1. Cholula’s summer sore is healing! Slowly, but surely. I stopped wrapping her foot 2 nights ago and switched over to fly boots. So far they seem to be working well enough – they keep the flies off, and that’s the main thing. This also makes her care infinitely easier while I’m away next week in Minnesota.
2. Her lumps and bumps have all been gradually fading, so perhaps she just had a bad spell of reacting to the flies with the stress of the summer sore. There haven’t been any new welts and I’m happy for that.
3. I have a few really great people taking care of Cho while I’m gone, which makes me feel better about leaving for over a week. Especially as it’s going to start hitting the 100s next week. I never do well traveling and leaving my animals, but she’ll have eyes on her every day and I’m sure she’ll be fine because she always is. Right? Right.
4. Riding. I have noticed that Cho has not been terribly effective at cooling herself. Going by the standard of heat + humidity = over 150 = dangerous, this isn’t very surprising…most days (morning, midday, night, whatever) it’s over 160. Many people say “Ride in the morning, it’s cooler!” …but the combined temperature and relative humidity is often higher in the mornings because the humidity is so high. I can’t believe I’d rather ride in 93 than 79, but there you go.
Because I hose her off before I ride, it’s hard to tell if her body is still sweating as it’s supposed to. I primarily worry because of how heavy she breathes after a moderate amount of work that isn’t walking, and if we do anything nearing “normal” trot and canter work it takes a long time for her respiratory rate to go down.
I’ve been paranoid about anhidrosis since moving here, and with google the other day I may have overreacted and decided that her ability to sweat has been compromised (though I recognize it’s not stopped completely). I researched every supplement and what has worked for every other person on the internet, consulted my MN vet, and opted to go with One AC.
I have since realized that perhaps my fat Northern horse with a coat that’s visibly thicker than any Thoroughbred’s is just having an adjustment period and perhaps we don’t need to jump to treatments for things she doesn’t have just yet. She is turned out at night and is doing well with that. She gets to stand under a fan all day in her stall with access to plenty of clean water. She is the master of not expending energy, and the odds of her moving enough to necessitate more cooling are small.
I knew summer was going to be hard and we’d probably have to take a break, or greatly reduce our workload. I am trying to balance crazy paranoia with healthy concern. It doesn’t come easily to me.
SO. We changed gears. Our work has to be different — now is not the time to train for stamina or endurance. I get a little twitchy with the thought that Cho is losing fitness…but there is nothing more I can do about that, and walk work is better than no work.
Our sessions are slow and methodical. I’m not in any rush to “get to the real work” because everything is real work. I walk her on a loose rein for 10 minutes. I gradually take up contact, and note where she’s stuck. Not giving to the outside rein means not yielding to the inside leg, so we work on that. When it gets a little better I change direction and give her a break. Small, collected lateral work to warm everything up and big, stretchy walk breaks between each.
The result of all of this is a supple horse that’s on the aids and ready to go. I can’t spend multiple trips around the arena in trot or canter to do these things, so I want the trot work we do to count. We don’t trot until the walk work is there. We don’t continue trotting until she stays on the aids through the transition. As soon as she gives what I ask, she gets a walk break.
We do poles often. A lot of walking, but I try to make a point of passing over them as many times as I can in a session.
Sometimes I spend the end of the ride practicing sitting trot without stirrups until she needs a break (I could do with several more hours of that).
My expectations are different. I expect good transitions, and we do them until they are. I expect correct work. If something isn’t right – she’s not through, she isn’t quite bending around my inside leg, she is bracing in the rein-back, hollowing in canter transitions — I take a step back, think about what I can do to work it out, and try again. I don’t get frustrated. I don’t feel rushed.
This is probably how training should always be, but it’s easy to get caught up in the check list of “you must do these things for this test.” I’ve been thinking a lot lately in regards to my riding during show season vs. not show season. How I am dying to just enjoy my horse at the end of show season, rather than worry about scores and tests and competition. Don’t get me wrong – I love showing, I love dressage, I think riding tests is important. But, I can only focus so much on that before I need a break.
And, tangible results?
-Cho will sit and lift for half-steps some of the time. She doesn’t really ‘get’ piaffe yet, but once or twice in a session a light bulb will click. This light bulb could be the moment in which I get my shit together and ride properly.
–Consistent half-pass! In walk AND in trot! So much so that I really have to be mindful about my aids, because some of the time when I want to circle and I’m coming off of the rail she goes into half-pass.
-Shoulder-fore, shoulder-in, travers – all of these things are getting easier. We are definitely communicating better with lateral work.
-Walk to canter transitions are steadier: she doesn’t lift her head as often for balance, and she is doing more of them the first time I ask (as opposed to trying to trot, not staying on the aids, etc). Downward transitions (canter-trot) have also improved a lot, and soon I’ll start mixing in canter-walk again.
Putting together a 2nd level test may be a challenge right now, but the past month has been a good reminder that my horse is awesome.