So I did a very quick ride in the ring on Amber. Like, about 10-15 minutes worth. I noticed that she only really gives me that ears-pinned attitude in the corners. She didn't feel any different. But Victoria came out and was like, OMG, she's lame in the front!
I wasn't quite sure what she was talking about, Amber was going along better than she has all week. Then I realized: I've gotten so used to her trying to break into canter all the time, that I don't notice when she's doing it. So perhaps it's just her not wanting to trot. Cantering is technically an easier gait than trot. So it may not be entirely pain related, but her just naturally wanting to go at an easier gait. She gave me some fantastic trot-canter transitions, SUPER clean.
Still got snotty when I asked her to stretch down, and I'm considering just putting her in the training fork for a few minutes and seeing how she feels. If she feels uncomfortable, obviously it will go off, but if she seems about the same or better, I think it may be the answer. It really helped her before. I just think the period where we worked on that was so brief, she just doesn't really remember. Obviously I want to keep it loose and be very cautious about how hard I work her with it on. But I feel like maybe the previous issues were not necessarily due to her stretching down and using her topline (you would think that would make it easier on her back), but rather the fact that the hock was already doing poorly, and had little to do with her slight back issue.
I'm thinking it comes down to the fact that she DOES need adjustment, but it's more than likely NOT the biggest issue here. I've done some research, and she doesn't really show signs of severe back pain. In fact, it looks more like muscle soreness from compensating for her hock. In other words, the hock created the back soreness, not the other way around.
And perhaps she is just on her guard now about softening, because when she used her topline and stretched down, she had to use her hind end and thus the pain. I want to be very careful with my experimentation, but it may work a world of difference in her.
She used to have a HUGE undermuscle in her neck, which is gone now. I will drop my contact if she begins to brace back like that, eliminating her opportunity to brace with that muscle. Perhaps traveling around like that was what caused the hock issue, and the back issues?
Anyway. I can't say for sure yet. Chiropractor appointment is still in limbo, hoping to hear a date soon. She is getting trimmed by Stallings again on the 11th. The one who noted her hip inflammation. Definitely need to fill him in on what's been going on. I've heard mixed opinions on his work, and the one trim he did for her was not a bad trim, but that was while her feet were still gradually being "fixed", so obviously he couldn't fix everything at once. Casey seems to really like him, so I will trust her judgement.
I went on a trail ride to cool out. I was listening for toe-dragging on the harder ground, and I didn't hear any...again, furthering my suspicion it's happening in the pasture. We went around the pasture backwards from the way we went last time, which meant she was going uphill, not downhill. She offered a trot up the hill, and I let her go. She seemed pretty happy about it. Moving fine, ears up and happy. She did want to trot back to the barn on the long side, but I have a firm rule about not letting my horses do anything but walk on the way back to the barn. It was funny. She was about to start trotting and I held her back. She walked a couple of steps and then was like "Okay, we trot now, yes?!". She tried like, 2-3 times and I gave her a firmer squeeze on the bit and she plodded home nicely. Next time I'm going to let her have a little canter down that side going away from the barn, just to see how adjustable she is out in the open. Either way, I'm starting to realize more and more what a really nice trail horse she is.
I thought about it while we were meandering around, and she does have a lot of really good qualities in her. She goes out perfectly calm and willing alone on trails. Not spooky at all. Easy to control at the trot and canter. She also goes just as well with other horses, even tolerating them riding right up her rear end. Remember when Star and Christopher used to BITE her on the butt on trails, and she wouldn't do anything but jump a little in surprise?
She has really nice transitions (although walk-trot is sometimes lacking). She faithfully picks up both leads every time. Stops on a dime. Her soundness issues leave her somewhat lacking, but I think we are close to figuring out what's up.
She is super easy to catch in the pasture and no matter what the other horses are doing around her, she first and foremost respects the human handling her and behaves well. She sleeps while being clipped, even ears, loads, rides bareback, rides with a halter no different than a bridle, stands quiet to be blanketed, and you can throw up in the air and let it float down on her.
I paid $1500 for her. I have to say, Casey gave me an absolute steal. She is an absolutely wonderful horse. Shame on me for focusing on the little things that aren't perfect. I know people who have horses they almost can't do anything with. They will flip out if you do this thing, or you can't get them to do that thing. There are plenty of people who would give almost anything to have a horse that calmly and happily does everything Amber does.
Anyway. I took some pictures on the trail, including this swampy little pool of water that was kind of pretty in a swampy way. I think it's where the water drains off too on the property. I also took a good side picture of Amber's field. I think I'm becoming obsessed with "ear shots". I made a point to get Amber's ears in the pictures I took, haha. I just need new places to ride so I can take new ones. There's only so much to see around the back pasture.