12.12.09: One Foot After the Other

Really rotten weather moved in on Friday evening, and dropped a lot of rain, fog and general gloominess over us for the whole weekend. Sunday morning dawned very foggy and damp, with intermittent rain showers. I knew Storm was FILTHY in an attempt to return to his former dark dapple gray instead of the white gray that he has become. Having that much dirt topped off with a night of steady rain meant that his coat was essentially a living plaster of paris sculpture. And I was right. Even his face was dirty, having wet brown dirt streaks down his nose.
Nancy and I talked with Kirsten and decided that a dry day in the barn was in order rather than slogging through the soupy arena either on foot or on horseback. Kirsten set us up working on the hand walking exercise to help them find their hindquarters again. Julius had never done this work, and as Kirsten put it, Storm could always use a refresher on just about everything. She got started with Nancy and Julius first since they needed more guidance, and I began working with Storm on his left down the middle of the barn aisle. Very quickly I found that my left arm and shoulder started to hurt. I didn't think too much of it, assuming that he was out of balance. I know that I began to cheat some and not enforce things as well as I should have because of the pain. When I would ask him to back up again he was backing very crooked, coming across the barn aisle instead of staying up against the wall. Kirsten arrived to help us out, and gave me some more clarity on helping to really support him and be very particular. She recognized that his crooked backing was due to the fact that his right hind leg was not staying balanced, and so she allowed him to back himself all the way across the barn aisle and right up against the wall, then she asked him to step over, and he released something big at that point because he did not back another crooked step for the rest of the lesson.
She began doing a little body work with him holding different points in his hip and pelvis as we worked, helping him to find his hind leg and really balance himself. His steps became more uneven, but his left hind leg began to step forward with more confidence, straighter, and wider than he had been. His backing began to improve as his leg found a wider more comfortable range of motion. At one point she was working on releasing a point and Storm's whole body shuddered as if he were startled by something and almost spooked. She and I both jumped being wary of what he might do next. She looked at me and asked if I had felt the electric shock, and I nodded in surprise, realizing that whatever he released was very powerful and sudden.
We continued to work as he continued to improve with each careful step. Some steps came a little too fast, some steps were slow, and some looked like a drunkard as he struggled to find his balance. He was giving small shakes of his head, and tossing his head a bit probably from a combination of frustration and release. We changed directions which allowed us to really work on his right hind leg, and the changes came faster than they had on the left as he was able to assimilate the difference and make the needed adjustments. His leg began swinging straighter, following through with more power, and stopped twisting underneath his body as he would step forward. We would get back down toward the other end of the barn, and allow him to stop in a strong position and let him stay there as long as he wanted to. We finally looked at the clock and realized that we had been at it for the entire two hours of lesson time. It did not feel like we had spent that much time, but when I realized it was gone, I found that I was very tired from the concentration and effort. Storm stopped completely square in the front and back, and did not want to move. Kirsten recommended leaving him there for as long as he wanted to stay, and after about five minutes, he eventually decided that moving his feet was an ok idea. He left his right hind on the ground for the longest, and finally decided to take a step with that foot.
I was very pleased with his progress and the effort that he put into the work.
Square and base wide!
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12.12.12: Three's Company and Four's a Crowd