Transition work in the round pen
My gelding is finally in full-work since he was injured and pretty much penned up since March. He'll be my eventing horse but I want him to be especially nice in dressage. I know he can canter and move quite nicely on light to zero contact around a jump course but now since he is out of shape and lost a lot of muscle I found that he leans into my hands a lot when cantering and gets pretty quick too.
Will lunging him and working on his canter-trot transitions in the round pen benefit him a lot and help him get his balance/strength while I work trot-walk-halt transitions under saddle? I really just don't care to canter him under saddle when I know he's just going to be rushy and lay on my hands. All he wanted to do today in the round pen was a quick strung out canter, but then I started asking him to trot half the pen, then canter half the pen, then trot, and his canter became a little nicer. Would this be worth doing 3-4 times a week?
Other than pulling on my hands and trying to canter faster than I'd like, he is doing pretty well at the trot, is light in the mouth, easy to move with my legs, and working on better halts with seat only (unfortunately he was trained to halt by pulling back...oh boy). I've never had to bring a horse back from an injury so slowly before and so I'm *hoping* all this pulling on my hands stuff will go away as he gets the right muscles back in his back and hind end as well as listens to my seat more.
We're also working on turns on forehand/haunches, leg yielding in and out on circles, and just lots of transitions, halts, and backing. Just focusing on the first 3 or so things on the dressage scale and completely ignoring the head but I hate when he pulls.
So what do y'all think? Transitions on the ground just as beneficial as under saddle for him to gain strength and balance?
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Yes! Yes, yes, yes!
Longeing is a great way to build up muscles without the horse having to carry the rider and the rider having to ride a weak horse. Transitions on the longe line are a great exercise for building muscle. The key, however, is the the horse isn't just running around like a chicken with it's head cut off. I longe in a bridle, surcingle, and side reins. Side reins give the horse something to lean on and balance against so that they can develop proper musculature. A good way to check from the ground to see if your horse is on the forehand or not is to look at it's feet at the trot. If the front foot is hitting before the hind (Even just a tiny bit) that means that your horse is on the forehand and your longeing is not as effective as it could be. If the feet hit at the same time your horse is travelling "normally". If the back hits before the front then your horse is tracking up. You can also long line to be able to instill half halts and rein aids from the ground.
If you don't have any experience with side reins/long lining, don't do it on your own! Either ask someone knowledgeable to teach you, or leave it alone. Also, I try to longe no more than 15 min per side, as longeing in such a small circle is quite hard.
Good luck with your horse!
Thank you for the tips! I have only used a surcingle for long reins so I won't mess with that yet. I am currently lunging him in a bridle either free lunging with 1-2 ground poles so he has to think about getting over those or on the lunge line with ground poles. His canter is much more controlled and looks a lot more collected when I get the poles out. He leans quite a lot on the line at times but I think he has been mostly free lunged in his life so hopefully doing it more will benefit and as he gets stronger he won't lean out so much.
I am about a week or so away from having a dressage trainer! She is from Germany and has turned out some really solid riders and horses so I am very much looking forward to riding with her.
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