Mort is back to his normal self. The combination of switching his grain and being able to actually exercise him has put him back to being slightly on the lazy side of life. Now that we’re getting back into a regular routine I can start to assess how much fitness and training he’s lost over the last several months. It’s amazing that it’s been since mid-October since I’ve been able to really ride and train him. I feel bad that it took so long to diagnose the ulcers, but I’m glad we’re back on track. Hopefully the weather doesn’t derail us again.
His fitness is definitely not where it was. Counter canter seems to be much harder than before and we have less time in our rides before I start to notice him getting worn out. All of this is fine and I’m doing my best to keep the rides short while still pushing him enough to improve his fitness. I sure know how bad sore muscles can feel trying to get back into shape too quickly.
I spent some time in our ride on Sunday figuring out what we needed to work on right now. I think that my immediate goals are to work on counter canter and lateral work. They seem to be our biggest areas of weakness. They both take balance and strength and the lateral work takes some mental effort on his part as well. I’ve made sure to put in counter canter in each ride since Sunday and I am already seeing improvement. I love the bigger arena at the new barn as it makes counter canter so much easier with all the space.
Last night I started trying to play with more than just a couple steps of lateral work. It wasn’t wonderful. I think that I started it too late in the ride and he got tired quickly. I also think it’s just hard for us. He and I are both crooked and out of shape. So, I am going to try to go back to basics and move up from there. Each ride will have a certain lateral work “focus” mixed in with our regular work.
I’m hoping to devote a ride to turn-on-the-forehand, including walking-turn-on-the-forehand. The next ride I want to do some very basic and baby leg yields. When those are second nature again we’ll move on to more complicated and steeper leg yields. Then shoulder-in, and you already get the picture. We’ll move through lateral work quicker than the initial training since it’s all in there already, but I really want to make sure that I’m not rushing either of us. Pushing an out-of-shape horse (and rider) is a quick way to create a sour or injured horse.
I think we do have something good coming out of all our goofing off over the last several months. I feel like Mort’s transitions are better. I especially notice it in the walk to trot transitions. We spent a lot of time bareback. We spent a lot of time just playing around at the walk and trot. I think maybe the very low-pressure environment helped him get a little more relaxed in those transitions. He still throws in an exciting canter transition every once in a while, but I’m not really sure that will ever go away—maybe when he’s 20.