I had the good fortune and foresight to take Friday off last week and Monday this week. On Friday, I didn’t do much of anything horse-related, just caught up on laundry and had a late, leisurely lunch at an Italian place. Saturday football didn’t work out so well for my college team, a team that is now finding ever more creative ways to lose. My NFL team also lost on Sunday and remains plagued with injuries at key positions.
My lesson on Saturday, while more successful than the above-mentioned football teams’ efforts, failed to wow me or my trainer or Eli. Eli came out obedient, jumping just as well as always, but lacking in locomotion. I had even opened up the lines to accommodate Eli’s stride–setting going 4s/easy 5s, and wouldn’t you know it, Eli cantered around in easy 5s mode. We had a few challenging turns, which to the right worked out but to the left needed some tweaking before getting it done. The first turn, to the right, was a Swedish to a vertical, and the angle was positively confounding, but it actually worked out much better than I expected. Eli canters more strongly from behind to the right, so in hindsight it is not surprising the turn worked out well for him. In the next course, the turn was flipped, from the vertical to the Swedish. The first time I looked for the Swedish while simultaneously seeing the long spot to the vertical, which Eli took, and we landed with more momentum than I expected (I don’t know why I forgot that taking the gap means landing with more momentum. I mean, really.) and could not make the turn to the Swedish. My trainer’s advice? Add before the vertical. Duh. Especially when you know left turns are harder for you and your horse.
So of course we came back to it, I added, and the turn to the Swedish was right there–still challenging but by no means an unfair question. After doing three full courses that were loaded with bending lines and turns and Eli, although pokey, was being quite handy, we called it a day.
Sunday I figured Eli would be the same creature as Saturday because the weather hadn’t changed, but nope. Where was this energy Saturday? Since he had all of his motor back, I decided that a conditioning ride would be a good idea. We did lap after lap of big trot and big canter, broken up by a few walks in the fields. Eli, although taking big bouncy steps at the trot, was especially soft in that gait. Hello, high performance suspension.
I started wondering about the difference between his energy level on Saturday and Sunday. What had I changed lately? This wasn’t exactly a scientific inquiry, so my answer isn’t demonstrable because of too many other factors, but …
I changed how he has access to salt. I moved his block from his feed box to a holder about a month ago, and he hadn’t touched it since. I put the block back in his feed box on Saturday, and I’m considering adding loose salt to his supplements instead of the block. He knocks the block out of his feed box frequently and I spend way too much time in his stall with a pitchfork trying to find it buried under shavings. Maybe I’ll just stick with the block, anyway.
So hopefully with salt back in his diet and the weather “cooling off”–from highs in the upper 90s to highs in the lower 90s (hah), we won’t have a repeat of Saturday’s lesson. I need all of Eli’s gears over fences. I don’t know for a fact that the salt is what did it, it’s just sort of an educated guess and it wouldn’t surprise me if it were the case, I just have no real way to know for sure without controls on all other factors, which would be impossible (unless you know someone who can control the weather?).
One last update on the show schedule: The two shows I had planned on for October are now off of our schedule. My barn is going, but there are no stalls available at the venue. No stall, no Karen and Eli–and no, I’m not going to even try having my horse tied to a trailer all day. It may work for some people, but it’s not my thing. The end of the year show in November will definitely have stalls available, so we’re just planning on that.