What To Do When Your Horse Loses Balance

balance horse listening
Photo Credit: J. Boesveld

There are many reasons why a horse might lose balance while under saddle:

  • change of footing (dips and bumps)
  • something interfering with his front feet (hits a rail during a jump)
  • rushing (not paying attention where the front feet are going)
  • gait problem (front feet brushing each other for some reason)
  • balance issue (too heavy on the forehand)
  • tension or braces against your aid and loses footing in the process

* This article is not about a health issue that may cause stumbling; rather, it is about a riding-related loss of balance. If any health problem is suspected, please consult with a veterinarian. 

In any case, loss of balance can be a problem for many riders. If you can identify why your horse is stumbling, you can begin to address the cause with one or more of the five tips below. They will give you a good idea of how you can influence the horse's balance.

1 a). Don't fall with him

It's not fun getting bounced around in the saddle. You have two choices when the horse loses balance: stay balanced yourself (and help him get his feet back underneath him) or fall with him, thereby putting him even more off balance and risking a trip or real fall.

You can let your reins out if needed to let him regain his own balance. However, you should not add to the problem. Stay tall and strong.

1 b). Stabilize through your core and try to change as little as possible.

Again, if your horse tilts forward to the forehand, the last thing you should do is let your upper body flop forward over his neck (unless you can't help it). Instead, tighten through your core muscles and keep your upper body as quiet as possible. The horse will need time to regain his balance, and it is best if you can maintain your own balance as much as possible until he can regain balance. Do #2 if needed.

2. Lean back!

It might help to lean back, even further back than normal. Counter the pull of gravity by putting your weight onto the horse's hind end. This will free up the horse's front end and prevent excess weight on the forehand.

3. Slow down.

Stumbles often happen when the horse is moving too quickly, too heavily on the forehand, or bracing against an aid. In all those cases, it is helpful to ask the horse to slow down his leg speed (tempo).

Half-halts are essential to help maintain and re-establish balance. Use a well-timed half-halt to slow down leg speed, if the horse is moving too quickly, and to re-balance toward the hind end. This will allow his legs that extra split second needed to "come back under the body" - meaning that he will be able to have the four legs (but especially the hind legs) supporting the body weight.

4. Be ready to move with him immediately after.

It won't be helpful to keep slowing him down, as it may cause the horse to disengage in the hind end. So as soon as you can, allow him, or even encourage him, to take a few larger steps. This will enable him to step deeper underneath the body with the hind legs, which will help take his weight off the forehand.

You might feel a surge of energy and that is just fine. Just be sure to ride right along with the movement and let the horse freely do what he needs to do to regain tempo.

***

You might be thinking that riding through a stumble is all about letting the horse handle it himself. In fact, it really is. The horse knows how to regain and maintain his balance. It's best if you become as invisible as you can and let him fix the problem.



Once he has his balance, just go on with your ride as if nothing happened. Don't make a big deal about a stumble, or try to correct the horse with stronger aids or "chasing" the horse along. Instead, keep riding and pay close attention to see what is causing the balance loss. Trouble-shoot the situation and see what you need to do to prevent future stumbles.

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Don’t miss a single issue of Horse Listening! If you like what you are reading, become a subscriber and receive updates when new Horse Listening articles are published!  Your email address will not be used on any other distribution list. Subscribe to Horse Listening by Email

Buy the book for many more riding tips! Horse Listening – The Book: Stepping Forward to Effective Riding

Available as an eBook or paperback.

3D book 2

Other posts you might enjoy:

Not Fast, Not Slow. So What IS ImpulsionIt sounds simple, really. First - create energy. Second - contain it.

Ready? Steady! (Or How To Ride Calmly And With Consistency): Riding smoothly through transitions left and right, up and down while maintaining a steady rhythm and impulsion, outline and self-carriage is nothing to be scoffed at!

Why Interrupting A Horse's Stride Might Be Just The Ticket For Better Balance:  Just like you might need to interrupt someone to get their attention, do the same with your horse.

5 Reasons Why Most Horses Should Slow Down: It turns into a vicious cycle. He goes faster so you go faster so he goes faster.

A Question Of Imbalance: Can You Tell? We hope the list will assist especially those who new to riding, or to those who do not have professional help while they ride.

Product Review: StretchTec Shoulder Relief Girth™

StretchTec Shoulder Relief Girth
Girth action in canter

My claim to fame is that I tend to have looser-than-normal girths when I ride. It's not because I want the saddle to slide off; rather, it's so that I can keep my horse as comfortable as possible.

