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Exercise 3: Body control on the fence

By LES VOGT - Horsetrader columnist - January 17th, 2013 - More with Les


35th in a series
Last issue, Les presented a pair of exercises aimed at ribcage and hip control on the fence. This week we continue with awareness of lead-changing with the back leg first.

Exercise number three is basically sidepassing, but it will have one big difference for most of you. While most novice riders start sidepassing by moving the shoulders and catching up with the hips, I’m not going to let you do it that way.

Letting a horse lead with his shoulders creates such a disaster when it comes to lead changes that we simply never let them lead with their shoulders when we use our leg in the middle, or the back, position. We are always using a light brace rein to keep their shoulders out of the way, or at least neutral.

Why is this so critical for lead changes? Because if you can get a horse to change leads with his back leg first as a result of good hip control, the front legs will change automatically. But if your cue results in him changing in the front first, he will often go a few strides before he changes in back, if he does at all – and that will kill your reining score.

So to start exercise number three, I want you to walk up to the fence so that you’re facing it. If you were going to move to the right, you’d start by making light contact with the right rein so it acts as a brace rein to hold your horse’s shoulders, and then start bumping him with your left leg in the center position. Your goal is for him to start crossing over with both front and back legs at the same time, and if you get one step, stop and praise him. If you get a step with the back legs first, and then he catches up with the front, that’s acceptable too, as long as you keep working toward both front and back crossing together. What is not acceptable is for him to lead with his front legs. And to keep him from doing that you need to stay active and assertive with that bracing rein.

Although this might be a bit of work at first, the horse will eventually understand the concept and start moving both sets of legs at once when he feels your leg cue in the center position.

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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One comment has been made on “Exercise 3: Body control on the fence”

  1. cody jones Says:

    When asking for the whole body to move to the side all I’m getting is the hip moving in that direction. How do I get the shoulders to follow along? We just end up going in a circle like you would if only asking the hips to move. I am checking myself for leg position and I’m right between the cinches. Any advice would help thank you. Cody.

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