I wouldn't say the arena was good, but it was decent enough to actually get in a good ride. There are still a couple soupy areas I had to avoid, but at least we were able to canter! It was supposed to be sunny all day to help dry it out some more, but instead it rained on me during my ride...
I opened the gate from Lilly's back again today and I've decided to do it that way every time we ride. It can't hurt, Lilly seems to like it, and eventually, we'll look like professionals out there!
I worked on all the usual stuff and then hopped over the jump a couple times to break things up. She wasn't so sure it was a good idea, but went ahead and did it anyway, but without quite as much effort as she had on Saturday.
As I mentioned, I was able to work on our canter. Since she's been giving me some really good periods of actual western loping, I've started to incorporate some canter stops into our routine. Alex and I worked on them Saturday, but I haven't had a chance to work on them since because of the mud. Today we practiced loping circles at one end of the arena until she was calm and settled in. Then I would leave the circle, lope her up the long side of the arena, choose a spot to stop, and then back her up. In order to combat the anticipation of cantering again, we're doing rollbacks and loping the circle in the other direction, up the long side, stopping, and backing. She's doing pretty good with the rollbacks, and they're a good tool to keep her focused on me when I ask for the canter transition. I'm also going to start loping figure eights, with the stop and back in the middle of the circles, but I need the arena to dry up a bit more before we start working on that.
Also, regarding the cantering, you may or may not recall that when Lilly had her UFP appointment last month, my vet recommended that I not canter for at least two months to give Lilly some time to build up her muscles. Obviously I'm not following her recommendation. She also suggested that I put Lilly in a pair of side reins and work her on the longe line, and I'm not going to do that either. I'm not a big fan of side reins, and using them on Lilly is out of the question. I don't fault anyone who like them and uses them, but they're not for my horse.
I gave it all a lot of thought, discussed it with some people I trust, and decided that if fitness is the biggest issue my horse is having, building muscle by cantering is the best way to build muscle for cantering. She's on the Cosequin ASU as of Saturday and I've been monitoring her very closely, watching for any signs that she might be getting worse. I've noticed the opposite, though... she's been getting better. She's switching her lead behind a lot less and she's not as reluctant to pick up the right lead. She feels less stiff and I haven't felt an increase in her "tripping". She just feels a lot stronger overall and I think the extra cantering has been the best thing for her.
I like my vet and I respect her opinion, so it's nothing against her, but if I've learned anything in the past couple years, it's to take in as many opinions as I can, weigh them, and then decide what's best for me and Lilly. In other words, follow my gut and listen to what my horse tells me.
Another benefit to all this riding, and perhaps part of it is because I've been riding her 100% barefoot for about a week and a half, is I'm seeing quite a bit of concavity in her hooves! I noticed it a few days ago, but I really looked at her hooves today and it's quite impressive! A week from Sunday is the trim clinic, so I'll have to get some updated pictures of her hooves to post before then.