When I first met my Morgan gelding Jean Baptiste, aka JB, he was kept in a small paddock by himself. His chest was narrow, his back antrophed and his hindquarters underdeveloped. The barn owner kept a halter on him 24/7 because he could not catch him. JB was unconfident and didn't trust the human. He would not lope: not in the pasture nor on the 22' or 45' line. His trot was unbalanced and choppy.
Why do we think it's ok to keep a horse in small area like this? How can their body develop, how can their emotional and mental fitness develop if we lock them up 24/7?
My first change was to integrate JB into a herd of horses with access to a a large turnout area with several run-in-shelters. I introduced him one on one with each horse over a period of a week. He didn't have any social skills and his first response was "I'll get you before you get me". He was aggressive, but not out of dominance - it was fear. Most of his response towards me was also right brain. He would either go introvert or explode violently.
I played with him for several months on the ground before I started to introduce the bareback pad, then the saddle and finally passenger lessons. We did hours and hours of pushing passenger lessons at a trot, first in the round pen, later in the big arena. His trot became more relaxed, more fluid but he still would not lope. That's when I introduced Hill Therapy. If you are a Savvy Club Member, you can do a search on http://www.parellisavvyclub.com/ to find out more about it.
Since JB had serious balance issues, I decided to start on the 45' line to allow him to play on a larger circle. I didn't ask for a lope until he naturally offered to experiment with it. After 6 weeks, his body had changed. His back and hindend had gained muscle, his chest improved.
Along with his body, his horsenality changed to mostly being a Left Brain Introvert with some Extrovert playfulness. I am careful not to miss any Right Brain Introvert moments, which will reveal themselves with a slightly higher, tense headset. Watch our trailer loading video on my website http://www.petrachristensen.com/ under "Video Gallery": There is a moment before I ask JB to go in the trailer where he went RBI. I therefore waited until he sniffed the trailer floor, chewed and licked (there were no treats on the trailer floor) before I asked him to load.
All of this is still a process and a journey, and we recently had a setback when JB contracted Pigeon Fever. He yet again lost muscle and tone as a result from the infection. Nevertheless, my conviction is that we not only need to play naturally with our horses, but we need to allow them to be horses: Being able to live in a herd, run, play, develop their emotional, mental and physical fitness - Naturally!