So I haven't done an update on Kaswyn in awhile, mostly because I'm afraid to put this down in print, or even utter the words.
He's been sound.
I've been working really hard, but very slowly with the biomechanics stuff, and had been riding him in a bareback pad for a few months. This was because I just wasn't getting the feel of when he was straight or crooked, or when he threw his shoulder or haunches this way or that way when I was riding in a saddle. So I went to the bareback pad and really concentrated on his body and how it was moving.
Our rides consisted of lots of walk work to begin with. Slow walking steps, as in - he'd take a step and then there was a pause before he put the next foot down. This pause caused both of us to slow down and really pay attention to what was happening. With that slow tempo it was easy for me to feel a shift in his body if he was going to get crooked, and then I could correct it before he stepped.
In that slow walk, we made squares, and when turning the corner I'd ask him to bring the inside shoulder over to the inside, and move the haunches to the outside while keeping his body straight to make the square corner. Not that he's going to do that when we make a round turn in dressage though. It's all about control, and what I needed to learn and then teach him to do was slow down and move his body when and how I wanted it to go, instead of flinging himself all over the place and overreacting to my leg or seat. Kaswyn's very sensitive and wiggly, and he can get crooked in a half a stride. It can be maddening!
Also in the slow work I concentrated on having him lift his back into each stride. This is hard work, even at a slow walk, but he needed to lift into each stride and not hollow his back. This required a lot of leg but a light seat, and more than once I got a piaffe out of him because he was just not getting it. The few piaffe steps accomplished what I needed, because he lifted his back, so then I would tell him to walk and then try and keep the back up there. It doesn't sound like hard work, but it really is.
When I had that going pretty well, I added the trot. The hardest thing was convincing him that he could actually trot off from that slow, lifted back walk, and lift into a straight trot without needing to contract his back or get crooked. Now, it was a slow trot, not collected, but slow, and he needed to do all the same things at the slow trot that I had asked him at the walk. Control the body, slow the thinking, keep the back up. Even harder work than the walk. It was very low impact on his legs and joints because I wasn't asking for collection, but lots of work for his back.
Incidentally, his back has not been sore at all, and I can tell from our shoulder stretches that his left shoulder is much looser than it was before I started all of this. Oh, and I'm not just coming up with this stuff on my own, although I wish I had been smart enough to think of it. The biomechanics lady has been my guide through the whole thing, plus the chiropractor who identified some physical issues in Kaswyn. Without them I could never have done this.
When I thoguht the trot was ok (but not perfect yet, I knew that) I moved on to the canter, which was even harder than the trot. I've been working a few weeks of this on my own and I really need a session with my biomechanical lady. I hope that happens tomorrow.
Anyhow, last week I put the saddle back on him and after we did our walk and trot work I asked him for a normal working trot. He hesitated, and hung back a bit, being unsure if that is what I really wanted. But then he went on and did it. And it felt pretty good. I asked two trainers who happened to be there that day what they thought. They both said he was even strided, but was throwing his haunches right.
Well, damn. It's not perfect yet, but I know it's getting better. We'll keep working on it.
The Harmany Muzzle
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