My trainer came the other day for a lesson and we worked through our Intro B dressage test to pin-point the problem areas. Overall, the test itself was pretty decent...the spots where I thought we would run into trouble (turn onto/off of center line and the halt) weren't actually bad at all (Johnny wanted to step right a bit in the hault but he corrects himself quickly when you catch him with your leg) but the places that I knew we would have trouble (aka the free walk) definetly needed some improvement. Not only that, but Johnny still has a hard time keeping his consistant 4-beat walk and 2-beat trot because of his weak left hock. From just a normal perspective, he looks just fine, but when an experienced eye (like a dressage judge) really breaks it down, you can see that he pushes harder with some legs than others. For example; his walk is more like a onetwo-THREE-four instead of a one-two-three-four because he swings his left leg in a bit when he brings it forward (to avoid having to fully use his hock.) There is no real "soundness" issue with him, just a weakness that hasn't been addressed prior to him becoming a riding horse...probably a little arthritis as well which I've been trying to manage with joint supplements and some yucca and devils claw. I'm also thinking about trying heat therapy on the area prior to work and seeing if that helps any...my own physical therapist reccomended it for me, and my problems arn't so different than Johnnys.
Anyway, in our lesson we worked on establishing the true gaits through some lengthening and shortening exercises to get his back up and his hind legs working underneith him. We also worked on his sitting trot, which is hard for him because he tenses his back muscles and makes it almost impossible to sit to. K had me work ona circle and move around on him, experimenting with a different way to move my hips to get him to break up his back tension. We found out that if you swing your hips more "side-to-side" for a while, he realeases then tension in his muscles and lets his back swing propery...and his sitting trot is actually quite comfortable!
At the end of our lesson, I rode the test again with a COMPLETELY different horse underneith me and we did really well...we even got a real free walk!
Unfortunatly, since then I've managed to come down with a cold and haven't ridden Johnny in two days. I ran him around (free lunged) in the indoor today and wouldn't you know that he cantered just fine on that sticky right lead. Not only was he balanced, but he also held it all the way around the arena, making circles and such also! I am thoroughly convinced now that he really just doesn't understand the leg cue for it (long story behind that one, but long story short...I am not the cause of that problem...really, I'm not.) because he seems perfectly confortable to canter on it and K's theory about his hock weakness being the problem clearly isnt the problem without a rider on his back. I think it may be more of a balance and understanding issue than anything. I'm sure we'll find out soon at least.
First IHSA show is this weekend...I hope this cold clears up by then because I almost DIED in practice today. Two rounds of no-stirrups with a cold doesn't work so well when the crap in your nose and throat is preventing you from breathing properly. I know you all wanted that visual ;)
Til next time!