12.11.11: Personal Opinion

I hadn't had the time for any work since the last lesson, which was only 3 weeks prior anyway. The weekend before our lesson Jeffra had been in town and did a little bit of work on Storm. He didn't need much at all, and was in great shape. She probably barely spent 15 minutes with him, which made me happy! She fixed up his hips just a little bit, and then stretched his neck, which resulted in a really loud pop, which hopefully helped to release his left shoulder even more. He was so happy with her working on him, as he always is.
I was curious to note if the bodywork helped him any when I got back up on board. I got down to the arena and got set up to put him on the 45' line again, and Kirsten decided to throw in a monkey wrench. There were some cavaletti that needed to be moved so that we could work on the 45' line and instead of moving them out of the way, she set them up for him to use. I sent him out on the circle, and worked him out to the end of the line, and quickly realized that I needed to do a bit of walking to make sure that he went over the cavaletti instead of around them, so I worked down the line a little bit to be closer to him. I asked him up into a trot and he had quite the time figuring out how to navigate over the cavaletti at the faster speed. He was none too pleased about it. He tipped the cavaletti in the middle of the arena, knocking it down a level from the highest setting, and then proceeded to walk pooping for the next 15 feet. I bumped him back up to the trot while Kirsten went to get the fork and tipped the cavaletti back to the higher side. I moved him a little down the arena so that he wouldn't run into her and asked him into the canter. As he swung around the circle he gave a grunt and a squeal accompanied by a buck as he passed her cleaning up his pile of poop. It was quite obvious what his personal opinion of those cavaletti was!
We continued to work, and he struggled getting over the cavaletti smoothly, but was figuring out how to really pick up his feet. He would still clip the rail every now and then, sometimes tipping it over, but was doing much better overall. He was working really hard, and I could tell it was a big challenge for him, which was stressing him out a little bit. He began sweating quite a lot, which made me happy. His neck and chest were pretty well coated, as were his flanks. He was breathing pretty hard, so I gave him a break and then changed directions to work him the other way. He tried to semi run backwards/sideways on me, thankfully I had plenty of rope in my hand and so I did not run out as it zipped through my hand quickly enough that I felt the heat through my glove. Thank goodness for leather gloves. I got him reorganized and sent off on the circle again and he moved out a little bit better. He was already somewhat tired, and came around through the circle and clipped the rail with his front hoof which threw him off balance, and he couldn't recover quickly enough, and his hind foot came down directly on the rail, which snapped it almost perfectly in half. Not Storm Proof. I stopped him and tossed the broken rail out of the arena, and we continued our work. I am sure he was pleased with the fact that he only had one rail to contend with at that point. We made a few more transitions before I let him cool himself out for a little while before I got ready to ride.
He wasn't too keen on allowing me up into the saddle, I had to ask him two or three times before he presented the saddle to me in the correct place. I got up and he stayed put while I adjusted myself and began to find my bubble and then walked off. I began to the left, which had been the direction we struggled with, and it took a while to sort things out. I could feel the pain creeping into my shoulder, and really worked hard to try to help him find his balance off of the front end. Kirsten came over, and gave me the same lesson that she gave Nancy, and explained a little more about the anatomical structure of the hip joint and how the leg meets the hip and pelvis. The Greater Trochanter is the bone that sticks up straight above the angle where the hip joint comes off of the femur. It acts as a stabilizer and attachment point for a large number of muscles and ligaments that work around the hip, pelvis and gluts. When seated, that vertical piece is now horizontal, providing another stabilization point for the weight of our core to rest on, effectively creating a second set of seat bones. When you concentrate on becoming aware of this part of your body, and utilizing it for support, the upper back can release the tension that we often carry (I immediately felt like I could breathe easier, go figure). In addition, it provides a wider base of support, and that also translates into more available bio-feedback through our body. As I moved off on Storm after Kirsten spent some time working with me on each side to help find the release and support from that area I felt as if Storm were pitching and yawing much more than usual. When I commented on it to Kirsten she explained that since the tension had been relieved in that area, it opened up the opportunity for the body to receive more bio-feedback, which meant that I was suddenly able to feel things that I had not before. Using this feedback I was able to find better balance and straightness as we worked. Taking all of that up to the trot was a challenge, much like juggling six bowls, while spinning a plate on a broomstick on your head. Its going to take a lot of practice to really keep that feel (along with the bubble, left and right, sit up straight, don't lean too far forward, not too much weight in your feet, don't grip with your thighs...) in the faster gaits, but it is coming together. Each tiny piece of the puzzle helps to improve the overall picture.