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Straightness check: maintaining alignment

43rd in a series

By Les Vogt for the Horsetrader - August 4th, 2016 - More with Les

More With Les graphicNow that we have an attentive horse after Les’s instructions last issue, let’s evaluate control.

Start at a walk in a straight line. Make sure your hands are evenly spaced out in front of you and that your legs are relaxed. As you move along, I want you to concentrate on feeling what the horse is doing rather than watching for problems. If you feel the horse start to bow or lean in either direction, use your hands and legs to get him straight again. If it helps, fi x your eyes on something in the distance and make sure he stays moving straight toward it.

You don’t want to hold him straight when you do this; you want to point him straight ahead, then go to neutral with your hands (slack in the reins) and legs (no contact) until he starts to drift a litt le. Then make corrections until he’s straight and let him go again. Try it at all three gaits. This may sound overly simple, but you’ll be surprised how it will help you learn to feel your horse’s alignment. It really fi ne-tunes your senses in a way that you just don’t get when you are actively riding. Once you feel confi dent, point your horse to something and then close your eyes (at a walk to start), go a few strides, then open your eyes and see where you are. If your horse started to drift when your eyes were closed, keep at it until you can feel him start to veer. You’ll learn a lot!

If you’re really paying att ention, you’ll start to feel tension building in one rein or a subtle shift underneath you as he starts to bend or lean. Teaching your horse to move in a really straight line now will pay off in spades when you get to the point where you are doing rundowns.

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