After a discussion with my BM/former tack store diva about a plateau in our training, I tried a piece of training equipment and then went and bought my own. I am hesitant to use "gadgets" I don't understand. The only thing we've used has been a training fork back in the way long ago time. Where I'm having difficulty - okay ONE of the places - is getting The Junebug to keep round during downward transitions and at the canter. I had considered draw reins but I've seen too many horses in draw reins with their chins on their knees and that didn't seem like something I wanted to be doing. FuglyBlog posted about that today in fact.
So this thing. It's pretty basic. It's a big bungee cord on plastic clips. The bungee goes over the poll, through the bit, and clips to either the saddle dees or to the girth dees. Being of the stock horse persuasion we use the girth. It's very forgiving, I can stretch it myself, unlike my elastic girth ends. What it does is makes a posture for the horse that puts zero pressure on the poll/bit. If the horse moves too far out of this posture the elastic tightens.
I found a nice article about the pros and cons of this gadget. Read it here.
The first day was very amusing watching him try to figure it out. He walked super slow on our way out to the arena and kept stopping every time he lifted his head and wanted to do a shuffle-jog instead of a real trot so I was having a hard time getting him to extend. I didn't want to push him too much on the first day. I lunged him for about 10 minutes in it and just let him figure out what was going on. I could tell it was difficult for him to canter because he's not been using the right muscles. This should help build those muscles without my weight on his back and without me having to think about correcting and releasing. The elastic rewards automatically.
We did about 15 minutes today. He was "getting it"more but was still doing a bit of a shuffle-jog. He was better after the canter and seemed to trot as freely as he ever does on the lunge without leg aids from me. The canter was better today but I can see it's much harder for him to go left than right.
I don't want to over do it, but he seems to accept it, even though it's making him work harder. The article I linked to cautioned against horses learning to balance against it so I want to watch for that.
Here's our first 5 or so minutes today.