Today I thought a lot about Erik Herbermann's analogy of keeping your horse, of keeping the energy, "between the riverbanks". You create the "riverbanks" with your aids. You don't want the energy to leak out laterally, so you channel / focus the energy between them. (It just occurred to me while typing this that if the energy isn't leaking out there should be more forwardness!) That was a great place to start, as Val was more of a noodleneck than usual. And I always benefit from trying to coordinate my legs and arms.
We worked on straightness - in Val's neck and our movement within the arena - utilizing the cones and staying on the quarter line. There were some nice round 10 meter circles in both directions. Our trot work was fun and enthusiastic. We were round, and Val was reaching for contact. His trot felt big... posting took less effort and when I sat the first few strides of each transition it felt like I could keep on sitting. Val was carrying himself. Best of all, he seemed like he was enjoying the work.
I have two theories about why: One is that the deep footing I've been fretting about (and avoiding trotting in) doesn't bother Val at all - in fact it encourages him to engage his core and use his back. I think it feels good to him!
The other is that discovering and treating Val for this "needles in the hay issue" over the past few weeks has strengthened our relationship... the trust he has in me. No kidding, he voluntarily comes over to the spot where I take care of his mouth every evening, patiently waits and stands ground tied. He keeps his head low and within reach while I'm working on him and seems to get great relief from the process. Tonight I finished the treatment by repeatedly rinsing his gums with a diluted Listerine (vet recommended) solution after the saline rinse. He didn't bat an eyelash. I was impressed, as Listerine (the brown kind) has a pretty harsh flavor. I can barely keep it in my mouth :)
So even though I'm distressed that Val has been so uncomfortable, something good seems to have come from the situation. I confirmed the dentist's recommendations with our vet today, and feel confident that Val is on the mend. I tried to get in touch with the man who grew the hay to let him know about the foxtail issue, but low and behold, his phone number has been disconnected... I sure am tired of throwing