This is his second ride and I wanted to start to ask him to stretch a bit. It’s super hard for these guys who have no muscle and strength to reach into the contact but you have to start introducing it so you can begin to reshape their muscles.
It’s what I would probably call the most difficult part of the early work for them and they can get cranky and mad about it because it’s hard and a really new concept. I like to just take a gentle feel and then push them a bit more forward than you would think you need to be going so they don’t feel the contact and go OMG. If you are going to take contact you have to create the power from behind. I think too many people just pull the head down in the front without creating the push from behind. You can always slow it down but you want them to just go to the contact not to pull them into the contact.
It can look like you are running around the ring with this crazy trot but with these guys the minute you start taking the contact they start to go super slow so you have to explain they have to keep coming forward and using the hind end. As soon as they soften then I soften but keep the leg on! Most times as they soften the neck they want to slow way down. Forward is the key when starting to teach them to stretch.
If you compare this to his first ride it’s a big deal for him to even give this much.
I worked maybe 10 min and that was all he did for that ride. He got lots of pats and treats afterwards along with a nice liniment bath 🙂 I will be hacking him out quite a bit to build up his muscle.
I know sometimes at this point you look at them and think OMG they look so funky/lame/not right???? Perhaps all of the above 🙂 Just remember they have no muscle so it’s like a person going from the couch to a running program. You have to slowly build the work and yes they look a bit sore and move funny. It’s normal and you can’t panic. As they learn to relax the back and they build the muscle then it will all start to come together.
I like to keep the work varied with the trail riding, small jumps and little trips off the farm to keep them from getting sour to it all. Short and sweet sessions until they do have the muscles to support the work being asked of them.
I did add the running martingale to him because he can get his head pretty high up there. I also think that I will add a little lunging into his program to help him build the muscles without a rider. He had a longer race career so in some ways it’s more years of him using the incorrect muscles which means more care on my part to rebuild them.