This is really exciting to me, especially since just a few weeks ago I was starting to reach the conclusion that Liam had gone as far as he could go, and I would have to focus more on Remy going forward. Liam was getting “stuck” over his left shoulder in the more difficult movements with left bend, and I figured out that it must be due to how he compensates for his fused left ankle. If it was a mechanical thing and not a training thing or a strength thing, it seemed only fair to enjoy what Liam could do, and stop trying for stuff he couldn’t do. This feeling was compounded when I signed Liam up for the show, and then a week of stormy weather left him a little off, so I ended up taking Remy instead (which worked out to be a total blessing in disguise!).
But, while I was off at the show with Remy, my new farrier, Joe Gnastor, was busy working on Liam. Joe knew about Liam’s ankle, and had an idea. He changed the angles a little bit, and set Liam’s shoes back, rolling his toes to ease breakover. He didn’t tell me exactly all that he did, only that he had made some changes and to let him know what I thought.
The first ride was amazing. I could tell Liam’s gaits had completely changed. I could feel that his shoulders worked evenly, and it didn’t feel like Liam was compensating by lifting his left shoulder higher anymore. He felt straighter, and more honest in the connection in both reins. I was amazed at the difference. Knowing such a big change had taken place, I wanted to take things slow and give Liam’s muscles a chance to get used to the different way of moving. Over the next week, I slowly built Liam back up, and he continued to feel sounder and more even, but as we did more, I could tell that we have some work to do still. He *wants* to get uneven still, every now and then, and he tries to lift his left shoulder higher, then he gets a little rein lame. The first time he did it, I got nervous, but after a few steps it was gone. The next time he did it, I put my leg on and sent him forward, and again it was gone. I’m trying to sort out if it is muscle memory, or when a new muscle fatigues and he goes back to old habit or stronger muscles, or if it’s all in his head… like when we try a movement that was previously difficult due to the way he compensated, he assumes it will still be difficult, so he gets uneven and looks rein lame in anticipation of getting stuck on his shoulder. Probably, it’s some combination of all three, so it is my job to gently show him that he can do things differently now, and strengthen him so he is confident and comfortable with his new way of moving.
What an amazing and educational journey this is! After a few weeks, the walk, trot, and canter were feeling pretty good, so I added some lateral work back in. He felt better than ever. He is still not 100% as strong as he was before the time off last month, but it’s coming back more quickly than I would have thought, and not only are the old movements feeling better, he is offering new stuff too!
Three cheers for an awesome farrier, and an awesome horse!