My (now 29 years old) show mare, Annahi, taught me early on how sensitive she was to tightness around her girth area. She is chestnut and thin skinned. She would also sweat quickly when in work. Long before I knew much about saddles and saddle fitting, I would take extra care to not tighten the girth too much so as not to put too much pressure or cause girth galls.

And so my most recent purchase for my gelding, Cyrus, was bought with the same purpose in mind. It is a new style girth, wide and long enough to distribute pressure, and made of soft leather.

I thought it was perfect.

Until I talked to Justin of Total Saddle Fit about their newest girth, the StretchTec Shoulder Relief Girth™. I have heard of the company before. Their original girth, the Shoulder Relief Girth™, is already being used by some of the top level riders that I most admire in my area. I had seen them at the shows and was always intrigued about their design.

Before I knew it, the newest model of the SRG arrived at my door. This girth comes with three types of liners: neoprene, leather and sheepskin. I ordered the leather and the sheepskin liners. 

It is called StretchTec because it has a feature that I haven't seen in any other girth model: the elastic in the middle of the girth.

StretchTec Shoulder Relief Girth
Top: The leather liner. Bottom: The girth with the sheepskin liner

If you haven't held one before, it might seem a little overly flexible at first. The girth is divided into three sections and so it feels different when you carry it. Think of a three-piece snaffle bit with the French link in the middle and you'll have an idea of how the movable middle of the StretchTec feels.

My friend and I played with it by each holding an end to watch the stretch action. The elastic is wide to the back of the girth, but is held snug at the front by the leather of the girth. We could imagine how this elastic would allow for the horse's girth area to expand and contract as we pulled and released it. The action was the same with both the custom designed leather and the sheepskin liners.

StretchTec Shoulder Relief Girth
Top: Fleece liner. Bottom: The underside of the girth without the liner attached.

I tried the girth with the sheepskin liner first on Cyrus.

StretchTec Shoulder Relief Girth
Fleece Liner

You can clearly see how the girth is cut back at the elbow to allow greater freedom of movement. The middle of the girth falls forward and naturally into the horse's girth groove while the cut back section allows the saddle billets to be directed straight down. This prevents the saddle from being pulled forward to the horse's shoulder blades, hence, the "shoulder relief" action of the girth.

Next, my friend tried the leather liner on her horse, Boss.

StretchTec Shoulder Relief Girth
Leather Liner

The leather liner is also wide and made of a pliable, quality leather. In my opinion, it's perfect for a tidier "show" look (but honestly, the fleece liner would be great at a show too). It comes off in seconds and can be cleaned as you would any leather tack.

But the key feature was most evident when I looked underneath the horse's belly at the elastic.

StretchTec Shoulder Relief Girth
The Elastic

The "stretch" part of the StretchTec Shoulder Relief Girth™ has got to be the most innovative feature I have ever seen on a girth. It literally expands and contracts with the horse's movement. While it stays flush to the body and keeps the saddle balanced and snug on the horse, it allows the horse's girth area the flexibility it needs for any and all movement and breathing.

While I thought that the leather liner would be my preferred choice, I realize now that the sheepskin liner is soft, cozy to the skin, and easily washable. You could use the sheepskin for everyday riding (and wash at will) and use the leather liner for special events. 

I have to say that I have never had a better girth on any of my horses. Even my newish "fancy" girth is not nearly as beautiful and functional. I can now say goodbye to loosely fitted girths, and hello to snug-without-restriction. If only there had been such a thing when I was riding my sensitive chestnut mare, Annahi!

There are many more details available for you if you'd like to learn more about this girth. The Total Saddle Fit website has diagrams, videos and more information about the design and rationale behind the StretchTec Shoulder Relief Girth™.

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Don’t miss a single issue of Horse Listening! If you like what you are reading, become a subscriber and receive updates when new Horse Listening articles are published!  Your email address will not be used on any other distribution list. Subscribe to Horse Listening by Email

IT'S OUR FIFTH ANNIVERSARY!

Let's celebrate!

paperback-reflection

Five Years Of Horse Listening

We're commemorating the event by compiling the top 20 most popular articles from the blog, covering topics such as:
- rider position (hands, seat, legs, elbows, upper body)
- improvement of the rider's aids (kicking, inside rein, outside rein)
- and more!

