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This month's newsletter will answer a few questions about riding.
I'm riding a three year old who is gentle
but not trained and he is the first horse that I've ever ridden that wasn't already
push button. I get so confused and I'm sure I am making him that way too because
there are so many things to work on and I don't know what to do first. He stands
still for mounting then it is hard to get him to go and when he does he goes like
a wiggle worm. I can't turn him or ride a circle and I don't know when I should
work on what. What should I work on first? Janette
When I am starting a new horse under saddle, I keep the
following goals in mind. Forward, straight and steady.
Once I know a horse
is fairly accepting of being ridden, I want to be sure he knows how to move forward
with energy. Although it is OK to move around at the walk during the first few
rides to let the two of you get used to each other, I like to start working at
an energetic trot as soon as possible. This allows the horse to gain his balance
and gives me some energy to work with. I want the horse to move off from a squeeze
from my legs (at first I might add a "click, click" sound like I used
when longeing) from a halt to a walk and from a walk to a trot. If the horse goes
faster than I want him to, I pretty much let him, just making sure that I go as
fast as he does! I try not to discourage a horse from moving forward at the beginning.
Whether you do this in a round pen or arena will depend on your level of experience.
Once the horse knows "forward", then you can start adding "straight".
Directing a young horse from point A to point B can be funny! I know what you
mean by wiggle worm. Your goal is to "catch the horse between the aids."
What I mean is that your hands on the reins direct his head, neck, and front legs
and your legs direct his hindquarters. When you are riding from one end of the
arena to the other, pick a point at the far end and look at that point - don't
look at your horse's neck or poll, which is a common tendency. If you project
straight ahead, you will tend to go straight ahead. Make adjustments to your horse's
wiggles using opening rein aids rather than direct rein aids. An opening rein
signal is one where your hand moves out to the side - it is also called a leading
rein because you lead the horse to the direction you want him to go. So if he
is wiggling to the left and you want to straighten him out, you would move your
right hand out to the right. This is assuming you are using a snaffle or bosal.
(A direct rein aid is one where you move your hand back toward your hip bone and
is suitable for horses with more training.)
While you are working
on straight work, be sure you don't lose the forward movement.
the horse is going forward and straight, you want to concentrate on steadiness
of rhythm and carriage. You want your horse to maintain a steady one-two, one-two
rhythm at the trot, for example. When a horse's rhythm is more like one---------two;
onetwo, onetwo, it means he has lost his balance momentarily and is trying to
regain it. So work on sitting steady and straight in the saddle yourself to help
your horse develop his balance. If his rhythm is quick but steady, that is better
than if it is mostly slowish but unsteady. A quick but steady rhythm can be slowed
down and will make a better slow, balanced rhythm. So don't be in a hurry to slow
your horse down. Do it gradually, in degrees - the more in balanced he is, the
more steady and fluid his movement will become.
After your horse
travels forward, straight, and steady consistently, then it is time to add bending,
flexing, and lateral work - and all those maneuvers and exercises that use those
principles. But don't skip this early work because it is the basis of the more
Have a great ride!
more information on mounted training, see Making Not Breaking. (http://www.horsekeeping.com/horse_books/Making_Not_Breaking.htm)
I am a trail rider who
rides in the arena 2 or 3 times a week. What kind of arena work is good for a
your trail horse legged up, focus on forward work with mild geometric patterns,
such as figure 8's, serpentines and large circles.
The figure 8 is a simple
exercise that combines straight and circular movements and allows you to practice
a change of bend and a halt with plenty of preparation time. This exercise can
help you develop good habits and coordination for more advanced exercises and
work on the trail. (Note: The figure 8 is also a part of horsemanship, equitation,
and reining patterns.)
The line between the 2 circles should be straight.
It should not be a diagonal line that makes an X in the middle of the pattern.
An X configuration is a lazy way to change direction in a figure 8 and "eats
up" part of each circle. The flat line in the center is more correct and
more difficult because it requires you to keep your horse in balance.
at the center of the arena with your horse facing one of the long sides of the
arena. Focus on a fence post or cone along the rail that you can refer to as the
Look straight ahead and ride straight forward at a jog
1-2 strides, begin circling your horse to the right
Make a large circle that
is uniformly round by keeping your aids consistent (ahead of time you might want
to set out two cones to use as reference points for the center of each of the
figure eight circles.)
When you are finishing up the first circle, prepare
to change your aids to straight
Ride straight ahead 1-4 strides depending
on the size of the circle
Change your horse's bend from right to left
Begin circling your horse the left. Be ready to catch the hindquarters with your
right leg if they try to swing out of the new circle.
Make a large circle
to the left that is uniformly round.
When approaching the close of the second
circle, prepare to track straight ahead
Halt or continue the figure 8.
can ride the figure 8 at the walk and canter/lope as well. If you ride at the
lope, you will need to perform either a simple lead change, a flying lead change,
or the second circle in counter canter.
At first, ride circles about 70
feet in diameter and as your horse develops balance and bend, you can decrease
the size to 40 feet in diameter depending on the gait and the degree of collection
you are asking for.
If your horse begins to anticipate the change of bend
in the middle, simply add a second circle to the right (or left) before changing
See you on the trail Bob!
For more exercises, see 101 Arena Exercises.