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More on turns: Important details

27th in a series

Les Vogt for the California Horsetrader - November 20th, 2015 - More with Les, Training

More with Les

After using pattern exercises the last two issues, Les wraps up his lesson with some key points. Who’s steering anyway? A very simple concept that can be easy to forget is this: If you’re not telling your horse to turn, he should be going straight. Too many riders let the arena fence do their steering for them, and when they come off it they, and the horse, can really get lost. So get off the rail, look up, then pick a point and trot toward it. What happens? Odds are your horse will start drifting toward what interests him, and you get an excellent training opportunity for him and yourself!

Here’s what you do:
If your horse starts to lean to the left when you point him somewhere, pick him up, move him a little further to the right than you were going originally, and then turn him loose again. Same thing for the other direction. Before too long, your horse will figure out that every time he veers left, you’ll make him go farther to the right, and vice versa. Eventually, he’ll figure out it’s easier to just go straight and wait for your command.

There might be times when you are working on these exercises that the horse feels totally out of balance, especially if he’s real young. When he first starts circling, especially at the lope, he might even feel a little “tippy” as he learns to negotiate tight turns. What you have to rememberis he doesn’t like that feeling any more than you do. If you are consistent with your hands and body movements, you will help him to shift his weight back and follow his shoulders. The result will be that he learns how to balance with his shoulders up and becomes ready for any command you might give. As you think about guiding your horse, do you feel more like you are riding a bicycle or steering a motorboat? It should feel like a motorboat—where the power is coming from the back and the front end is light. Make sure that you are sitting deep in the saddle and in an upright position—looking at where you are headed. If you get to “leaning over the handlebars” and looking down at your horse or just a little ahead of him, you will unintentionally cause him to get heavier on the front end. So sit up and steer!

Also, resist the urge to control your horse so much that he can’t make mistakes. If youdo, you will only start to become a crutch for him. Just point him where you want him to go, make sure his neck is soft, and let him learn for himself. When he makes mistakes, fix them and then give him another try. Make it his responsibility to discover, by trial and error, what you are looking for. It’s just part of the learning process.

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