Meet Valentynja, aka "Valentine", a 5-year-old Friesian stallion owned by Karl Baer in Connecticut. He is an adorable stallion with a really nice personality. He has been raised by Karl and Anne Margaret with great care and he loves people. They started him at 3 years old and were able to have him walk and trot off the lunge line a few times, but the training was not consistent. Valentine has stifle issues and Ann and Karl wanted to give him plenty of time to grow and mature.
I have started with basic lunging to condition him and help him gain consistency in his gaits. He is very compact for a Friesian, with a big stallion neck. His neck is very uphill but he tends to brace his back against the saddle, getting "cold-backed". He is very smart and he learns quickly. The first day I lunged him, I focused on synchronizing our body language, yielding him in and out on the circle. This helped me to gain his attention and by the second day he was moving nicely on the line, not falling in or out.
My focus in his training is to develop his top-line and back muscles, so he can carry the saddle/rider in a way that is comfortable for him. Instead of side-reins, I have been using neck stretchers. The stretchers start at his poll, go through the bit on either side and attach to the surcingle between his legs. The side-reins would make him curl his neck under (avoiding the contact and coming behind the bit), but I want to encourage him to reach through his back and lower his head, to engage and strengthen his back muscles. Using half-halts with my body, I ask him to engage his hind legs and to stretch his head down. Eventually, he will not need the neck stretchers and will reach down on cue.
Here are a few pictures from the first day Anne Margaret lunged him. She wanted to show me how he moves freely on his own.
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