Softening up a board....

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Softening up a board....

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    02-17-2010, 08:55 PM
Softening up a board....

The board is my horse. We're trying to get him into real working condition, and that of course means suppling him up. On his left side he's decent, he could use work, but he can turn his nose back to his shoulder no problem, and once he warms up, he yields his forequarter okay. Not fabulous, but he can do it. On his right side, he can't even turn his head around. He turns to the right by backing up to the left. He never ever picks up the right lead in the round pen or in turn out, probably because it's painful for him. We've had chiropractic work done before and he does have a lot of issues in his head/neck region, but really the only way that we're going to be able to work them out is having him worked on, and then following up with some consistent stretching exercises before each ride. He's already left sided enough as it is, so I want to do as much as I can to get him evened up muscularly, so we can move on in his training to working with his right side comfortably. What are some basic basic basic stretching/suppling exercises that we can do, either from the ground or in the saddle, or both?
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    02-17-2010, 09:22 PM
Refer to the dressage section, there are multitudes of good posts in there that refer to suppling.
A supple horse isn't necessarily one which can bend it's nose around to scratch it's backside! To have a supple horse under saddle your need engagement. Fullstop. No shortcuts. You need to get him working properly. So start getting him walking up and down hills, then trotting up and down hills. Go back to the arena and work on millions and millions of transitions and changes of rein. Keep everything even, so work him the same amount on his good side as his stiff side.
    02-17-2010, 09:33 PM
We're in Florida, so no hills! All we do is work in the arena as of right now. When I say supple, in this particular situation, that's exactly what I mean is a horse who can turn around to scratch his backside! Lol If he can't bend that way, how can we even begin to do basic dressage work, or anything else other than trotting straight lines? We're strictly walk trot transitions right now, but I couldn't get him to pick up a right lead if I did it for him.
    02-17-2010, 09:42 PM
Well for what you want right now (seems you just want him to bend his neck?), here's what I do. I do carrot stretches every day with my boy. He actually does it now without any treats if I just wiggle my finger at his side, he'll reach around and touch where I ask him too. They learn it pretty quickly.

Stand on the side you want him to stretch (but i'd do it on both sides anyway). Get his attention to the treat in your hand. Slowly bring the treat to his side, and he *should* follow with his nose. May take a few tries, just go slowly, but don't treat unless he's trying. As soon as he brings his head around as far as you want it, treat him. Keep doing this until you can get him to touch his side, and then start moving the spot he needs to touch farther back. I find this helps as a stretch before a ride.

As for in the saddle work, you've got good advice so far.

Hope that's what you were looking for!
    02-17-2010, 09:46 PM
Originally Posted by justsambam08    
We're in Florida, so no hills! All we do is work in the arena as of right now. When I say supple, in this particular situation, that's exactly what I mean is a horse who can turn around to scratch his backside! Lol If he can't bend that way, how can we even begin to do basic dressage work, or anything else other than trotting straight lines? We're strictly walk trot transitions right now, but I couldn't get him to pick up a right lead if I did it for him.
Yes, but bending that way will not do much to improve how he goes under saddle. Working on building muscles and strength under saddle, will then impact on his ability to bend his neck around left and right as those muscle will have loosened from the work rather than remaining 'stuck'.

It goes hand in hand.
    02-17-2010, 09:49 PM
Do you have a way without treats? He gets kind of impatient/nippy, and I don't want to confuse the crap out of him when he's bending but being grumpy about no treats.

Could I do something like the pressure-release method where I tie his head around? Of course I'd start gradually at first and then as he bends more on his own just shorten the tie a little bit at a time? That would take out two birds with one stone really, lol. Freshen up his pressure responses and then get him used to bending to the right xD

In response to Katy, I guess I should mention he's an OTTB, SUPER stiff and yucky...Even after an hour of riding around at an almost consistent trot he is unwilling to bend to the right. I may get him to bring his head around so I can see his eye before he jerks it back. (Ironically, that's exactly how he got away from me and I fell off the last time I fell) which is why I'm so stuck on this specifically.
    02-17-2010, 10:52 PM
Yep, and I've had my fair share of ottbs and this is how I work on their stiffness issues. Thousands of transitions, changes of rein etc. I work them like any other stiff horse. Each and every one has come up supple as can be. Ottb's are no different to any green horse in regards to stiffness.
    02-18-2010, 09:12 PM
I do agree that the best way to loosen him up is undersaddle. And I suppose you could do the carrot stretches without treats. But you'd have to find something to motivate him.
    02-18-2010, 09:32 PM
Ironically, food motivates him, but he gets a little overexcited about it, lol. I went out and bought a copy of Equine Fitness: A Conditioning Program of Exercises & Routines for Your Horse by Jec Ballou. It should be suitable to improve his stretching and his overall suppleness on the ground and in the saddle.
    02-18-2010, 10:18 PM
DO NOT tie your horses head around. It's appalling, and completely unnecessary.

Try lots of figure 8's and serpentine's at the walk first, and then the trot. Keep the inside rein light and fluffy, occasionally giving him featherlight tugs to encourage him to bend both ways. You can also do lots of different sized circles, a 20m, a 15m, a 10m, back to a 15m. You can also spiral [which is, in fact, different from different sized circles], making each circle a little smaller than the last. Just be careful not to make too many small circles.

As far as stretching, I stretch AFTER I ride, when her muscles are warm. Light stretching before a ride is okay, but it's not good for people to stretch cold muscles, and muscles are muscles, so I'm sure it's not good for horses either. I stretch to each side twice, between her legs with her right leg forward, then again with her left leg forward. I also hold a treat up for her to stretch up to, as well as stretching her neck forward. Just be careful not to let your horse "bounce" when he stretches, and try to convince him to hold the stretch for a few seconds.

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