I've had a rough last couple of weeks with Izzy. I know I've stretched his comfort level by doing so much traveling, and moving barns added to that stress, but he's also had plenty of down time and a lot of space to stretch out. I also had the saddle fitter and chiropractor look at him and he got his hocks injected.
Even so, we had hit a road block. Our rides were spiraling down into a hot mess. He was getting more tense and short in his back instead of better. He was getting sassy, heavy in the bridle, and he was starting to bolt again, something we had worked through months ago. I wrote about that just the other day. I figured it had to be something I was doing wrong, so I got off him and put Izzy back in the sliding side reins.
How is it that when we fix a problem, we completely forget about it the next time that problem comes up? The sliding side reins have once again proved miraculous.
This time, I used them to help him go FORWARD while keeping his balance. The trouble (to my uneducated seat and eye) is that he has so much power behind, that he propels himself forward but can't keep up in front so he dives onto the forehand and then panics.
Chemaine suggested I do two things: first, let him work it out in the sliding side reins. The second thing she suggested was to allow him to go much more forward. I am not afraid of a galloping horse, but his balance is still so sketchy at that bigger stride that I've been a bit worried about getting tossed.
So, I put him on the lunge line and let him figure it out without a rider on board. The first few days we spent 20 - 30 minutes just doing lots of trot to canter to trot transitions without me interfering too much. It was almost painful to watch. His whole topline was inverted and his butt was clamped tight. I didn't ride him for the first two days, just lunged him with the sliding side reins.
When he galloped so tight across his back that he was doing the motorcycle lean, I spiraled him down to a trot and tried again. It only took a few minutes each day for him to realize that it was okay to go big. By the fifth day, he was so relaxed that I could hardly get him to move forward.
For third and fourth days, I lunged first and kept my rides less than 15 minutes. By the fifth day, I lunged for only 10 minutes and rode for another 10. He was amazing. I was able to ride that huge trot and we even cantered. He picked up the correct lead both directions and his ears swiveled happily.
I am going to continue lunging before riding for the next week or so. After that, I'll decide wether to lunge based on how he feels. No matter what he looks like, I have COMMITTED to at least one day of lunge work from here on out. No matter how good I think he is, I am going to keep on using those sliding side reins - he clearly needs them for a while.
I am pretty happy to have my big brown horse back on my team. It was looking kind of iffy there for a few days.