One of the ways I’ve consistently assessed Confetti’s base of fitness over the past few years has been a set of steps. Not the first set of steps (we generally walk those), but the second set, right after. Threeish, a few trot steps on the flat, then four or five and the last one around a turn, then if we’re doing reaaally well, a few more trot steps and maybe even another step. It sounds straightforward, but it’s actually a pretty good workout. It’s also really close to home – mile and a half away, involved in almost every ride we go on.
On any given day I know Fetti can walk up the entire set of steps without needing to stop. If that changes, we have a problem!
Over the past few years we have been able to trot 75% of the way up these steps before fizzling out, and usually closer to 90%, quitting at the turn where it takes more coordination to both go up a step and turn 90 degrees. By last fall, we were fairly consistent at making it to 125% of normal: all the way up, around the turn, past the next step. It wore her out, but she could do it.
We’re now in the beginning of July – OK, by the time I’m getting this posted, it’s at least midway through July. I acknowledge that the rain and mud took a toll on the steps this year and made them not-trottable through the winter and part of the spring. I understand that horses lose fitness and that’s a normal thing. But right now, it’s a heroic effort to trot 75% of the way up, and more often we’re closer to 50% at the trot.
I am again suspicious of her hocks. I have nothing concrete to base that on except her age. Four years ago, she was fine. She goes down hills just as terribly now as she does then (said with affection: she is not a good downhill horse, never has been, probably never will be). Actually, no, let me correct that: now there have definitely been a few rides where she’s not sitting back on the hills as well as she was last year. In fairness, that was something we’d worked up to over several years, but I’m surprised to see it backslide. We did several rides last year and did them well. Her saddles fit, she’s not any different bareback, her feet look good. She just feels reluctant to really weight her hind end. Uphill canters/gallop sets used to be a source of great joy, and now get a similar reaction of 50% interest before fizzling out. I feel like I have less horse than I did in 2012, despite putting a better fitness base on for the past few years. It’s baffling and frustrating.
It’s also worth noting that her energy level is still quite excellent. We took most of last July off at her request (pony burnout, it’s a thing) but she has been enthusiastically zooming around the arena, flouncing into the trot, and continues to request Serious Work.
I have zero issue with joint injections to get her back to her previous level of comfort and ability. The prevailing theme around this area seems to be Previcox/Equioxx – but that’s not competition-legal, and I am not quite ready to throw in the towel and deem her retired from any level of competition yet. I’ll do x-rays if it’s recommended, but at this point I also don’t see a compelling reason that I need to have them. She’s twenty and doing lots of miles. I’m sure she has some level of arthritis.
Vet visit is scheduled for the end of the month.