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Smaller circles

By Les Vogt | Horsetrader columnist - November 2nd, 2018

Last issue, Les taught us the importance of good “shoulders up” posture for proper alignment in a circle. Now we’ll look deeper into circle exercises.

Here is a horse (left) that is dropping his shoulders to the inside. You can correct this by pushing the ribs way out (right).

Here is a horse (left) that is dropping his shoulders to the inside. You can correct this by pushing the ribs way out (right).

As you ask your horse to handle smaller circles, you’ll want to remember the motorboat image we discussed before. Keeping your weight back will encourage your horse to do the same, therefore lightening up his front end for easy maneuvering.

To start this exercise, pick up a trot with the rail of your arena on your right-hand side. In diagonal corners you will want to maneuver the horse into approximately 30-foot diameter circles. To begin, using a very light direct and neck rein, start your circle to the left. If you immediately get a response—great! If not, tell him he should have responded by collecting him with your hands and then bringing his nose a little more firmly to the inside while keeping your outside rein out and away from his neck.

This will set your horse back a little, shifting more of his weight to his hindquarters, at the same time making him move a little more dramatically to the inside with his front end. Within the next couple of strides, repeat the same cue and correction sequence.

At first you’ll be riding what will look more like a square or even an octagon than a circle, but as the horse starts to understand the sequence, he will start to balance himself to respond to the light cues, rather than waiting for you to correct him. Once the horse is responding well at the trot, move on to the lope.

Alignment in Circles

By Les Vogt | Horsetrader columnist - October 4th, 2018

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At this stage in the game you want to spend a lot of time teaching your horse to align properly in a circle. It’s great to start at a jog and work on circles approximately 30 feet in diameter. What you’re looking for is for your horse to keep his spine aligned with the circumference of the circle. What you need to watch out for is him starting to lean against your inside rein and leg as he tries to stick his nose to the outside of the circle and lean into the circle with his shoulder, a movement referred to as “dropping a shoulder.” If you can instill a good “shoulders up” posture here, you won’t be haunted by dropped shoulders later on.

Moving the Hips: Fluidity

By Les Vogt - August 8th, 2018

wordpress_column_lesWhen you see the best equine athletes performing, you’ll notice that although they exhibit tremendous power, every movement is fluid and relaxed. There is no tension or stiffness anywhere. If this type of performance is your ultimate goal, the first thing you need to check on is your own riding. When you ride, are you fluid and relaxed, with no tension or stiffness anywhere? Many novice riders get so focused on what they want their horses to do that they forget about themselves. Soon they end up carrying a lot of tension in different parts of their body, shoulders in particular and your horse will respond to your tension. Stiffness in the rider results in movements and cues that are laborious and abrupt instead of smooth and flowing, and the end result will be resistance and stiffness in the horse. This is why many of the exercises in this part of the program we’re looking at in July and August issues are designed to help you develop your cues until they almost happen on their own so you can stay relaxed and responsive in the saddle.

Moving the Hips

Foundation Training for the Performance Horse with Les Vogt

Les Vogt for the Horsetrader - July 1st, 2018

More with LesHaving control of the horse’s hip is critical for accurate lope departures and lead changes, in addition to helping you maintain proper alignment. If you see a horse missing leads or dropping a lead in back (when a horse changes leads with his front legs but not his back), it’s a pretty good indication that the horse needs more work on hip control. You should have established basic hip control a while back when you did exercise number four on the fence. This session’s exercises will require much more control but shouldn’t be overly difficult if your foundation is strong. If at any time you don’t feel like you’re getting the movement you need from the horse’s hip, go back to the fence to reinforce your point. And remember, make sure the horse is soft in the poll as you ask for any of these movements.

Moving the Ribs

Les Vogt for the Horsetrader - June 1st, 2018

More With Les graphicOnce your horse is sidepassing along the fence really well, move him out to the middle of the arena and give it a try. Remember again to keep his body at least straight. Your goal will be to sidepass him so that his head and hip are actually curled toward the direction he is going, which requires a lot of shoulder and hip control—so you need to be really conscientious about his head and neck alignment.

Perfecting Exercises 3 & 4

Foundation Training for the Performance Horse with Les Vogt

Les Vogt for the Horsetrader - May 1st, 2018

More with LesAfter lessons in collected stops, Les will move us this issue into Exercises 3 and 4 in his training program.

Objective
• To perfect your control of the horse’s whole body and hip
• To be able to move your horse’s body laterally without lett ing the shoulder lead
• To get to the point where you can move through exercises one through four both directions on a semi-loose rein

Collected Stop: Final Notes

Les Vogt for the Horsetrader - April 1st, 2018

More With Les graphicIn the last couple of columns, we have covered a lot of detail. Here are some wrap-up notes to remember. (Find all “More With Les” columns at: http://bit.ly/HTmorewithles)

Teaching the horse to assume the stopping position
• Drive with the back legs, but keep front legs going
• Power comes from the loin
• To use the loin, back has to be round
• Neck has to be down for back to be round
• For the neck to be down it has to be soft!

How to create the ultimate collection is from the back to the front: Make the horse go and let them stop
Start at the walk: You want to stair-step up, and don’t be afraid to go back
Don’t make a big deal out of anything that you don’t want to be a big deal: If you go after a problem directly you will get the horse defensive

Four more zones to ‘stops’

Les Vogt for the Horsetrader - March 1st, 2018

More with LesLast column, I introduced you to an entire stopping program that began with “whoa” and proceeded to the next phase, the “signal stop.”

Random Stop
So, when he has learned the signal stop, we go into the next phase, which is going to be random stops. We take what he knows now, and we teach him that he is going to gallop or trot around the arena. As with the other steps, this one has to be in all of his gears or gaits as well. He has to graduate up to the gallop. Now, at this stage in the game, the walk probably is not going to count, but he has to master the trot and the gallop for sure, and he has to be perfect in both.

Seven Steps To Big Stops

Les Vogt for the Horsetrader - February 1st, 2018

More With Les graphicNow, I’m going to introduce you to the whole stopping program so you’ll know where we’re going with this. Although we’ll only cover the basics – the collected stop – in this level, this will give you an idea of where we’ll be headed as you advance in this program. We’ll call the stopping program the “Seven Steps to Big Stops.” The seven steps are sequential, and you have to pass each step, and get a good grade in each phase, or you can’t go on. I guess you could but you’re going to get an “F” in the next one. It will take time, but you will get it, and like everything else, you have to work at achieving perfect form at each step so that you can get perfect performance.

We might say that a horse stops well, but there is really so much more to it. Stopping means to cease forward motion, but the stop itself is really the least of my worries. First, the approach has to be good, the form has to be perfect, and there can be absolutely no resistance – if any of these elements aren’t great, the stop won’t be great either.

The Sequence Stop

More with Les - Foundation Training for the Performance Horse with Les Vogt

Les Vogt for the Horsetrader - January 1st, 2018

More With Les graphicSequence stop means a three stepper basically. You’ll have three or four steps from the beginning to the end for the stop. If you’re having problems keeping your hands moving, try the sequence stop. Remember, if you like the neck, you’re going to back him out of the stop. If you don’t like the neck, you’re going to drive him forward again, so why would you stop moving your hands? And don’t worry about timing here; you’re just searching for flaws throughout those beats.