Six Miles and a Bath

Even after six miles, he was still excited about feeding time.

This is officially the first entry on my progress with Johnny. I’m not sure how much of a following I’ll get with these, but at least I’ll be able to track my progress.

Yesterday I had an entire blissful, pefect weather afternoon to ride. Days like that don’t come often, and I took full advantage of the opportunity. I started off with overhauling the tack room. It’s not much in the way of space, but with a three-tier saddle stand (thanks Wes & Donna), it looks neat and organized, and I have easy access to my saddles and saddle pads.  Before I fetched Johnny, I set up the cavalletti Dad and I made in a small gymnastic gridline–two trot rails, then two trot strides to a small, ramped oxer. I planned on taking him out for a light hack then trotting through the gymnastic until he relaxed through the line. Without my own area to ride, I have to set up any jumps in the front yard–room for about 1 jump, maximum. My plans are, however, to build three or four jumps and get permission from my neighbors to set them up in a far corner of their pasture (where they so gracefully allow me to ride–I’m very lucky).

After tacking up, I started off like usual: establishing a good walk to relax Johnny’s ever-tense back. He has such a huge walk anyway, but when he’s fresh, it just about throws you all over the saddle. Really helps me work on my position in the saddle. I use the driveway and dirt roads to work on lateral work at the walk as well–we leg yield from one side to the other and serpentine down the road. I’m sure if anyone ever watched me ride for any length of time, I’d look a little drunk with my horse weaving from side to side! As we neared the top of the hill at the end of the road, I picked up a canter. The goal was to canter downhill and transition into trot halfway down to work on Johnny’s weak hindquarters and help transfer his balance to the rear. Mission accomplishment there, but he must have read my mind, because he was already planning the trot before I asked. Hm. Have we been reading the same book?

Though I had planned on a short hack, he had too much energy for me to take him over gymnastics in a confined space, so I turned our hack into conditioning work, and we set off to complete the six-mile loop that leads back to the house. I’m sure the neighbors, in our rural area, thought I was training a racehorse (haha, I guess I am, essentially) as I galloped by in two-point. I alternated trotting and galloping with walking when he could go no further. Johnny has laryngeal hemiplegia–he’s a ‘roarer.’ This means only half of his larynyx works effectively. When exercised, the air rushes past the deadened side of the larynyx and creates a roaring sound (hence the name). It’s a condition that affects mainly thoroughbreds, and they’re not really sure what causes it. Johnny has a significant amount of paralysis, so I have to build his stamina up slowly. He makes noise all the time, so it can be alarming at first, but I’ve learned to push him just slightly past his comfort zone without overdoing it.

We finished our loop, and as an added measure, I trotted him over the grid I’d laid out. I’m not sure if it was because he was so tired, or if the grid really inspired him to slow down and concentrate, but he trotted beautifully and quietly over the jump without rushing. All in all, a great ride, but we need to continue focusing on accepting contact quietly and consistently–arena work is next ride. I try and alternate dressage with conditioning/jumping with a heavy emphasis on dressage.

After that exhausting ride (my legs are a little weak today), Johnny got a much-needed bath. A full-on bath, complete with shampoo!  A great day spent with my horse.

For Dora’s great  adventure, see my next post.

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