Today was a stretch-intensive day for Louie. We started out just free lunging in the arena (which btw no longer has standing water, just a bit of hard mud) to loosen up. Next, on went the surcingle with my home-made cotton stuffed bustle (starting to get him used to the idea for when he wears a real one). We tied around to the right for about 4 minutes to start, with just the halter (no sense in making him miserable when all I really want is the stretch, not the give with the mouth). Here you can see he is very excited about this.
Then we lunged with the elastic reins on the halter (sorry no pix of this- not enough hands) and the bridle on underneath but not hooked to anything- that didn't work as nicely as I thought it would for bending him, so I hooked the lines to the bit, which produced a much nicer response (however, he was very nice and quiet with the bit in his mouth). As Louie was trotting on the lung line I noticed a couple of things- first, he is looking a little sore going to the right again on this firmer mud and he looks a bit long on the lateral hoof wall again-it's a good thing the farrier will be out in 2 weeks. Second, When he moves forward on the lunge line, he raises himself up and the check rein becomes much looser so he sticks his nose out in the air. So I tightened it up- and his response: up and back. Very nice. We worked only on the walk and trot, and I worked very hard to keep an inside bend, using my whip to hold his shoulder out (but try to keep the haunches in!). This was a nice bending exercise for Louie to use as groundwork. Something I noticed during this round- Louie was perfectly quiet with this bit in the bitting rig set up so long as he was moving forward (he has been doing a lot of bit chewing and teeth grinding lately which bugs me). The minute I asked him to stop so I could make adjustments or whatnot, he went back to chewing and grinding.I'm not sure if he's got some more teeth coming in that are bugging him, but he has been chewing the bit an awful lot lately- so I left him in the rig, on the tighter setting, for a few minutes to work it out. Of course this was a wonderful photo op. I have to wonder if he isn't growing a little bit right now as he looks a little more thin and tucked up (of course we have been working him quite a bit more lately, so maybe that's why). But he is definately getting into shape!To finish we did some carrot (or peppermint horse treat) stretches, more to the right and straight down, and some massaging to work out his incredibly tight poll. I think between all of the bending in the arena and in the barn aisle, this should be a good program for loosening him up. I will also be continuing to work on this under saddle as well. We've got our exercise program cut out for us!