I was able to get in contact with a riding instructor with several years of experience working with OTTBs. I hoped she would have answers, and she did. She told me that many ex-racehorses have spine alignment issues, causing them significant amounts of pain and stiffness. To prove her point, she put her hand behind Shorty's ears and pressed firmly on his poll. He softened for a moment until she touched the pressure point; he tried to take off her head at that point. I felt his whole back tense up on the right side as soon as she touched it.
We did not do very much in the lesson because of Shorty's alignment issue. She recommended taking it easy until he sees a chiropractor. Shorty's vet is coming tomorrow to do spring vaccinations, so I will ask the vet to recommend someone good if she can. I'm also looking into equine massage to prevent the muscles from pulling his spine back out of alignment again.
We went on a trail ride yesterday. We mostly walked and trotted, rode in a western saddle, and stayed on a loose rein the whole time. I do trail ride in a tom thumb bit these days because my horse can be very strong and very, very fast. The leverage bit allows me to give a little correction with a small half halt without making a big deal out of it. I love my D ring snaffle and use it for anything that requires Shorty to be on the bit, but on trail rides I let him stretch to a long rein, stay out of his face, and use a little leverage to keep my energetic horse from bolting.
Today, Shorty seemed very backsore, most likely because he was racing up hills for the first time this season. He was cranky in general. Opting to keep tack off his back for the day, I let him free lounge with a nice, loose trot for a few minutes each way to loosen up, and we spent thirty minutes doing stretching exercises on the ground. He was a good boy. I hope he feels better tomorrow.
In other news, I am now officially certified with the American Riding Instructor's Associaiton (ARIA) in dressage. Hooray and such.