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More with Les: Roll Back Exercises

Improve roll backs, spins and stops

By LES VOGT / Horsetrader columnist - July 2nd, 2009 - More with Les

More with LesNOTE: In the next few installments of this series, Les Vogt gives you some simple exercises that will improve roll backs, spins and stops.

Using the Exercises for Spins. Lope a circle, again making sure your stirrup passes within that 1 foot distance from the fence. When you feel that your horse is in good form, begin to spiral down to a spin in the middle of the circle. Start to drive with your outside leg when the circle diameter is about 10 feet. Make sure that your horse stays softly collected and start to cluck when you reach this point. You should never drag or pull your horse into a spin, you chase him into a spin.

Riding the horse from back to front creates an axis in the middle of your 10 foot circle. The axis is the horse’s inside hind leg and you have to chase it up underneath your horse so that it becomes the pivot foot.

Use the outside rein to help collect the horse as you push the inside hind leg up and keep the power on the outside hind leg, so it will push the front of the horse around the pivot foot. The horse must keep the frame and bend as you do this. His neck must remain free of resistance and he has to be softly flexed to the inside so that you can just see his eyelash. Now we have a spin in the middle of the 20 foot circle.

Spiral your 20 foot circle down to about 10 foot then ask for the spin.

Spiral your 20 foot circle down to about 10 foot then ask for the spin.

We can amplify this turn as much or as little as we want to. Some days you won’t ask for any amplification of the spin; maybe the horse isn’t staying as soft as he should or he isn’t ready to do more. But if everything is perfect, ask for a little more amplification. Make sure you don’t over do it and upset the horse’s confidence. Should you feel that your horse is losing confidence, then back off and slow everything down.

To get the horse out of the spin, lope back out to the circle. Use your legs, cluck to him, and really make him jump out there while still keeping his bend and frame. That first stride out of the spin is very important because it makes him push off harder with his outside hind leg. Creating more power is the key, whether you ask him to jump out of the spin or amplify the spin.

Be careful how much extra speed you ask for because it is easy to get too much, too early in your horse’s training. A green horse has not learned what to do with his legs yet and too much speed can make him hit himself and then be timid about his next attempt. Take it from me and don’t have too much fun, too soon.

Asking the horse to jump forward out of the spin is also a good correction for the horse who doesn’t hold his pivot and crosses his hind legs. You can tell if this is happening because the middle of the horse becomes the axis of the spin. Ask the horse to jump out of the spin and then spiral right back down if you are unhappy with the way the spin felt or didn’t like the power that you had. You’ll get a more dynamic spin the next time.

Yet another variation of this exercise is developing the horse’s ability to go into a spin from a sliding stop. I have had horses that I could turn and horses that I could run and stop, but getting a horse to run down, stop and then start a perfect turn takes practice even for horses that do the separate elements well. It is easy as a trainer to concentrate on the single maneuvers and forget that you have to put them together. In many reined cow horse patterns, you are required to go from a stop into a spin.

For this we would go to our original exercise. Lope the circle, passing closely by the fence and collected stop at about two o’clock. Hesitate, and ask the horse to turn to the inside of the circle. Give away the first two steps and then ask the horse to amplify the spin with your outside leg behind the cinch and cluck. As he keeps turning, he sees the fence so—just like in the fence turn—he collects more. This exercise can really help with a horse that is just learning to spin. The fence helps to keep the horse collected while you add the power.

Editor’s Note: More with Les is a regular California Horsetrader column. Les Vogt has won more than 15 World Championships, including two wins at the NRCHA Snaffle Bit Futurity. Although Les still rides and occasionally shows, his focus is giving clinics around the world and developing products for the performance horseman. To learn more about Les and to see his clinic schedule, visit: www.lesvogt.com

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