A few Mondays ago (11/5 to be exact) was the Very Off Day. I'd been struggling with my posting dynamic, his right bend, half halts, my seat, and basically everything else up until this day, and Penn was having a bad rehab day and he struggled to walk evenly. Put all of that together, plus rider emotions and horse tension and I should have just gotten off 5 minutes in when I realized it was a lost cause. Nope. I lasted 20 minutes before flinging myself off my horse (which spooked him) and just hugged his shoulders and sobbed in the indoor. Penn stood very still and was like, "The human is broken. Whaaaaa...?"
He was so very lame. So incredibly lame. Uneven and tripping in the walk, uneven and hobbling in the trot. He felt like shit. I was thinking, "He's done. That's it. He's going to be retired and live in a field and never be ridden again."
Then came the next thoughts. "I'm making him lame."
He's sound on the lunge line, or at least the same level of sound as he was a month ago at his vet appointment. He is not sound when being ridden. You do the math.
So then I'm reflecting on how I'm riding him: I've tried up and slow, lame. Letting him out ended up in a turbo trot that was even... or so turbo I couldn't tell if he was lame or not... but he had the unbalanced legs of doom running on the forehand and leaning heavily on the right shoulder. I couldn't seem to make a half halt work and get him off his right shoulder, so he eventually felt lame again.
Complete and utter disaster.
I arranged for a friend to be out 2 days later to get video for GP Trainer and the vet. The vet would be able to see the lameness and compare it to what she's seen before, and GP Trainer could have a look at what I'm doing to him to make him lame.
The following will make my arena sobbing look extremely dramatic.
Watch the right trot video again: the "unbalanced" steps? Those are lame steps. Vet confirmed yo. I thought they were when I was riding, it was nice to know I wasn't being crazy.
I have to thank Jenj and Megan for talking me down, both had super tips to go with my comments of "I can't ride" and "I'm breaking him" and "how did I get my bronze, I'm terrible" and the actually much more helpful "I've lost control of his body parts and he lays on the right shoulder and flings his ass left, what do I do".
Megan encouraged me to keep his haunches in when tracking right, and said 'yes, you can use your inside rein to help keep his shoulders and nose pointed correctly, as long as you give it back and don't hang on it.' Jenj reminded me that first level includes leg yields for good reason- move the shoulders around frequently and he can't lean on one of them.
Even so, the horse in these videos is much sounder than the Very Off Day. We went on to have a day that felt absolutely fantastic- he felt sound and normal and pliable and wonderful, in addition to being light in the bridle and connected. We went on to have some days where I'd feel him start to take lame steps, but I remembered how to adjust his balance with my seat and he got better.
Every time someone was around to video the unsoundness I felt, he would feel fine! It was awful not being able to get video of his unsound days. I swear, the people at the barn must have gotten used to "that crazy girl who thinks her horse is broken."
There isn't a whole lot of content to this post, but I needed it as a precursor for the next FIVE posts that detail our disastrous trips to VA over my Thanksgiving vacation. Stay tuned folks.