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Moving the ribs: Going next level

By LES VOGT - Horsetrader columnist - March 6th, 2014 - More with Les

62nd in a series
Les introduced us last issue to exercises 3 and 4. Here are details for exercise 3.

Once your horse is sidepassing along the fence really well, move him out to the middle of the arena and give it a try. Remember again to keep his body at least straight. Your goal will be to sidepass him so that his head and hip are actually curled toward the direction he is going, which requires a lot of shoulder and hip control – so you need to be really conscientious about his head and neck alignment.

A lot of people get confused when I ask them to sidepass with their horse’s head pointing in the same direction. For many it’s the absolute opposite of what they’ve done all their lives, which has been to let the horse lead with his shoulders.

Granted, letting a horse lead with the shoulders is a lot easier, but if you let it become a habit you will run into a huge problem when you want to start changing leads, as it will be nearly impossible for you to hold the shoulder out of the way and get the horse’s hind end to change first. So although this approach to sidepassing is different, and arguably harder than letting your horse lead with the shoulder, it will serve you much better throughout your training process.

When I do exercise number three, I usually do it with as much forward movement as sideways, so my horse is moving on a diagonal track. The exercise is also referred to as the two-track by many riders.

To begin, move forward at a good strong walk. Both your horse’s nose and hip should be tipped in the direction you want him to go. We’ll start by going to the right. To establish this bend, tip the nose by lifting and making contact with your right rein. Once you can see the corner of the horse’s right eye, hold him lightly in that position while pushing his ribcage over with your left leg. The contact with your hands should be very light as you don’t want to get in the way of the impulsion that you’ll be creating with your leg. You just want to make sure that the horse is moving away from your leg without losing the bend that you’ve established with your right rein.

As we’ve talked about before, don’t just lay your leg against your horse but keep it active, asking for each step one at a time, even encouraging him with little bumps if he starts to stall.

Be happy with just a few steps at a time because this is a difficult exercise for your horse. As he gets better at it you’ll be able to go further and even try it at the trot. If you find that he’s not moving his ribs away from your leg as you’d like, go back to the fence to tune him up. By the time you’re done with this level, you should be able to two-track the entire diagonal length of your arena. But plan on taking at least a month to get there!

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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