I arrived nice & early to Blue Ribbon, and due to a cancellation, got my lesson started at 10:30 rather than 11:00.
We started out at a long stretchy walk, and Ransom didn't even pause to look around. He was ready for action. Barb told me, "Warm him up like you normally do." So I stuck him out at the trot on a loose rein, barely guiding his body, and as I slowly started shortening the reins, she said...
"He's off behind. Slow him down, it looks stiff & painful the more he goes. Don't push for that big trot - it just gets fast & ugly." We worked on shortening the stride back to a reasonable trot, and Ransom was bending nice left, but ugly right.
Did a bunch of trot circles right, a few volte's at walk (that's new!), and I learned how to push him out on the circle, bending in, and transition to a nice forward walk, make a smaller circle, and right back up to trot. He was very stiff, very lazy, and it took quite a while to get a nice bend going right.
I rode through TL #1, and Barb watched. We fixed a few small things. #1 Coming down centerline, only look AT the Judge. Nothing Else. Don't look too far above C, but don't look down if she's sitting just behind it at ground level, either. Look straight dead ahead, don't even shift my eyes to E & B to find X. He halted square & beautiful whenever I did that, and moved muck straighter down center, so that was cool. #2 Smooth transitions, think about them ahead of time, and give him time to prepare for a smooth transition. #3 Bend low at the poll, keep my hands active & keep his head down.
Then she called TL #2 and we rode through that. Many improvements from TL #1, all from the previous reminders. I was super satisfied that it was going to go well.
Barb cautioned - "He's going to probably get some lower marks for his trot. Just prepare for it now in your mind. His walk is good, his canter's a 9 if you bend him well. But I know the judge, and she'll want his head low. Keep his head low, keep the transitions nice & smooth, and enjoy the ride. You'll do great."
For the stiffness, the soreness, and the general lack of forward from behind, she suggested Joint Injections in his hocks. We're guessing, based on everything we've seen so far, Ransom has had very little maintenance. Barb asked that we make a vet appointment and get his back legs looked at, and injections done. So tomorrow, at 10:15 or so, we're meeting with Dr. Sam and Deanna. I'm going to get a lameness evaluation done, that will probably involve flexion, maybe xrays, and a long discussion.
Yes, I know he's older. At 20, Ransom's done a lot, seen a lot, and he's still got "go" in him. Barb even commented, "He's working very hard for you, and for his age, doing very well. He's got more life left competing, he just needs some lube in his joints." I've thought about it ... Ransom and I worked from 4/22 all the way through 5/2 with one day off, 4/28. That was it. He had one day off in 11 days of work. Wow! That's a lot! I also was doing a lot of hunter work, ground poles, cavaletti at trot & canter, and even those few 8" "jumps at canter", and the crossrails at trot before the dressage was serious again. He's working really hard - and so it's only expected he'll be stiff & sore.
Tomorrow's the big day! I don't think it'll be super serious or disastrous news. But I need to take care of him, since he's taking such good care of me.