Thank you for the post - this was great!
I take his favorite treat and standing a little behind his shoulder ask him to bend his neck toward me, 2 to 3 times each side, if he takes his time that is fine.
This I do all the time, both on the ground and in saddle - to keep his front end flexable.
I will take his legs and bend them for him, he will stretch it straight out in front of him, with me holding his hoof with my hands cupped behind his hoof bulbs, we don't raise it high but enough to allow some stretching, as if you were doing it with your own leg.
I actually do this to, but not for the same reason. Now that I think about it, it is a great stretch for the horse. We use it to make sure the girth is settled correctly without any pinched hair before we ride. I will have to make sure to add it to our hitching regime.
Can you ground drive your horse using long lines and walk behind him, go back to basics and at a walk, start there and ask for bending, turning, backing.
Actually, this is just about ALL we have been doing for the last two months. The only problem here is that he is so much faster than I am, that we do a lot of serpentines back and forth down the arena. I walk straight down the arena while he trots first to one side wall, makes the turn without breaking gait, then off towards the other side.
What I don't get doing this, is any sort of collection. We always start out with his Saddlebred fancy trot which is very strong in my hands, but once he calms down (about 15 minutes) he gives me a nice easy jog and pretty smooth (though no where near perfectly smooth) turns. At any time I can say "WHOA" and he stops dead.
While my team has a lot of time under their harness, when I begin working them at the start of each year, I ground drive them. I have a gravel road and when I know everyone is at work we go out, I as them to turn, to stand, to do half turns, backing as one. I get exercise, which I need, and they get out and we have a relaxing walk, refreshing on everything they would do on the fore cart.
How do you do half turns? I am not driving a team and I am (at least sitting at a chair in front of the computer) having trouble seeing how to do a half turn with a single.
We have been concentratingn on smoothness. No shape bends - he has been ridden so much lately he has fortten that the cart is goign to take longer to turn. "WHOA" is a constant that I don't think it is possible to work too much on. We also work on standing for long periods of time - just in case.
I have also added an overcheck to his harness - actually his new harness came with one and I have been using it. The person who taught me to drive thought overchecks were the devil - but I found that with Shaman's natural headset, we almost never engage it.
Would this help you with making your horse more supple? Hope it helps.
Please please tell me more about the half turns - it might just be that I know it by a different name, but I woudl like to learn!
Thanks for the help!!! I will try to get pics this weekend and ask for your opinion!