I’m sure you’ll find a dozen or so similar posts in this blog’s history: after a round eight weeks off, I’m bringing Tristan back to work. Years ago this was not a huge deal; by week two or three we were doing light versions of what we’d done before.
Now, with Cushing’s and age, I take a much more measured approach.
This go-around is featuring lots of variety, because we are both bored, and not quite as much hesitancy as I might have had otherwise, because he was in very good shape when we pulled him out of work. So – I have already been doing a decent amount of trotting, and have already asked him to carry himself.
Conditioning generally is something I’ve spilled lots of ink and lots of tears about over the years. I firmly believe in a very slow ramping up of work for my animals. It’s one thing to go back to the gym myself after time away and go just as hard and know that I’ll be sore. It’s another thing entirely to expect that of a horse or dog.
Right now, my approach tends to be short bursts of correct, more intense work, and letting him tell me how he feels. Now, obviously I’m not going to let him gallop himself into a frothing sweat just because he’s being an ass, but if he is feeling good enough to pick up a strutting trot on the longe line, I’m not going to pull him back right away.
I’m also not doing 5 minute shots of full work; more like keeping overall rides to around 30 minutes, and when we do trot, asking him for a proper forward trot while reaching for the bit, rather than the long-rein loose trots I might have encouraged a few years ago. Then, my philosophy would have trended towards lots of loose, long work, and once he got up to 8-10 minute trot sets then I would have picked him up and put him into proper work.
I’m also tossing in more serpentines, more complicated lateral work, more backing up, more turns on the haunches, and so on. Mostly at the walk. I’m using foam blocks under his hind end while grooming, to work on his balance and spatial awareness in the hind end. I’m going to incorporate some hill work soon, hopefully – it’s a question of waiting for things to dry AND getting in a few more long walks in the outdoor to fully bring his outdoor brain up to speed.
It’s not a bad place to be in, this spring. I’m still getting in a few rides a week even with my work reaching a fever pitch, and I’m really, REALLY looking forward to June, when I’m taking two! whole! weeks! off for the first time in over a decade.