I bought this book awhile back (Feburary or March, I believe), Equine Fitness: A Conditioning Program of Exercises & Routines for Your Horse, and browsed through it and got some exercise ideas, and then left it at that. There's a large section in the front about muscles and fitness, and now that I'm sitting down and actually reading them, there are some very interesting things that I've noticed.
One, is not new, but its interesting that the book mentions it. Ice generally clenches his jaw while being cross tied or even single tied, I mean I don't even have to do anything, I can just stop him in the center aisle and he gets a sour face. His ears go back slightly and his mouth gets tight. Veins start to bulge out from his jowl and under his eye area, and run down to his nostrils. His nostrils do not flare, and he will occasionally wag his lower lip. It links these behaviors to being tense and thus not breathing correctly, which would in turn not allow him to develop muscle correctly, were he to be working with these behaviors.
Generally, while lunging he breathes better, but he still holds himself a little tensely, and of course his tail trails out meaning he's not using his back correctly. However, he will occasionally sigh or snort, but the real releases always come when we stop working. Is this normal? The book of course recommends, to fix this problem, creating a very simple and low stress routine, and then adding on once the horse becomes relaxed. However, how do you de-stress a horse that's always tense?
On a sort of related note, I tried doing some tail pulls last night, and he seemed to enjoy that. The first time I did it he actually leaned forward to "help" me pull, and then when I did it after we'd done some in-hand work around the arena and some pole weaving to get him bending, I felt a tiny pop. For the first time EVER after we were leaving the arena and he was right next to me, he was licking and chewing, which is great. He really enjoyed having his poll rubbed last week after I doused him in liniment also.
Sorry, for the novel, but what do you guys think? Should I just continue working with him in the hopes that he will just let everything go? I know that I have baggage with him, but it is all surrounding his stall, and we're working on that. Out in the arena/on the cross ties, etc I have zero bad experiences, I'm simply taking better notice of how he acts.