Today was challenging. I don't know if the clip job left him cold and cranky, or if he was just having a bad day, but when I brought Thomas out this afternoon it was pretty tough. I walked him for 10 minutes and did some walk/halt/walk transitions. When I asked him to trot ( going left) he shut down. He hasn't done this in quite awhile and it's a sure sign that he's feeling bad. When I ask for the trot he pushes his body against me; puts his head down and just sort of locks his body, with his feet planted. Three years ago when he first started doing this he would shut down like this then rear- straight up. Now I know what to do. I keep my hands low, bend him and drive him with everything I've got- voice, seat, legs and whip- and he goes. Today he popped right into trot. It was stiff and uncomfortable-feeling, but it was trotting.
We had about 30 minutes of stickiness. Just not very willing to go forward. He shut down once more (again going to the left) and then I talked myself through the situation. What he was doing was sucking me into holding up every ounce of his 17.3 hh body! He leans sideways- falling in or falling out- and he leans lengthwise- pulling his head down and all of his weight onto his forehand. All of a sudden I just made the decision not to allow the leaning! When he pulled I used my core strength to put a wall up so he couldn't pull on it. Like a very strong half halt. I read somewhere about how half halts are like holding a child's hand. When they start to go astray you grasp more firmly, just enough to redirect them, then you soften and just "hold" their hand. Well, my "child" was running full steam ahead with his shoe laces untied into Mack truck highway traffic, so my "redirecting half halt" was a little strong, but the important part was the softening after; going back to hand-holding. He must have run into that traffic at least 50 times today and in every direction possible! But each time I corrected him he got a little better, and it lasted a little longer. When I first started him today and he shut down in that first trot transition, I thought there was no way we would try cantering . But with my "no leaning" policy in place we did manage to work on canters, both ways, with NO TROUBLE!
Getting back to the EPSM. was the bad start caused by EPSM? Or was he just being cranky, or was I having a bad day? I don't know. What I do know is that I was able to work through it and have a nice horse to ride for the last 15 minutes. When I was done, I cooled him out with a walk down the road again. On the way home, the other 3 horses in our gang decided to run along the fence line. Thomas hollowed and threatened to lean (by this I mean that he pushes all of himself against me, all at once) but I caught him, redirected him and said, "Don't you dare!" and he settled back down and walked almost-quietly while the rest of them egged him on. Good Boy, Thomas!