Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Mary Wanless clinic day 1 - learning how to walk again

After reading Megan's incredible write-up of the Mary Wanless clinic she attended earlier this year, I knew I wanted to attend one. Turns out, she comes through Texas a couple of times per year, and I managed to snag a spot in the fall clinic.

Based on Megan's experience, I was a little nervous coming into the clinic, but I REALLY wanted to understand some of the position problems I've been having. There's the left collapsing, the hands, not finding my left seatbone... so many things to work on. Plus, when I look at pictures of myself riding, my leg and seat position just don't look right.

Collapsing left in my torso, no weight in left seatbone, wtf is my left hand even doing...??? (but hey, my horse looks awesome doing half pass despite my worst efforts!)

Leaning back and pulling, two of my most favorite things to do.

The biggest thing about riding with Mary is that you're there to work on YOU, not on the horse. Expect your position to be picked apart (kindly and logically) and then reassembled in new and more effective ways, and it's gonna feel WIERD.

For example, the very first thing she asked me is how much weight I had in each seatbone vs in my pubic bone. Uhhh... I ride with all my weight in my seatbones? So every time I'm going down on his back, 100% of my weight is in the weakest part of his back - not good. Related to this is that I carry most of my weight in my stirrup, so my leg comes forward and braces, which also means my thigh isn't on the horse. And that was just in the first 60 seconds!

The first order of business was to shorten my stirrups two holes (I have half-holes so this isn't as much as it might seem). This put more bend in my knee and somehow allowed my thigh to lie flat. Mary was careful to place my leg just so, moving my thigh muscle out of the way so that everything was in the proper position - including my toe, which I have struggled to get to hang straight FOR YEARS. She then held my belt and showed me how she wanted me to tip my pelvis a bit more back, which allowed me to weight both my seatbones and my pubic bone evenly. Finally, she had me push my collarbone against her hand so I could think about carrying my torso a bit more forward. And then she had me practice that position at a walk.

What I looked like after Mary had worked her magic. Way more bend in my knee, my thigh is actually usable, and I'm not leaning way back with my torso because I actually have weight in the front of the saddle.

Initially, I felt like my torso was so far forward that I was practically in two-point. I struggled not to fall back on only my seatbones with each step. But the longer I rode, the more solidly I felt plugged into the saddle. My left seatbone, which is normally up somewhere around my shoulder, was solidly under me. I felt even everywhere in the saddle. My leg hung comfortably in place, and I could see my toe pointing straight forward (instead of out at a 30 degree angle). When I started asking T for some small walk laterals, I found he was much more willing to shift his haunches around now that I wasn't sitting hard on his back all the time. SUPER AMAZING MAGIC Y'ALL.

I literally spent the entire hour lesson walking and halting on a 20 meter circle and struggled with every step of it.

A crappy still from a video that I pulled off another rider's phone. I know, I'm just walking, but THIS WAS SO HARD.

One of the best things about Mary is that she's great with visualization - but visualization specific to you. To be clear, I've always struggled with visualizations in books, because I'm never quite sure if I'm doing it right. Mary does it completely different - she physically (gently) manipulates your body to exactly where you need to be, then has you describe how it feels, in your own words. It's like your very own customized visualization. In my case I told her I felt like I was leaning so far forward that I was "falling off over his ears" and she kept repeating that to me. Because it was my visualization, I could picture exactly what it meant so I could reproduce that feeling with my body. I thought that was an incredibly powerful technique, and like nothing I've ever encountered before.

The final five minutes of the lesson were spent demonstrating our posting technique, at the halt. Mary's comment, when she saw my posting, was "oh my, we have a lot to work on tomorrow." I laughed, because she wasn't wrong - but ohmygosh, posting correctly is really hard!

Monday, October 22, 2018

Taran's special sneakers (or, how EasyShoes keeps my Cushing's horse sound)

Taran has been barefoot for most of his life, until he stepped on a nail that went through both his coffin joint and navicular bursae, back in 2011. During recovery, he had a hospital plate and then a rocker-toed supportive shoe, but early on after the injury it became apparent that whatever internal damage the nail had done meant that he needed the toe on the damaged foot (his RF) to be kept very short, or he would be off due to the strain on the DDFT.

