I am so enjoying my new 4 year old, Remy, even though I’m not a huge fan of huge horses and he is already almost 17 hands. He’s not done yet either, my vet said he could easily grow another inch, and he looks like an awkward, gangly, teenage boy with lots of filling out to do still. I figured I would need extra large everything for him, and so far that has proven only partially true, as he fits the same size blankets (76 inch) as Liam who’s only 15.3 hands. For the first month and a half I had him, the only XL size clothing Remy wore were the boots on his long legs.
Last weekend, thankfully, I added another XL to his wardrobe. I went to the Equestrian Expo in Grayslake with some friends, and found extra long ThinLine reins. I knew I wanted/needed longer reins, since I was holding my normal reins almost on the buckle when he carried his head in a normal position out in front of him. And Sarah had bought Maddie the ThinLine padded bridle and I LOVED the feel of it when I rode Maddie for her. When I found the ThinLine reins in the extra long length, I knew I wanted that to be my splurge at the Expo.
Well, today I felt the immense benefit of longer-than-average reins on a horse with a longer-than-average neck. As I asked Remy to soften his neck and bend a little, for the first time he really softened his whole jaw, poll, and neck and gave me the most beautiful stretch down into the bit! And the best part was, I had plenty of rein to give him so he could reach down and I could remain sitting up! When he did it, we were going right, which is the easier way for us, and right away I stopped him and praised him. He immediately understood, and we repeated the stretch down at the trot multiple times.
Then we switched directions, and it was as if the wonderful stretches had never happened. I attempted to soften him and flex him left, to do little serpentines hoping the change of bend would relax his neck into my hands, and I did a basically unintentional entire long side of shoulder-in, trying to get him to move off my left leg into my right rein. Despite the shoulder-in, which thrilled me for other obvious reasons, the neck seemed stuck. I worked at it and worked at it, until finally, he let go and reach down for the bit. I immediately stopped and praised, and once again, he immediately understood. I keep joking in the barn that Remy is my Honor Roll Student… And he is! When we went back to trot, my new “Stretchy Trot Command” was fully installed, and we did several circles of it. Then to really test it, I started a quarter line asking him to reach down, and as he went looking for the bit, his back came up, and I took advantage of the moment to ask him to move off my inside leg, producing the most lovely leg yield! It was stop and huge praise again, and this time I let him walk and cool down.
I couldn’t be happier with the progress he’s making, and I’m so glad I went ahead with the splurge purchase of the lovely new reins. Sometimes we really do need the things we want more than we realize!