11.10.16: 30 Pounds of Difference

I headed to the pasture to get Storm and discovered that someone had beat him up in the night. He had a cut on one hip, and a pair of foot prints on the other side of his butt, and a bit of a scrape across his chest. We speculated that Sado was upset because of the change in leadership in the herd, and I guessed that Storm got caught against something and couldn't get out of the way fast enough, hence the scrape on the opposite side. We also decided that either Storm was standing downhill from whoever kicked him, or the horses were playing chicken and Sado was on Bonnie's back.
Nancy helped me clean him up and make sure that nothing was really damaged, and I got him tacked up and headed to the arena. Kirsten caught me up on her ride on him last month, and said that he looked a bit stiff on his right side, and suggested that we start with long lines to help him work that out before I got on to ride. It took him a long time to work out the stiffness on his right hind where he was kicked, but eventually he began to loosen up and was able to find his balance.
So I finally got him organized to ride, climbed up. Kirsten helped me to find balance, and begin asking him to halt rather than continue forward out of balance with his weight on the forehand. It was terribly heavy to stop at first, and was really killing my arms and hands. She continued to guide me through asking him to stop to encourage him to shift his weight back, and then asking him to step forward off of his hindquarters. As I continued to ask him to stop and restart, he became lighter and lighter. Kirsten asked me if the changes were making a difference, and my response was "Yeah, about 30 pounds of difference!" He was putting in a lot of effort, and continued to improve, and so she suggested that we try a halt to trot transition and see what happens. I stopped him and asked for the weigh shift backwards, and then pushed forward with more energy than at the walk. He responded by taking up the trot in a few steps. When he went out of balance after only a step or two in the trot, I brought him all the way back down and halted again to repeat the process. As we worked he became lighter and lighter pushing off better each time into the trot, and then back down again. Kirsten asked me what it would look like if I asked him to push off from the halt into a canter, and I sort of laughed at her and thought about it for a minute, and made a small attempt. The result wasn't a canter, of course, but was a stronger trot. Kirsten liked the result, and explained that the stronger energy allowed him to find a better push. So we practiced "almost cantering" for a while.
He began to anticipate my requests, and trying to push through before he really came to a complete stop, so I went back to practicing the halt to walk transition with less energy. Kirsten noticed how had he had been working and suggested that I let him walk on a loose rein for a while to let him stretch. He actually put a lot of effort into stretching, and walked with his head fairly low for several laps. It was great for him because he doesn't often offer the stretch for that much time. I let him walk long and low like that for half a dozen laps before changing directions and letting him stretch in the new direction before picking the reins back up to begin a little bit of work in the new direction. It was easier for him to the left, and he was already very light. Ellen arrived with her horses, and we realized that we had already burned up our two hours. I made a few more transitions with him before sliding down and taking him back up the hill, and slathered his scrapes with ointment.
Next Page:
11.10.16: Round Two