Her evasion of choice is to break at the 3rd vertebrae and go too deep, or occasionally bounce off the contact instead of staying steady. For a horse with a long, elegant neck who was ridden in the not too distant past by novices, this is a fairly common evasion. Thankfully, Gogo gave me a set of very quiet hands (due to the fact that after she was abused, her reaction to unforgiving hands was to rear and occasionally flip over), and so with some encouragement and tact I can coax a nice solid contact out of her at the walk. At the trot and canter, however, her immediate response is HERE IS MY CONTACT HOLD ME. Which is nice in comparison... but she still wants to get too deep when she gets hangy.
When I say at the trot and canter, I also mean that I have very briefly trotted and cantered her twice this week. My original plan had been to walk for a month, trot for a month, and canter for a month, but immediately it became clear that this rehab plan is not going to work for her. An older mare who hasn't done much of anything for the past 6 years following a whump to her stifle? She's stiff, and she needs limbering up. When starting out at the trot, she feels a bit like she is made up of two different horses, one in front and one in back. However, if you let her canter a lap or two around in each direction, she is immediately ten times more supple and active. Observe what happens with a bit of canter on a long rein:
I also got up off of her back in a half seat (well, sort of.... kind of hard to do in a dressage saddle) and just let her cruise for a moment. She felt ten times better than she did before the canter. That is the kind of contact she wants to take on a long rein, which is nice... she is interested in the downward stretch, something I really like to see.
So maybe it's unorthodox... but I'm starting our fitting up work with canter first. Why not? There is no reason to trot around with her feeling like a pogo stick horse for an indefinite amount of time if a little bit of canterwork before the trot limbers her up safely. That's not to say I'm going to immediately be doing walk-canters right from the get go - a bit of trot before the canter is certainly fine - but I will primarily, for the moment, be using canter as my gait of choice for fitness and limbering. Once she builds up her hind end, stretches everything out, and gets back to a regular level of fitness, we can go back to a more orthodox warmup. It's all up to her of course, and what her body can or can not handle.... only time will tell there.
On an unrelated note, I am super impressed with her vit/min supplement. Three weeks of being on it, and she is suddenly shedding out all her old and ratty winter hair to reveal the most beautiful, dark, gleaming, shiny, soft coat underneath. She is positively glowing! I'm also betting the Cosequin will start making her feel much better pretty soon as well... I usually give a joint supplement about a month before I decide whether or not it is helping. Adequan will make a difference for her too I bet, once she starts.