every time we come out to evaluate her movement and attitude and stuff) and doing lots of trotting undersaddle (um, yeah, we're working on that, but I'm not about to get bucked off, k thanx). She was surprised that the hock injections didn't help, and said we could do Adequan (too expensive) or Legend (too expensive) or glucosamine injections to complement the supplement. The latter was affordable, so we said okay and she got her first injection right then. She had to be twitched to have blood drawn for her Coggins test and get vaccinated the week before, but she trusts Chiro Lady so she was fine for her shot. I asked Chiro Lady about the potential for laminitis (since all the barefoot people I know/know of tend to freak out at the mere mention of sugar, and she's already on a supplement with high levels of glucosamine) and she said it wouldn't be an issue. I don't think Sofie is insulin resistant or prone to laminitis, and she needs the supplement to feel better, but I like to be cautious anyway.

I rode on Friday for only the third time this month. I took Sofie outside since the indoor was dusty and she was quiet, and she was awesome. And a beyotch. But that's Sofie. She was content to walk around on a semi-long rein (not hanging-on-her-mouth short, but not so long that she could turn back to the barn/eat grass/run away). She walked right through The Place Where We Like To Balk And Get Pissy, The Scary Corner and The Place Where We Like To Canter, even though there was a lady in the neighbor's yard running a hose. We walked around in the yard a bit, doing turns and stuff. She trotted voluntarily back in the Scary Corner area and didn't get pissy and felt nice and sound, but I brought her back to a walk within a few strides. And then I decided to see if I could take her on the trail, and she decided she'd been good for far too long, and started trotting and then getting all pissy, nothing too dramatic, but nothing I wanted to encourage, either. So I kept pulling her down, which made her pissy too. I figured out we were not going to be able to get to the trail without drama, so I rode her over to the front yard, where she promptly spooked at the barn owner bringing something out of her house ("OMG it's Judy! She's going to EAT me!" WTF, Sofie?). I think she just needed an excuse to trot, because she trotted nicely, soundly and without complaint. I got her to walk again, and finished up with some rein-back (which she was SUPER good about. She was SO light!).

Today her right hind was stiff (it looks like she might have gotten kicked on her right hock. AGAIN.) but she free schooled reasonably well (she had attitude, but Sofie without attitude is a rare and breathtaking phenomenon). She was not happy to see the saddle ("Didn't you people HEAR the veterinarian? I AM A CRIPPLE, therefore I should be RETIRED from weight-bearing activities!"). I decided not to take her outside, because it was cool and windy and I knew she would not be content with just walking, and I did not trust her to not "act up" when her hocks inevitably twinged/ground together/snapped/crackled/popped/whatever. So we were stuck in the indoor (because she hates the outdoor, and it is HUGE, and she spooks just as much in there as she does in the yard, if not more) but my mom put cones out. Sofie likes cones. So much that whenever I see cones anywhere, I contemplate stealing them for her.

She stood for me to mount (but not for me to put my right foot in the stirrup, 'cause apparently that was just too much to ask) and I walked her around on a long rein. She felt good, and walked out well. I started doing simple turns and changes of direction, and eventually shortened my reins a little and weaved her through the cones, did serpentines and smaller circles. I tried to think about all my bending aids and use my eyes and weight first and then "supplementing" with leg and rein. She did really well with this and only got a little miffed about my leg once when I had to emphatically insist that NO, we are NOT falling in here.

Then I decided to try something new. I let her have a long rein, and I worked on lengthening and shortening her walk. On the long side I used my legs in time with the swing of her belly and let my seat swing with her walk, almost thinking about using a little bit of a driving seat. At first she only went a tiny bit more forward, but then she started to get it and really started to move out when I asked. Shortening was a bit more difficult for her to figure out, she kind of raised her head and lost all of her momentum like "Uh, are we stopping here or what?" but I wasn't looking for perfection, just cooperation. After a few rounds of this I shortened my reins a bit and started tracking left. We did the lengthening/shortening thing again, and her bigger walk started to be on the verge of a trot. Then finally it became a trot. At first she raised her head a bit and thought about being mad, but then she went forward without hesitation in a nice, relaxed, soft trot. I brought her down to a walk after maybe ten strides, let her walk on a long rein, and when she halted off my seat I got off and petted her and scratched her a lot and she was done for the day.

It was a really successful ride, even though we did absolutely nothing by most people's standards. But I think that's what I need to do. I need to do what I'm comfortable with, what she's comfortable with, and forget about the clock. A good fifteen minutes of schooling, and ending at the optimum moment is far better than pushing for more and losing what we had. I can second guess myself to death, going "Oh, maybe I should have just let her keep trotting, she might have been fine with it", but the fact is that I did what I felt was right in that moment, and it was probably the right thing to do. I've never screwed up my horse by quitting at a positive moment after a short ride. I have screwed up my horse by pushing for more this or that or the other thing, and regretted it later.

I'm not on a timeline. Right now my horse is arthritic and limited in what she can do, though she's getting better. I'm not getting ready for the WEG or even a schooling show. I have no trainer to impose their standards or ideas or demands on me. Sofie is my horse, and I'm training her for me, so going by my instinct is really all I can do. It's all I have. And I think that's good for me. I'm no longer dependant on constant lessons and constant feedback. I'm thinking and figuring it out as I go along, and I think you learn more that way. Thank you, Sofie, for that. You're making me a trainer. And thanks a lot for today. I really needed that.


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