Fast forward to early 2017 - second level, and we were having some issues with Taran being a bit sore on the fronts under some conditions. My trimmer did what she could, and we tried hoof casts to keep him comfortable, plus loads of biotin supplements. Unfortunately, the casts only last about 10 days under the best conditions, and they're not really a long term solution. I ended up having x-rays done, and we discovered that T only had about 4.5 mm of sole (he should have had 10-12mm). So, we opted to put steel shoes on him for a cycle or two and see if that helped.

At almost exactly 4 weeks in, Taran started short-striding on the right front. We pulled the shoes, shortened his toe, and tried to reset them, but he just doesn't grow enough hoof for four-week resets.  We were forced to go back to barefoot again.

(This was before we figured out that he had Cushings, so if your normally fine barefoot horse suddenly has no sole depth and doesn't grow any hoof, you might want to try to figure out why.)

Sept 7 2017 - This was shortly after the metal shoes were pulled. Note how unevenly he's standing, with the RF held out away from his body at an angle. He's clearly not comfortable here.

Sept 7 2017 - Flat sole, weak caudal hoof. Poor guy.

He actually did two shows in early fall 2017 barefoot, while we kept bringing his toe back so the RF would be comfortable again. The problem was, he'd be fine on really good arena footing, but short and choppy everywhere else. We didn't want to put his Easyboot Trail shoes on for serious work, because the extra weight and further-forward breakover point would put additional stress on the DDFT, which we were trying to avoid (they are also not legal for shows because they cover the hairline). But we were also struggling with bruising due to a thin sole. So, we ended up trying EasyShoe Performance glue-ons.

Turns out, these magic shoes basically turn Taran into Fred Astaire. There's nothing on the toe, so the breakover is much further back where he likes it. He was wearing these at Nationals last year and it was the best he'd ever moved (ok, ok, so the super-awesome Otto Sport footing didn't hurt either). 

EasyShoe Performance glue-ones, sometime late fall 2017. His toes have run forward here - we were still trying to back them up after the metal shoes. Also notice how straight he's standing, and in all subsequent pics

Uhhhhn-fortunately, because there are only two small cuffs on the sides to glue to, they aren't the best at staying on - even with bell boots on 24/7. So, we tried casting over them:

Feb 8 2018 - Easyshoe Performance with hoof casts

But after one too many resets 10 days apart, we eventually gave up and tried the Easyboot "Love Child". This has a bigger front cuff to glue on:

Feb 26 2018

Feb 26 2018

You can see that although it provides more glueing area, it doesn't quite match the angle of his hoof, and it brings the breakover point further forward. Still, using it allowed my trimmer to move his toe back over time and shore up his heel, and we haven't had any problems with soundness this year (knock on wood).  

May 9 2018

June 1 2018

June 1 2018 - compare the overall concavity and health of the caudal hoof with the first pic

But... Taran just doesn't move as well in these as he does in the Performance shoes. The toe is just a bit too heavy for him, and he feels like he's struggling to get his front feet out of the way. My trimmer tried taking removing most of the toe on the shoe, while still keeping the advantages of having a wider glueing area: 

Aug 1 2018 - Love Childs with the toe rasped back

Aug 1 2018

However, removing so much off the front of the shoe changed the integrity of it, so we sort of ended up with flip-flops. Plus, the Love Childs were back-ordered, so we went back to the Performance shoes.

Oct 20 2018 - Performance shoes (shiny because I had just hosed his feet off)

Oct 20 2018 - Note how normal-looking and even the hoof wall is, although you can also see the event line about 1/3 of the way down, where we changed his feed

Taran's whole way of going is different in these - he's light on the front end, yet he's clearly comfortable so uses his shoulder to the fullest extent. It's been a long road, but I think we've finally found the perfect combination for T... even if we do have to reset ever two weeks!