|Are those neck muscles I see?|
Both horses were in stalls yesterday when I got to the barn; they’d finished their breakfasts and had yet to be turned out. I opted to ride Moe first, because I love him more. I always forget what a huge mistake that is; I have a lot of trouble going from Moe to Gina (but very little trouble going from Gina to Moe). I chalk it up to the major differences in their movement styles: Gina is a larger horse with longer strides and more extravagant (read: bouncy) movement. Moe is a flatter, quieter mover with smooth gaits.
Moe put in some excellent canter work; I dropped my stirrups for a grand total of six minutes of canter work and I think that made all the difference. You see, I don’t own a dressage saddle. My only saddle is an Ainsley ProNational XC saddle. It puts me in a very forward position and is superb for jumping. It fits every horse I’ve ever put it on. It’s comfortable. It’s in wonderful condition. However, its list of virtues does not include being very good for dressage work.
I used to borrow my friend and trainer Anne’s Passier dressage saddle when we were at the same barn; unfortunately, we aren’t at the same barn any more and Anne needs her saddle to ride in. I’m saving up to buy a dressage saddle, but at the moment, I’m stuck in the Ainsley and making the best of it.
Dropping my stirrups forced me to sit up straighter and allowed my leg to hang down underneath me. Moe really rounded through his back and stayed soft and light in the bridle. I could have jumped for joy. Our transitions still need work, and I think I’m going to have to get my nubby little spurs out; Mr. 800-meters-per-minute-over-fences is very sluggish in the dressage ring.
After hosing Moe off, I took Gina out of her stall and was not pleased to see that fat leg had returned. It’s still the left hind, still cool to the touch, and Gina still isn’t lame. I went ahead and rode her- she felt totally fine. Fine enough, in fact, to pitch a conniption fit over three ground poles I had in the middle of our dressage area. While we were warming up by walking on a loose rein, I steered her to the poles. She stopped, snorted, backed up, tried to spin away, and generally acted like a brat. What the hell, Gina? You were jumping these a week ago!
Gina got over her ground pole phobia eventually and we went on to have a decent 45 minutes of walk-trot-canter work. I cooled her out and reexamined fat leg. It was still fat, still cool, and she didn’t seem to mind me touching it. I sprayed her off, hosed the stupid leg for ten minutes, and turned her out.
I’m still stumped about what’s causing the leg to blow up. The internet isn’t being particularly helpful on this. Any suggestions?