09.09.20: Walk, Skip and a Jump

Kirsten was back yesterday and the weather cooperated beautifully. It couldn't have been any prettier, cool in the shade and comfortable in the sun. Nancy and I both debated whether or not we should ride together and share the two hours. She finally decided she needed some really personal time and so we decided not to share. It turns out that was a good decision.
I started grooming Storm about an hour and a half in advance, he was a real dirt ball since I hadn't been able to spend much time with him recently. I scrubbed him up good with my favorite curry and then we spent some time with the vacuum cleaner. The difference was quite amazing as he was five shades lighter with all the dirt out of his coat. He really behaved himself, and was quite relaxed and calm. He was pleasant when I went to catch him, actually coming to me from about 40 feet away. I did noticed when I was tacking up Storm that he seems to have gained some weight, as the girth was really difficult to get on, and I only had it buckled to the third hole on one side and the fourth hole on the other. Normally its one or two holes tighter, but that was plenty sufficient. Might have to lay off the grain a bit.
We finished getting ready and headed down to the arena as Cindy was finishing up with her mare. We headed down to the sunny end of the arena to warm up a bit, and chatted with Kirsten about where we were and how things were going. I told her about our troubles, and let her know that it was the last lesson that I would be able to ride for a while since my surgery was before the next time that Kirsten would be in town. She said that she really wanted to see me ride, and so I got myself ready to mount and we got started. Kirsten helped me to get more familiar with the 'correct' feeling of level and balance and when Storm is pushing his ribs out to one side. I have a hard time since my body is so unbalanced left to right knowing when its correct and when my brain is playing tricks on me. Kirsten helped me to find small details that help me know where Storm's ribs are and then taking the appropriate steps to correct him.
Storm was responding very well, so Kirsten upped the challenge again. Apparently when we were setting up for the play day the bag of balloons got left down by the arena. Kirsten grabbed two balloons and tied them to the reins at a fairly short length and instructed me to hold the reins at that point and then as soon as Storm tried to take the reins from me I was to ask his hindquarters to step up under himself so that his head would lift and release the pressure off of the reins. She gave me the carrot stick to help encourage him to step up underneath so that he could shift the weight back onto his hindquarters. He was responding very well, and so we decided to change directions to work on the right side.
Pretty quickly it was apparent that Storm was having a harder time working through that. He was leaning on the reins a lot more, and began to shake his head really hard every once in a while. Kirsten encouraged me to work through his struggle and help support him through his challenge. The work is demanding but it shouldn't really be anything that he had trouble with. He continued to shake his head every now and then, and Kirsten encouraged me to ask him to trot to see if that might help him find his balance a little better. Sometimes the faster speed helps them to find their engagement a little easier. I began to ask him to trot as we came around the corner, and suddenly he launched into several crow hops. I was quite jostled, but I think as soon as the pressure released from the reins he pretty much stopped. Kirsten's response was "Well ridden!". I was pleased that I was still aboard since it was pretty much the same thing he did when I was bucked off the first time, except that the first time I the fence approached fast, so he had to turn and that is what threw me off.
Kirsten was immediately able to help me regroup and still try to work on the exercise but make it slightly less challenging for him. He continued to be really emotionally upset about the situation, and each time that I asked him to move forward with a bit of encouragement to his hindquarters he began to object again. I rode for a lap or two allowing him to stretch out and release his topline, and then began to collect him back up again. As I recollected him and began to ask him to shift his weight back to his hindquarters he would again become emotional, so Kirsten guided me through asking him forward for a few steps and then turning a circle to help diffuse the emotional energy. When he finally took a few steps forward again in a calm manner we stopped for a moment and gave him a small break. Again, I asked him to walk forward and had to do another circle before I got a few unemotional steps forward. We stopped there completely for the day. At this point I was relieved that I didn't have another hour to ride! He and I both needed to stop on that high note.
I chatted with Kirsten about it for a few minutes and we agreed that he was apparently having some problems on the right side that we were not aware of. We did not spend the same amount of time warming him up on the right as we did the left (ok, so there was really no warm up time...) but despite that it shouldn't have been that drastic of a difference. I asked about going back to the ground if the hand walking and the lunge line exercises would be beneficial, and she said that they would. So I readjusted the grand plan.
Sunday I got him out and we began hand walking for a while. I wrapped his legs to try to help support his hind end a bit better, and allow him to regain some stability and work out whatever issue was bothering him. We had been working good laps to the right when suddenly he spooked as we were headed into the dreaded back corner of doom again. He managed to back up and swing his head over my head in his effort to get away from the fence/corner. I managed to spin around, and drove him backwards a few more steps, then immediately began to redirect him forward when I realized that he had stopped moving. It took a bit of encouragement to get him moving forward and then back in the correct position again, but as soon as we were back to the job at hand he fell right back into rhythm. A short time later he spooked again, this time once we passed through the corner and were along the short side at the back of the arena. This time I saw Jim and Tali making their way through the corner cut trail back from their walk. Later, I found out that apparently Jim and Tali scared up a deer, and I suspect that what spooked Storm in the first place was probably the deer moving into the hollow back there, and then Jim and Tali scared her out later. His second spook was the preferred method of spooking, just the plant in place with the feet, and we immediately moved on and ignored the issue.
I took a break from the hand walking and transitioned to the lunging exercise, asking him to circle on the 22' line at a walk. Once he finally settled in to the exercise I was able to start studying his pattern of movement, looking for any differences in how he was moving and changes in his pattern. He was reluctant to trot, but I managed to get him to trot for a few short distances a couple times. He did seem to be ok with that on both sides, just not happy about having to do the work. I was pleased with the progress, and so we finally made our way back up to the barn and I turned him out for the evening.
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09.09.28: Centering the Ride