To begin with I led Solo around with Selena on his back at the end of each work session. Sometimes he will only be ridden back from the roundpen to the stables but he is ‘backed’ every day. The next step, was to let him out on the lunge with the rider in place. After practising walk and halt to make sure he was balancing the rider’s weight through the transitions, and still attentive to the lunge commands, I started him trotting with the rider on board. Selena had one hand through the breast plate in case he became unsteady for a few strides, but he trotted forward smoothly and easily for almost a whole circle. All his trotting is done in rising trot with a light contact to his back and long reins. He needs all the freedom of his head and neck to balance the new weight on his back.
Initially his steps were small and undertracking under saddle, compared to the big open overtracking trot he had developed in the roundpen. The rider’s weight is a huge challenge to his balance and his strength. I will make no attempt to have him overtrack with the rider in the saddle, we will let him sort out the strange new balance and concentrate on making it through the transitions and around the circles. In his ‘free’ work, he is continuing to develop a stronger and stronger trot without the rider’s weight. As he gains strength and confidence the freedom of movement and length of stride will develop under the rider.
Solo is already obedient to the voice, whip and rein aids on the lunge. When first ridden on the lunge, only voice aids from the lunger were used.
Gradually voice aids from the rider are introduced. Over a period of time, he will become used to listening to the voice of the rider, and as he learns to associate the riders leg and rein aids with the voice commands, the voice will be phased out. But the voice obedience will always be there and can be handy at times!
Solo still only does a maximum of half an hour’s work. He would not be able to concentrate for longer. He works without the rider for 15 – 20 minutes and works under saddle for about 10. It is enough to make him quite tired by the end of the week, he has Mondays off to hang out in the paddock all day with his buddy.