Learn More.

Read more here: 

Ode to the Stretchy Trot: How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.

Horseback Riders Do Nothing Anyway! Well, at least, that’s what “they” say. But we know differently, don’t we?

14 Reasons to Love Horseback RidingThere must be hundreds of reasons why people enjoy horses and horseback riding. Here are fourteen.

8 Ways To Help Your Horse Achieve His Highest PotentialRegardless of what we want to do with our horses, our first responsibility is always to the horse.

42 Ways to Learn, Play and Grow With Your HorseHorses give to us in countless ways. We play, learn and grow with them, making horseback riding not merely a sport (which it truly is, like no other), but so much more.

Riding Should Be Fun.. Right?

Absolutely.

If there isn't any fun, what is there, really?

The only thing you have to keep in mind is how you define fun at different points in your riding career. Just like anything worth doing, there are going to be moments when you think you're having anything but fun! Maybe there's no show or trail ride to look forward to. Maybe things don't go right just when everyone is watching. Maybe the skill you're trying to learn remains ever elusive.

Those are the times when you need to bring out the most dedicated, persevering, stubborn part of you that you can. Though you might be struggling beyond your limitations, maybe even hating what is happening between you and your horse, you must hold on to the knowledge (not just hope) that if you can figure out what you need to change in your skills, you and especially your horse will benefit in the long run.

I imagine that most of us have gone through a very difficult period in our riding careers at some points. Maybe we were going through a situation that pushed us beyond our safety comfort zone. Maybe we were trying to learn a new skill that just wasn't doing anything good, and in fact, making the horse struggle even more. It happens.

Sponsored Ad: Equine Omega Complete

During those times, there are three things you could do.

Get an educated eye on the ground.

You knew I was going to say this first, didn't you?

I mean, there is no replacement for a great instructor who can be there with you as you go through the challenges, and give you on-the-spot strategies. In horseback riding, there is a horse and a rider, both of whom have different strengths and weaknesses. Every situation is unique. An instructor will have the experience and techniques in her "tool box" to help you chisel away at what not to do, and what to do instead.

Change what you are doing.

Sometimes, it is enough to just change the topic for a while. Do something else and then come back to the challenge later in the ride. Or scrap it altogether and come back to it in future rides. You might choose to head for the hills (literally, if you have hills) and forget about the ring for a ride or two. You could play with your troublesome skill out in the fields where there is room and invariably, more energy and enthusiasm.

In any case, don't feel like you have to skill and drill and make it unbearable. Get creative, find a way to play, and come back to it from a different perspective. While you should probably not ignore the problem, it can be helpful to step away from it for a time and come back to it later.

Kick it into high gear.

If all else fails, it may be time for you to put even more effort in than you have to date. Sometimes, the only way you can make the required change will be to just commit to the task until you make the required breakthrough.

I'm not saying you need to become harsh in your riding. Quite the opposite. The most difficult skills might require you to be extremely subtle and in control of your own body.




But commitment is key. For example, while I was in my beginning stages of learning to use my seat, I had to put much more effort into activating through the lower back and seat bones than I'd ever done before. I remember the amount of effort it took. I spent months working on feeling, activating and controlling my seat in the various gaits. I made mistakes and more mistakes, ever so slowly finding what worked and what I shouldn't do. It was not an easy task for me at the time and I had to really hunker down and commit to the new muscle memory acquisition.

But it was so worth it.

Where's the fun?

Well, the skill acquisition is the fun, isn't it? There is no better feeling than realizing that you've passed a developmental level that will forever allow you to be better equipped to address a particular riding problem because you know how.

Your horse moving better is the fun, right? There is no better feeling than being a partner to a freely moving, energetic horse that is balanced and active and powerful all at the same time.

Your horse feeling better is the fun too. There is nothing better than knowing you can be the kind of rider that allows the horse to feel good in his work.

Because there is no better reward than discovering that the changes you've made to your skills positively affect your horse - mentally, physically and emotionally.

Because it's fun to be the best rider we can be, for our horse's sake.

And THAT is the most fun part of all.

Horse Listening

Don’t miss a single issue of Horse Listening! If you like what you are reading, become a subscriber and receive updates when new Horse Listening articles are published!  Your email address will not be used on any other distribution list. Subscribe to Horse Listening by Email

Now is the time to re-evaluate your goals and path to riding success!

