Finding a balance is tough- in life, in injury recovery, in riding. You can only really know your true limits by testing them because so many “limits” are self-imposed or temporary. These faux limits are negotiable and often worth testing!
Harley and I are testing our physical limits lately and while in some cases we’re looking for the limit to check if it can be extended, in other cases finding the limit will let us know a comfortable state in which we can chill and know things will be okay, at least until some other variable changes.
I am playing with how many times per week and how many times in a row I can ride before my knee bothers me to the point of having to take multiple days off to recover. Obviously this is completely unscientific because every ride is a little different but in general it seems like I can ride three days in a row, MAX. This is frustrating because it’s not a muscular thing, not a case of being out of shape (though, yes, of course I am), this is osteoarthritis and it’s annoying AF. What I’m working on now is trying to see if riding every other day means I am able to get more rides in per week or is there just a critical limit.
With Harley I have been asking for more lately, and he is delivering in ways I didn’t even think he could. Yes, some of the improvement can be attributed to me simply riding more often. He is getting more fit and most importantly staying sound. He takes a bad step or two nearly every ride so I know his hocks are still causing issues but tomorrow he is getting injections and I’m excited to see what we will be able to accomplish when he is back to work afterwards.
I have had a lot of success asking for adjustability within the gaits and specifically in the trot, he gets into a zone that’s rhythmic and very adjustable. I’m not sure I’ve ever felt anything like it before. He’s so athletic and has such a good work ethic but it took me a long time to understand the core strength required to focus that intensity. He is also a pretty big mover so sitting his trot is damn near impossible for me unless he is in that zone. Now I push the limits of how long he can correctly work in that zone before we fall apart. Most recently, I have been adding some transitions asking him to canter out of and transition back into that trot resulting in a much higher quality canter than I usually get from him. It should be noted that we are going about this relatively blind and mostly by feel- I don’t really know if he looks great and I’m sure I am making mistakes but we have moments where it feels great and I’m trusting myself that that sensation is the right path.
I don’t want to call it something it isn’t. Is this a collected trot by definition? Unsure. The sensation is a bundled energy that does not feel explosive in any way. It is slow but distinctly two-beat; it’s comfortable to sit- feeling very up and down; it’s light in the hand and most enjoyably, requires hardly any leg at all and is adjustable in my core. The real question I have is: can this same sensation be produced through incorrect work? Can something that feels this good, be bad?