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Let’s start: Five Easy Pieces

By LES VOGT / Horsetrader columnist - July 7th, 2011 - More with Les

First In A Series

In the next few installments, Les Vogt takes you through exercises of his Five Easy Pieces. When you’ve mastered them, you should be able to put any part of your horse’s body where you want it, without resistance.

Doesn’t it take your breath away to watch a sensational reining or cow horse perform? It does to me, just like it did back when I was a kid and I saw my first stock horse in action. But the best thing about it is that these horses just keep getting better and better. First, because we’re breeding them better, and second, because we’re riding them better. And the biggest key I have found in developing that brilliant performance is the time that I spend getting complete body control during the foundation stage of my training on a young horse.

This horse is doing exercise number five of the Five Easy Pieces.

This horse is doing exercise number five of the Five Easy Pieces.

The Foundation: Just like building a house, the most important part of your success with performance horses comes from the foundation you put on them. As your training progresses, virtually every time you run into a problem, it will either be because the horse has become stiff in the poll or neck, or a part of his body is not responding like it should.

If the foundation isn’t there, these problems will show up again and again, from a shoulder that isn’t responding to the neck rein like it should when you go to start your turn around, or a head and neck that aren’t staying relaxed and supple in your stops, or a hip that isn’t moving over enough when you cue for a lead change.

Not only will you have problems like this, but without complete body control, you won’t have a way to fix them. I can’t overemphasize this concept—you can’t spend too much time on the body control exercises that we lay out in this program.

The Five Easy Pieces: I call the foundation exercises that I use most the Five Easy Pieces, and you will learn them all in the next few “More with Les” installments. When you’ve mastered them, you should be able to put any part of your horse’s body where you want it, without resistance. Once you’ve mastered these exercises, you’ll probably repeat them at the walk, trot and lope every time you ride, both to the right and to the left. It’s kind of like a pilot testing all the controls before he takes off. If you feel resistance anywhere, it will only intensify when you speed things up or try a maneuver. So these exercises become the tools that help you discover, and then fix problems in a structured and consistent way.

In the next installment about this topic, we will describe the Five Easy Pieces in more details regarding specific movements for the horse’s different body zones.

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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