11.04.23: Square One

The morning started out cool and damp, and I didn't expect to get anything done with Storm, but that changed by the afternoon. The sun came out and things warmed up comfortably. I had to drag him off the grass, which he was none too pleased about, all the way from the back of the pasture through the chute. We got up to the barn and he settled down a bit and I set to work getting some of the dirt and hair off of him. After a mostly futile effort, I started to get him saddled up. I had to play 'get back in the box' a lot, and quickly figured out how to do so without having to walk all the way around to the other side than him, and that made the game much easier for me. He just didn't seem real pleased about the saddling, and I wasn't sure if he was really uncomfortable, or if it was just throw back from previous rides when he was uncomfortable. We finished up tacking and headed to the arena, getting set up with the balance bands to get started.
We headed off to the right and he did alright, not great. He was not seeming to put the effort into the work like he had before. I also noticed that he was not lifting up into the back of the saddle the way that he had been in our lesson the week before. I let him work for a while and threw in a couple of canter transitions, and he gave me the obligatory grunt and squeal as he threw himself into the gait. He held it for a while, and it helped him to find better balance within the trot and walk as well. We worked for a while before switching to the left.
It was quite apparent that he was not doing as well to the left as the right. The left is his weaker side right now, but this was worse than what he was able to do during our lesson. He started off at the walk, and then picked up the trot on his own and raced around the circle for several laps in posture 1 before finally slowing to a walk again. He was going so fast that I was expecting him to break into a canter at any moment. He was not pulling super hard on me, but it was obvious that he was not feeling quite right. I allowed him to walk for a while before beginning to ask for the trot again, and eventually the canter a few times. The result wasn't too bad, but he just wasn't getting into position 2A even, and it just wasn't as pretty as the work he had been doing.
I decided to go ahead and ride and see what I got, and the result was worse than the lunging on the ground. I had taken the balance bands off the front to work with just the reins, and was just not feeling any of the same things that I had when we were working in our lesson. It was like I was riding a different horse. He was trying to do this, but was only creating compensations rather than actually getting into the correct postures. I couldn't feel his back lifting, and he was also shaking his head pretty hard and occasionally swishing his tail.
I worked both ways, but the results were the same, I was just not getting anything beyond posture 1. He just wasn't putting in the effort, and the change was so drastic that I knew something had to be going on. I emailed Kirsten later that evening and her response was somewhat what I expected. She explained that with the saddle that I have the panels sometimes mold to the horse's back, which means they fill in the low spots, and make it harder for the horse to lift and change under the saddle. Taking out the base pad left less padding between the saddle and his back, meaning that the saddle would mold more to his back. So it is now time to widen the saddle, which allows enough room to put the base pad back under and readjust the smaller pads to compensate for the extra space. It seems that Storm has done an amazing amount of changing very fast, which is terrific!
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11.04.29: Finding the Right Position
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