Over the summer, my dressage guru friend patiently listened to me whine about Candy. Every now and then, I throw myself a pity party about her because I’ve had her for over two years and she has made minimal progress towards being the kind of horse I would like her to be. Some of this is my fault for sure: I’ve been impatient and inconsistent at times. Some of this is Candy’s nature: she’s anxious and weird.
After watching Candy go, my friend proposed I longe her. She saw a horse who was nervous because she doesn’t know how to carry herself, nevermind carry a human. She saw a horse who was trying to do the right things, but didn’t know what they were. My friend thought that developing and adhering to a longeing program would build Candy’s balance and strength and give her more confidence. She suggested longeing three days a week for about twenty minutes at a time. She told me I ought to put a saddle, bridle, and side reins on her and stick to a walk and trot for the first couple of weeks and then introduce the canter.
The first time I attempted this, Candy was a mess. She flailed backwards at the touch of the side reins, even though they were fairly loose. She couldn’t hold a steady rhythm at the trot; minor unlevelness in the arena caused her to get wildly off balance, so she sped up to try and compensate. It was obvious she was panicky because she didn’t know what to. I kept her going at a trot and she gradually calmed down, slowed down, and trotted a couple of circles in a relatively balanced way.
I stuck to the plan all of August and into September. Candy improved every single day I longed her. She’s now very responsive to voice cues, more responsive to half-halts given on the longe, and no longer scrambles like mad if she encounters uneven or unlevel terrain. The Equisense data provides proof of Candy’s improvement, too! At the trot, her stride frequency has steadily decreased from 91.2 strides/minute on July 27 to 78.2 strides/minute and stride regularity increased from 3.9/10 to 6.0/10. That means she’s slowing down (a good thing in her case!) and keeping a steadier rhythm. Her elevation at the trot has increased from 7.5 cm to 8.8 cm, while her canter elevation has increased from 15.4 cm to 18.4 cm. Candy’s pushing from behind more, which is great!
I’m excited to put Candy back to work; she’s had about a month off between work travel and my mother’s visit. It appears she blew an abscess out while I was gone and is still a little gimpy, so her return to action is delayed for a bit. But I’m eager to start incorporating riding into our regular routine and see if all this longeing pays off under saddle!