Decided to lunge North last night after work. We usually only do walk and trot on the lunge, but I decided we need to start building on his canter work. Now, I don't know anything about track training, but I am CERTAIN, that he carries some residual scars from something they did or whatever method they used to try and get him faster.
Walk-trot on the lunge is easy peasy. He shows no real fear of the lunge whip, but responds well to it. Canter is a different story, and one of the reasons I kinda stopped lunging him. But since we've been doing a little canter work with him under saddle, I thought things would be a little different. He tends to get strong on the lunge in the canter, so I asked my friend Alex to step in and do the canter part for me. Just as before, it was nuts.
We forgot that you can't have the lunge whip in your hand when you ask for the canter. I can't explain why it doesn't bother him with walk and trot, but if you ask for canter with a lunge whip in your hand, he immediately tries to bolt and you have to plant your feet or he will drag you. If you somehow get him to canter without bolting, then he's crazy running fast around you like a mad person. Alex just slightly tossed the lunge rope out trying to untangle it while he was cantering and he startled, jumped back, and tried to bolt again. He was clearly frightened and shaken up, so I told her to let me take over.
He knows me better and knows I would never hurt him. As soon as I asked him to move out though, he anticipated the canter and jumped into a fast trot. So I used my voice to soothe him and bring him back, just telling him it was okay, and mom was here now. I could see the change instantly. He came back down to a normal, but forward trot, and started stretching down again. I let him relax before I started to ask for the canter again. But I didn't do it the way she did. She would say, "Caaaan-ter!" and kinda flick the rope at him. I didn't flick it at all. He knows what canter means, so when I asked for it, I asked in a soft soothing voice, and he went into a faster trot. I told him it was okay and asked for canter and I kinda walked with him asking for more until I eased him into the canter. He took only a couple strides before breaking to trot, but I praised him heavily and let him relax again, before asking. I used my voice and body language more than anything, just trying to let him know it was okay, and just like that, he gave me a beautiful canter without running or trying to pull back. We got 2 lovely canter circles in both directions and I praised him and ended it letting him know what a good boy he was.
So now we have something more to work on. I want to get him over this. The only thing I can imagine is that someone chased him with a whip or something trying to get him run faster and it must have been traumatizing for him. He came off the track in March of last year and I've had him since July of last year, yet it still terrifies him when someone asks him to canter with a lunge whip or on the lunge line. He is not like this AT ALL when you ask for the canter under saddle. So now I'm going to try and lunge him at least 3 times a week to work on this, and I won't let anyone else do it. He trusts me more than anyone and I want to teach him that it is okay.
"Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better."
- Maya Angelou