Following up on my last post, I've been focusing on getting Royal to relax in his neck. I've gotten pretty much everywhere else fairly supple (although he tends to tense up through his back) but I've never really paid attention to his neck until now. I always figure that if I could relax his back/hind end, everything else would follow. But he's never really had a good topline, and his underneck used to be the stuff of legend. Even when he'd be mosseying around OnLine, he'd still have a very tense and bulging underneck.
So I've been doing some Moving Massage as well as T-Touch massage after all our sessions, and so far them seem to be helping. It doesn't take long for him to take stretching and chewing during MM and his muscles relax fairly quickly with the T-Touch.
I've also become more particular about him maintaining a good posture during riding, even freestyle. Yes, we're not doing contact now, Royal, but that doesn't mean you have to gambol around like an overly-caffeinated llama. We did have an... interesting session where we were doing some nice finesse, and then the neighbor cows took off. Well, not so much "took off" as "ambled off at a slightly faster than normal pace". And Royal's brain short-circuited. So we had a long discussion about stretching and relaxing wherein he twisted his neck in every possible way, curled up and down to avoid the bit, and even threatened to rear a couple times. I stayed (mostly) patient, and kept combing the reins, trying to get him to stretch. It took a a while, but finally he relaxed and yawning and snorted and snorted and snorted. I don't think I've ever felt him breathe that deeply.
A couple days later I got a set of white dressage boots on sale at Dover (4 boots for $40! Score) and it turns out Royal can really rock the Dressage Chic look.
Add the royal blue fly bonnet and we were both Dressage and Jumper Chic.
It was another contact session to see where he was at and it was pretty good. He still wanted to avoid everything at first, but then gave me some really nice trotwork and held the contact steadily. He also didn't seem too bothered by the boots either.
Steepleview is in less than two weeks! Need to start think about getting ready!