09.02.21: Balancing the Storm

Kirsten came up from Florida today for our monthly lesson. For once our weather is better than tomorrow's forecast when she goes to teach in an area south of here.

We were out watching her before the lunch break, and Jim headed up to see Storm just to visit with him. He called me and let me know that Storm was lying down in the sun again if I wanted to come up and rub on him. I headed up to the pasture and found him lying in the sun next to the fence. I came over and started rubbing on him, he was shedding like MAD. I took off my gloves and buried my fingers into his sun warmed coat and rubbed and rubbed trying to get the hair out. The hair was flying everywhere, coming off of him in big hunks. I rubbed on him for a long time, he licked and chewed for a while at one point, with the hair flying everywhere in the breeze. He finally stood up, and we headed back into the barn. My pants were covered in hair, so badly that I headed in and grabbed the grooming vac to get it off. We grabbed lunch quickly before our lesson an hour later.

Since we had worked earlier this week with Storm on the balanced lunging, I wanted to check in with Kirsten to get her opinions on what I needed to do to help support Storm more in re-balancing his body.

I checked in first with her to show her the bridle, which she was reasonably pleased with. She did comment that the brow band could not be any smaller, either, but otherwise, everything looked pretty good. She also shared that she found that if the nose band is set too tight, that it causes you to lose left/right control. She was working with a woman and her horse using that bridle, and the horse was pitching a fit, mouthing and twisting his head around. They unhooked the nose band, and he was fine. We adjusted the height for the support string on the nose band and that seemed to allow for more play in the band.

I started from there working on the circles, going to the right to establish the pattern with Storm first. He did very well, and was responding very lightly to the cues. He had a bit of trouble getting into the canter, but did not fight me once he was in it. He didn't pull outward too badly in that direction, and I was able to work with him very nicely. Kirsten was pleased, and asked me to change direction to check out the issues we were having to the left.

He started out fairly easily to the left, which was good. I asked him to step up into the trot and he resisted some, he kept turning his head inward, and swinging outward to avoid going forward at the faster pace. I persisted, and he offered the trot, so I left him alone. He was having a lot of problems staying on the circle, so Kirsten made sure that I was keeping my elbows in, and dropping my weight down so that he did not pull me off of the circle. Maintaining the center is important with this exercise to help the horse find stability around the circle.

He worked consistently for a time trotting willingly for about half a lap, then breaking back into the walk. I would allow him to walk for a half lap, then ask for the trot again. Incidentally I moved my stick once, and he picked up the trot again. He was not trotting "straight on the circle" though, it was very obvious that his body was not organized correctly to follow the bend of the circle. He continued to work in half laps for a while, before he became more resistant to trotting. Kirsten encouraged me to simply allow him to walk, and we discussed the fact that I will need to put more emphasis on working his left side to stretch his muscles and encourage him to become flexible in both directions.

After he walked smoothly on the circle for several laps, she showed me another exercise that will offer him more support for his weaker hind leg that causes him to be out of balance. We went through the hand walking exercise with more emphasis placed on the speed and pace at which we were walking. She demonstrated that the pace should be quick, but the speed should actually be slow. Forcing Storm to move faster but yet not cover as much ground will allow his weaker hind leg to work effectively and reduce his need to compensate, and strengthen the leg at the same time.

We made several laps at this faster pace, more like marching or something. The challenge was to guide Storm to quicken his steps, but not cover any more ground in the process. Using the stick to encourage him forward, but asking with the rope that he not go too quickly was tricky timing. He began to make changes and supported his leg more in the process. This will give us plenty to do over the next few weeks. I hope that we can make progress before we leave for Florida.

We headed up to the barn and groomed him up a bit, vacuumed some of the loose hair off, and then curried him some more. I got to try out my new stool, he didn't bat an eye. Its just the right height to put me just up over his back so that I can reach him easier and see what I am doing clearly. We finally stopped, and had to clean up a small dog off the floor of the barn aisle from all the hair that he left. The sad news is that this isn't the worst, and it won't be over for months...

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09.02.22: Walking up a Storm