Since Saga's back is still sore and the saddle fitter isn't due out till tomorrow, I attempted to longe Saga tonight.
Perhaps I should start by saying that I like to think I'm pretty good at longeing. When I first got Cash, I longed him every time before I rode for probably three years, to help work him out to the western pleasure mindset. He learned how to do a lengthen trot on the longe line, learned that he could go from canter to trot (instead of walk), and learned that light bit contact didn't have to hurt.
And when I say longeing, I mean with a longe line, usually with side reins, and the horse does what I ask. This isn't your mad free-for-all gallop around the round pen to tire the horse out. This is disciplined work, and the horse has to listen.
So, back to Saga. He's apparently from the free-for-all gallop around the round pen school of longing. He turns in when asked to stop (yes, I know the natural horsemanship folks want this, but I have no interest in my 17hh monster turning in and running me over). He's fairly certain that he can wheel (away from me) and change direction any time he wants to. And voice commands? Nope.
So we spent the better part of 45 minutes doing things like learning to walk from a trot. Learning to trot off when asked, instead of thinking about it for half the circle and THEN trotting off. We did one (horribly unbalanced, running with head up) canter in each direction. Most of the time was spent walking, asking him to step up and under himself. That in of itself was a very good exercise, it really got his butt and back moving. And now that I know what it looks like on the ground, hopefully I can replicate and keep that walk from the saddle.
He's worse to the right than to the left. He leans on the longe line to the right, and because of the excess contact, started tossing his head toward the end (more on the head tossing in another post). He's also more likely to stop and turn to go the other way when going to the right.
To get him to walk from the trot, I found that I had to step in front of his shoulder and use a "walk" voice command at the same time. Of course he thought he should stop, so it was tricky timing to get him to slow and then ask him to move on at the walk. He's a smart cookie though, so he was starting to get it toward the end.
I have GOT to find my longing surcingle. I'm sure it's at home somewhere but probably hasn't seen the light of day in several years (I usually longe with a saddle, but since the saddles don't fit right now, obviously that's out). Oh, and I have got to remember to wear gloves. DUH.
Tomorrow night the saddle fitter comes out, so hopefully we can get that issue resolved and get more time in under saddle. However, longeing definitely needs to go on my list of things to do more of, although I want to keep the sessions easy until Saga gets more fit. I know that longeing is hard on an unfit horse, so we spent most of our time just walking, and will continue to do so until he's more fit.