Tristan is halfway through the loading dose of Pentosan, and Saturday night was my first chance to get on him in a proper dressage school to test his new stage.
I'm thrilled to report that I noticed a HUGE difference.
Incremental changes are always the hardest to keep an eye on: over the years, Tristan has been ageing, and getting less fluid and supple, even with long warmups and all the exercise I could do for him. His long layup before and after surgery didn't help. It was hard for me to confront the fact that he's ageing: not that I ignored it, but more that I redoubled efforts to help him work through it, not quite acknowledging why.
Saturday night I got on, and we walked at a good clip for 15 minutes on a long rein, our usual. I picked up the reins and started in some basic lateral work to loosen him up behind the saddle: again, usual.
I put my leg on and I had a fluid, through horse. His leg yield was so fast and so scopey I completely forgot to manage it and I'm afraid it wasn't very pretty, but whooooosh we went across the entire diagonal. Then we went back. Then we zigged and zagged back and forth. Then we did shoulder-in and haunches in and he was stepping waaaaaaaay over in the back.
Then we went for the trot and immediately he felt straight, through, and springy through his hind end. Same thing laterally: zooooooom across the diagonal in the leg-yield, stepping under through shoulder-in and haunches in.
Then canter: up and down instead of that flattish gait we'd been working to improve. Near-immediate hints of softening through the topline to the right.
To say I was ecstatic would be putting it mildly!
Let me be clear: it wasn't a great ride. I was so taken aback by the horse I had underneath me that I flubbed many things. There were suddenly many more things to gather up and different ways to ride. I played a bit with some of our cornering exercises, controlling the outside shoulder, and we made some progress.
But after 35 minutes, I stopped. He had gone farther in his warmup than he has after a full hour in recent weeks. I had been adding leg-yield responsiveness in slowly over the last few weeks, hoping to work up to going across the diagonal, but he just wasn't crossing over sharply enough even after warmup. Saturday? ZOOM. Right away.
We finished by going outside to the outdoor ring and doing our first long lazy trotting and cantering around, nothing much, just to say we were outside. The footing is still a bit deep but nothing terrible, and it is drying out beautifully.
We'll take it a bit slowly, because with such dramatically increased flexibility and range of motion comes new torque on his muscles. New ways of going, new building that needs to be done.
And we're only halfway through - who knows how much better he'll get?!