About 3 weeks ago Darcy started getting sore again, so we brought our riding to a halt and I found a massage and red light therapist to come treat Darcy in the hope I'd be able to avoid vet bills this time. The muscle therapist came out and treated Darcy, he was sore and reactive on both sides in his chest, back, croup and hamstring region, as well as over his poll and his sacroiliac joint - he also couldn't move his head up and down from the poll. He improved a little after the first treatment and I reintroduced some basic groundwork just to keep his fitness up and his mind ticking over, as well as some stretches recommended by the muscle therapist. On Wednesday he had his second treatment and he was considerably better, he only had a tiny bit of soreness over a small section of his back and on the right side of his poll, he was also able to move his head up and down from the poll. The therapist said he should probably be ok to ride now and after doing some groundwork on Friday afternoon I could see how much more comfortable he was (no longer going around with his ears back like he had been for the last few weeks).
Today I went out and rode Darcy for the first time in about 3 weeks. We went bareback and worked through our impulsion homework cards. We did some circles, transitions, turns, rebounds, point-to-point and rein positions (pinch test style). The circles were pretty good and Darcy remembered the pattern, and our turns were better than they had been before our break! The backup in the rebound and after the point-to-point needs some more work on adding some positive reflex and impulsion though. The transitions on the circle went well and Darcy was going from walk to trot and back down mainly from my seat in a few strides, and he picked up the correct canter lead the first try on his bad side! Our lateral flex was really good and we could do with without reins at all, and the indirect and direct reins were light in a pinch test, the backup and sideways were a bit clunky though, but they'll get better once we get back into the swing of things. Darcy's trot throughout was also really bumpy, so once our fitness is up there will be many a passenger lesson in store, plus some more time spent softening him further on the circle. His trot did improve a bit throughout, so I think it won't take much to get it smooth again.
Then this afternoon I went out again and did a little trail ride around my property with Darcy. It was perfect because it lengthened him and gave him some more impulsion, while also stretching his emotions and being fun and interesting at the same time. I did it like a big stopping spot, with the comfort being the track immediately around the paddocks, and then going and doing tracks further away from the paddock and coming back to do a lap around the paddock again if Darcy got emotional. We did some transitions and the occasional rebound as we went, and we got some great walk-trot and trot-walk transitions going from my seat and energy, plus the occasional rebound with much more impulsion in the back up. Towards the end we also did a 200m stretch of canter up our gallop track and all of the groundwork we've been doing showed up as Darcy maintained a slow and steady canter on a straight line and came back to a walk from my seat (although it took a few more strides than I would have liked, it was pretty darn good for Darcy). We finished up with a graze for Darcy while I lay on him. I had a great time and I think Darcy really enjoyed himself too.
I'm looking forward to seeing where the rest of the year takes us, and hopefully we will be getting some Level 2 assignments in soon!