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Lateral Flexion – Start at a standstill

By LES VOGT / Horsetrader columnist - July 15th, 2010 - More with Les

Next in a series
Last issue, we looked in detail at the first exercise for lateral flexion. Now we reinforce it at the standstill.

This exercise is designed to limber and stretch the horse’s neck and shoulders. It may be uncomfortable at first for older or thick-necked horses, but that’s all the more reason you should spend time on it. In the long run, it will really help your horse’s balance and agility.

Start at a standstill. Then with a direct rein ask your horse to bring his head around to the right. Remember to bring your hand up as you ask for the turn.

The further you can get the stretch the better, but build up slowly. Also, at first you’ll want to reward him right away for the correct movement, but as time goes on you’ll want to continue asking him to come a little further and hold the bend for longer times.

Introduce these things slowly, however, so that the horse is able to build confidence in you and in himself as he tackles new things. Eventually you want your horse so limber that you can bring his head all the way to your boot and have him hold it there with feather-light contact on the rein.

This can be a great exercise to do when you’re on your horse and stop to talk to someone – instead of just sitting there, try doing lateral flexions to both sides to keep your time productive.

Trainer Tip

No matter what you do with your hands when you’re riding, I’m convinced it’s the point where you release the pressure that the horse really learns. That is your horse’s reward for having done what you asked correctly. And that reward is what he’ll be looking for in the future as the training process continues. I’ve seen many riders get so intense in trying to accomplish things, that they forget to reward the horse with that release when he makes a small step in the right direction, and then they get frustrated that the horse doesn’t “get” the lesson! Don’t try to do too much in one day, and make it clear to your horse when he’s done what you asked him for – even if it’s just the right thought.

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 the Web site: www.lesvogt.com

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