In a lot of ways, I feel like I’ve been rehabbing this horse for five years straight. Dumb thing after dumb thing after dumb thing and his Cushing’s mean that anytime he gets a few weeks off I have to start nearly from scratch. Keep in mind – he’s a mustang who spent the first ~10 years of his life doing nothing and/or starving. So he doesn’t have the base of fitness a properly raised young horse or an OTTB would have.
In the five weeks or so of his most recent return to work, I’ve been working on overall fitness but also targeting a few things specifically.
- inside hind strength, particularly the left hind. Tristan has always been just a touch short on his left hind; his left side in general is his weaker one. I’ve looked at it with a few vets and it’s clearly just a weakness/mechanical issue, not a lameness or pain issue. So: lots of circles in and out, some longe work for stifle strength, poles, transitions, and generally focusing hard on the inside hind for short periods of time to load it, then rest it, then repeat. Slowly, he’s able to hold better, which means his bend is better, which means he’s more through and more comfortable overall.
- Warmup: what does the senior pony need at this point in his life? This always changes. He’s never been a horse that is ready to go right out of the box. Right now, I’m working on 10 minutes of walk and then 5 minutes of trot before I so much as touch his face. The only thing I ask during that time is that he step forward and listen to my driving aids. I can get a good read on how to proceed after that during those 15 minutes: is he reaching for the bit? attempting to stretch his back a bit? eager to step out? or is he stopping dead when I so much as pick up the reins, kicking out at my leg, and just generally shitty?
- My leg: Two things, really; I need to stop it from creeping up, a longtime bad habit from being 5’9″ and riding a 15hh horse. Second, I need more and more self discipline about using it when it’s called for and then laying off. Clear, precise, quick aids. Less nagging. Another lifelong bad habit.
Loads more things as well, obviously, but those are the big three.
So, what are you all focusing on right now?