Deductive Reasoning and Kinder Riding
I thought back over other recent rides, and noted that he hadn't been as consistently spectacular as he had earlier in the fall. We'd have one really fantastic ride followed by rides that weren't BAD, per se, but just lackluster.
And then I remembered, oh yeah, this pony has metabolic syndromes. Multiple metabolic syndromes that result in overall muscle soreness and stiffness. And we had, in the last few weeks, added a beet-pulp based mash to his feed a couple nights a week to increase his calorie and water intake as the temperatures began to drop at night.
That yummy mash also includes rice bran, which I recently learned has about twice the percentage of NSC's as his regular feed!
My gut feeling is that this increase in NSC's is corresponding to Dino's uninspiring performance as of late. The plan is to take him completely off of nighttime mash for a week or so and see if he improves. I've been so spoiled with Dino's health and soundness over the past few years that I quite honestly FORGOT that he could be so sensitive to changes like this!
What also helped a ton was for me to stop riding like a complete and total jerk, and take the time to listen to my pony and give him the ride he needed, not the ride I wanted.
I hopped on bareback last night for a slow, relaxed walk/trot ride, and Dino felt SO much better. I gave him a long, slow, very stretchy walk warm up to start, asking for a lot of stretch and slowly bringing his poll up and asking him to step under himself a little bit at a time, releasing him back into a stretch when he gave me a few soft, correct strides.
The magic bullet was not to ask Dino for more until he was comfortable in a lower frame. The big mistake I made on Monday was to try and go too quickly to a level of connection that Dino wasn't ready for yet, and all it did was cause tension and frustration.
I continued to slowly, slowly work Dino up into his maximum level of collection at the walk, always giving him a stretch break and a "GOOD BOY!" scratch on the withers to let him know he was on the right track. Once we had a light, straight walk, I asked him to trot, and worked through the same thing there - asking for little bits of connection at a time, and not pushing for everything all at once.
The result was a very pleasant ride, and a pony who by the end of it was offering to go in self-carriage. I felt his back really fill up my seat, his hind legs flexed, and the connection with the bit became so light. I smiled. He didn't keep it up for very long, but this ride was just what we needed to help Dino feel better in his body, and to help repair our communication.