If you’d like a structured, but personal tool to set goals, take a look our Goal Setting for the Equestrian: A Personal Workbook. The pages are designed for you to set and keep track of your progress over the course of a year.

Included in the book:

  • design your overarching goals
  • long- and short-term planning,
  • debrief your special events such as clinics or shows
  • reflect on, plan and evaluate your goals
  • sample goals and pages

The Workbook is available for instant digital download so you can print the pages right off your computer. There is also the option of a paperback version if you’d rather have a professionally bound book to hold in your hands.

Click here for more information.

white-book-3d-cover-2Read more here:

8 Ways To Help Your Horse Achieve His Highest Potential: Regardless of what we want to do with our horses, our first responsibility is always to the horse.

17 Wise Reflections - Straight From The Horse's Mouth! My horse, Annahi, is full of words of wisdom for those horses around her who are willing to listen.

20 Ways Horse Riding Becomes Life Itself: You could say that horses are our teachers. Not only do we grow in terms of physical ability, but perhaps even more so, we grow in character.

What Responsible Horse Ownership Really Means: We need to keep in mind that horses are prey animals and long-time domesticated livestock. If we listen well enough, we discover that what we think of as giving might not be what the horses truly need.

5 Life Lessons From Horses: How can horses help us grow and develop in our own lives?

7 Errors To Avoid After You Ask For More Energy – And Solutions

leg aids to canter
Photo Credit: NBanaszak Photography

What happens when you ask your horse for more energy?

The simple answer is that he should reach further underneath his body with his hind legs, go straight and energize within the gait. The hind legs reach deeper underneath the body, the energy "flows through", allowing for a rounder top line, a more active back, and a bouncy, straight feeling. Your horse's response to the bit should improve all on its own. However, it's easier said than done.

As you probably already know, there are many different unwanted things that can happen when you use your leg and seat aids to ask for impulsion.

You will likely discover that there are a variety of responses to your request. Most of them won't be what you're seeking - the straight, strong and true gait that you are asking for. However, the horse doesn't know any better, and it is your job to know exactly what you're looking for, and to teach the horse correctly from the start.

You might think this article comes from a negative perspective, but in my experience, it is as important to know what you don't want, as it is to know what you do want.



As Edison is quoted as saying, "I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work."

Here are 7 things that can happen instead. The quicker you can recognize these miscommunications, the sooner you can address them. In fact, it would be best if you could correct these mistakes as they happen, before the horse loses more balance and then has to completely regroup.

1) Inside shoulder "drops."

This is what we sometimes call the "motorcycle lean." It happens on a circle or turn. Along with cutting the turn short in an awkward angle, your horse will likely fall into the circle, making it smaller than you want it to be. The horse will lower the inside shoulder and you will feel like you are hanging on an angle.

If this happens, try to stay upright yourself despite the horse's lean. Also, you can use a little leg yield and outside rein half-halt to improve the horse's balance.

2) Outside shoulder "drifts."

This is the opposite of #1. In this case, the horse will step outward, making the circle or turn larger than it should be. He will also often have his neck bent to the inside, while he continues to step in the opposite direction from your active inside rein.

In this case, shorten and straighten your outside rein to catch the shoulder. Avoid using more pressure on the inside rein. If your horse's flexion goes to the outside because of your outside rein, finish straightening the outside shoulder and then go back to flexion toward the inside after the correction. Once again, keep your own body upright and balanced. Don't lean along with your horse.

3) Hind end shifts to the outside.

The horse points to the inside with the front end while the hind end points to the outside. This can happen on a straight line off the rail. Sometimes, the rider causes the horse to move on an angle because of an overactive inside rein.

To correct, your inside leg can ask for a small leg yield, just like in #1. Use your direct (straight) outside rein to ask the horse to bring his shoulders to the outside. 

4) Hind end shifts to the inside.

Many horses do this as they transition into a canter. It is also common for young horses to collapse through their hips even in trot, mostly because they are still weak and uneven in the pushing power from each hind leg.

Sometimes, a little extra impulsion may be all it takes to get the hind legs working more evenly. 

5) Faster gait.

This is the most common response you'll get from young and older horses alike. Often, the rider doesn't recognize the increase in leg speed and so the horse just moves along faster.

A series of well-timed half-halts will help keep the horse's tempo the same even while you are asking for a little more power from the hind end.

6) Change of gait.

Horses will also change gait in response to a leg aid, mainly because it is often easier for them rather than to loosen more through the back and let the energy go "through" the body.

