January was miraculous for Thunder and for me. I was starting to think maybe I wasn’t experienced enough to turn Thunder into anything even resembling a hunter. His improvement this month did wonders for my confidence. I’m seeing that working with horses isn’t magic and it isn’t some mystical, esoteric secret. It’s mostly patience and common sense. With that said, you better believe I’m watching YouTube videos and reading like a mad woman to try and better educate myself on how to properly develop a horse.
In January we lunged consistently 5 days a week at walk and trot. All I wanted was for him to stretch down, long and low. Everything else will follow that. His topline will start to muscle up, his neck will have muscles on the top instead of the bottom, his hind quarters will get stronger and rounder, and he’ll step under his body more actively. But first he has to stretch.
Boy did it work. He went from Llama Land to moving like a horse. He stretches down almost immediately at the trot now and he can carry himself in a true working trot all the way around the round pen. He’s relaxed, he knows what I’m asking him to do and he does it without a lot of fuss. His sourpuss attitude is gone and he seems engaged in the work.
I honestly think he is enjoying all the stretching. It’s like yoga for him. He is incredibly more free in his movement. His steps have become longer and more flowing where before he had very short, choppy gaits. It’s the most fun thing to watch. He’s changing little by little right before my eyes.
To top off our month of lunging, I rode today to see if I could get him to stretch at the trot. I’ve been watching this dude on YouTube named Will Faerber. He’s a dressage trainer somewhere in California and his YouTube channel is ArttoRide. I love him. He makes a lot of sense. One thing he says that resonated with me is that you should not bother riding a hollow horse. You’re only reinforcing all the wrong movements, building the wrong muscles and hammering on his back. Teach the horse to stretch on the lunge and only ride when he’s built up the strength to carry you with a lifted back. That little gem of wisdom is the reason I quit riding and started lunging Thunder.
So today I rode Thunder to see if he could stretch at the trot with me riding. HE DID! I could hardly believe it myself because his trot has been bad beyond description. But today he stretched down and continued to stretch for several strides at a time. It’s a frickin’ miracle, folks! My giraffe is transforming into a horse! We’ll still be lunging, mostly because he needs to build strength, but at least I know that it’s working and he’s progressing!