Less is More
After working Achates today I also worked with one of my trainer’s horses. Bling is an adorable paint pony who is as sassy as he is cute. Whenever I’m working a horse in our indoor arena he comes up by the back gate and scrapes his teeth on it incessantly until I look up and acknowledge him.
I haven’t worked with him to much so I decided to stick to lunging him for right now. This way I was able to see how he was moving and balancing himself. I decided to use some side reins as a training aid. I know, when you hear the term “side reins” you think of something, constraining and forcefully pushing your horse into an unnatural frame. And generally yes, that is what they are used for, but you can use them as an encouraging tool as well. You can do this by adjusting the length to be flexible and make coming forward and stretching into the contact a positive experience for your horse.
When you first start lunging with the side reins attach them to your surcingle or saddle a little looser then what you want. This gives them a chance to get comfortable with the contact of the side reins. Once they get a chance to get used to this feeling then gradually shorten them. This way you’re slowly working them into the frame that you want, just like you would do if you were riding them.
The main thing that Bling was able to teach me today was to moderate the amount pressure that I put into my aids. Every time I pressured him to move forward too strongly he would toss his head and suck back. Since my normal method wasn’t working I was given the chance to experiment with what would be the best way to achieve what I wanted. Instead of heavily driving him with the whip, I tried leading him forward with the lunge line and clucking. When he would back off instead of flicking the whip at him I merely pointed it at his hind quarters. This method ended up working better than what I could have hoped for. Bling started to come forward and through, and while it wasn’t completely consistent there were some great moments of true connection.
The trot work started to come along but Bling’s canter departs definitely need some work. I think part of the problem is that he needs to find and figure how to balance himself. So instead of getting discouraged by this I just let him figure it out himself, and when he needed forward encouragement I provided it. The great thing about lunging your horse, with or without side reins is that it gives them a chance to figure out exactly where their feet should be going without having to worry about balancing out their rider. This way they can develop their own self carriage even before you get on.
Lunging also opens up opportunities for you to experiment with what might or might not be working with your horse. I think the most sound advice you can use is to not pile on the pressure all at once. Like I’ve mentioned before physical pressure that you put on your horse manifests in them mentally. So work your way into it and if they don’t do what your asking for perfectly the first time don’t put to much stock into it. See if they’re attempting what you asked them to do, and if they are then give them credit for it and ask again. Eventually they will bridge together the gaps and give you exactly what you want.
No matter what you do though keep encouraging your horse, and be consistent. Your warrior will appreciate it and your working relationship will continue to improve more than you can imagine.