If your horse changes gait when you ask for more impulsion, gently transition back down to the original gait and keep on riding. Try again with your leg aids but you might want to add the half-halts in so that you can discourage a gait change before it happens.



7) Short stride/hollow back.

Some horses might tense in response to the leg aid. There may be many reasons why a horse will change his posture - whether because of lack of balance, discomfort, falling to the forehand, rider balance errors, or other problems that require the horse to tighten through the top line.

In this case, make sure that you are not causing the horse's tension. Adjust leg pressure, rein length (sometimes longer, but also sometimes shorter, depending on the horse's needs), balance (make sure you don't lean forward when applying your leg aids) and do use half-halts after the leg aids. The horse might tense just because he feels like he has to run faster.

I'm sure there are other things that can happen when you ask for more energy. In any case, you should be "listening" carefully enough to identify what the response was, and then take steps to correct any errors. Keep in mind that you're looking for a deeper stride in the hind end, a more bouncy, energetic back, a softer top line and better overall connection.

When you know what you don't want, you will find what you do want quicker and more consistently. 

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Don’t miss a single issue of Horse Listening! If you like what you are reading, become a subscriber and receive updates when new Horse Listening articles are published!  Your email address will not be used on any other distribution list. Subscribe to Horse Listening by Email

Buy the book for many more riding tips! Horse Listening – The Book: Stepping Forward to Effective Riding

Available as an eBook or paperback.

3D book 2

Other posts you might enjoy:

The "Iceberg" Result In Horse Riding - 5 Factors:  Looks like horse riding is a lot like an iceberg. We see the tip - but we fail to recognize the path that horse and rider had to take to get there (even if that final tip isn't world class level or picture perfect - whatever that means).

Not Fast, Not Slow. So What IS Impulsion? Use two legs, squeeze either from the calf or from the lower leg. Follow with your seat to allow the increase in movement and energy from the horse. Then invariably, this happens: the horse runs faster.

12 Riding Quick Tips #10: How To Canter Instead Of Just Trot FasterDoes your horse just go faster faster when you ask for the canter?

Love The Laterals: An ExplanationHere are brief explanations (there could be a lot more detail!) of what each movement means and requires the horse to do. 

38 Moments To Half-HaltWhen exactly should you balance (rebalance/catch the energy/give a “heads up”)? Here are 38 moments in a ride that you could use the half-halt.

Product Review: “The FIT” Half-Chap by Pro Chaps

Pro Chaps The FITI need to start at the beginning. Half-chaps are generally the bane of my equestrian existence. I love them. But I never seem to find any that actually fit me properly. In fact, the chaps I've been wearing (until I received The FIT) has a hole in the left calf from wear and tear (and the right one is soon going to follow) - because I simply have not been able to find half-chaps to replace it.

True story: I went looking for half-chaps at our local very large equestrian store during one of their sales and tried them all. Either they were too big or too small. Either too tall, too wide or too narrow. Even the very expensive ones. I don't understand why, since I'm your typical (middle aged) not too tall or too short, somewhat chunky female rider. There's a lot of us out there. How is it possible that it's so difficult to find a half-chap that fits?

This is why I was intrigued when Emelie Larivee, from Pro Chaps, contacted me about her products. I told her about my fitting problem, but she didn't seem deterred. She said that their chaps fit like they're custom-designed for you. I simply had to send her a couple of measurements, and voila, the chaps that arrived actually fit!

But there's so much more to "The FIT" than just the fit. The design of the half-chaps are incredibly well thought-out to be long-lasting, functional AND great looking, for use by the "real" equestrian.

Features

Take the straps that go underneath the boot. You know - the ones that get the most messed up in arena sand or paddock mud or wash stall gunk. I find that the straps are the first thing to go on a half-chap. These ones have anti-ammonia galvanized straps that protect the strap for extra durability.

Take a look at the zipper. Another common problem with half-chaps is that the zippers are too finePro Chaps The FIT or the teeth too small to withstand the regular pressures that come along with having your leg on the horse's sides. I've had half-chaps go on me just because the zippers came apart at the bottom - long before the half-chap itself was damaged. No zipper = no half-chap (or a costly trip to the shoemaker to see if he can put long zippers into leather).

The zipper on "The FIT" is thick and strong. It is elegant and it works!

