That was all the lungeing we did - just a few minutes - since our task was accomplished. I bridled and then mounted up. We continued with our softening work at the walk - last time we'd gotten 5 soft steps at the walk consistently in both directions. My objective today was to see how much further we'd get. Dawn's a very quick learner - once she gets what you want things proceed pretty nicely. So today, within about 15 minutes, we'd progressed to 7, 9 and then 11 soft steps at the walk. She was able to do this without ducking behind the bit, and I worked with her on maintaining a nice walk pace by "allowing" with my seat and legs - one of the challenges with many horses first doing this softening work is that they interpret the ask as a request to slow down. We changed directions after each set on one rein, repeating it on the other, with nice loose rein walking around in between. While we were walking on a loose rein, we did some figures around cones using my eyes and head to direct her to turn, and also worked on shortening and lengthening her stride by my "allowing" or "resisting" with my seat. I like to do some of this work on a loose rein because then I can't use my hands!
Since things were going so well, I decided to move up to trot - Dawn likes to know that if she's done something right that there will be new things to do instead of the same old stuff. We'll reinforce the walk work and refine it, but for now I'm going to assume when I ride her that she knows what to do in that part of the work. We'll also be doing a lot more transition work - walk/halt/walk and also backing, and combining the shortening and lengthening of stride work with the softening work. So for today, at the trot we just trotted a couple of big circles in both directions on light contact. Next session we'll work some on walk/trot transitions and softening at the trot. I think this is the first time I've ridden Dawn at the trot since probably 2002 - she's been my younger daughter's horse exclusively since then. I'd forgotten how much power Dawn's trot has - and how much vertical motion there is - it isn't rough, just very springy/bouncy! She tolerated my posting well, although I don't think anyone's posted on her in many years - my daughter only rides bareback - I made sure to keep my legs completely quiet.
Then to top off our successful session, I walked her on a loose rein out of the arena and up around on the grassy hill behind the barn, and back to the outside mounting block to line up for me to dismount. So three firsts - first trotting over poles on the lunge without worry, first trot work (for me with Dawn since 2002) and first ride outside the arena. She was a superstar! Now these achievements may seem minor, but until very recently I worried a lot about working with Dawn due to her past tendencies to be hot-headed and easily distracted, worried and reactive, sometimes to the point of explosiveness. I think in many ways I've made more progress than she has!
* * * * * *
Dawn had some minor things that needed adjusted by the chiropractor - she was pretty pleased with that (all of our horses love our chiropractor). Then our vet/chiropractor evaluated Maisie. As I suspected, the issue was with the left hind - she doesn't want to allow the pastern to fully sink when trotting. It wasn't her hock - she had no signs of hock soreness - but that swelling low on the outside of her left hind was the sign. On palpation, the suspensory ligament seemed a bit thickened - a sign of inflammation - and she was somewhat sensitive to the touch, and there was a little heat. So the diagnosis was a suspensory strain - not too severe as the swelling isn't that bad and she's 95% sound at the walk - I think this may have happened a while ago when she was at the old barn, and it's never fully healed. So she gets a month off from work - even though she doesn't mind walking under saddle, the extra weight isn't good for it. She can continue to go to turnout every day as the horses aren't doing a lot of running in the heat. Also, I will ice the leg at least once a day. We may decide to take her to the vet clinic to have the area ultrasounded in a month to determine what her long-term prognosis is and what level of work I can expect of her. And, since both hind feet showed some signs of heat and digital pulses, we've increased her chromium supplement (our vet/chiropractor is also an endocrine expert - it's nice to get all of that in one package) and she'll be getting a grazing muzzle to control her weight - she's not going to think much of that! Contrary to what many people think, our vet/chiropractor says that subtle signs of foot soreness due to metabolic conditions (pre-laminitis) often show up first in the hind feet, and can cause other soundness issues like hock strain without people realizing that it's the feet that are the problem.
My thanks to everyone who replied about boots. Since the Sports Medicine Boots are good for suspensory support - our vet/chiropractor likes them - I may continue to use those once Maisie's back in work but using a trick our vet/chiropractor told me about to lessen heat build up. She says to take a cotton kneesock, cut off the foot, leaving the heel, and slide the footless sock up the horse's leg, with the heal of the sock over the pastern joint. Then put on the Sports Medicine Boots and fold the top of the sock down over the top of the boot. She says it really helps prevent heat build up - I'm going to try it out.
Noble had some blood drawn to test thyroid levels. She thinks his rapid loss of muscle along the top line of his barrel and hindquarters is a pretty sure sign at his age that he's finally (at age 30) showing signs of Cushing's. He may need a pituitary supplement shortly - she's likely to have us use chaste tree berry.
* * * * * *
I will be auditing the three-day Mark Rashid clinic at Black Star Farms, 1971 Granville Road, Cedarburg, Wisconsin, this Thursday, Friday and Saturday, July 22-24. The clinic usually runs from 8:00 a.m. to about 5:00 p.m. - shorter or longer depending on what each horse needs each day. This is a one-on-one format where Mark works with individual horse/rider pairs - usually 8 per clinic - on whatever it is that they need to work on, for an hour or more each day per pair. I'm not riding this year, although I expect Dawn and I will want to visit with Mark in a year or so to refine what we're doing - my daughters and I have ridden in a number of Mark's clinics, including two week-longs in Colorado, but I'll be riding in more. I always learn some new things at each clinic, whether auditing or riding, as Mark's always adjusting and changing what he does in order to improve the work with the horse, and every horse/rider pair have their own unique situation and issues. If you're in the area, perhaps I'll see you there - be sure to find me if you come - daily auditing fees are usually in the range of $30 per day, and you can attend any or all of the days. I'll bet there'll be more posts to come about what I learn at the clinic!