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More Pattern Exercises..Part 2

By LES VOGT - Horsetrader columnist - July 5th, 2012 - More with Les

24th in a series
Last issue, Les introduced pattern exercises to reinforce communication. Here are some additional ones.

Setting out cones in a straight line (about 10 to 12 feet apart) can give you a whole myriad of exercises to work on. Make sure to think and look ahead when you are doing them, and think of steering the motorboat. So instead of thinking about the next step, you should be thinking about, and positioning him for, where he will need to be five steps from now.

And finally, try the movements a few times without cones to see if you’re ready for them. The last thing you want to do is frustrate your horse in an exercise he’s not ready for. If you need to set the cones farther apart, do it, and then move them closer as he gets lighter on his feet and cues. Here are a few exercises to do with the cones:

At the jog, then later at the lope, do a circle around the first cone, then pass the second cone and circle it, repeating for each cone. Repeat the other direction. If you’re trotting you can do a figure eight between two of the cones so that you finish up going the other direction. Concentrate on using lateral flexion as you turn, with a nice bend and keeping your horse’s shoulders straight up and down.

Deep serpentine
Starting at a walk or jog, have your horse do half circles around each cone. Make sure you do a few straight steps as you change direction so he gets a chance to rebalance himself.

Shallow serpentine
Now work your way as close to the cones as you can during your serpentine without losing the proper form. You might find that you can keep your hands pretty still and initiate your turns by creating the bend with your inside leg. Experiment with different hand-leg combinations to learn how to maneuver and bend your horse. You may not get a lot of response to you leg pressure at this stage, but the more you do the better it will get. You will want to use your leg in the middle position when you are doing this, and remember to bump with your boot top if he doesn’t respond.

You want to make sure the horse has started into a turn before you use your outside leg. If you use it too soon, the horse is likely to move away from the pressure and actually bend his body in the opposite direction you want him to. If you feel like you need to, you can “chase” your horse a little with the outside leg, but make sure he’s already begun the turn before you do. I like to give away two steps, then if I’m not happy with the response I’m getting, I’ll bump him with my boot top. Eventually, you’re going to use your leg to “turbo-charge” your maneuvers, so you never want to just lay it on your horse and leave it there. Whenever he starts to respond, take it away.

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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