Sounder Days

The end of the holidays brought frigid temperatures. Of course as a horse person in waterlogged Indiana, I might be one of the few people rejoicing! As I walked across the frozen mud of the pasture (at this point, this is as much of a miracle to me as walking on water!) to catch my blanketed beast, I couldn't help hoping that the freezing weather continues.

My recent routine has involved trotting up Guinness to evaluate his lameness before even taking him in the barn to groom. It's just easier to know earlier if my horse is hurting. Yesterday, another miracle, he was sound, sound, sound! Joyfully, I scraped the last of the mud off of him and tacked up. Mud free and sound, what a day!

Unfortunately, the ongoing lameness we've been dealing with has made riding regularly or working on any sort of training plan almost impossible. Every time I get on, I feel as though I am just starting over with conditioning. Just when I get to the point we can work on things, we have to take another break. 

Last night after a long warm up, we focused on staying loose and relaxed. Somehow we managed, not one, but TWO stretchy trot circles. That's almost an unknown, as any amount of stress will drive Guinness directly behind the bit. He tends to hide there, and only strong transitions and driving aids can get him out. I think it's fair to say that I had a huge grin on my face the whole way around!

After our warm up, we started working on having Guinness track up properly. He managed to stay relaxed through all of this, and we showed off a few on-point canter transitions from a working trot and very balanced serpentines. Finally, just to show off, we ran through a couple of leg yields at the canter. I find these a great way to test whether we are actually collecting at the canter, or instead just bouncing. Last night, these were easier than eating cake. It was truly a beautiful ride.

Photo Break: Here's a photo from last night: 
Note my vintage Saint Mary-of-the-Woods sweater. After years (seriously, my mother bought me that when I was 5 years old!) sitting in my closet unworn, I've decided to make it classy barn-wear.

Of course, rides like these make me want to start making plans and aim towards shows. Especially working through Training level. I know this horse can be competitive through at least 2nd level - but his lameness is just starting to wear on me. Luckily, at this point, I can directly relate his lameness to the crazy amount of mud in the pastures. This summer and fall when the mud was extremely limited, we had very few soundness problems. As winter started up and Guinness was dealing with 12 inches of mud on a daily basis, his arthritis started to be unmanageable. I'm not entirely sure how to deal with this. Do I take away his turnout, which I consider integral to the maintenance of the arthritic horse? Or do I deal with his arthritis being out of control during the "mud season"?