I had just finished teaching a lesson on a crisp and sunny day in January. Decadance was super playful, splashing in the pond and running up and down the fence line kicking up his heels and twirling. My plan was to work him next, but that plan changed when I heard the sound of fence wire snapping. I'm not at all sure how he managed it, but Decadance had all four feet entangled in the wire. All would have been well if he just remained still, but being a horse, he panicked. In his attempt to extricate himself, Decadance ripped out 30 meters of fence line and broke three fence posts. I count myself lucky that he escaped with only superficial cuts and minor injuries!
So, I've spent the last three weeks medicating, cold water hosing, and bandaging. I've monitored his progress, from not wanting to bear weight at all on his right hind, to trotting evenly in both directions. He is still a bit reluctant to pick up the right lead canter, often picking up the wrong lead if not carefully positioned in that direction. He is a little sore over his right lumbar region, a result of weeks of not wanting to bend the joints of that injured leg.
So, on Saturday I decided to see what he what he would do under saddle. I was a bit apprehensive that months of careful physical and mental rehab may now have to be revisited. But, Decadance was quite happy being led out into the dressage arena. He did not balk at the gate. He stood quietly as I mounted and walked pleasantly off a quiet aid. We strolled around the ring for ten minutes before I gathered up the reins and asked him for the trot. Immediately, Decadance dropped his left shoulder and whirled to the left; he was not at all sure trotting was a good idea. However, his ears remained pricked forward and he blew out his nostrils, releasing tension. I asked again, he obliged with a tentative step forward. His head flipped, he blew out again, and relaxed. His strides grew more confident. I allowed him to explore his limitations. Tracking left was not a problem, we negotiated straight lines, corners, and various size circles. Tracking right, he only wanted to go straight. He resisted bearing weight on his right hind in corners and on circles; I kept the figures large enough and the turns gradual so he could test his strength and balance. As we continued, I was able to guide him onto smaller circles right without resistance. What he didn't do was as important as what he did do; he did not bolt, he did not buck. He did not leave the arena. While it could have been better, it often times has been worse, and it was a tribute to the trust we have worked so hard to establish that we continue where we left off. He had every reason to be defensive and he chose not to; that is progress!