Saturday, October 14, 2017

Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger

Miss Casey and I are about now halfway through our month of intense strengthening workouts. As a brief reminder, she had a clean ultrasound on her suspensory injury (meaning it is healed), and so we ramped up the workouts to build strength and fitness back. We are on the last month of that and are currently doing twenty minutes of trot and ten minutes of canter in each ride. When all of the walk breaks are factored in, that means we are doing hour-long extremely demanding workouts five days a week. To say it's intense is an understatement.
Pretty girl mid-workout
Work that trot
The first week of extreme workout mode was brutal, Casey and I were dying by the end of each ride. The canter is what was really killing us, we couldn't sustain it for more than a minute at a time in that first week. We just finished week two and I think we've hit that sweet spot where it is a feasible workout, but it still is challenging. I'm struggling just as much as Casey is to keep going by the end of each ride, but we are able to do the entire workout without totally killing ourselves.
Building that stamina
Overall my focus this month is less on technique and responsiveness (things I was focusing on a lot over the summer), and more on general correctness for Casey's form. Since we are pushing the limits of our stamina, it is easy to let our bodies just collapse by the end of each ride. I'm trying to get her to carry herself properly, and when I don't get that, I give her a walk break. I'm nervous about the potential of re-injury now that we are almost done with rehab. When Casey gets tired, she just throws her limbs all over the place and it'd be easy to just take one wrong step and we'd have to start this whole process all over again. I'm really encouraging Casey to open her stride, relax her neck and back, and use her booty. As a downside of focusing so much on how Casey is going, I feel like my own form is slipping a bit. I'm being too lazy about my heels and shoulders and am not as precise with my own limbs as I'd like to be. Oh, why is multitasking so hard...
Casey looks great, but I am a potato person
It's really exciting to see Casey improve because her improvement is exponentially growing at this point. At the beginning of this month she was still taking lame steps, now she might take one or two in the entire hour long ride. At the beginning of the month she was only about to canter for a minute at a time, now we are up to a little over two minutes and a half on a good day, and our average is two minutes at a time. She could probably go for longer than that, but as soon she starts to seem tired I ask her to take a walk break. Trying not to break my horse here... At the beginning of the month she was still hesitant to relax her back and open her stride, now it's her go-to mode. She LOVES her stretchy trot. The other day I was able to trot her around without any reins and she was just plodding along with her nose almost to the ground.
Stretchy trot 4 LIFE
A more accurate representation of how Casey has been moving
The most noticeable change when I ride her is that her canter is coming back. When we first started cantering again, it was awful. She was downhill, rushy, and trying to get me to carry her head for her. Now she's feeling really uphill, she starting to relax her speed (most of the time), and she's carrying her own head. The canter is still not as good as it was pre-injury, but considering that she had a tear in a major hind leg ligament, her canter is super impressive. She's definitely worse to the left, when her previously injured back leg is taking more of the impact, but even that is improving daily.
Canter to the right
And canter to the left
The thing that I am most proud of Casey for is her attitude. She's like a different horse from the beginning of summer. She is being so sweet and kind, even to the ponies who she despises. She did try to kick Calvin, the border collie, today, but it was because he was right behind her and she doesn't trust him. Plus it was a lame attempt at a kick, so I don't think she was really trying to hurt him... She is being perfectly willing to do anything I ask both under saddle and on the ground. She hasn't thrown any fits about anything (besides that one minor meltdown last week). Another boarder at my barn even commented on how happy Casey seems. She really is a horse that needs to be in work; she's so much happier with it.
Such a happy horsie
At this rate, I'm super hopeful that the end is near and that we'll be back to jumping on schedule. November 8th is the last vet "check" for the whole rehab process. Vet really just wants to take a quick look at Casey's movement and if all is good he'll give the green light for jumping. We have to get through just a few more weeks without any missteps. I think the odds of Casey relapsing get smaller and smaller each day that passes and am super hopeful.
We both look WAY too excited about our canter circle
Use that booty horsie!
Exciting news, since we are now solidly in hour-long workouts, I'm adding lessons back into our schedule! Staring tomorrow, Casey and I are going to have a dressage lesson every week. I'm really excited to be back in a regular lesson schedule. Girlie is going really well right now and so I am excited to show my trainer our progress (she's watched moments of us riding, but it's not the same as being in a lesson with her). I am also excited to get more ideas about things to work on for the next few weeks. I am starting to run out of things to do and want some inspiration. Hopefully the first lesson (tomorrow) goes smoothly and we don't embarrass ourselves *fingers crossed*
Maybe not so refined, but at least we have enthusiasm!

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