(Frosty from this spring)
Walking over to Frosty, the farrier laid his hand on Frosty's hip and asks me, 'What has happened to this horse's hip muscles?'
This is definitely something I have noticed for about the last month on Frosty. His gargantuan butt is still gargantuan, through the stifle and buttock area at least, but the points of his croup have started to protrude. In all honesty, I think the horse is almost thin...
Any yet, I have been mostly unsuccessful at getting him to pull that belly up.
The thinner he has gotten, the more sunken he appears across the topline and the bigger his belly seems. Getting Frosty to use his entire back has not been successful and I know this. It has taken most of this year to get his system right (due to IR) and even though his riding has been way more consistent that ever before, to really get to the point where I don't think he is going to blow up and dump my butt at the slightest inclination has been a bit sketchy. Some days I am supremely confident that I am willing to take whatever he is going to dish out and some days I am more cautious and don't push him. At this point, Frosty knows his barrel pattern well and is loping it comfortably, but the fact that he is so slow-footed has kept me from starting to exhibition/compete on him. I don't get the confident feeling he really knows where his feet are.
Considering what the farrier has just laid down, I realize that while Moon has completely disengaged using his stifle and hocks, Frosty is really conformationally strong in this area and he is over-using his stifle and hocks.
The farrier says, 'Exactly! What do you notice about how this horse travels in the front?'
Oohh-ooohhh...I know this one...Thanks to Megan riding Frosty for me at one of the barrel racings, one thing I really noticed and was surprised about, was the fact that Frosty had a lot of knee action. It's not something I noticed when I am riding him myself because he is an amazingly smooth horse and I remember wondering while Megan was riding him, how he could seem so smooth to ride and yet he obviously was not traveling like he should. I just cannot seem to get the 'lift' in the front end that I know needs to be there to allow him to really extend his front leg.
It was early in the summer when I noticed that Frosty seemed to be built more and more downhill,
(Pictured in June-I know he is not standing square, but still pretty obvious how much his front-end has dropped)
I thought that was kind of odd that I hadn't noticed that being so obvious about him before. I looked at some older pictures of him and when he was a 6y/o, he was NOT build obviously downhilll like he was appearing to be now. Huh...He was obviously dropping in the front-end and I suspected something was going on with his feet. That is why I took him to the farrier to have shoes put on. Frosty's a 9 y/o (oh my, the years do fly) and has never had shoes. He has good quality feet, but they are (were) very plattered out.
Sure enough...by the time Frosty got his 2nd set of shoes, he had come up over an inch at the wither. The farrier didn't do anything except put a size 2 shoe on him and rasp off all of the outer wall flare, which was pretty unilaterally flared all the way around and Frosty's heels had started to spread excessively. Getting Frosty to stand up properly has made it even more obvious his complete lack of muscling behind his withers and he has these residual 'fat' deposits there.
I told the farrier I have had a hard time getting Frosty to lift his back and really use it and since I cannot seem to get his belly to come off, I thought that is what keeps pulling his back down.
Stepping to Frosty's shoulder, the farrier held up his first two fingers, bent over, placed them in the center of Frosty's girth area and pressed up. The area behind Frosty's wither rose and filled out. The farrier slowly slid his fingers back along the center of Frosty's belly and as he did, Frosty's entire topline lifted, by the time the farrier reached Frosty's belly button, Frosty's entire top line was full and rounded. Frosty's saggy belly was gone and he actually had a straight line from his elbow to his stifle. The farrier held Frosty in this position, turned to look at us and asked us, 'Now tell me, how is it I can get this horse to lift and use every muscle in his back and belly properly with two fingers and people find it near impossible to accomplish the same thing when riding and with every gadget imaginable at their disposal?'
None of us had an answer, but for the first time in months, I felt like I was back in my element. THIS is the stuff I live for. My farrier's enthusiasm for sharing knowledge and his ability to break it down doesn't make a person feel dumb for not knowing (like his apprentices) or not remembering (like me).
I know I had a spark in my eye again after the farrier's little tutorial. This stuff wasn't anything I didn't know or understand. I just got lost in that huge void between using what I think of as the basics and wanting to be a competitor. Apparently, I have quite the disconnect going on myself.
Not quite finished yet...