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Lateral flexion – Key to success

Here are some tips on what we're after

- November 4th, 2010 - More with Les

Next in a series
Last issue, we looked at the dynamics and communication of “steering.” This issue, we’ll review fundamentals of lateral flexion.

What are we looking for
Forward flexion in a 10′ or 12′ circle. Horse’s spine should match the track of the circle.

How to do it
Nose turned into circle with inside rein, coming back toward your front pants pocket. Outside rein should be out and straight at a 45 degree angle, not touching the neck. Inside leg helps to keep the circle round and ribcage out.

Keep some ‘feel’ and life in your hands and legs at all times. Don’t pull the bit harder before you’ve tried moving it quicker first.

Horse’s head should stay perpendicular to the ground. If their head is twisted, their spinal cord will be twisted too and this will become a problem when you go to spin or rollback. You can correct this with the indirect or outside rein – using it as a governor to not let the nose go too far out. Your indirect rein should never touch the neck, as that tells the horse to move his shoulders and that’s not what we are looking for here.

Lateral Flexions are the foundation of your success. They are the first introduction to creating a soft neck. Stay right here until your horse will turn his head before you can take the slack out of the rein. When you let go of the rein, your horse should straighten out.

It’s all in the Neck
A supple neck is the foundation for every performance movement. Tieing back can help build this foundation.

Be careful, this activity can be dangerous. Work only on soft ground. If startled, the horse may go down or fall over backwards. Supervise, but stay out of the horse’s way. Be careful when approaching, especially when the horse is tied. Don’t tie the horse too tight; he may get angry or hurt himself. Always tie with a quick-release or slipknot. Don’t leave a horse tied back for an extended period of time: he can learn to lean on the bit or develop a bad attitude. A good length of time is 20-20-20: 20 minutes tied to each side and 20 minutes tied straight back.

Training should take place all the time.

If your horse does something you like, reward him. Don’t limit this to tieing back sessions.

Tied to the side
Indirect rein
Position the rein so that it falls into the muscle groove where the horse’s forearm meets his shoulder. Loosely tie with a quick-release knot around the cinch.

Direct rein
Tie with a quick-release knot to the back cinch D-ring or loop around the cantle and tie to the horn. Tie the horse with enough flex in his neck so that his head is put at a 45ยก angle with float in the rein; but work up to this, don’t start there. Tieing the horse too tightly will do more harm than good.

Tied straight back
Run the reins between the front legs and tie to the horn with a quick-release knot. If you cross the reins between the horses front legs, the reins will be less likely to hang up on the horse’s knees. Tie so that his neck is flexed and his nose is just almost vertical. Work up to this though – don’t start here or you might scare your horse. This exercise has an expiration date. The horse will eventually put his head on the ground instead of tucking his nose in.

Remember to keep the horse moving. Allow him to make mistakes; that’s how he learns. Reward the thought. If he locks up, untie him carefully, give him a break, and re-tie him, or drive him forward.

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

You can read previous More with Les columns at: http://news.horsetrader.com

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