He was looking around, so I turned his head a little to keep him on the road, but otherwise I wasn't doing anything. Just riding on a relaxed rein headed for home. Now check out this video to see him actually walking.
Notice how he doesn't even step into the same spot as his front hooves (I should have posted this in slow motion). He isn't limping, but he has shortened his stride. When I'm not on him he walks down the road with his hind feet tracking in front of his front feet by several inches (I've looked at his hoof prints in the mud to be sure). Of course when I'm not on him his head is usually lower, he was really looking around at everything when I rode him (see previous post for the video of him spooking). So is that a normal amount for a four and a half year old, barely ridden (this is only his 37th ride in a year and a half) horse to drop his back? Is it a lack of back and ab muscling? Or do I weigh too much for him? He is 15.2hh and I'm 5'11" . . . and I'm going to do it . . . I'm going to share my weight . . . I weigh 170lbs. Is that too much weight for him? I can try to lose weight (I miss being 150), but I doubt I will be able to because any fat I lose will probably be replaced by heavier muscle so the number probably won't change.
Or the other things that came to mind are a sore back or maybe it has something to do with his weak, locking (they haven't been locking lately) stifles. Yesterday morning (I rode on the 18th, but didn't notice the dropped back until I looked at the pictures the next day) I ran my fingers down both sides of his spine. His ears were forward until I got to his loin and they flicked back, even when I did it a couple of times, but I couldn't tell if it was a pain reaction or an irritated "would you quit doing that" reaction, so instead of running my fingers the whole length of his back I did it just over his loins and didn't get a reaction at all. Weird. So I have no idea if he's sore or not. I really wish I could find a chiropractor just to check him out but we have a shortage of qualified people around here. I can't find a single dentist or vet that does dentals on draft horses... what the heck. Sorry that's a whole different story. I thought about asking the vet, but I'm not sure a vet would know/care about possible back pain in a young horse like a chiro or body worker would. Vets around here are kind of oblivious if it's not something bleeding and/or obvious limping or something.
My gut feels like it's just because he has no strength in his back, abs, loins, haunches or stifles. His haunches have gotten so weak and scrawny since he moved off of the hilly thirty acres where he used to be. The way he plays in the pasture and with the donkey makes it hard to believe he could be in pain. You should see some of the stuff he does with Zep when they play. So if that is a normal amount for a young, lacking in muscles/fitness horse to be dropping his back under that much weight, what should I do? Work him without riding? Or just keep riding him to build his strength? Should I do cavaletti? Walk him up and down the slope of my pond banks and the dirt pile? Make him back up slowly and correctly a lot? I know he needs to do all of those things just for his stifle strength, but what I'm asking is should I do that before I ride him again or should I keep riding him while doing all of that or should I do all of that stuff while I'm mounted? If you think I should build his strength before riding him how long should I work on it before I get back on him? Anyway thanks for any advice you guys can provide!
ETA: Also I almost forgot to mention that the next day after the ride (approx. 18 hours later) Chrome was galloping around, bucking, chasing the donkey, rearing up (at Zep), doing his big fancy trot, etc. How I wish I had had my camera with me because they were really playing hard. They were biting faces, neck, legs. When Zep would bite Chrome's front legs he would sit back on his haunches and pull his front legs up out of the way (almost like a levade) so he couldn't reach them. I mean seriously, I just don't feel like he's in pain lol. This all took place a couple of hours after I ran my fingers down his spine looking for any soreness. Also when I led him to the pond he was back to walking with a several inch overtrack (the back of his rear hoof print a couple of inches ahead of the front of his fore hoof print, big overtrack!), so he only shortens his stride when I'm on him. If I'm not mistaken it takes the stifle muscles to reach under with his rear legs when being ridden right? So maybe the lack of overstep is due to his weak stifles while carrying weight? Anyway sorry for rambling. :)