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Flexion: Experimenting with rein position

By LES VOGT - Horsetrader columnist - May 3rd, 2012 - More with Les

20th in a series
After reviewing lateral flexion in detail last issue at a standstill, Les refines the exercise ever further.

Once your horse is giving his head readily to the side from fairly light pressure, it might be a good time to experiment a little with how the position of your direct rein hand affects your horse. Although different horses will respond a little differently depending on conformation, you will find some general consistencies.

As you’ve probably experienced, if you take your direct rein way out to the side, the horse will oftentimes respond by sticking his nose out. Keeping your hand closer to your body and lifting up will encourage him to turn with more curl to his neck, keeping his chin closer to his body.

When you are working him laterally, go ahead and start with your hand out a little and, as you work your rein to maintain the flexion, bring your hand in closer to his neck and see how his posture changes. As you get your hand closer to his centerline, you’ll also find that while his head is bent to the side, he will tend to start moving straight ahead rather than following the bend of his nose. You can also make a big difference by how much inside leg you use during your flexions.

You can even experiment by moving your hand forward and back. His posture will be different when you’re lifting your hand up by his ears vs. back by your hip, like I am doing in this picture. At this stage in the game don’t take your hand across his withers as you bend him, but do spend time understanding how the different rein positions can influence your horse’s head, neck and shoulders. It will improve your riding and make your horse really “flexy”. Don’t restrict yourself to just the walk with this. Once you have it down, try it at the jog and the lope as well.

Although we talk a lot about the reins in this exercise, don’t forget to use your leg as well and make the horse bend his whole body, not just his neck. When I’m riding, I like to use 50 percent hand and 50 percent leg on virtually everything I do. We’re not just training the neck, although – it’s really important – we are training the whole body.

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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