This weekend we had the clinic and I was stoked as always. I LOVE lessoning with John because I just learn so much, not just in my lesson, but watching others in their lessons as well. He spends parts of the lesson in the arena and parts on the sideline giving direction, and I often get the opportunity to sit next to him and shoot a question about the exercises he gives or why a horse is doing this or that, and he really seems to love explaining the mechanics and what he sees.
Saturday was a really good day, and John decided to tackle hind end engagement with us. As much as I wanted to, he would not let me use my reins to soften. But even before this, we were asked to bump our time up a slot, because another rider was waiting on the farrier to finish with her horse and running behind. North had only been unloaded 20 minutes before, so not much time to settle in, but I said okay. Because of my recent mishaps, I asked my old trainer to hop on him and warm him up to get the nervousness out and get his mind right. With her too, John would not let her ask him to soften with the reins. She even said, "He's so soft in the mouth, I can feel it. If I ask even a tiny bit, he'll soften." And John said, "YES! That's what he wants you to do, because that is what he is used to. But that's not what we want. We want to send him out to the contact, not bring it to him." And sure enough, she kept driving him with her seat and legs and down he went right into the bit. It didn't take long to get him focused, so I got in the saddle soon after.
It was, of course, a little harder for me. I'm used to hold my outside rein, pushing him forward with my legs, but also using my inside rein to ask him to soften and round. North is also used to this, and what I learned is that because it's so easy for him to soften and round in the neck, he can kinda cheat from really using his hind and coming under himself, because once he softens, I kinda stop pushing him forward. So yea, it was really ugly for a few minutes, with North running around looking like a giraffe, lol, but man, once he realized that I wasn't going to give it to him, he started coming from behind and went out to the bit, and it was a totally different feeling in the trot. The most John would let me do is lift my inside rein slightly, but other than that, I just had to use my seat and legs and keep sending him out to the bit. He just kept saying, "You don't bring it to him. Let him take the contact from you!" And next thing I knew, there he was, pushing down into my hands and really coming over his back.
We started out on left lead, and when we switched to right lead, it suddenly got much harder. John thought he was showing some weakness in his right hind, which baffled me, because right lead had always been our easier side. We got some good moments, but definitely not as good as left lead. We didn't push it. John is ALL about developing a happy horse and letting things be their idea (like going out to the bit). He remarked several times on what a smart horse North was and how willing he was. Although all horses have one side that's weaker than the other, John said that he wanted to lunge North on Sunday before I rode so he could see how he went without a rider.
Sunday I got him tacked up and fitted with side reins and just watched as John lunged him. He did surprisingly well on the lunge even though I haven't lunged him in a few months. He was really responsive to John and reaching down to the bit, so we moved to under saddle. And that's when the red flags showed up. He was not half as willing as he had been the day before. He didn't want to use his right hind, he felt short strided, didn't really want to stay forward and was tossing his tail about. We stopped after only 10 min and began discussing. John said he didn't think it was a temperament thing because it was hard, but if it was, he didn't want me to be the one to work him through it. He could see that North was a "want to please" horse, but he would rather someone with a stickier seat be the one to push him through it. I reiterated that the right side has always been our easier side, so John had me hop off and started to take a look.
He started feeling and checking his right stifle and when he did, North almost kicked out at him. Just to make sure, he went around and felt the same spot on the left side and then told me to come feel. Sure enough, I could feel it. John said it felt like he had a pocket of fluid in his right stifle. He said it had likely been there for a little while, and the work we did Saturday really making him come under and use his hind, had increased the pain. He said it also explained why North did not appear lame at all, but then didn't want to use himself once under saddle.
But he told me that in a young horse, this can be normal with growing pains and the way the play out in the pasture and then begin learning to use themselves. He said it was likely the vet just needed to drain it and relieve the pressure.
He also told me not to worry and he would never think a horse this young would need injections. He has 60 horses at his barn and told me that NONE of them get hock injections. He said people often think that hock injections are necessary at some point. He said jumpers often need hock injections, but dressage horses usually need stifle or SI injections if necessary.
I called the vet this morning and am hoping he will be able to make it out our way on Wednesday. If not, they said it won't be till next week. I also called the chiro and sent her video and talked to her about checking him again as well. After the clinic, we hauled him home and I kept him in last night, just to give him some time to take it easy. Keeping my fingers crossed that this is something simple.
Below are just a few pics from the clinic. I'll try to post some video later. Just not a whole lot to share since we didn't really ride Sunday and only a little bit from Saturday. And for some odd reason, there was a film over my video from Saturday. I guess I didn't clean my lense very well or something.