The leather wraps around front and inside of the leg. The high cut on the outside of the knee gives a lovely long leg appearance. The leather itself is soft and water resistance and machine washable! There is a lining inside that helps the chaps keep their shape over time.

Pro Chaps The FITThe back of the chaps are made of an anti-bacterial "Airprene" stretch panel. While the chaps feel tight and snug on the leg (and don't slide down the leg at all), I was delighted to realize that the chaps fit not only over my riding breeches, but also over my normal cut jeans. This means that I can still put the half-chaps over the jeans on days that I want to run errands before heading out to the barn for a ride.

Pro Chaps has been in existence for many years, and the chaps can be found in retail stores and online internationally. Their company values include putting the welfare of the horse as a priority. I was surprised to realize that a friend of mine loves the full chaps and has happily worn them for years.

To find out more about "The FIT" half-chaps, check out their website here. You can follow them on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. And if you're like me and need someone to help you with sizing, you can email the company here. Their customer support is excellent.

I've been wearing the half-chaps almost every day since I received them a month ago. They are proving to be true to claim. They are comfortable, flexible from the start, easy to clean and tastefully chic.

Horse Listening

Don’t miss a single issue of Horse Listening! If you like what you are reading, become a subscriber and receive updates when new Horse Listening articles are published!  Your email address will not be used on any other distribution list. Subscribe to Horse Listening by Email

Now is the time to re-evaluate your goals and path to riding success!

If you’d like a structured, but personal tool to set goals, take a look our Goal Setting for the Equestrian: A Personal Workbook. The pages are designed for you to set and keep track of your progress over the course of a year.

Included in the book:

  • design your overarching goals
  • long- and short-term planning,
  • debrief your special events such as clinics or shows
  • reflect on, plan and evaluate your goals
  • sample goals and pages

The Workbook is available for instant digital download so you can print the pages right off your computer. There is also the option of a paperback version if you’d rather have a professionally bound book to hold in your hands.

Click here for more information.

white-book-3d-cover-2Read more here:

20 Ways Horse Riding Becomes Life Itself: You could say that horses are our teachers. Not only do we grow in terms of physical ability, but perhaps even more so, we grow in character.

What Responsible Horse Ownership Really Means: We need to keep in mind that horses are prey animals and long-time domesticated livestock. If we listen well enough, we discover that what we think of as giving might not be what the horses truly need.

5 Life Lessons From HorsesHow can horses help us grow and develop in our own lives?

42 Ways to Learn, Play and Grow With Your HorseHorses give to us in countless ways. We play, learn and grow with them, making horseback riding not merely a sport (which it truly is, like no other), but so much more.

Good Day For A Little Horseplay: Snort, snort, snort, SNORT! My gelding couldn’t tell me in any clearer terms how much he was enjoying the moment.

Horse Listening On A Spring Day

*Based on a true story.

Backstory: Blustery spring day - snow in the morning, rain mid-day and sunshine-y evening with tree-bending wind gusts throughout. Horses inside during the day. Me coming into the barn for evening chores.

Me: Hi girls! Aren't you lucky to be inside on this weird weather day?

Horses: Heyyyyyyyyy.

Horses: Blue sky... <sigh>

Horses: Oxygen... <deep breath>

Horses: Green grass! ... <yummy yummy>

Me: You want to go out? OK but...

Horses: Letusout! Letusout! Letusout!

Horses go out.

Me: (Cleaning stalls) Doo...doo...dooo....

Me: (Filling water buckets) Doo... doooo .... doooo

Me: (Preparing grain) Doo... dooo.... d

Horses: (Banging on gate) Heyyyyyyyyy!

Me: (Poking my head out of the barn doors) Hi!

Horses: Mud! ... <yuckk>

Horses: Windy .... <can barely keep our eyes open>

Horses: C-c-c-oldddd!

Me: ....

Horses: Letusin! Letusin! Letusin!

Me: .....

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Don’t miss a single issue of Horse Listening! If you like what you are reading, become a subscriber and receive updates when new Horse Listening articles are published!  Your email address will not be used on any other distribution list. Subscribe to Horse Listening by Email

Buy the book for many more riding tips! Horse Listening – The Book: Stepping Forward to Effective Riding

Available as an eBook or paperback.

3D book 2

Other posts you might enjoy:

With Thanks to Hickstead: Remembering a legendary show jumper.

Because of HorsesThe many ways that horses change and shape our lives.

A Recipe for Living: All the ingredients needed for a perfect day!

