Thunder and I saw a lot of progress in December. I hardly rode at all and free lunged instead. I felt like riding him was jumping too far ahead. He needed to go back to basics. I’ve been doing a ton of research on how to get a horse to use himself properly and round his back and push from his hindquarters. I’ve come to the conclusion that lunging him in side reins or riding him in draw reins might get his head down but it won’t teach him to work over his back and get his butt in gear. So I’ve committed to taking the long, slow route and not tying his head down to get him in a “frame.”
I won’t bore you with a play by play of the lunging. We lunged. He stretched some. It wasn’t epic. I was wondering if it was doing any good at all, but then on New Year’s Eve we had a fantastic ride. We walked down a residential road and we did not go faster than a walk at any point. But he stretched! And he gave me a swinging, active walk instead of moving like a tortoise! It was the first time he used himself correctly for longer than a few moments. He relaxed, he stretched his neck down and he didn’t require so much effort on my part to keep him moving at a good clip. He seemed content and interested instead of doing the bare minimum.
If we can keep working like that at the walk, then eventually it will carry over to the trot. I really neglected the walk with Baron. Back then I didn’t realize how much can be accomplished at the lowly, humble walk. Now I get it. If a horse can’t do something at the walk, chances are he can’t do it at the trot either, much less the canter. There’s no sense in asking Thunder to relax and stretch down at the trot if he can’t even do it at the walk.
I’m learning that there really are building blocks to training horses (and riders) and when one is skipped, the hole in training will rear its ugly head at some point in the future. Better to take it slow and do it right, even if it takes longer than slapping on some side reins and getting a pretty picture.