Even though it was cold, I went out to see the boys today. Here is what's going on -
For Kaswyn, I decided to go with the injection (it's called Tildren) and the shock wave treatment. He has finished his Tildren treatment, and had three shock wave sessions. The vet wanted me to start working him slowly, and do I did. I started out by riding him for 10 minutes, mostly at the walk and just a little trot. He felt really good, tons of energy, and he only felt a little uneven. The vet said that he didn't look lame, but looked like he was being very careful about how he put that foot on the ground. It's probably something that he's developed as a protective mechanism, and may take some time to get over.
Also, Kaswyn would bite at his coronet band after we worked. I asked the vet about it and he thought it could be because of the scar tissue around the nerve being pulled during work and causing some referred sensation to that area. Kind of like phantom limb syndrome, where amputees can feel their toes on a foot that is no longer there. So I started to massage the scar with lavender oil before our rides, thinking that it may start to break up some of the adhesions in the area.
After a week I went to 15 minutes of work, and Kaswyn started to feel more uneven. So now we are back to walking. I know the vet wants me to start working him again, but the Tildren doesn't show full results for 2 or 3 months, and we aren't there yet. I'm not in a hurry, so I think I'm just going to take is easy with him. I'm also not sure if my scar massaging was part of the problem, so I'm doing that after the walking now.
I just finished reading the Dressage Today article about barefoot high performance horses, and I'm really intrigued by this for Kaswyn. His left front foot, the one that has had all the issues, is a little clubby. I wonder if being barefoot and getting trimmed every 5 weeks would help that foot to take a better shape. I don't know that much about it, but I'm going to look into it. He is barefoot behind, so I believe it's something his feet can handle, as far as both sensitivity and structure go.
Phil has continued to improve. However we did have a stretch of about a week where there was bad weather, with wind and rain and hail. It was just really hard to Phil to deal with because he hates noise outside the arena that he can't see. It's stresses him out and causes him to bolt, spook and be inattentive. This makes it very hard to ride, much less get any training done.
During one particularly bad evening while riding alone in a wind storm, I just completely broke down. I stopped Phil in the middle of the arena, and cried. I thought that maybe I made a mistake by thinking I could turn this horse into a dressage horse. Maybe I needed to give up and stop upsetting him. Maybe he needed a better owner.
After my three minute pity party, I stopped crying and started thinking. What was *I* doing to make this worse? I assessed my posture. For one thing, I was riding with my shoulders up and tight, instead of down and relaxed. I know I was doing it due to the fear of Phil bolting, but this tension in my shoulders was absolutely transmitting tension to Phil's mouth. I'm sure this made him think "Hey lady, you're stressed, so obviously there is something to be stressed about!".
I also thought about my seat and legs. I realized that while I was still riding with an open knee, I was gripping with my upper thigh. This was also due to fear. It was my brain saying "You better hold on to this horse somehow!". The gripping in my upper inner thigh was translating to a tense, immobile seat, which is not good for inviting a horse to relax and meet your seat with his back.
So I pulled myself together, swallowed my fear, and relaxed. Shoulders down, thighs apart, seat down and soft, legs draped around Phil in a supportive, but not constricting way.
And what do you know, it actually worked. The rest of that ride was much better. Not perfect, but better. Since then he has shown more and more improvement. There is more relaxation over his back, and he's even stretching down in the stretchy trot circle practice. I just have to keep reminding myself that if I ride the way I'm supposed to, it's better for both of us.
The plan is to go to some recognized shows this year with Phil. For Kaswyn, there is no show plan. Which is ok. I'm just hoping to help keep him pain free and happy.