End of season crunch time

Still working on the canter.

Thank God. After a brutal couple weeks, I’m off the road, back at home, and back in the saddle. We’re shooting for a couple shows at the end of this month and the beginning of next to wrap up the season, so it’s time to buckle down.  The last show is the IDCTA schooling show series championships.  We’re qualified already, but I’d love to get one more show under our belts.

I’m pretty happy with how our rides have been lately, though as I discussed with Christy today, I really need to concentrate on making true forward gaits our default gear.  I’m still falling into the habit of letting Derby lollygag and slow down, rather than staying in front of my leg.  We’re going to focus on this issue in particular this coming week.

I’ve also been working on improving our bend, and really getting Derby to step under himself and into the outside rein. This is a real weak area for me but I’m determined to nail this key basic.  At the Robert Dover clinic last fall, a woman who was riding Fourth level on a gorgeous and talented horse wound up getting schooled for her lesson on bend.  It underscored for me the importance of mastering the basics.

So I’ve been doing a lot of spiral in/leg-yield out and other exercises assigned by Christy.  We’ve also uncovered a few issues with my position that interfere with (or mute?) my aids.  One thing I’ve caught myself doing – especially to the right – is curling my inside leg up, rather than encouraging the horse to bend around it.  In addition to clarifying my aids, I also need to insist upon a crisp response from Derby.

However, I’ve thought he had something else going on. He’s not entirely comfortable going to the right. His canter to the right can get lateral, and he’s harder to bend to the right.  So I scheduled a chiropractic appointment for Derby, and that appointment was yesterday.

It was fascinating to watch. Dr. Heinze from Fox Valley Equine work on Derby and the other horses.  He first evaluated each, and was able to identify areas (such as part of the spine, or a hip) where there was less motion.  In Derby’s case, he had little flexibility in his right hip, and also had some stiff spots in his spine.  We went ahead with the adjustment, and Dr. Heinze said I could expect to see improvement over the next few days.

I do believe he bent more easily to the right, however, I wasn’t riding terribly effectively today.  But when I finally got both of us warmed up and moving,  Derby felt pretty good.

Derby getting used to the Micklem.

However, I complicated things a bit by adding a new variable – a Micklem bridle.  I got a bit of a wild hair this morning and went up to the Dover store and picked one up.  It took some futzing with to get adjusted, but I think Derby liked it.  His mouth felt quieter and the contact was better.  However, Christy experienced improvement in contact and a softer mouth after having one of her own horses adjusted.

So whether or not it was the bridle or the adjustment, I don’t really know.  I  really should have just used my old bridle for the next few days, but I couldn’t resist giving my new toy a try.

In other news, I’m having Derby re-scoped on Tuesday.  He’s having more difficulty than usual with his breathing.  Normally, he’s fine after taking a few laps to clear his pipes, during which time there’s lots of coughing and sneezing.  Lately, however, the episodes of coughing and sneezing have been more frequent, recurring during our rides. Hopefully it’s just a little inflammation, and we can knock it back with some drugs.

We’re riding again tomorrow (the weather is perfect!) and I’m hoping for a better ride that will give me a better read on  how effective the chiro treatment was.