Sunday, May 8, 2011

You learn something new every day

Sometimes I have "aha" moments. Sometimes they're more like, "D'Oh" moments.

This week was definitely worth a headslap.

Snoopy sees the chiropractor regularly. When you've got a leg with metal plates, a dozen screws, and a fused joint, you find yourself having to compensate for the things that leg no longer does with ease. And the other body parts you use start to show the strain of pulling double duty.

Since Snoopy's left hind leg is the repaired one, it's usually his hips that are out. Recently, Niki noticed his left leg taking a lot longer to warm up when she was lunging him. When Dr. Bari came out to adjust him, she found him out in his hips and his shoulders. He spent the next day relaxing after such a major tune-up.

Niki and I discussed it later: what had changed in his workout to suddenly cause him to be so sore and misaligned?

His riders.

For the past several months, Niki has been his principal trainer. Niki's focus when training him was to get him into frame* and keep him there. Once he was warmed up at the rail and holding himself correctly, she would take him over poles. Even when I had a lesson, she would spend a little time warming him up before I got on him.

Now that Niki is too pregnant to ride, Tina has taken over again. She is, of course, a good trainer. She has a different approach and a different agenda than Niki does, however. She warms Snoopy up both on the rail and over poles. As opposed to "helping" Snoopy hold himself up until he can do it on his own, she gives him plenty of rein to let him figure out his stride. There is nothing wrong with this, and together, Tina and Niki complement each other nicely.

When just one or the other is doing the training, the horse must re-adjust. For Snoopy, using his body differently means new parts are suddenly compensating for the bionic leg. This isn't necessarily bad for him - we just need to know and ease him into the differences instead of continuing to push for him to get with the new program.

So we're more on the lookout for the leg to look tired, Tina's going to go easier on his left side, and if he needs a little bute to get him through a day, that's okay, too.

He'll never be the same horse he was as a three-year old, but he loves to work and loves trail poles, so we're going to do what we can to keep him comfortable every day.

I'm just smacking my forehead that we didn't think of this earlier.

*For non-horse folks, being "in frame" is for a horse to hold themselves in a proper posture while they move. Think of it as the difference between the person who walks all slumped over and duck-footed, and the person with the straight spine, who lifts their rib cage and moves their legs and feet with forward momentum.