Dawn went first. I groomed her outside, tied up. We're going to be working on our ground-tying, to help her with self-calming, but that's for another day. Dawn actually ties really well, which is good. Then we went to the arena, just with the halter and lunge line. We did a bit in both directions, working on walk, trot and halt, and the transitions. I learned to lunge the "old way" - stand still in the middle with a lunge whip - and I'm trying to change that and instead use my body and energy to communicate what I want to the horse, and to achieve the goal of the horse and I working together rather than just the horse working (for more on what I'm talking about, see my post on Horse #3 at the Mark Rashid clinic - my clinic posts are on the sidebar).
Another thing Dawn does very well is lunge. Sometimes she'll have the "crazies" on the lunge, but she was as calm as could be. My objective was to have Dawn respond to my body movement and energy to do the various transitions up and down - so I moved faster and brought my energy up for the upwards transitions, the reverse for downwards and stopped for halt. She did pretty well with this - she's a very smart and alert horse. One thing that was interesting was that when she was moving to the right, she wanted to travel with her head somewhat bent to the outside - she does have a natural bend to the left (many former racehorses do), but I didn't realize it was that pronounced. Since I was moving with her, we also did some straight lines. Maisie was next - she was somewhat lazy and not as attentive as Dawn in the transitions - we've done a lot of ground driving but I don't lunge her much due to her hind-end soundness issues.
When I lunge and ground-drive, I don't use side reins or bitting rigs. The reason I don't is that I believe what you get with side reins is headset, not necessarily softness - the horse may carry its head in the correct position, but that isn't the same as softness through the whole topline from the jaw, to the poll, through the neck and back and all the way to the tailhead, with corresponding engagement of the core to lift and carry the whole horse. The horse can get a partial release from the sidereins by going behind the bit, and may be soft only in part of its body, and perhaps not at all. There may be all sorts of braces being trained into the horse. When I ride and give a release, it's not for headset - I may have the "proper" headset - with a younger or less trained horse I don't even care about that to start with - but I don't release until the feeling of complete softness comes through - this can't happen with sidereins since there's no one up there to wait for and feel the softness and give the release. Also the horse never gets the chance to stretch out on a loose rein, which is the ultimate release. I'd be interesting in what others have to say about this, as it is certainly possible that I'm wrong about something here.
Now I can understand ground-driving using a surcingle and running the reins through the rings - there is some leverage effect possible there which I'm a bit wary of - but it is possible for the person holding the reins to feel the softness and give a release. One thing I think can be really harmful is riding in drawreins. The leverage effect is severe - it's a great way to ride a horse that is otherwise very hard to control since it is possible to force the horse to comply - in my "old days" I used to ride our jumper mare Lily in a jointed pelham with draw reins through the snaffle to the girth - you can't get much more severe than that - and could keep her (barely) under control. I really didn't have a clue how to do anything else at that point. I've even seen - now this is really hard to believe - people compete in jumpers with their horses in drawreins - it was pretty horrifying to see.
My old gelding Noble came to me from a dressage background, and from a trainer well-known for his virtually constant use of drawreins on all his horses to force a headset. Noble was very nervous about any contact with the bit, and at the slightest contact would fall behind the bit and sometimes even put his nose to his chest, and there was absolutely no softness in his body behind the withers. Once again the focus was on headset, and headset only - horses ridden in drawreins, in my experience, often even aren't soft in the neck but just "break" either at the poll or slightly behind to get away from the severe pressure of the bit.
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This morning it was chilly with a hint of heat to come. By the time I was done feeding and turning out horses I had taken off my coat and sweater. Everything was somewhat misty until the sun was fully up. I tried to concentrate this morning on doing the "soften at the point of resistance" exercise with the horses that tend to want to pull on the lead as we go to the pastures - particularly Fritz and Scout. For more about what I'm talking about here, see my post on Horse #1 at the Mark Rashid clinic. So as I was leading, if Fritz or Scout started to pull on my hand, instead of pulling back and creating a brace, I just kept my hand in the position it would have been in if the pressure were zero. And then - this is the really cool part - without changing what I was doing with my hand, I would mentally soften, giving the horse an opening to soften into in response. Worked like a charm! The mental softening, to me, involves almost a mental sigh of release of tension, combined with trying to transmit a feeling of relaxation in thought to my hand. I have to remember to consciously do this, in leading and riding, until it becomes automatic for me - I expect the horses will appreciate it!
With luck, you're having some of the beautiful weather we've got this week - enjoy!