I gathered Harley and got him dressed after another busy PT. Looks like there's one more week there yet to go. I have some decisions to make concerning PT - do I think I'm good enough to call it "done", or are there things I still need to improve worth making another dr appointment and asking for another four weeks? I haven't decided. While I am a LOT stronger than I was, there are still a handful of things around the house that are difficult to do on my own. Things to consider ...
Harley first longed out with the bit in mouth, longed from the halter (nothing attached to the bit). He hopped playfully over the poles, but with a few wrong leads heading left. Grr..
Then I tried something different to encourage head down, nose in, use the rear end better. I have a fairly long old rope with clips on the end, and it looks much like Julie Goodnight's Elbow Pull bitting system. Well,,, It sort of works. Harley responded correctly at the walk, but failed again at the trot. I think he was "correct" for a stride or two going right, but that was it. Otherwise, he just lifted his head higher and found the wrong release. Grr! So, it's back to the drawing board, er, tack store catalogs, to figure out what else might work. I need to show him that "good" is head down, nose in. I don't expect him to hold it for hours, but I noticed last night he's getting muscles on the lower side of his neck, not on top. This needs improving. On the longe, his forward is FANTASTIC. He'll over stride at the walk, and he is tracking up nicely at the trot. His canter varies depending how early in the workout it is, as it starts out speedy and short, but he eases into a pretty graceful canter after a little while. However, the quicker gaits are all done with his neck up, nose out. Blech!
I changed his bit from longing french link to the Myler Combo, and walked him over to the mounting steps. Success! In less than two minutes, he was at the steps, and I was aboard. I then mentally prepared for what might come next. When I add leg to ask him to move on, will he burst away from the block, just stand there, or walk away quietly. Again, Success! Harley took about two gentle steps from the steps on a little leg pressure, and hesitated, as if to make sure I was really ready to move. I added leg, and he continued.
With a little walk, turn, and halt, he was responsive and paying attention. I got brave, and squeezed and clucked. Harley hopped up into his trot, and again hesitated, making sure he really did have the right answer. I trotted about a circle and a half, each direction, and found his trot to walk transition isn't the greatest. Ugh. If I sit deep, shift weight back, he drags his feet moving to walk. If I shift my weight forward a little and tip my pelvis behind me, he stops pretty quickly. Hmm.. I wonder where he learned that little habit, and how I might fix it.
So back to the walk we went, where I repeated walk/halt over and over and over, shifting my weight back, closing my knees, and then adding bit pressure. I decided to stop when I had about four in a row that were improved. Finished out the work with a little side to side flexion, and when I added pressure to both sides of the bit (closed both hands on the reins), he figeted a little before lowering his head, to which I immediately released all rein contact. It's not a miracle, but it's a start.
This means we're up to good solid walking work, and a little trotting under saddle again. It felt good. He isn't poking around like he was last year, so the longing work is helping. I do, however, need to set up some poles, cones, and solo rail razors around the arena, and begin work to improve his turns, moving him around things and over obstacles. It'll give us both something to think about, making the rides longer each time.