halting without pressure

After a lousy start to the day, I had the best ride on Z.

A light must have gone off in her head because she finally realized and started providing it to me quickly, that when I vibrate the inside rein I wanted her to stretch down. This is part of the Mark Russell work I’ve been writing about – the idea for the horse to relax in the front with the jaw and the poll/axis so the hindquarter and spinal energy can have a place to move too.

At this time the head does not stay relaxed and pops up a bit, especially when asked to come to halt. This will be improved on through the next months work and I expect she will process it rather quickly.

She is also extremely stiff to the left, so I’ll be glad when the chiropractor sees her mid-month. The stretch exercises were the best she has done and she did some awesome belly lifts so she will definitely be stronger by the end of 45 days then she is today, especially in the back which is most needed.

If you are a Sally Swift, Centered Riding fan, you may remember her analogy in her CR book about a kinked hose. If the horse is blocked (i.e. improper alignment, crookedness, imbalance etc…) – and here I am imagining this as the spine, the output (energy) is little; once the hose opens, the water (energy) flows freely and you have maximum power from rear to front. Tension in the rider or the horse impends this flow of energy so it doesn’t matter if you are kicking away on the hind end if the front hands are pulling back (classic issue with beginner riders).

While I could talk about all sorts of blockages, for the sake of this post, I am discussing the pressure on the reins – either with a sidepull (my equipment) or with a bridle and bit. It’s vastly important for me to remember not to overuse my reins at this stage of the riding and it’s something I have to re-train myself to do because my natural impulse is to use rein pressure.

For example, we usually ask for a halt with a slight pull back on the reins, or as I was later taught, making it a soft rubber wall where I no longer allow the hands/arms to move forward with the horses’ head. Russell covers the halt on page 40 and he also goes by the rubber wall, stepping the horse into the resistance.

Another way I’ve been thinking about this from Molly is the idea is to stop without any rein pressure at all! The concept being that any pressure creates a counter pressure which will result in an unrelaxed/tense state that does not allow the body to perform to optimum athleticism. With this in mind, you would want the hands to go forward, releasing any pressure, when you ask for the halt.

So how do you stop your horse? First, without rein pressure. Second, returning to Sally Swift (Centered Riding) look at her exercise where you grow tall to the sky, and grow long to the ground. This re-centering alone on the rider’s part can allow a horse to halt, especially is you stop moving your hips with the walking motion. This is the very beginning of training the horse to move off the seat instead of the more visible aids of hands and legs.

Other options, if the horse is rushing and not listening at all is to tilt the nose to the inside and spiral the horse in – eventually this pick up and bend to the inside, along with your seat energy (no leg, quiet seat, grown down and up) means to halt. Or the horse can have a slight bend of the nose to the rail. My personal preference is the inside spiral as it makes the horse work harder and they eventually figure out “why am I doing so much when she is asking so little?” and being naturally an animal that would rather stand still then work harder, they comply. 

Now I just need to remember it every time!

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