This month, to kick things off since it’s our first edition of Training Talk, I decided to take advantage of Lorraine’s expertise and ask her opinion on Carbo 😀
This is what I sent her by way of introduction to my situation:
My horse is 17 now and has been off for the past 2 years due to an injury. He’s 100% sound now and I want to start reconditioning him. I found that I was trying to ride him as if he’d only had a few months off and so was asking for more of a frame than his muscles are able to handle and he started to go behind the bit. Since then I’ve been light on the contact and just been trying to push him forward but find that he’s kind of pissy and frequently does this little short-strided trot and inverts and breaks into a canter. Rather than pull him back into a trot where he’s not comfortable I send him forward into the canter and get off his back and let him go for a bit. A big issue I’m finding with really being able to push him forward and encourage him to open his stride and really get some “swing” going is that our arena is really small – especially for a 17.3hh horse! My question is, are there some exercises you can suggest that will help strengthen his back that we can accomplish in our small arena?
Great thought process. ‘Thank you’ from your horse to giving him time and pushing, rather than reining him back! Yes, a big boy needs room. You may need to make an exception and trailer him to a larger arena for a few times. I use a training process of ‘make it easy when he’s doing what you ask, and put him to work when he’s not. Rest is the reward. Ground stretches are very good for him before work. A horse approaching his senior years may also need a bit of a boost nutritionally. A natural herbal blend forming a ‘multi vitamin’ is easy to digest and assimilate into his system. He’ll feel better and ‘soften’ up nicer. (On the ground) have him bend his neck down and reach towards his hind quarter (both sides!). You can even try to do this and then pick up his back foot and extend it towards his head at the same time(!)*. Also have him place his head down and between his front legs. I pick up one leg at a time and flex them as far as possible in all extended positions. It is important to read your horse closely so not to over extend…work your way up gradually to relax his muscles. To round out and strengthen his back, run your finger (or blunt object) under his belly line from front to back. He’ll kind of roach his back. Do this a few times daily. I don’t advocate ‘treats’ from the hand, however, a carrot is a great encouragement for the first exercises. After the exercises, lay the carrot on the ground for him to pick it up.I can’t stress enough emphasis on rider position and posture. Have someone (skilled) observe you from all angles when riding. It is amazing how we contribute to issues with poor posture and not even know it!
*I have seen this on YouTube and will attempt to find it again and forward it to you. (I’ll post this if Lorraine’s able to find it)