Reign Day – Day Four – Lunging

Barry leads Reign Day to the arena for a lunging lesson.

Today was really cold with high winds so the horses stayed in for the second day. I don’t remember our horses staying in for two days in a row and already this year it has happened several times.

You would think that Reign Day would be getting stir crazy because he is young and just off-the-track but he has been quiet in his stall and he is cleaning up his food. He loves to eat!

I was really busy with Web work today so Barry offered to help me get Reign Day ready for his lesson. Barry had tacked him up and Reign Day walked quietly to to the arena while I was finishing up. My first thought was to teach Reign Day about side reins but it was just too cold to spend more than 20 minutes or so in the arena. I did not want to start a new lesson that I would not have the time or patience to finish on a good note. Side reins will come later. Today we would try lunging on a lunge line for only the second time in Reign Day’s life.

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Reign Day lunges on the line like he has been doing it forever.

Reign Day went right to lunging as if he had been doing it forever. He was more resistant to the right which I would expect. Most horses come off-the-track a little one sided and that is why I will have the chiropractor look at him on Saturday to make sure he is in alignment.

We usually adjust all our horses when they first come off-the-track. Is it necessary? Sometimes yes, sometimes maybe. If you have ever been to a chiropractor yourself, you will know that you get over your soreness or injury more quickly if your spine gets aligned. Would you get better without going to a chiropractor? Yes, but you might get worse first because you are compensating and by doing this you pull other parts of your body out of alignment as you shift the weight to ease the pain. This can start a domino effect and make things worse or even cause major health issues because you hurt. A horse is no different.

Reign Day is not afraid of anything. He walks quietly behind me as I carry the pole.

Many people tell you not to start working a horse right off-the-track . They say to throw him out in a pasture for six months to a year. This might be the right thing to do if the horse has an injury but if the horse is just body sore from racing and out of alignment, then the best thing to do is figure out where he is sore by working him and then get it fixed with an adjustment. Exercise will help the horse hold the adjustment. A sore horse thrown out to pasture will compensate for the pain and put more stress on other joints. Muscles will develop unevenly which can cause more problems. We once purchased a horse that had been out to pasture for a year and his shoulders were not evenly muscled. One shoulder was large and the other small. You could clearly see this when sitting on him. He seemed to be slightly lame until we worked him more to the side that needed development. He built up the muscles more on that side until both sides were even, then he was not lame.

We don’t push the horse to collect or do anything that is mentally too difficult. We want a new horse to settle in to his new job and enjoy it. We keep the training varied and interesting without pushing the horse faster than he wants to go. I don’t mean speed but rather mentally. Some horses are ready for a new career and just learn each lesson and enjoy it. Others might get frustrated and resistant. When this happens you need to slow down. Go back to doing something the horse enjoys. This might mean riding on the trails or in the arena at a walk or trot for six months or more. If you have a time plan and can’t vary from it, then don’t take on a green horse. I feel that most Thoroughbreds are ruined by trainers rushing them to jump three feet so they can sell them in two months for a big profit.

You cannot go too slow when training a young horse — but you can go too fast and ruin a horse.

Reign Day learns to canter on the lunge line. Cantering on the lunge line helps to build the horse's back end.

Reign Day was ready to canter on the lunge line today and he was good in both directions. At times he pulled out on the circle a little but all in all he did really well. I thought that it would be good to teach him to walk and then trot over a ground pole as an introduction to jumping. I walked over and picked up a rail to move it where he could go over it. I wanted to see what Reign Day would do when I picked up a ten foot pole while leading him. Some horses will pull back when the pole is suspended in front of him. Reign Day never spooked or pulled back – not even a little. I carried the rail a short distance and positioned it so he could trot over it on the circle. First I lead him over it at a walk and he did not hesitate to go over the rail.

Learning to trot over a ground pole is the first step to teaching a horse to jump.

Then I asked him to trot on the circle on the lunge line. When he got to the pole, he set up and jumped it! This horse has a good eye for the distances. We did that a few times and then reversed. He did not want to go over the rail from this direction. I did get him over it and then I took him to the other end of the arena to make him go to the right a few times so we would be ending on a good note. By that time my finger tips were starting to get frostbite as I had grabbed the gloves with the holes in the finger tips that I wear when checking the horses legs. Burrrr. Reign Day was a superstar in less than stellar weather.

Reign Day – Day Five . . .

Return to Reign Day – Day Three . . .

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