After discovering last issue how collection can promote lightness, Les shows us indicators of what might lead to problems.
In my clinics I run into a lot of horses that are fairly advanced but often they have got a hole in them. And the common problem and the common ﬁx are going to be the same and it’s the neck. Often times these horses have an attitude in certain places. Every now and then they decide to rebel, to defy you. And what area of the horse shows deﬁance ﬁrst? The neck! If it stiﬀens up, it’s the ﬁrst signal that you are about to go for a ride that you’re not asking for.
So, before you can have what you want in terms of performance, you have to have the neck. Defiance is caused by an attitude, and an attitude can happen with horses just like people. But it’s got to be like someone in the military, if you have an attitude you’d better keep it to yourself, and that’s the way I feel about a horse. They all have different mindsets, but if they have an “attitude,” let’s overcome it by insisting that we get respect from them.
Last issue, Les pointed out the details of collection. Now we look a little deeper and get to work.
Riding a collected horse is always a thrill. Instead of the lope feeling ﬂ at and strung out, it will become almost a circular rhythm as you feel the energy go from the hindquarters all the way through the horse’s soft ly rounded spine and then roll back to the haunches again. It is a stride that is ﬂ uid and powerful at the same time, no matt er what the speed is. Collection is also the physical state where your horse is most balanced and prepared to respond to whatever cue you give. This is because he is carrying most of his weight on his hindquarters, so that his front end is lighter and easier to maneuver.
Without a soft neck and poll, collection is impossible, so if you still have any resistance in the neck during any of the exercises that we’ve done so far, go back and work on them. I ride a horse in a clinic that is stiﬀ to start with, and after I work one side and then the other, he starts to lighten up. There are a lot of great concepts, but I want to point out that because it is a clinic situation, I’m throwing more at this horse than I would at home. If the horse had been developed with all the tools and guidelines that I’m giving you, he would never have been that dull to begin with.
• To concentrate on driving your horse from the back with your legs, in order to create a soft, round frame
• To continue to integrate the concept of 50 percent hands/50 percent legs into your riding
• To learn how to handle a tough or belligerent horse
• To learn about the elevator bit and how it can help you in your training program
The third zone is the ribs or midsection
• Keep your horse straight or with a slight curve towards the direction of his intended movement
• Keep your outside arm straight out at a 45° angle
• Make sure your inside leg is oﬀ the horse
• Use your outside leg in the center of the horse’s ribs until he responds; if you don’t get a response to steady pressure, try bumping
43rd in a series
Start at a walk in a straight line. Make sure your hands are evenly spaced out in front of you and that your legs are relaxed. As you move along, I want you to concentrate on feeling what the horse is doing rather than watching for problems. If you feel the horse start to bow or lean in either direction, use your hands and legs to get him straight again. If it helps, ﬁ x your eyes on something in the distance and make sure he stays moving straight toward it.
42nd in a series
Sometimes when you’re riding you’re going to lose your horse’s attention. I say don’t make a big deal out of it. Some might not see as well as others, or may be more spooky, especially as far as young horses go, when they go off to the Bahamas every now and then; leave it alone and it goes away. Be patient.
41st in a Series
Your goal when you back is to not have to pull back hard on the horse’s mouth to get him to move backward, but to be able to use just enough contact with the bit to tell him to not go forward—kind of like shifting him into reverse—and then using your legs, like the gas, to move backward. Yes, you might have to tug a little to get him started, but your goal is to take it from an active rein cue to an active leg cue as quickly as possible.
The timing of your command and correction, if it’s needed, is really important as well. You can’t say “whoa” and correct at the same time. You have to say “whoa,” wait for him to try, and then correct him if he doesn’t stop. In order for the horse to learn, you have to give him a chance to do it right. When he does give you an effort, make sure he knows it was the right one. He just made his first move toward a great sliding stop! Nothing you see in a reining class is done overnight; it’s done through years of consistent training, but the hardest part can be the consistency.
Having control of the horse’s hips will prove to be quite critical for almost all of your reining maneuvers. You’ll need it for departures, lead changes and turnarounds particularly. Since many of the body control exercises that we’ll be working on in the next level will require you to have some hip control, you need to get started on it early in the program.
Point to Remember:
On this and most other things, you teach your horse. We’ll never be strong enough to make a horse do anything, but we can be smart enough to make him want to do it, and that’s what riding is all about.
40th in a series
Start by walking along the fence. Pick a point to stop the horse and then make a very light contact with your inside (away from the fence) rein while you reach back with your fence-side leg and push or bump your horse’s hip around. You’re creating energy with your leg to push the hip, and your brace rein contact will lightly block him from pushing through with his shoulder. With the fence in front of him you don’t give your horse any other options but to move his hip. Do this exercise repeatedly (it’s called a turn on the forehand) both directions. Start by just asking for a step at a time and then increase the number of steps as your horse’s responses get more consistent. Remember to keep life in your reins and leg as you ask for this exercise.