So... after my little fender bender (trailer hitch bender? towing incident?) I was feeling a bit sore in my shoulder. Nothing a few hot baths and some sore-no-more didn't fix, but I didn't ride for a couple of days.
I was feeling better by Saturday. But as my fellow East Coasters know it was cold, windy, and rainy all day. I had been outside for the morning at a memorial service, and I was frozen to the bone. One of my BFFs (barn friends forever) tried to motivate me:
This is what good barn friends are for. Can you tell by the unspoken completely disheartened and unmotivated tone of my last text (you can tell cause I used punctuation) what happened next? I went upstairs to change, faced with two options: breeches and pajamas. Yup, you guessed it. The couch and the blanket won out over the horse and the cold rain. I knew I was going to feel guilty, and I knew Tucker was going to be even more fresh with yet another day off (this would be his fourth in a row), but I just couldn't make it happen. Please tell me you've been there?
Sunday came and I headed off to the barn in much sunnier, albeit still chilly, weather. Tucker was happy to see me and I tacked him up and took him outside - on a lunge line of course, I'm not that stupid. We lunged all over our outdoor dressage ring, doing 15m circles and 10m circles all up and down and back and forth to try to keep him focused. He started off as a horse kite, flagged tail and all, but eventually started looking more earthbound.
Based on some things I've learned in Guy McLean's training videos (which I very loosely apply with Tucker, based on what I think will work with him and what I'm capable of doing properly) I tried to focus on his inside hind leg and pay attention to whether his focus was on me or elsewhere. While focusing on his inside hind leg, I had a few glimpses where I thought, "is he off in his right hind?" But then it would go away, so I decided he was just wild and not paying attention to all his feet. And then I'd wonder if maybe he needs his hocks done? Is he? Isn't he? I started mentally doing financial gymnastics to figure out how soon I can afford injections. I know you've all been there.
I got on and tried to remember what Guy says, which is to have your ground work carry over to your ridden work by focusing on controlling the inside hind leg the same way you did on the ground. I don't know that this was particularly that successful but I did my best. It was only our second ride in the outdoor, so my goal wasn't greatness, more like "just keep your shit together." Which he did. Even when other horses left the ring, and even when they brought the horses in turnout back to the barn (which can sometimes lead to an explosion) he kept right on working. He was actually pretty great, not that I asked for anything too complicated from him.
I rode back to the barn thinking that I can't believe how good he was after four days off, and I really don't deserve this horse. I thought that even if I opened an orphanage for underprivileged special needs children who lost their families through tragic acts of god, I probably still wouldn't deserve this horse. Then he spooked and went pronking off into the sunset while I desperately tried to gather my reins and not drop the lunge line I was carrying and not fall off. And I realized the orphanage thing was a bit much. Maybe just try to ride more and leave it at that.
When I got back to the barn, our barn manager told me, "I'm glad you're here, he's so much happier. When you're not here he's always looking for something to do. He really wants to work." Which is the nicest possible way of saying, "Your horse drove us absolutely NUTS this week." Cue feelings of deep regret, inadequacy as a horse parent, laziness and general worthlessness as a human being, and intense guilt. Anyone been there?
Tuesday he was WILD in the indoor, so I decided to let him run around and get some of the crazies out. He trotted away from us and Alyssa and I both said he looked like a pregnant mare - all wide and waddling behind. And I thought maybe he needs his SI's done? And now I was doing mental acrobatics to figure out how I would be able to afford those injections (which typically require an ultrasound, and x-rays, and selling a kidney).
But then it went away again, so I thought nothing of it because he was sound under tack, albeit really tense. I figured four days off, he was entitled to some tension, plus Goose was in the outdoor ring and he could see him but he could also hear voices which was kind of scary... which meant couldn't decide whether he was afraid of outside or desperately wanted to be outside.
|And a Tucker divided against itself cannot horse.|
Yesterday morning our farrier came out for new shoes and immediately uncovered a frog abscess in his right hind. So that would explain the random funny steps I was seeing. Really odd, because last time he had an abscess (years ago) he was really dramatic about it and non-weight-bearing. Still, I'm kind of concerned that I didn't see it when I picked his feet or follow up on my mini-hunches that something was NQR. I guess the moral of that story is don't ever use me as your vet. I'll inject your horses hocks and SI's when he's really got a small simple abscess. Once again, cue thoughts of, "I'm a terrible mother and probably shouldn't even own this horse. Maybe I should switch to raising goldfish."
Last night I jogged him for soundness, whilst mentally questioning whether I'd even be able to tell the difference given that I didn't notice an abscess, and then got on and rode. He was, again, tense and tight. Last week when I had a tight, tense ride, I started moving his haunches around and it loosened him up and got him to relax and flex.
This time lateral work did not do anything for the tension, in fact whenever I tried to move him around he got all "NO TOUCHIE I WILL REAR" so I scrapped that idea entirely. Instead, I did a lot of transitions within the gait, tiny little trot and big extended trot, on a nice big circle. He didn't want to extend his trot, he wanted to canter and leap, but I kept at it and eventually he moved out in the trot without flailing, and then magically took a big deep breath and softened within this big lengthened trot.
So apparently pushing him forward, which is the last thing I usually want to do while riding a ball of tension, was what he needed. Completely counter-intuitive, but it worked. We moved on to a loose interpretation of First-2, which is an easy test for us, just as a barometer. And he ended really nicely with some lovely canter work (after a moment of leaping and flailing which I chose to ignore). At the very least, after a solid hour of work, I think I tired him out.
|So tired pls put my pajamas back on I beg you|
We have our first show coming up on Sunday. I'm hoping I get a couple of more relaxed rides in so I start feeling a little better about it. I'm giving him his ulcer meds for a few consecutive days in case his tummy is bothering him. Lots going on this past week - multiple days off, abscess, fluctuating weather - so there's just too many variables for me to narrow down any kind of plan.
So, just going to go with what has worked in the past and hope for the best? Cause that's pretty much what we always do when it comes to horses anyway?