Softly Determined - A Poem: This one is a keeper for all horse riders!

Spring Into A Horse Riding Exercise

Up here in our neck of the woods, the snow is melting, the blustery wind is less stinging, and the sun feels just warm enough to start thinking about our riding program for the upcoming season. While we've ridden pretty much all winter, we can now lounge longer at the barn in less layers and more comfortable footwear. The sand is softer and spring is in the air!

And the horses know it!

If you've got a rambunctious, hippety-hoppety four-legged equine emerging from his shaggy coat and winter paddock, here is a fun and active exercise you can use to allow for movement while while also encouraging focus and calm attention.

Spring Time Exercise

 

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

 

The Pattern

As you can see, the pattern is fairly simple.

  • Start on the right rein.
  • Go up center line.
  • Turn left.
  • Left circle at B, 20-meters (or you can make it smaller for more challenge).
  • Continue to the far corner.
  • Change directions across the diagonal.

At this point, you can continue down center line or head back to the opposite rail. You can go straight on the rail, or add a shoulder-in or haunches-in if you want to add some lateral work. Or you can come off the rail just past A and leg yield to the rail.




Once you've gone to the right a few times, change direction and go to the left. Start on the B rail and head to center line from there.

But there's more!

The Transitions

Try this pattern in walk or trot at first until you have a good idea where you're going. Then add transitions.

If you like, you can do several walk-trot-walk transitions. Let's say you do the center line at a walk, trot through the corner and do the circle at trot, and then walk the rest and across the diagonal.

You can do trot-walk-trot transitions the same way.

You can add canter into the mix: trot the center line, walk the turn, trot to canter through the corner and canter circle, canter to trot through the next corner, and walk the diagonal line.

You can get creative with the transitions. Keep in mind the needs of your horse as well as yourself. If you need to work in the walk and trot, by all means, do so. Make sure it's a good, active, ahead-of-the-leg walk and a good trot!

At first, you might want to take your time through the transitions and help your horse develop a strong, round, flowing gait before the transition. In this case, you might not be too picky about exactly where the transition takes place. This is how I always start my horses and riders - looking for high quality movement and transitions before we get too much into accuracy.

Eventually, you might want to be more precise. You can decide where you want the transition and get it at exactly that letter. This helps you become more of a team with your horse. Remember to not sacrifice the quality of movement though just to get the transitions. At this point, you and your horse should be able to do the transition at the spot and do it well, with a good gait before and a good gait after.

The Point

This exercise is designed to do two things: give your horse room to move (straight lines and large circle), and require quick response to aids through transitions. Coming out of the winter, it is important to develop a forward-moving, ground covering gait that allows the horse to strengthen again after time off or less consistent riding. However, while you want to encourage movement, you also want to bring your horse's attention to you and work on responsiveness. What better way than through transitions?

I hope you enjoy the exercise. Let me know how it goes in the comments below.

If you like this sort of pattern work, join my Practice Sessions Pre-Launch GroupThe Practice Sessions are Modules of many exercises that work together to develop one major aspect of riding. The are currently two modules being prepared, "Focus On Transitions" and "Suppleness." There will be more Modules in the future, each dedicated to other significant concepts in riding horses. There will also be a private community and many more bonuses included. Click here to learn more.

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IT'S OUR FIFTH ANNIVERSARY!

Let's celebrate!

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Five Years Of Horse Listening

We're commemorating the event by compiling the top 20 most popular articles from the blog, covering topics such as:
- rider position (hands, seat, legs, elbows, upper body)
- improvement of the rider's aids (kicking, inside rein, outside rein)
- and more!

Learn More.

Read more here: 

What Do Leg Aids Mean? Instead of relying on them only to get the horse to move his legs faster or transition to a new gait, we might discover more involved messages that can be given with a sophisticated leg aid.

Why you Don't Want To Pull On The Inside Rein - And What To Do Instead: There is one other consequence to pulling on that inside rein that has little to do with turning.

In Praise Of The (Horse Riding) Hand: What goes into developing the type of hands that horses dream of?

How to "Flow” From the Trot to WalkAlthough we rely on our hands too much and initiate all movements from the horse’s mouth, there are many alternate aids we can go to.

Use the “Canter-Trot” to Truly Engage the Hind End: Many riders think that kicking the horse along and making the legs move faster is the ticket to engagement – but there is nothing further than the truth!

