So with that disclaimer made public, here’s how I’ve been working Izzy Zweibrücker.
I don't hook the side reins on until I am in my lunging spot. They're only hooked here for the photo.
By the way, he’s all sweaty in this photo because I’ve just brought him in from turnout. That boy has a lot of pent up energy. Standing around and doing nothing more than a walk for eight weeks while his leg was healing was pretty hard on an energetic six year old.
For the last several weeks, I’ve opted to use my halter instead of a bit for the side reins. It took me about a week to figure out the best halter configuration, but as soon as I landed on this particular set-up, Izzy got much quieter with his head and started accepting the pressure of the halter over his nose.
My plan with the lunging is not necessarily to tire him out, but if he does have some woo hoos that he wants to get rid of, I am certainly okay with that. Instead, all I am looking for on the lunge line is that he develops a little bit of a rhythm, acceptance of the “contact,” and that he starts to see that I am the one directing his feet. It only took a week or two for him to settle right into the work.
He isn’t working in a long and low frame yet, but I have the side reins set pretty loosely so that he can lower his head if he wants to. And frankly, with his lack of experience, I am not too concerned that he hasn’t learned to lower his neck and stretch in the trot. He’s still trying to keep all of his legs moving in the same direction, especially at the canter. While he is very athletic, he’s not Mr. Coordination.
Once we finish with all of that work, which really only takes fifteen minutes at the most, I walk him back to the front of the arena and clip my reins to the halter’s rings. We do a minute of reins over the head, reins off, reins stuck on his ear, and reins down low. When I first bought him, he didn’t want anything to do with the reins going over his head. Now it’s a game that he is happy to play.
When all of that is done, I scoot him up next to the mounting block and hop on right over the half pad and surcingle. While the surcingle presses into my thighs a little bit, it’s actually a bit comforting to have so much to grab onto if I need to. Once I am in place, I do a bunch of carrot stretches from his back, and then we walk off.
Right now, I am walking him back and forth at the home end of the arena doing lots of figures of eight and bending exercises. So far, he hasn’t bucked, spooked, or bolted. He’s tried to break into a trot a few times, but I simply pull his head around and send him into the turn with my outside leg. He comes back to a walk almost instantly.
During my Easter Vacation, I'll start lunging with a bit. By the time his wound has healed completely, he should be ready to start trotting under saddle. I am certainly starting to feel ready!