She was happy to work under saddle. We started doing some softening work at the walk - I was focussed on having her soften without ducking behind the bit, while keeping a nice relaxed forward walk - I concentrated on being very relaxed and quiet to "allow" the walk. We worked our way up to 3, then 5 steps of softening in each direction, with some loose rein breaks in between. It took a while for her to be able to do 5 steps consistently without moving her head around or pushing on the bit. I like how she really stretches down on a loose rein - while we were walking on a loose rein I worked on signaling her to shorten or lengthen her stride by "allowing" with my seat and legs, or "resisting" with my seat and legs just for a second. She's doing very well with this. Then to finish we walked over the poles - she's really listening to me and accepting my direction and most of her pole issues seem to have greatly diminished.
Maisie and I did a set of lameness tests, with the assistance of Sugar's owner. These tests pick up subtle lameness at the walk, and I've found them very useful in seeing where a problem is:
Test one is to have the horse led away from you at the walk in a straight line - now watch the points of the hip move up and down on either side - are they moving up and down equally on both sides, or is one side moving less? How much both hips move up and down, even if they move equally, also is a good indication of how well the horse will be able to move - if things are tight and sore elsewhere in the horse the hips often won't move freely.Test two - horse is led off as before, but this time look at the movement of the back and how the barrel moves - is the back flexing equally to either side (easiest to see on a horse with a dorsal stripe)? - also watch the way the tail swings. Is the barrel swinging out equally to either side? If the barrel isn't swinging out as far on one side, that often indicates that the hind leg on that side may have an issue.Third test - have the horse led at the walk in a straight line and walk next to the shoulder. Match your right footfall to the horse's right front footfall, and your left footfall to the horse's left front footfall. If one foot is short-striding or being unequally weighted, you will feel it in your own body, even when it's difficult to see. Then do the same thing with the hinds, walking next to the horse's hip.
(I didn't create these tests - they were taught to me by Mark Rashid at the first clinic we took Maisie to - he showed me where her unsoundness was (at that time she would buck whenever ridden) and sent her home with a full refund of our clinic fees. It took a while to get her back and sacral issues fixed, but I finally did and was able to ride at future clinics.)
Although Maisie's apparently visually sound at the walk, in the tests her left hip seemed to be moving slightly less, her barrel was moving more to the right than to the left, and she wasn't equally weighting the left hind and she was slightly short-striding. At the trot she was visibly off in the right front/left hind pair, and I don't think it's the right front - she seems unwilling/unable to push with the left hind. Although she's been having some filling above the pastern joint in the left hind, there's no heat or sensitivity here and I think the problem may be higher - I'm suspecting hock, although I may be wrong. We'll see what the vet/chiropractor says on Tuesday. For now, we'll just be taking pleasure walks on the trail, as we did today for a bit - the flies were awful so we didn't go far. She seems perfectly comfortable walking along as long as I don't ask her to use herself. If it's time for her to become only a trail-walking horse, that's fine by me, although I hope we've got a few more years ahead of us where we can do more strenuous work together.
I was pleased with both mares for being willing (mostly) to work with me at a different time of day while the other horses had gone to turnout.
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A couple of comments and responses I wanted to copy from yesterday to clarify that, despite what that long list of questions might look like, it isn't really about analyzing a laundry list of body/mind awareness points - well, it is, but it isn't, if you know what I mean:
Danni said: "I must admit, I think all the same things you do when I'm riding and it's not going how I thought, and then I get bogged down in all those questions rattling around in my head *lol*."
My reply: "Danni - Other than doing some pre-planning and knowing what the ask should be and what the try will look like that can be built on, I try not to be overly analytical about this stuff while I'm working - for me it's more about having comprehensive body awareness as a goal and using that as a base to be able to make subtle adjustments. Now see - I could have just said that and avoided writing all those words!"Albigears said: "So at what point do you leave your "head" behind and trust your instincts? If you're thinking of all these things while riding is it harder to tune into your horse's energy and connect with him/her?"My reply: "Albigears - once I'm working with the horse, I try to mostly leave the thinking behind and just be there with the horse, feeling what I'm doing and how I'm moving - it becomes much more holistic. What I'm trying to do is work towards the day when all of this will be second nature, and I'll be able to carry that body awareness and precision to the work with the horse, while still carrying in my awareness a complete focus on the horse - I'm a long way from done with that but I'm encouraged by the progress I've made over the past year in being aware of and tuned in to the horse, as I said in the last post. I need to carry both those things simultaneously now in my body and mind - awareness of the horse and awareness of myself."