The “Iceberg Result” In Horse Riding: 5 Factors

Only 10% of the iceberg is above the water. 90% of its mass lies below the water line, and it is this large mass that is affected most by the ocean currents. It's the bottom part that is the foundation of the iceberg.

Looks like horse riding is a lot like an iceberg.

We see the tip - but we fail to recognize the path that horse and rider had to take to get there (even if that final tip isn't world class level or picture perfect - whatever that means).

Let's take an example.

You see:

  • the horse and rider flow smoothly from one movement to the other.

What make a ride look effortless?

There are five factors that go into creating that harmonious ride. You'll notice that these components are the fundamentals of riding in general - but really, this is precisely why we're always working to improve the primary skills, even at the higher levels.

1. Consistent Balance

Both horse and rider are able to maintain balance through turns, transitions and changes of pace. This means that the rider doesn't tip forward through transitions, fall backward against the horse, or lean into turns. She stays tall and toned and moves right along with the horse. 



The horse is the same: no tipping forward in downward transitions, no hollowing of the back before a new movement and no dropping of shoulders to drift through turns. The body outline stays consistent regardless of what the horse is doing. 

2. Consistent Pace

Two things can happen with the pace: the horse can be sluggish, feeling like he's going to stop any second. Or conversely, the horse can be a run-away, rushing off in response to every leg aid. The rider would have to constantly adjust her position to counterbalance the variations in pace.

It can be quite a challenge to maintain a consistent pace, but it can be done. Add a half-halt before and after turns, corners and transitions. Add seat and/or leg after the half-halts to keep energy up and hind legs striding well underneath the body. The key is to recognize what ground-covering, round, powerful movement feels like and then time your aids to maintain it.

3. Smooth Transitions

Well-prepared transitions make all the difference. Teach your horse that he doesn't need to rush or tense into a gait change. If you can anticipate what you need to do to prepare your horse just enough so that he can respond smoothly and easily, you'll be well on your way to developing that effortless ride. Maintain an uphill balance, step into and out of gaits boldly and evenly, and you'll literally feel (and look) like you're floating along in tandem with your equine partner.

This is where "dancing" with your horse begins.

4. Ease of Movement

There is no greater feeling than the horse moving freely under saddle.

The idea is to let your horse move at his best tempo with a fairly large, active stride while you avoid interfering. Your job is to allow the freedom through your body while maintaining your balance. You also need to be the effective rider that knows just when to support the horse (mainly through half-halts) and when to encourage the horse with your aids.

5. Accuracy

I've added this as the final aspect because when everything else is in place, accuracy becomes easy and effortless. At this point, you've developed the necessary communication to have contact and connection. You've developed your balance, aids and quality of movement to be able to change things up when you want, where you want. While accuracy is necessary at a competition, it's something that is the icing on the cake even at home. 

***

Just like the iceberg, a ride becomes effortless only after all of the fundamental parts fit together into a harmonious whole. It's everything being done well all at once that creates the foundation. Just one missing factor will be enough to make the ride appear to be less cohesive - for both the horse and the rider. 

During your next few rides, after you've done your warm-up, see if you can work on a series of movements with the intention of developing this iceberg result. Use one of the transition exercises I've written about before and work on balance, pace, transitions, ease of movement and accuracy while you stay on pattern. Even if you can't be absolutely consistent, work toward it every ride. While it's not an easy task, eventually, both you and your horse will learn to put it all together.

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Don’t miss a single issue of Horse Listening! If you like what you are reading, become a subscriber and receive updates when new Horse Listening articles are published!  Your email address will not be used on any other distribution list. Subscribe to Horse Listening by Email

Buy the book for many more riding tips! Horse Listening – The Book: Stepping Forward to Effective Riding

Available as an eBook or paperback.

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Read more here:

A Question Of Imbalance: Can You Tell? At some point, it becomes essential to be able to feel what is happening so that you can hopefully address it sooner than later.

Dressage As A Healing Tool: Even at its most basic level (or perhaps, especially at the most basic levels), dressage holds a value to horses of all disciplines.

Perfecting Perfection in Horseback Riding: We will never really find the perfect horse, nor will we ever be a perfect rider. However, of course we try for perfect!

The Pinnacle of Horseback Riding: Riding toward the ultimate release – this is the stuff riders dream of.

Riding is Simple, But Not Easy! Let’s face it – all we want is for the horse to do what we want, when we want, where we want, with suppleness and strength!