I got thinking the other day about Tom's reaction to the snow coming off the roof. He's been terrified of all the noises in that arena since we got there, and adding the view of the sheets of snow sliding down the roof put him right over the edge. In the video I posted he looks pretty calm, but actually he was too scared to move. His security blanket is the mirror in the end corner. He runs right back there for comfort from that other big, black horse. What I got thinking about is that when he shuts down he tends to be near the mirror. Not always, but enough that now I'm thinking that he's looking for help from that "other horse". The more I think about this, the more I think this might be a big part of the issue. So, I still don't know why he's shutting down and/or needing reassurance. Is he hurting, worried or something else? He tends to do it more when he's not completely warmed up. He rarely does it at the walk and is much more likely to do it on the left rein than the right.
Yesterday and today I focused on working him really low and deep (LDR- low, deep and round) in the warm up. It seems to help to loosen him up and prevents him from getting distracted and silly. I think when I first started working him after the EPSM diagnosis I sort of backed off and didn't really insist on doing things MY way ALL the time. Thomas is the type who takes advantage of any tiny crack left open, blasting through and creating a gaping hole, which is very hard to close up again. In sealing up the "cracks" he seems to settle into work much better. He shut down once today. It was to the right and away from the mirrors, but I was able to shove him right back into a marching walk, overbending right, and demanding forward! He didn't do it again, and the work became really good after 40 minutes or so.
My question now is, "Is he playing me?" I'm quick to back off if I think he's hurting and maybe he's figured that out. Now my job is to figure out if his anxiety is for real, and caused by a physical problem, or is he just checking my sympathy barometer for the day? He's moving SO much better than he had been prior to the diet change, and his musculature is much improved too. To me that must mean that his body is working correctly. Now if I could just get his head to cooperate too, I'll be all set!