November 21, 2014 1 Comment
Wow, it’s been two months since I’ve posted. October wasn’t much to write home about. Derbs had another abscess – a dramatic one that caused one of his hind legs to blow up worryingly. It was slow to resolve, so between that and my travel schedule, riding was spotty though we did continue to make some progress.
However, things have changed dramatically in the last two weeks and for the better due to one important change – hind shoes.
It has been so very difficult for me to put Derby together and really get his hind end engaged. It’s been a constant struggle for years. I can get moments of connected work but God, it’s hard and it takes complete vigilance to maintain. Offhandedly one day, our farrier mentioned to Christy that he thought some of the horses would benefit from hind shoes, which would provide more support for their hocks.
Given that we have a barnful of ex-racehorses, who put more stress on their hind ends breaking from the gate as two year olds than your average riding horse, it makes sense that supporting their hind ends would make them more comfortable. But honestly, this never occurred to me – Jag only ever wore shoes in front, and Mads was barefoot.
But the difference that shoes in back have made for Derby and others is (in my mind at least) pretty amazing.
I could feel the difference immediately, and in ways I didn’t expect. Right off the back, the walk was swingier. Half way around the arena, on our first lap, Derby strrrrrretched down and out to the end of the reins. He stayed there, stretching all the way through his top line, in the nicest free walk I’ve ever ridden. And it got better – I could put the trot together and keep it together.
Over the last few lessons, Christy has ratcheted things up now that I don’t have to struggle to keep Derby on the bit. Last week’s theme was re-installing all the buttons I had dulled, and in particular, developing responsiveness. That really means paying attention and issuing corrections and rewards in the moment. Here’s an interesting snippet from one of these lessons, in which Christy was first and foremost schooling me to recognize a correct response to my aids (or lack there of.)
Last night and tonight, we broke through to a new level, staying smoothly connected, round and engaged for minutes at a time. Change of bend, leg yields – you name it, it’s easier now. I’ll get some updated video next week.
I am regretful and feel silly that I didn’t recognize the benefit of hind shoes before this, but better late than never in this case. The horse is providing unequivocal feedback in the positive, so I know it was the right decision. :)