Vienna Reins (triangle reins, training reins) lunging for balance
I have a question.
But first, a bit of background.
I have a 13-year-old mare with a club hoof on her right front. She's sound with shoes and regular work for being driven and for being ridden by small children/very light adults.
I can ride her occasionally, but not on a regular basis in our hard arena footing without her going slightly ouchie. It's not lame, but she stops going forward and stops following through as she tries to keep from putting full impact on the club side. So no good for teaching her to bend, collect, and come up and into the bit at anything other than a walk with any degree of regularity undersaddle.
She's a fantastic driving pony, never been sore for anything with that, can work 5-6 days a week, no problems at all. But...because I can't ride her, I'm having significant trouble teaching her proper balance and bend for her driving.
I rode hunter/jumpers and dressage for years when I was younger...and the "disability" of not being on her back, using seat and leg and really feeling how she's going has been thwarting me for the entire 7 years of her driving career.
We recently switched to Combined Driving from Pleasure Carriage Driving, and so now the mare really has to learn to go on the bit, carry herself in a balanced position through all manner of turns, serpentines, figure 8's, and other formations...and we're going back to basics to really nail these things that have been holes up until now.
So, we're lunging and long-lining, and it's been going really well...but I am also using "triangle, training, or vienna" side reins. (I listed all names as so many people call them different things) Basically, they're side reins that go from her girth through her bit and on to an upper ring on her surcingle, forming a triangle between the three. The gist of the thought process is that these reins help to balance her body and allow her to get an idea of where to put her head, without "setting" it there.
I want to stop here and say that I am about as anti "gadget" as you can get...and this if my first time using these things and I have some concerns.
So, my questions. Has anyone else used them before, what are your thoughts/experiences on them?
I had thought to use them rather like training wheels for a child's bike...use them now while she's in the beginning of really learning to carry herself and balance properly until she gets the general idea and *builds the muscle tone* she needs; then follow them up with lots of long-line work (without the side reins) to concrete the initial lessons and really teach her how to round up into her back, power from behind, and work up and round into the bridle and onto the bit.
My concern though, is, will she just learn to set herself against them and use them as a crutch, allowing for some immediate improvement now, but only more problems later on because she hasn't really learned anything, and formed a bad habit?
She's a lovely soft mare, light in your hands, and I *really* don't want to spoil that mouth or to teach her to go on her forehand. She's on the verge right now of knowing how to round her back, she's just not quite there...and I'm trying to figture out how to teach it without being on her.
Thanks so much for any help or suggestions on this matter!