If there is one job I really hate and that is working Big Guy in-hand. It just sucks. Any other horse is no problem, but with him it’s exhausting and uphill work all the way …. so let me write why.
This is a horse who doesn’t know his front from the back. Even though he’s actually well-proportioned, moving him is like watching the Queen Mary set sail. Even on a good day he is not lightly responsive to requests, and stopping him is asking a tank to stop on a dime.
Since the injury, this has all worsened – so he is more crooked, lopsided, hard to turn, and on the forehand more then ever! All our hard work, and how well he was going 2 years ago has been flushed down the toilet…. ARGH!
It’s not his fault though so I just need to suck it up and get to it.
Two loops of the small dressage arena at a walk; change directions and repeat.
Then we start walking over the ground poles. Inevitably, he will hit them by being lazy on picking up. To counter this, I walk his forelegs over. Stop. Walk the hindlegs over. Stop. If no hits, then I reward with a bit of carrot.
Once he picks up consistently, we don’t stop over the poles. Next week, I would like to set him up with some better work with the halter/bridle or sidepull so he shifts his weight backward before stepping over the poles.
The way I have the groundpoles set up, I will go over two at one end (on the graphic these would be the top, two purple lines, moving horizontally across) make a big loop and then go over the other two at the other end (at the bottom, the last two purple lines, moving horizontally across).
Then we return to walking the rail of the arena. Come around – go over the center ground poles (horizontally on this graphic) then change direction after them. Go back to the rail and begin the big loop again, using the end ground poles to make a complete circuit.
After 4-6 circuits incorporating the ground poles, I start down the row of cavaletto. Again, Big Guy stumbles through this by being heavy on the forehand and rushing. The rushing comes from being a former hunter/jumper and this also causes issues because if the cavaletti are set too high, he views them as jumps and either hops over them or attempts to duck out. ARGH.
To help him rebalance, we take the forelegs over. Stop. Then the hind legs over. Stop. Carrot. Once he is reaching up higher with his legs, we take the row without pause.
After about 6-8 circuits of cavaletto, making sure we approach from both directions, we go back to the rail (go large). Here I begin trot work down the long portions of the arena.
This is where we end up in trouble again. Because he is so much stronger then I (let’s face it 1200 pounds) and can be heavy in front, he will break into trot, swerve in front of me, and then circle.
This is exactly what I DON’T want him to do as being on a curve right now puts too much stress on his hindquarters. If I were to lunge him, then the inside hind would bear more weight and this increases his lameness even more. ARGH.
Because he can be too sensitive to whip correction, I don’t want to use that – he might get too excited, do his Fight Club Moves (duck head, elevate HQ, strike sideways with one hing legs in a horizontal Kung Fu kick) and just end up hurting himself – Silly Goose – so I am trying to just give lots of positive reinforcements with my voice and carrots after a good trot off.
To be effective, I am asking him to sustain the trot for at least 4 strides. If he takes off into canter (which is easier since one side is stronger then the other), no reward.
Actually, I think he is looking stronger. I have noticed a small change and improvement and I’m very excited to see if this continues over the next 45 days of this rehabilitation session.
It’s long and slow work but I do think it seems to be paying off. Fingers crossed.