Last time I updated you on Otis I wasn’t feeling too positive, but I went away and decided that when I’d lunged him he was probably still tired from his couple of heavier days of exercise, so combined with the deep, dry arena, wasn’t feeling his best.
I gave him a couple of days off, then lightly hacked him, and on the weekend the arena was rolled. So I rode him in the school, on a much firmer surface and he felt much better. The odd nod, but when looking back at the videos I felt that the stride length was staying consistent, but he wasn’t quite connected so was dropping the contact and nodding his head – bridle lameness perhaps?
Since then I’ve found the balance between one lunge, one schooling session, and three hacks (with the odd trot around the arena if he’s not worked hard on the hack) a week to build him up slowly. Hopefully by increasing the trot work, by longer hacks or popping in the school for a couple of laps, his fitness will improve. I’ve been very conscious of getting him to take the contact forwards, and to create that steady connection. To help, I’ve also been using side reins on the lunge. There’s still the odd misstep, but I’m hoping as his strength improves this will disappear. I’ve also been focusing on the quality of the trot and canter, so that he uses himself most efficiently and will be less likely to injure himself as we progress.
The positive thing I’ve felt, is that his left canter feels better than his right (although they were much more even today) and his injured leg supports his entire weight in left canter. So it can’t be that bad, can it?
I feel that I’ve got a handle on his weight now. He’s not gaining weight, and his neck is no longer cresty. Hopefully by keeping a close eye on his grazing and the slow increase in his workload will start toning the muscle and burning the fat.
I did however, have the saddler out yesterday. I’ve been using my dressage saddle as this is the wider of the two. However, it had to be widened by two gullet sizes! Into an extra wide! The saddler then put my wider gullet into my jump saddle, which is still a little narrow and perched on top, but it didn’t move while I rode, even with my loose girth. So at least I have the option of both saddles, even if I don’t use the jump saddle for a month or so.
Can you remember I did a blog about zoopharmacognozy a couple of months ago? Well I bought a sample selection pack, but Otis doesn’t seem to be fussy and eats all of the herbs that I offer him! So I’m just feeding him them one at a time, and if I notice a huge difference in his well being I will investigate further. One herb I bought, called Eyebright, is supposed to support the functioning of the eye. Otis’s right eye tends to run in the wind, or with flies, so I thought I’d give that a go. A pinch each day in his feed and there’s no gunk in the corner of his eye – I’m really impressed!
The plan is to continue how we are, adding in five minutes more every few days and to get plenty of video evidence for me to reflect on. I have put myself down for a riding club dressage weekend in July. It may be ambitious, but I felt I needed an aim. It will only consist of one lesson on each of the two days, so a far cry from the fitness demands of Pony Club camp. It should help my teaching as I can get hints and tips from other lessons, and if the worst comes to the worst and Otis isn’t up to it then I’m sure I can borrow a horse for the weekend.