Today’s group session started with a quick recap of last week’s – finding the inside front feet to direct it around a turn, and bringing the hindquarters up under the horse by timing up with the inside hind on a serpentine.
We discussed the importance of bend in relation to a horse leaving the float in the rope in groundwork. The horse’s job is to leave the slack in the rope, and the rider’s job is to teach the horse the correct posture that will create that float. So on a left circle, if the horse is bent evenly from nose to tail to the left, and maintaining the tempo there should be float in the rope. Riders worked a bit at teaching the horse to keep the float in, and finding which side of their horse felt a bit stiffer. They discovered how their horses tendencies on the ground related to things under saddle, such as missing leads, rushing, sluggishness, and difficulty maintaining tempo. Keeping the rhythm and bend consistently on a circle helped to keep each rider’s mind on how they could help their horses under saddle.
Next we worked on transitions. Riders on sluggish “behind the leg” horses found that transitioning from walk, trot, canter, halt, and backup at intervals kept their horses engaged, using their bodies better, and more forward. They focused on maintaining correct bend around corners and keeping the desired tempo. For those with a tendency to race and get unbalanced, lots of transitions helped these horses to organize their feet. Riders spent some time slowing the pace down with a focus of connecting to the feet when picking up reins (slowing each foot down one at a time, and releasing when a change was made – vs just pulling) and helping the horse learn to maintain tempo and stay inside the “box.”
For the gaited horse – serpentines at the gait helped to keep the gait correct and the horse from rushing. Cantering helped to organize her feet and regain a diagonal pair to break up pacing. Transitions from gait to canter to gait to walk helped her keep her feet organized and keep her from rushing.
No matter the type of horse, whether it’s a quarter horse or a warmblood or a gaited horse or a zonkey (I’m guessing – I have never met a zonkey) – teaching it to maintain float with correct bend and tempo helps to engage the hind end, maintain tempo, and keep the horse light and balanced.
So ladies – have a happy week of riding. Until next week!