In my last post, I mentioned that in training Z for turns that we needed to be asking with less, and getting more. I was asked what that meant and/or how I would apply it in this circumstance. It’s raining cats and dogs here so a good day to expound…
As riders and trainers, we generally use too much pressure when asking for a request from our horse. Whether that be leading, driving, turning, or changing gait we overuse our hands and our feet. This is a common problem and using video and photos of your work can help you self-correct.
The typical example is in leading a horse. All of my horses lead with a large amount of “float” (Dorrance’s term for the loop in the rope). You can lead them from the front, the side or the back (except I think for Big Guy on the back thing – we just have never worked on that).
However, whenever a student has led one of my horses, or even when Rugby Guy got Z out of her pasture the first day, they tug and pull at the horse. No matter how many times I’ve asked a student to get looser with the lead rope, they inevitably go right back to keeping it tight. It’s as if they are afraid the horse will get away or that they won’t be able to control the horse if they are not right there holding his head.
And thus from the very beginning you are teaching the horse to resist and pull against pressure. So the pressure becomes meaningless. Nagging will not increase or improve compliance.
The truth of the matter is the bend is not going to happen at the head – but in the ribs and hindquarters. Messing with the head is going to get things more screwed up so that is why Rugby Guy needs to be light on the reins and let Z learn how to put her head to balance herself.
While Riding, correction of the overbending can be done as follows:
~ the horse overbends, ask the horse to go straight a stride or two and then ask again for the bend but this time with a lighter aid and more tension on the outside rein;
~ ask for a larger circle and use inside leg;
~ teach the horse the shoulder in and use this to spiral out and into the outside rein;
~ ask for the horse to stretch down and relax, and then ask for bend. It’s hard to remain braced when you are relaxed – in the above photo the tension created by the tight rope is quite clear AND how Z feels about it!
~ and/or immediately do a change of direction (change of rein) which changes the bend (i.e. serpentines, figure 8’s, changes within the circle, change on the rail etc…).
While doing groundwork, correction can happen by:
~ Ask the ribcage to move over with the whip, on the circle;
~ Make sure the horse doesn’t bow inward towards you with their side. If necessary, use the whip horizontally to form a barrier;
~ While lunging, spiral out, releasing any pressure on the lead. The horse sometimes self corrects the overbend then;
~ Once the horse knows spiral out, teach the shoulder in as a correction;
~ mimicking posture behavior (i.e. Hempfling).
These are just methods I use, I am sure there are hundreds of other ideas out there! The main thing to keep in mind is that overbending is often started by the rider/trainer. Self-check with photos and video. Reduce the amount of ask you are giving and see if your horse adjusts.
Horses used as lesson horses or those poorly trained will be harder to self correct as compared to green horses. These horses will need a schedule and patience for re-training away their bad habits.