I started warming up Rama very long and low because he had a day off yesterday. Rama couldn't get down and truly relax his neck or through his body because he was just so full of energy, nevertheless I carried on trotting and cantering him around the arena doing nothing more difficult than big circles. After about 10 minutes of active exercise seemed to have taken the edge off Rama, and finally it felt like he was able to breathe and concentrate again! I then let him have a small walk break to let him catch his breath, before starting proper training. Since Rama is an advanced horse, it is fun putting him through his paces.
Today we practised flying changes and tempis, then canter half passes and a little bit of canter pirouettes, before practising medium/extended trot. Rama's flying changes have come on a lot since I first rode him; before he used to get really tense and bounce on the spot before being able to actually change the canter lead, and now the canter remains smooth and collected, and the changes are big and straight. Tempis are a little bit harder for him, Rama starts to get a little hot and wants to run through them, but today he remained pretty calm and they ended being really good. I think it is very important to praise horses for good work immediately, so when the last four tempi set was good, I let Rama walk for a bit, and patted him. Then we moved onto half passes. Rama is a bit like Vallu to ride the half passes because he as well is weaker with his left hindleg, resulting in the right half pass being more difficult as he struggles with engaging the left hind leg and crossing it over. This also affects his left canter pirouette, where he doesn't really move his hind leg, but keeps the leg still which makes the pirouette ridiculously small and nearly impossible to ride through. I was satisfied when Rama managed to actually move his hind legs even though the rest of pirouette was very messy!
Mum was with us watching me ride and she suggested that I try out the medium trot; which is something that I haven't tried with Rama before. The reason for this has been partially that Rama has not had the muscles to cope with such a strenuous movement or the energy to be able to do it, and that I haven't really practised medium trots with any horse for the last couple of months. Luckily mum decided to help me out and gave me a few very good notes about riding the medium trot on a long diagonal (I think the many years of listening to Henri's lessons and going to the competitions have paid off and mum has got lots of tricks up her sleeves!) She told me to do a small circle (10m) at the middle of the short side, before really riding into the corner and then choosing the correct direction for the diagonal and then straightening the horse and only then calmly asking for Rama to extend the length of his stride. And this worked; not that I am surprised! But I was amazed by how good the trot looked in the mirror and how great it felt! This was the highlight of my day!
Once Rama was cooled down and back at the stables, I then started getting Vallu ready. I was on cloud nine after riding Rama, but as soon as I started warming up Vallu I realised that something was wrong. Although I was only doing leg yield and shoulder-in in walk, Vallu was very tense and kept jumping and spooking, as well as doing piaffe instead of a proper walk. It honestly felt like I was sitting on a ticking time bomb! Mum came to the rescue once again, this time making me ride Vallu on a twenty meter circle around her in trot and in canter in both directions to see what he was like. I started on the right rein and the trot was not too bad, if you ignored the fact that Vallu was leaning so heavily against my hand and that the trot was tiny (it felt like I was on a pony!) The canter was atrocious, I could barely get Vallu to canter more than five strides before he fell back to walk or trot, and he constantly kept shaking his head. Mum told me to change direction and I did. The left trot and canter were better; less head shaking in canter and a bigger trot but it still felt awful compared to what he was like last week!
We think that Vallu may have pulled or hurt a muscle in his back yesterday in the paddock when he was bucking and running around, so after riding I massaged his back and rubbed liniment onto his muscles. Vallu was pretty sore behind the saddle, so I think his gluteals and the back extensor muscle, longissimus dorsi, might be a little bit tight. Tomorrow he will be lunged and hopefully my attempt at massaging and the liniment will also help!