Wednesday, March 24, 2010

First things first: not lame!

I explained the things I'd been noticing to T. before we even got the lesson started, and he watched us warm up - head-jerking, inconsistent contact, etc. - and put us through our paces veryvery thoroughly, with improvement in spots. Then we talked about it for a while.

The upshot is: shortness in the right hind. Which is not unusual; it's always been his weakest limb. T. did not see any discomfort or pain, more of a mechanical stiffness/habitually limited range of motion. Which is to say, he's fifteen, and this is the first time in his life he's being asked to really truly swing his hind end. Probably evenly split between his stifle and his hock. He can reach and extend without pain, he'd just really rather not. So add a dash of laziness on top of it all.

So what's happening is he's coming up short with the right hind - not necessarily a problem tracking right, but tracking left he's not getting the thrust he needs to (as T. explained it, most of the lifting power comes from the inside hind, most of the thrust from the outside hind), then offloading the problem onto his left front, which is throwing him off balance and making him jerk his head up.

Solution is, as always, kick-kick-kick-kick. Bend him inside, half-halt outside, push him onto the outside rein and then make damn well sure the outside hind is doing its fair share. Supple with the left wrist, bend around the left leg, half-halt the right hand, kick-kick-kick-kick the right leg. Several circles of come-to-Jesus and we were going 2-3 strides evenly and with power; once we could get that more or less consistently, we had a bit of a walk break. Picking up again, I worked HARD on the same problem in the walk, where it was a bit easier to convince him to swing through. He wasn't exactly pleased at all of this, mind, but once I closed off every available exit door, he sighed and farted and acquiesced.

By the end of the lesson, he'd loosened up nicely, and we had some really glorious canter complete with spiralling in and out both directions, and a big powerful swingy trot on a long rein a few times around to stretch out.

So: old horse, new tricks. Though as T. points out, we're kinda victims of our own success. It's not like this is new for Tris, more like by the time we used to get to this level of the work it was the last five minutes of the ride, and he was already warmed up and loosened. So he wasn't really having to work very hard to muscle through it. Now, we're warming up with the work we used to finish with, and he's not quite supple enough to support that work so early in the ride. It's just a time-patience-work thing, though; strengthen that right hind, get the joints used to moving, loosen up the joint fluid, and blow his little mind. He's already on glucosamine and I just started him on MSM about 3wks ago. We're getting more bute on Friday from the vet; for the next little while, I might make him a little bran mash with bute after days he's worked hard.

Horses are so neat sometimes; every small little thing adding up and figuring it out and working on it is always like putting together an incredibly intricate lifelong puzzle. I love it.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Long time, no talk. Mostly very very good, straight uphill as Tris is starting to learn to not just accept the bit, but push through his hind end, up into his back, and in line with his shoulders. He's getting stronger, and the canter is coming along nicely.

Alas, tonight, after a week and a half of scheduling disasters that left him mostly-off-with-just-C.-riding, I went out and while grooming him, discovered a whopping big edema on his chest, about the size of my fist. Further investigation revealed a tick buried in him at the origin point. Fifteen minutes of some rather excruciating digging with tweezers and I still couldn't get all of it - the area around it was swollen, and it was dug in pretty good. Tris was a trooper, only shifting his feet occasionally to show his displeasure, and checking for my face after kneeing me in the forehead once. We had words, and he was very sorry.

So on second diagnosis: not an edema, an abscess from the tick bite. He always gets them, though usually before on his face. I cleaned and swabbed away with Corona, showed a few people who will be at the barn all weekend so they'd know to keep an eye on him, and rode.

Riding He was stiff and fussy in contact, and sort of jumpy-forward, not power-forward, which I had some trouble channeling. I was also not navigating the outdoor ring very well, couldn't find a good circle until halfway through the ride, and all the changes of direction and bend so early were not sitting well with him. But eventually he settled in to work nicely, and we even blew out for some gallops down the long side.

The problem, though, was his trot to the left. Something funky's going on. It could be a veryvery mild lameness or it could be his new style of resistance. He has switched sides again, and was superb to the right and a beast to the left tonight, so that could have triggered this newly weird bracing to the left. But his head is jerking ever so slightly, and he's not nearly as consistent in the contact as he was. He showed a tiny hint of this in my lesson last week, but T. didn't say anything, so I set it out of my mind. This time, though, C. saw it as well, and I don't know. She agreed that it's tough to place. If he's still doing it next Tuesday for my lesson with T., I will bring it up and get his word on whether it's my riding, Tristan's resistance, or we need to give him a week+bute or something first-line like that.

The slightly good news is after the ride, the abscess was better, had clearly drained a bit, and the Corona stuck on nicely. I am away for the weekend - again! - so C. will keep an eye on him. I don't think this will need hot compresses, just scrubbed out with hot water and swabbed with Corona to keep the wound site itself clean.

Sigh. Not exactly what I was hoping for on such a gorgeous day...