In looking back, it becomes apparent to me that I met Tracy at just the right time for her therapy to have the greatest effect on Ashke. There were signs that he was ready to let the trauma go and that part of his body and his past be healed. I think addressing the underlying structural issues that were causing pain was as important as his willingness to move on from the past. It's a hard thing, letting go of the things that caused you pain as a child and we are rational creatures that understand cause and effect. Think of how much more difficult it is as an animal, with limited communication (that humans can understand) and the understanding of a child. It took me years of therapy to let go of the things that tied me in a knot as a kid, years of work to understand that shit happens to everyone and it doesn't have to define who you are as an adult. Ashke was able to do so, which is a testament to his huge heart and unbreakable courage.
In my opinion, there has been a huge change in how he is able to move: his right hind leg is swinging forward much straighter, it is not abducting to the inside as much, and he is able to stretch it forward and set it down, rather than dropping it the last four inches. It has been obvious in how he feels under saddle, how he looks when we first start our ride, and the reduced need for a sustained warm up. And his canter transitions have taken a huge jump forward.
However, the treatment didn't happen in a vacuum. I believe that a huge part of our success in both the treatment and his improvement lie with my trainer, Amanda Moore. We have been doing weekly lessons since August of last year, consistently. We had started before that, but because of his degloving injury to his left hind leg, we were pretty inconsistent last summer. But that changed after the September show last year. The regular training lessons have helped Ashke grow in strength, balance and overall ability, mostly because of her approach to our lessons.
Amanda helps us work on the things on our test, plus has us doing exercises that make those movements easier. We did really well in our lateral work on our dressage test at Expo. His sidepass through the L obstacle at the final clinic was excellent. And she doesn't get angry or upset at me when she asks me to do the shoulder in or haunches in across the arena and I do it backward (who knew how important the rail is to that exercise). She lets me laugh at my mistakes. She has us work on the stuff that's really hard but helps him with flexibility and strength. And she's always so very positive.
So yesterday we had a rare daytime lesson. I warmed up Ashke as her prior lesson was finishing, and we were doing figure eights at the canter when she finished up her earlier lesson. We worked on serpentines w-t-c, then we narrowed the serpentines to half of the arena and worked between the rail and centerline. Ashke was able to make the turn, switch leads through the trot and canter the next half circle. We were able to do it without a fight and Ashke could make each of the transitions. Then we did shoulder in and haunches in. That went okay until Amanda had us move off of the rail and do it in front of the mirrors across the arena. That's when we realized that I have no idea what I am doing. I don't know the difference between shoulder in and haunches in without the rail next to me.
We ended the lesson doing a teardrop exercise along the rail. We picked up a canter, executed a 15m turn, started back to the rail in a half-pass, move to a leg yield toward the rail, and just as you are changing your bend, doing a c-t-c transition to the other lead. The fourth time we did the change, moving from right to left lead, I asked for the lead change without the transition and we achieved our first flying lead change. I stopped and made a huge deal about the change with Ashke. Amanda said he had a look on his face like "that's what you wanted all this time? Gosh, that's an easy answer."
We ended the ride then, because I wanted him to understand how significant that was.
In my opinion, although the session on Monday was significant, the work we do weekly with Amanda laid the groundwork. If he wasn't already working on flexibility and strengthening exercises, then the change would not have been so obvious. Tracy helped set him free, but Amanda had already taught us how to fly.