The Good News
Harley continues to progress in his dressage skills. I have put a LOT of focus on his left-direction work, and it's paying off. He's adjusted to the side rein longe warmup, and actually seems to realize it's a time to stretch and be forward. I have been able to get some amazing transitions at all gaits, and he's letting me know the work is "good work" everytime I loosen the reins and he puts his nose to the dirt. His canter has improved to a nice steady (and slow) cadence rather than running up into it and falling out. I have had some sessions where I can transition about every 8 strides, something he couldn't have done well before.
We've plodded at the trot over some ground poles, crossrails, all with total success. He's also beginning to understand he *can* canter over a ground pole, and I'm successfully getting him over one at a time. Baby steps, baby steps.
Outside of the arena, I am his only limitation. He's getting braver with every trip, and adjusting to "hop on and walk on a loose rein". I find him reaching, searching for the bit, and stumbling when it's not there. I aim to get us farther away from home without anxiety from me, and increased trust that he can in fact leave the arena. a little ironic I'm working so hard in the fenceline, jumping, cantering, lengthening trot strides, yet I panic as soon as a bunny scuttles in the bushes walking down the road, hmm? His best "trail walk" day had to be the 15 minute walk about a week ago, cold-turkey, bareback, in the halter, all around his pasture. I let him pick his way through the brush, and he was outstanding. Confused (at least it felt that way), but his confidence increased by ride's end.
The Bad News
We went 8 weeks from one trim to the next, and it caused some harm. My trimmer was out of town on farrier work, so we pushed Harley out until he could come back. "Better later than sooner", he said. Now, I realize that isn't going to work. With the trim, Harley had hot feet, and sore rear heels again. That led to a week off, a few cold hoses, and mostly time to chill. I scrubbed his heels with a toothbrush and Listerine, and that seemed to increase the tough some.
Adding insult to injury, after my vacation, I prepared to ride him again yesterday, and found both front hooves hot to touch. Hmm.. Not good... I inspected the rear legs and hooves, and quickly found the problem. Right rear ankle, swollen, warm. Hmm,,, really not good. We wandered to the arena (dressed to ride), and I sent him out on the longe (no side reins). His head wobbled a little, and as I asked for more, his trot became rushed and flat. I paused a minute to see the heat had dissapated from his fronts, but the rear ankle was still swollen.. The more I longed ( about 10 minutes ) , the less I could tell if it was bothering him or not.
Brave, I told Harley, "Alright. Now, the only way I'm going to be able to tell how much it's bugging you? Is to hop on. Please don't kill me. Just show me what's going on, and I'll hop off." I climbed aboard (endurance saddle, halter/reins, no bit), and asked for a walk. For the first time, I was walking him around the arena, eyes completely closed, trying to feel the rear footfalls. Yeah, a lot of you are saying either, "You're a moron! He could've tore off & killed you!" or, "Yeah, so what? Eyes closed, big whoop you freaking chicken." Okay, well, it seemed like a big experience at the time. I felt a slight bit of difference in his gait behind. Not a defined limp, but a difference. I asked for a few brief moments of trot, and was surprised he didn't resist the gait at all. I didn't feel near the difference at the trot. In fact, everything felt steady. I halted him, and leaned over to look at the ankle,... still swollen. After a bit more riding, I hopped off.. Still swollen.
Off to the wash rack we went. I cold hosed it, and while I got some licking/chewing/yawning, none of that swelling decreased over ten minutes. I added 1g of bute to his supper, and breakfast. I found the ankle a bit less swollen this morning, with a little less heat in it. Lather rinse repeat tonight, and perhaps I'll add a bit of ice tight and some wraps to the rear legs as well.