Posted by Irina Yastrebova on Saturday, September 6, 2008 08:13 PM
Horses are very smart creatures in their own right. They do not use reason or abstract thinking. However, they have unbelievable memory and they like to anticipate. Even though, sometimes their anticipation is inconvenient, it is a great tool for smart and sympathetic training.
One of the ways to tap into your horse's ability to anticipate is always ask in the same order starting with the lightest aids possible. For example, you want your horse to go more forward. First of all make sure your hands are soft. Now you think - "forward" with your seat, pressing pelvis to the front of the saddle and putting more weight on your thighs (old masters used the aid of stepping more firmly into the stirrups), then lightly touching with your calfs, then bumping him more firmly, now it is time for a tap from the whip or a touch from the spur. If, during that sequence your horse responds correctly you cease all the aids except keeping your seat in forward mode (not pushing with your seat!!!) Every time you want more energy in the gait you follow the sequence. You may have your own I'm not saying that mine is the only way. The important part is to stick to it relentlessly. You will be surprised how quickly your horse starts to "grow" in his understanding of what is coming. Just remember, always the same sequence.
Repetition of the exercise is another way to use your horse's anticipation. You simply ride the figure and wait until it starts to flow and your horse responds to lightest aids because he knows what is coming. You want to impress upon your horse that he is smart, he knows what to do and how to do it. You want to cultivate pride in your horse, eagerness to show you how good he is. However, if you stay too long after things start to flow your horse may start to ignore you, get bored or tired. Be smart and change the subject after couple good runs. A precaution - do not choose very difficult exercise. This way no amount of repetition will help, things only get worse.
If you want your horse become very responsive to your aids do not be in a hurry to ask for a movement. Put your body in the position for the movement, then give your horse a moment to get ready before you ask for it. For example, canter depart. As you know for the canter you need your outside leg behind the girth, your outside seatbone slightly behind the inside one, the horse is positioned to the inside, soft on inside rein, slightly concave to inside leg. A few strides before the spot for the canter create all of the above in walk or trot and then simply wait until it is time to give an OK signal. Because you always prepare for your canter in the same way your horse will know what is coming. He will be anticipating canter and will strike off from the lightest indication from you. And it doesn't matter exactly what you use for the final GO. It can be inside leg, outside leg, outside seat bone, inside seatbone. Whatever works for you and your horse. And all the debate about which leg to use is rendered useless.
Yesterday, I have worked on canter departs through figure eight. Using the techniques I have described above I finished the exercise with absolutely balanced, light and smooth canter departs from trot. These departs gave me the feeling that I just need to think about canter and the horse responds. And I was working sensitive, very mobile and hyperactive Arab who is still learning how to settle in canter and listen to me instead of getting excited and run around.
Happy riding...
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My blog is about teaching, riding and training. I share what is important to me in my work with horses and riders. The writing helps me to think things over and have a better understanding of training ideas and priciples.
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