Okay so I realize yesterday's post was borderline ridiculous, but so am I, and so is Tucker on occasion, so there you go. I'll try to be a little more serious today.
Tucker got adjusted on Friday morning (as you saw from his texts). Friday was also Day 10 of Abgard, which is right around when I usually see improvement (Days 8-10). My rides last week were not explosive, but he still felt not right. He was doing weird things with his shoulders and all of us were doing that head-tilting "is he or isn't he...?" while watching him go. He wasn't lame, per se, but he also wasn't moving the way he usually does.
|Right there, that's the spot.|
I told Dr. Lackey that I suspected something was going on up high in front, maybe in his shoulders? She confirmed that his withers were really jammed up. (I got one right!) This isn't an area that usually bothers him (lumbar is typical), so he must have done something to himself. Played in the field too hard, maybe even got himself cast in the middle of the night? Anyway, it definitely explained how he had been moving and it also explains why he got so upset whenever I tried to move his shoulders around.
Between the adjustment and the acupuncture, Tucker felt like a new horse on Saturday. I rode outside and since he hadn't been outside in a week (because biblical rains) I lunged him first, and he bronced and played on the lunge line a bit but he looked immediately more like himself. When I got on, I couldn't help but grin ear to ear. My horse is back! I didn't push him but man did he feel good. Short video:
I love the steady metronome trot. But the best thing about that video (besides that it's too blurry for anyone to judge my position) is that the gator goes by and he keeps right on trotting without hallucinating flesh-eating monsters and fearing for his life.
Sunday's ride was about the same, we were by ourselves in the outdoor so he was a bit tense, but that's not terribly unusual for him. I rode with a bit more contact and asked for a little more use of his hind end and he was totally okay with it. He had a few exuberant moments at the canter... but they felt more like he was feeling good, and not like he was panicking, and I was able to just do a transition back to trot and get him to settle back down without any fuss.
|Pleased with himself|
Monday was a day off, and Tuesday night we rode in the indoor. First of all, I want to point out that about 5-10 minutes into the ride, Goose (Tucker's best friend in the entire world) left the ring. And there were no temper tantrums. There was an ear flick of acknowledgement that his friend was leaving, but he stayed totally calm about it and kept right on working. Possibly normal behavior for any other horse, but that's huge for Tucker.
I worked on some adjustability at the trot, collecting and lengthening. Not the full spectrum of what he can do, but just to test the waters. He was happy to do both and I even worked on my sitting trot a bit. (Side note: I CANNOT get the hang of the grab strap. I'm gonna break a pinky.) My goal was just to see if I could get him to collect and lengthen a little without creating any tension and we managed to do it. I have to really remind myself to stay loose even when I'm trying to collect him.
When I picked up my right lead canter he was pretty heavy in the left rein/bulging through his left shoulder, and I remembered Amy's advice not to try to fix it in the canter. So after I felt his canter loosen up a bit and felt him naturally go more forward, I said "we'll come back to this." We changed direction, and did some leg yields and some shoulder-in and haunches-in. I wasn't sure if I'd be able to manage these correctly without spurs on (still not wearing them for tummy-related reasons) but I'm pleased to say he did them really well and having no spurs made me use my seat and weight more, which I need to do now that he's learned to respond to those aids.
His left lead canter was great, soft and round and not overbent, so I came back to trot, changed direction and worked on shoulder-in to renvers to the right. We haven't figured this one out yet and he struggled and protested a bit. I mixed in lots of ten meter circles and eventually settled for a very slight change of bend as the first step toward doing a correct renvers. Even though we had some moments where he thought about slamming on the breaks and throwing a fit, and he did a couple of his mini-rears (which I believe he thinks are extremely intimidating), I was able to convince him to try to work it out, so that felt like a win.
|He looks so good right now :)|
After I felt like I could manipulate his shoulders more I wanted to see if the right lead canter would feel better, and wouldn't you know it, it worked. He cantered two circles right and stayed straight and even on both reins, and was willing to let me position his shoulders where I wanted them, so I quit with that. In the future I want to be able to build from there, but I'm still taking it a bit easy and I wanted to reward him for giving me the right response. Good boy.
Lisa Wilcox recently did a great article for Dressage Today on throughness, which talks about rider position and various aids and exercises for getting them more through, but one of the things she said that I really liked is this: "Sometimes the horse’s body may develop when the mind is still immature and then the mind catches up to the body or vice versa." I feel like that's where Tucker is right now. His body got stronger over the winter and now he can physically do the exercises, and now I need to concentrate on the mental piece and get him to do them in a relaxed way, without tension. And now that I've fixed some physical issues, I think he's capable, it's just a matter of convincing him and building his confidence.