Thursday, 19 September 2013

Slow trot, hills and bloody stifles

Well it feels like forever since I spilled my random horsey thoughts on the screen of the trusty old MacBook. And the last couple of weeks have not been without horsey action!

I'll start with the Andrew Mclean clinic. Basically, Andrew was pretty complimentary of young Tux. But used words like 'rehabilitation' and 're-training' when he saw his antics and tension levels. Here's what we worked on:
  • Controlling both front legs equally. We identified that Tux's less under control leg was his near fore, so at a nice slow walk (which I actually achieved!) we worked on halting on an even number of steps to keep stepping off on the same side, then an odd number to change. Interestingly, even when his off fore was the last to move, he would sometimes step off with his near side, despite that being quite unusual. The rule is generally that the last leg to stop is the first leg to move.
  • His head tossing and rearing is directly linked to his incorrectly trained 'stop button'. That is, he has been held with very strong rein contact in the past and is quite freaked out by it. He pulls when he is excited. The key is not to maintain any pressure on his mouth for more than two beats. Two beats being two front leg footfalls. If he fails to slow from a light but brief rein aid, release but give it to him a lot more strongly the second time - but just as briefly!
  • Tux needs to learn how to change tempo within a gait - go faster and slower not just longer and shorter. We worked on slow mostly as he's pretty good at fast already!
  • Tux needs to learn self-carriage. We worked on having almost no contact with his mouth and asking for a veeerrryyyy slow trot. After a while, he actually started achieving that surprisingly well.
  • Until we establish a very reliable and light stop button, and self-carriage and change of tempo, jumping is not to be overdone (or really done much at all). That being said, Andrew encouraged training in and around jumps, occasionally popping over them.
The biggest enemy for us is tension. When things start to go wrong in Tuxland he really loses it very fast. Andrew said it's impossible to de-train that response as it's hard-wired (the 'flight' part of 'fight or flight'), but it IS possible to diminish or supress it. He also asked what I had bought Tux for. I joked he was my 4* horse. And Andrew (being the lovely guy he is) just said, "Well, in that case you really need to work on getting the basics nailed down before you really jump him much. If you just want him for some fun you can just go out there and fang around. But you'll never get past pre-novice." Wise words, and a big kick up the bum when I'm getting ahead of myself!

I had Robyn the bodyworker out the afternoon after the clinic and she told me in no uncertain terms that his stifles were a major problem and he has significant muscle weakness in the thighs and hindquarters. He really does look like two different horses. A lovely, quality jumper in the front half, and a skinny TB with no fitness in the back half.

So, more of the same as I did with Rose all those months ago. Poles every day, carrot stretches every day, hill work as often as possible. Sigh. At least Rose was waiting at the gate every morning. Tux takes one look at my eager face with my carrot outstretched and simply walks off in the other direction. With purpose. All the way to the bottom of the paddock.

Rose is looking so pregnant she might pop. Robyn is concerned her pelvis is quite crooked but shouldn't interfere with foaling. The foal is literally kicking the crap out of her - huge thumps now! I had a great visit with the lovely Larry Greetham from the Celtic Stud (he bred Rose, incidentally) and we have a revised possible due date of 2 October, rather than 20 October, mainly due to the fact maiden mares often go early. Rose is showing intermittent signs of imminent motherhood, but then the weather turns and all her hormones pack up again. When the warmer weather returns I reckon it won't take long for her to have it.

So, competing has been suspended for a while, it seems. I'm doing quite a bit of judging over the next few months, but there isn't a lot on competition-wise. I'll post pics as soon as Rose has that big baby of hers!