The top photo is Billy from about 10 months ago; the bottom one is yesterday. I really am astounded at how he has filled out, bulked up and pretty much straightened out his frame. All due to careful coaching and monitoring on the part of my trainer, Karin Bielefeld. For those of you who haven’t been following this blog long enough to know the history, we started out about two years ago with a horse who has ongoing degeneration of the suspensory ligaments in the hind legs. For quite a while he couldn’t even trot properly. He lost a lot of weight and muscle mass from inactivity and general reluctance to move through the pain. Through structured exercise on the lunge line, reprogramming of the rider’s (that’s me) technique, and little details such as custom made support boots (for the horse) and stretching exercises (for horse and rider) we now have a real horse again. To the point that he also got his old ornery attitude back again along with his revamped body.
Billy decided a while back that he didn’t like the great outdoors if he had to go out there alone. We had several arguments about it, and as of yesterday I was nowhere near convinced that I had won. Last summer we rode out in a large field and he behaved like an idiot, refusing to go forward, bucking, crabbing around, then hurrying towards “home”. So yesterday Karin said after we were 3/4 of the way through our indoor lesson that we would finish up out in the field. I protested. Billy said nothing. Karin insisted that everything would be OK. So out we went, and along the way we had to pass by a rattling tractor mowing the lawn, and a lot of horse trailers and horses that are usually not there. Billy hesitated a little, but kept going. I thought we were headed for the outdoor ring, but when we got there Karin said keep going into the field. Billy plodded forward. We checked out the uneven terrain and plotted out a nice large circle that still gave us some ups and downs but wasn’t dangerous. Then we picked up a lovely trot. Billy gets energized when he’s out in the open, but he doesn’t do this in an outdoor ring. Which is why Karin insisted we head for the field. I was surprised at how easily I could sit his trot on this bumpy field. I heard a voice wafting across the field saying “This is when you are supposed to say ‘You were right, Karin’ ” so I shouted back that she was right! Then she said pick up a canter. Billy went into the most powerful canter I’ve ever felt on him, and I’ve been riding him for 10 years. He had what the dressage people call a lot of “jump” in the canter and he was truly enjoying himself without being an idiot. Although, I secretly suspect that he was behaving because Karin was there and he knew that if he started acting stupid she would be all over his case!