Well; it's been quite a week already, and it's just Wednesday night!
On Sunday, one of Brian's schoolmates hauled in with her two mounts for a get-acquainted lesson/session. She has been without a trainer since dropping 4H, and was excited about the possibility of taking lessons from me and entering our dressage chapter's show at the end of February. She brought both her cute little Welsh pony (she's quite petite herself) and her green Paint mare, and rode both of them. I sent her home with some things to work on and my old all-purpose Wintec saddle since all she has is a jumping saddle; her mom is planning to bring her up for lessons every Sunday possible between now and the show.
When they left, I was eager to get on Lance to "practice what I preached." That's the beauty of teaching anything; it confirms the knowledge in the teacher. But my eagerness faded when I didn't get any enthusiasm from Lance. He wasn't grumpy or resistant, just lazy it seemed. We schooled, but I wondered if we had any business trying to do two tests at our show. (Last year he was agonizingly lazy in the first test; I had to get pretty forceful with him in order to get through the second test without him petering out.) Last week, he was very rattly and congested during one ride, and became nostril-flaring, side-heaving out of breath after just a little walk and trot work. He wasn't breathing like that on Sunday, but the incident was in the back of my mind.
Monday I took him for a ride down the lane through the woods, thinking he might perk up with a change of venue. He didn't.
Lance had Tuesday off; I picked up some rice bran pellets to add some fat calories to the horses' rations. (They both approved of the addition.)
Today we had a noon lesson scheduled with Julie. She noticed immediately that he had lost a lot of muscle in the three months since she had last seen him. I had noticed that as well, even though I've been giving him extra hay and he is getting regular exercise. After watching him move a little, she felt strongly that we shouldn't continue, and advised me to hold off sending in my show entry form. Lance had NO gas in his tank, and seemed quite subdued. We talked it over, and with her encouragement I loaded him back up, called Rick, and drove Lance straight to the clinic. Rick listened to Lance's heart and lungs (normal), put the hoof testers on his front feet (no soreness), tested him for hind-end weakness and ataxia (none noted), collected a stool sample for a fecal, and drew blood for a large-animal profile and possible testing for Cushings disease. By that time he was acting more like his busy self; I took him home.
While I was at the clinic, Rick asked if I was available to ride a horse later. He has taken ownership of a client's horse to try and find him a good home rather than putting him down, and wanted me to evaluate him. So later this afternoon I met Rick at the stable where Larry is boarded, and got in a ride after all!
Larry is a 22-year-old warmblood who has been shown to Prix St. George; he is out of condition, has Cushings disease and an old injury. But he's a sweet old gentleman, and after we got acquainted while warming up, he was actually a joy to ride! (The experience made me realize just how little response I've been getting out of Lance; I sure hope the blood work tells us something definitive.) The stable where Larry is boarded is willing to give him room and board in exchange for using him as long as Rick will cover his medical expenses, so I will probably go over and ride him again. Who knows; maybe he has another PSG test in him! I just need one more score for my silver medal.... ;-)
To ride dressage is to dance with your horse, equal partners in the delicate and sometimes difficult work of creating harmony and beauty.