After showing us in last issue’s column the importance of having the neck, Les offers tips on rating your horse.
Do you feel like you’re oﬀ to the races every time you ask for a lope? While many horses will stay relaxed right from the start, some, especially those who are a litt le scared, or horses that have been held back all their lives, will want to take oﬀ like bullets! A horse like this is no fun to ride and can become dangerous if he’s not controlled. Here are some tips and exercises to try if you want to rate your horse back a litt le at the lope. By “rating” we mean being able to control the speed.
HEY RYLA: I understand that not taken care of, this problem can result in one or both horses getting hurt—as well as yourself. First, please understand that what Koda and Eddie are going through is absolutely normal and natural. This kind of thing happens with horses all the time.
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.
I do get young horses to train from age 15 months and older in order to prepare them for carrying a rider. Depending on the breeding and future goals, these youngsters typically get started around the ages of 2 to 3 years. Physically, you want to ensure the knees are closed prior to having them carry a rider – your vet can determine this for you. Additionally, their bones and muscles are not strong enough to carry weight for extended periods of time until they are the age of 3 or 4, so workouts need to be carefully designed for their age and physicality.
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.
HEY RAY! I own a big 3-year-old Friesian colt that will not trot next to me when asked. He either drags behind me at the walk or when pushed will erupt into a dead-run—kicking, rearing and playing while dragging me. I’d like to show him in halter, but I’m afraid he’ll get away and hurt himself or someone.
–Jacquelyn Anderson, Fresno
HEY JACQUELYN: The challenge that you are up against is very common. Once your horse is clear about what is expected and sees the value in it, it won’t matter whether he’s a big colt or an old pony. The ﬁrst thing we need to do is break your question down into the six individual issues in hand:
The answer is yes. I have had several people come to me for help to overcome their fear of loping. Growing up, they were daring and would ride whatever horse was in front of them at whatever speed they chose and in any environment. But as they aged, that sense of reckless abandonment slowly dissipated and a new emotion emerged on the scene – FEAR.
Well, let’s face it — when we were younger and we hit the ground, we bounced. Now we land with a thud, and it takes a bit longer to get up. We also have more responsibilities as we age and can’t afford the time injuries take away from the workplace.
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