Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Ahhhh, that's better.

Yesterday was better, definitely. In pretty much every way.

I caught Soapdish (she let me walk up to her, which made me feel better), brought her in and free schooled her (yeah, I'm never not doing that I say) to assess the damage (if there was any) from her craziness. She didn't look amazing, or anything, but she wasn't lame and her movement did flow. So I shrugged and led her into the barn to tack her up.

She was less touchy; I got fewer headshakes and ugly faces. She seemed in a pretty good mood overall, and was even somewhat less girthy. She dove for the bit as usual. She did have a slight issue standing at the mounting block, and she walked off before I wanted her to, but I only had to halt her once. I opted to ride without stirrups (I'm really trying to get back into stirrup-less riding. My seat needs some work, and my confidence always does), so I just left them hanging at her sides (I have single layer, bottom-adjust stirrup leathers and they don't cross over well. Fortunately she doesn't mind them terribly as they hang there). She walked around well, swinging through her back (she may not overstride, but she has SO much movement through her body at the walk).

She flexed well, turned well and seemed interested in what we were doing. The rein-back, which was one of the few high points of Psychotic Sunday, was kind of a sticking point yesterday. She wanted to creep backward, stepping incredibly short and not using herself at all, though she did drop nicely at the poll. When I asked her for more in the way of actual purposeful steps, she often got wooden and resistant, but I worked on her response until she gave me a little more and then quit. I think she may have been a little sore from actually using her hind end a little, but she needs to learn to use herself now that her hocks are not such an issue. When she pulls herself around with her front end, she ends up hurting too, so I just kept insisting that she give a little more. At one point during one of my attempts, she completely locked and stopped moving entirely, so I had to get stronger with my hands (which I hate hate HATE having to do, but sometimes I need to, and a brief, strong correction is not harmful and occasionally necessary). At the height of her resistance she stuck her nose as far out as it would go, opened her mouth and swung her head from side to side, but she did "give" eventually. She did have some very good moments of rein-back, when she really flexed at the poll, and that carried over into our other work. I was concerned that she might be going behind the vertical (she seemed really low), but my friend whom I was riding with said she was not behind the vertical at all. I think I'm so used to her being way out in front of the vertical (or inverted) that when she really flexes, I kind of go "Where is your head?!"

Sofie did very well at the trot, holding up much better. She had moments when she was slightly off, but nothing like the head-bobbing stuff she has been going through. We did a lot more trot work, and she was pretty willing (though I need to start carrying a dressage whip and make sure I don't regress into nagging). She listens well to my leg in the upward transitions, but I tend to nag her to keep going rather than leaving my leg off and correcting her when she slows, simply because she doesn't take much leg even when I use it improperly, and sometimes I just don't want to deal with a potential confrontation (particularly when I'm riding without stirrups and I have no dressage whip). I'm sure it will be easy to make the necessary adjustment, I just need to start working on it. But anyway, the trot work was quite an improvement. She even volunteered some flexion at times, and toward the end of the ride she started to drop her head periodically, wanting to stretch, so I let the reins out to the buckle and she stretched down definitively without bringing her head back up. It was so nice to be able to do some trot work without having her go lame.

We ended the ride with a really obedient, prompt halt and a lovely, light rein-back. Good Sofa!! I spent some time petting her after I dismounted, and she seemed to enjoy it.

It was a big relief to have things go better. I'm feeling quite hopeful, especially since her front-end lameness is steadily improving, even after her trot-and-canter extravaganza on Sunday. Things are not as bad as they have been looking, it seems. There will always be dark times, there will always be worries and wretched days. We will both lose our minds on occasion, but we forgive, and we learn.

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