I was pretty sure Bear was sore again today. From the beginning he was very stiff laterally, stiffer than I ever remembered him being, and his gaits were not feeling like I’ve come to expect them to feel. Like last time, he wanted to pick up the trot and scoot around on the forehand. So we spent quite a few minutes working on short-serpentines.
The stiffness started to improve after a few passes up and down the arena fence, but they never got that good. I switched things up and worked on walking and trotting in a medium circle. He was not excited to collect, and overall he just felt heavy to my hands and legs.
I went back to some bending exercises for a while, and things seemed to improve some. I also got off and worked on walking a line and disengaging the hind and bringing the front over. I didn’t start the ride with this exercise as I wanted to get him warmed up first. He was sluggish when I asked him to move, and if I got on him a little bit to hustle, he looked somewhat frightened and sore.
At this point I was getting a little frustrated with it all. I got back on and we kept working on serpentines as well as leg yields, soft one-reign stops, and whirly-gigs. I just wanted to run through a lot of exercises in hopes of getting him thinking about those and not whatever else he was thinking about. I felt like I was being too hard on him, but things didn’t seem to be getting worse.
Eventually we had some improved trots. Not great, but better. Then I decided to see how the lope felt. As I suspected, not good. He was forward and chargy and not all that happy to be doing it.
Again I consulted Robin (it is quite wonderful to have her to bounce ideas off mid-ride). She could tell he was not moving nicely, but she also said he does not look sore. In fact, she said some of his movements look too energetic for a sore horse. So maybe his energy was just misdirected?
I decided to push him even harder. I figured if he was really going to get sore, then I would know. We had already been riding for almost an hour, but I spent the next half-hour moving in and out of the lope.
Finally the ride started getting better. His upward transitions smoothed out, and we were spending more time in a balanced lope. When we trotted I worked on keeping a nice, large circle and changing things up by zig zagging across the middle or leg yielding to the other side. He was getting a little physically tired, but as I kept it up, he also seemed to be getting softer.
He never did fully improve with his lateral flexes, but his demeanor seemed better in the end. I can’t tell you how many rides I’ve had on Bear where I really needed to be demanding and ride hard to get through to him. It happens over and over again. Lately I guess I have been thinking we were not really at the spot any more and I had to pay more attention to other things. Maybe that’s not true.