Last night, for the first time in mumblety days, it was warm enough to ride, AND not snowing, AND I wasn't working until late at night. It was like I hit the jackpot!
So I headed to the barn, and groomed, and...Tristan's ventral edema is back. On the other side, in a different shape, and softer and pitting. $#@$#@!!!!!! But not bilateral, or spreading, or really soft and squishy - anything that would point to more dire things. Just weird, mostly.
I called over the barn manager, who is infinitely more patient with me than she really ought to be, and we both examined and finally shrugged. He is looking and feeling the best he has in a long time. It wasn't sore in any way. We jointly decided that I should get on and see how he felt. So I saddled up - the edema was back of the girth area - and hopped on.
He actually felt ok at the walk; not great, but not out of the spectrum of normal, either, for a horse who has had sporadic work while his turnout has been a sheet of ice and oh yeah he's turning 20 this spring. So a bit of a hitch, but he was willing enough to keep walking. I gave him a nice long walk warmup and incorporated a ton of lateral work to try and get at his flexibility. I also did some bending stretches, and spiraled in and out, and tried some tighter circles - all with the dual purpose of really warming up his whole body and doing a bit of a stress test to see if he would tell me if he was obviously hurting in some way.
Nothing jumped out, so we picked up the trot, and he felt great. More even, more solid than he had at the walk. Basically 100% normal, if behind the leg and fussy in the bit. (So, normal.) We did about 8 minutes of just stretching loose trot around the entire indoor, with only an occasional 20m circle. Nothing dramatic, just keeping him moving and getting him warmed up.
We took another walk break, and the barn manager came in to longe a Paint mare who's in for training. She came in as a sort of Western Pleasure horse, very daisy cutter without being that pretty efficient look that a nice hunter gets. Just flat and lazy. She's already looking dramatically better.
Apparently, said Paint mare is also a hellion to longe, and is used to more work/turnout than she's been getting. She spent the next 15-20 minutes rearing, bolting, spinning, you name it. Holy mackerel. God bless Tristan, you guys. Even when the mare came galloping sideways, head in the air like a giraffe, barn manager trying desperately to keep her reined in, on a circle, sane - anything! - the worst he did was scoot for a few strides, mostly to get out of the way. The most I had to do was pick the reins back up and sit deep to get him back.
Don't get me wrong, he was very alert and up and paying close attention to what the mare was doing, and I had to do a more hands-on ride than I was hoping for in a walk break, but I was also able to channel that energy into some really terrific work after the break, once the mare calmed down.
If anything, he was too light in the bridle, too quick in his legs and not through enough, so we had a different sort of problem to tackle for once. I worked on getting him deeper, with more push from the hind end, more uphill, more solid. He was fussy in the bridle until I really, really focused hard on keeping my hands still, consciously opening and closing my elbows. He seems to have gotten a bit fussier with the bit as the years have gone on, and I often find I can fix the ducking in and out of contact by simply being better about my own hands.
I had not intended to canter, really - well, it was in the original plan for the day, but not in the modified, what the hell is on my horse's stomach plan. But he felt so good in the trot I couldn't resist. And wow. His canter felt light years better than it has since, what, June? He was not stiff and resisting. I could get at his hind legs and ask him to bend and be uphill. He almost felt like a real dressage horse!
We finished with 10 more minutes of walking, and poor abused pony was a little bit sweaty! Ever-so-slightly damp around the ears and at the girth area. So half of his final walk was in hand with a loose girth, and then I layered up some coolers. It was high 20s, so considerably warmer than it has been, but not exactly warm and cozy. I went with his cotton wicking sheet under his fleece - thinking the cotton would bring moisture out, and the fleece would still keep a measure of warmth.
I tidied up and hung around for 20 minutes or so, and at the end of that he was dry and about 85% cool, so I swapped his coolers for his regular blanket, since the temperature was starting to drop precipitously.
What next? Ride tonight (Saturday) since it's going to be in the 30s. I'll try to ride Sunday afternoon after house hunting (no farm properties, all city houses), but the rest of the week - through Thursday - will be in the single digits or well below zero, so probably no riding for me. :(
As for the edema? Wait and see, I guess. It's now officially more concerning than it was, but as I said: one side only, one spot only. He could just be sleeping funny (maybe on top of a hoof or something) or moving less. The last one disappeared after a few days of bute and rest. We'll see what this does. I didn't notice a huge change after riding, and he felt fine, so fingers crossed? If there's any progression or if he starts acting funny for any reason the vet will be out immediately, but for now...wait and see.