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Bend with vertical flexion

Keeping the outside rein away from neck is key

- January 20th, 2011 - More with Les

Next in a series
After looking at the pieces of communication through ‘feel’, last issue, let’s move forward and continue in more detail.

More With LesSince in last lesson’s exercises we asked you to be conscious of the horse’s nose getting too far out in a turn, this exercise shouldn’t be new to you. But before, you only used the outside rein to correct problems; here I want you to use the outside rein consciously, as you ask the horse to really break at the poll and bring his nose toward his chest from the lateral flexion position.

Begin by walking a circle to the right, with light rein contact and your horse’s frame matching the circumference of the circle, just like you did in the last lesson. Now make contact with your left rein and very gently, with just your fingertips, work your hands back and forth until your horse softens his neck and starts to bring his nose in toward his chest. While you’re moving the reins, you’ll want to gently squeeze with your calves to encourage him to keep moving up over the bit rather than slowing down. As soon as your horse softens to your rein pressure and moves his nose in toward his chest, release your cues and reward him.

It’s really important in all of these exercises that you keep your outside rein way away from the horse’s neck. Until we are ready to teach your horse to neck rein you’ll want to make sure that he’s never feeling any contact by mistake. If your horse resists, try bumping his side with your inside leg and increasing your rein pressure as you work your hands back and forth until you feel your horse relax his neck and yield to bit pressure. Do this about three or four times a day, interspersed among the other elements of your ride, until your horse is responding willingly to the cues.

Again, let me emphasize that if the horse isn’t giving softly and willingly to the direct rein, you have no right to ask him to flex vertically. You really need to have him conditioned to the pressure of one rein before you complicate his life by actively riding with two hands at once. Good mouths can be made or lost at this stage of the game, so don’t rush. Build a strong foundation and build confidence in your horse.

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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