Halo was a bit witchy this week. There's a gelding new to her pasture in whom she has taken an interest - she's a big girl now and wants to flirt with the boys. Unfortunately, that made for a difficult ride for Allegra earlier this week. From what she said, Halo was acting spooky and was very unfocused. She was also somewhat bratty for Lindsey the next day, but not quite as dramatic. I headed into the weekend thinking I was going to have some rough rides ahead of me. Fortunately Halo decided to have mercy on her poor gimpy mom, and I had productive rides Saturday and Sunday.
Both days we started off with a snack. Because the weather has been so atrociously hot, I've been going out very early in the morning, and sometimes the horses haven't been fed yet. I give Halo a small armful of grass hay while I groom her because she often misses part of breakfast.
She certainly isn't complaining!
Anticipating trouble, Saturday I started off with a little round penning to see how Halo's energy level was. She wasn't too impressed with me, but she behaved perfectly. I didn't keep her at it too long since it was already hot, and she was being good. I got on and we did some warmup. The main thing that quickly became apparent is that I am VERY out of shape. It is amazing what a month off, and a month of having a bum foot did to my fitness level.
I noticed it even more last weekend during my first real post-surgery ride, but at the rising trot, I'm having trouble posting evenly. I feel like my left hip is leading, which makes sense, because my right foot is the bad foot, and I still have some swelling in the ball of my foot that makes it hard to put weight in the stirrup. I've also had to ride in sneakers because I still can't get my swollen foot into a boot. All that plus my loss of fitness means that riding is a much harder workout than usual.
Still, I could tell while trotting that Allegra's hard work paid off. As long as I stay steady with my aids, Halo stays much softer and steadier than she used to. She's more consistent about traveling forward into contact. We still have the occasional counterflexion issue to the right, but that's a mystery I think I partly solved this weekend.
The main scenario in which Halo tends to counterflex is when cantering to the right. What's strange about that is that when I first started riding her, the right was her good direction. She never had trouble with that lead. Now she's the opposite. The left lead is easy, and the right lead is always a struggle to get and maintain.
When we worked on cantering this weekend, my lack of leg strength and pain in my foot meant it was extra difficult for me to put weight in my right stirrup. We repeatedly had trouble getting the right lead, even though I was remembering to sit back and get out of the way of her shoulders. It occurred to me then that the main issue was probably that I was sitting crooked altogether. (I am probably lopsided all the time, but I imagine it is much worse post-surgery). As an experiment, I got a good trot, then sat down, dropped as much weight as I could tolerate in my right hip and stirrup, and away we went. Halo got the right lead every time I asked that way.
As usual, most things that go wrong with the horse are rider error. I've always had pain in my right foot, and I've always preferred to canter on the left lead. Poor Halo has been trying to canter with my weight thrown off balance, so I've effectively trained her to prefer the left lead. Oops. She has the same problem with Lindsey and Allegra, who don't share my foot issues. However, I think she's become used to my crookedness over the past year, so to correct the problem, the aids have to be a little more dramatic than usual. I also noted that when I forced myself to drop more weight into my right hip and stirrup she bent around my leg instead of counterflexing. I'll be interested to see if Allegra or Lindsey finds the same result I did for canter transitions.
I ended both rides a little ouchy on my bum foot, but it was worth the price to figure out the right button to push to get that right canter lead. Maybe my recovery will be good for both of us - it forces me to be more reflective as I'm riding, not just once I get home and am turning things over in my brain in front of the computer.