Thursday, February 7, 2013

Lunging Success

Little by little over the past week or so I've started adding more "extras" to my groundwork with Charlie in an attempt to slowly keep adding one more potential "meltdown-maker" to the mix until we are ready to actually ride together. It's been going really well. He's pretty comfortable leaving my space alone now and will not run into the center of the circle when lunging. He also has gotten exponentially better at lowering his head and allowing his person to lead, walking calmly alongside. This past weekend I finally added tack to the mix :)

I reaaallly wish I could say that I have ridden him but I haven't...yet...I really want to but I keep reminding myself that it will be better in the end if I lay a good foundation and really make sure he 100% responds the way I want to various pressures and experiences. That first day I tacked him up as if we were going to ride but with the intention of just seeing how he responded to having a saddle on his back again. Charlie was not impressed with the stirrups bouncing on his sides or the fact that I was asking for all kinds of transitions and making him work so he did let out a few good bucks. I just continued working him through it figuring he has to get used to it at some point. Every time he got fed up or frustrated and tried to buck or rear I stayed calm, applied strong downward pressure to the line (but leading in the direction I wanted him to go) and drove him forward. Then, if he did what I asked, I laid off. My idea was if he is moving forward then he can't be stopping or going up so let's make forward the only way "out". Also, every time he acted up I made him work; when he was good I allowed him to rest. He caught on pretty quick, especially since I also focused on tightening the circle every time he sped up or acted up and expanded it when he was good. He hated that part. It was a trying session for both of us but by the end there was a LOT of lip licking and head lowering. For the first time I felt these tactics that I've been trying to implement all along actually worked and sunk in. Success! :)

Then yesterday Charlie was a DREAM! Maybe not compared to a perfectly trained show horse but boy was it a 180 from what he was just a few weeks ago. For the first time he walked, trotted and cantered on an easy circle without freaking out and he listened to every command to either speed up or slow down calmly and without complaint. At no point was he rocketing around me like a crazy horse or was his trot infringing on my personal space. Previously, when asked to "whoa", Charlie would plow on like he had no clue I was there and it would be a battle to move his hind end out and get him to turn in and stop (and when he did he'd come rushing right into the center of the circle on top of me). Not yesterday.

He did buck/kick out twice, but nothing outrageous. I think that was mostly because I was working him in his new quarter sheet to get him used to it (so chic by the way! Thanks Kate!) and there was a buckle that rattled and smacked him in the butt when he picked up the canter. I ended up stopping after only 20 minutes or so of work because I was just so proud and happy with the progress and how good he was being; I wanted to end on a good note. I really hope that this might mark a turnaround for us and we can start making some real progress. I have also started him on Vitacalm, which will hopefully help take some of the edge off so he has an easier time focusing and allow me to get back in the saddle a little sooner.

Tomorrow we are supposed to get a pretty decent Nor'easter over here in Rhode Island - to the tune of 1-2+ feet of snow. I stopped by the barn after work today to check in on Charlie and make sure he was ready to weather the storm since there's a good chance I may not see him for a couple of days. Good thing I got those snow shoes!

Snow? What snow?


  1. That is GREAT news!!! I knew he would come around. I hope he's getting used to the new routine. Good job!!

  2. I'm sure you are eager to ride him for the first time, but you will totally not regret setting a solid foundation. From going back and reading previous posts, its obvious that you guys are definitely making progress! Be proud of yourselves:)

    Charlie looks *adorable* and super fancy in the Rambo quarter sheet!:)

  3. Glad he's being a good boy! Sometimes with OTTBs, they are actually better under saddle because the ground work they have had in the past was brief lunging just to back them. A lot of OTTBs feel more comfortable under saddle with your feet out of the stirrups.

    Just thought I would share, don't worry too much about hoping up on there.

  4. *does a little dance* I've been looking every day for an update on you guys. I'm glad to hear things are going well and you're staying safe! Loving the smaller circles when he starts to act up. Gives you more control and less of a chance he drags you across the ring. Love it! Can't wait to read more.

  5. Yay! I'm so glad to hear that he's doing well with his ground work. Don't be afraid to take things at the right pace for you and Charlie. There's no need to rush back into the riding if it's not the right time yet.

  6. Glad he's progressing well, its so hard to be patient and lay groundwork, but it sounds like its paying off!