Riding on the side of a dirt road. Walk.
Posted by Irina Yastrebova on Monday, March 24, 2008 09:31 PM
The exercises below do not include the description of actual aids for the movements. Mostly I point out what can be done on the road and what problems can arise. These exercises are mentally taxing for the horse. Remember to give him regular brakes on a long rein.
Walk - Even though your horse is familiar with trail riding. Simple walking on the road can be quite a challenge if you try to maintain rhythm, impulsion, relaxation and contact. On the way from home your horse will try to slow down and turn around. And on the way back he may try to trot, walk very fast and tense up. The most important thing is to recognize that and work on improving walk quality every time you ride. You will not be able to fix these habits in couple rides. However, if you are consistent and you are asking for correction every time and reward your horse with quiet and soft riding he will start to come around and listen to you. The worst case scenario I have encountered walking away from home (just a trail ride) is rearing after we approached a particular spot. The horse would stop and when asked to walk he would rear. I didn't let him turn around and I continued asking him to walk forward, he continued rearing. At first we would spend up to 10 minutes doing that. The key was not to get mad and punish him. When he quit we would continue our trail ride. It took him a month to stop rearing. He was becoming less and less persistent and walked further and further before he tried his trick. After he quit he never did that again. The fact that it took me a month to fix that became very insignificant with time. The fact that he dropped his bad habit for good is staying with me for life. The horse who doesn't listen and hurries home can be curred with simple idea of turning back and riding away from home every time he ignores your request to slow down. You will be amazed how quickly he will start to listen to you.
Walk-Halt-Walk - The way you approach this exercise depends which direction your horse is faced, toward home or away from it. If you are halting away from home focus more on energy and marching quality of the walk before and after halt. Do not stay for a long time in the halt and prevent your horse from turning around, keep him between your legs and hands. If you are halting faced home focus more on controlling the pace before halt and smooth quiet departure after. In the halt soften your aids as soon as your horse halts, even if he interprets it as a permission to move. If he does halt him again. Look for a moment where he waits for you even for a very short period of time then ask him to walk. Take your time working on that, you will be rewarded with a horse that waits for the command and does not take over. Because you are on your way home, you can prevent your horse from moving closer to it until he gives you a desired behavior. This is a very powerful tool, make sure you have enough patience to reward the good things and not the bad ones even if it takes awhile for your horse to settle down.
Small circles - If the road is not slippery you can ride a circle of the size of your road's width. Again, depending on what direction you are executing the circle toward home or away from it you get different reaction from your horse. If you are facing away from home the first half of a circle looks for your horse as a turn back. He will try to be quick and cut in to speed up the turn. The second half of the circle will look to him as turn away from home and he will slow down, bulge his shoulder and try to drift toward the home. If you start circle on the way home the situation will reverse. Ride the half of the circle toward home more slowly and think of enlarging it. For the half circle away from home ask for more impulsion and turn your horse more quickly, every step is like little turn on the haunches, really controlling outside shoulder.
Turns on the forehand and haunches - It is a good idea to introduce these turns at the furthest point of your ride. Instead of letting your horse turn around any way he likes execute an organized turn. Turn on the forehand is easier then turn on the haunches, but you can try either of them. If your horse is mentally relaxed and attentive you can choose a stretch and work on your turns back and forth. When turning toward home control the speed, deliberately slow down, even halt after every step. When turning away from home speed up on purpose. Your horse may start turning around his middle. Take your time to sort things out. Spend just a few minutes at it every time you ride, instead of doing it for 30 minutes straight.
Leg-yield - This exercise is very suitable for the road, especially when snow is gone and I can zigzag using the whole width of it. You can do leg-yield in so many variations. The steeper the leg-yields and the more closer they are to each other in the zigzag, the more difficult it becomes for the horse to execute. You can leg-yield on the side positioning your horse head toward the center of the road or away from it. Smoothly change your position from one to another then leg-yield to other side of the road and repeat. For more advanced horse you can ride shoulder-in, travers, renvers and half-passes.
Rein-back - Make sure your horse knows how to rein-back before you ask for it on the road. Keep your horse between the aids, otherwise he will try to step sideways or turn around, especially when faced away from home. Practice rein-back both directions. It will teach your horse to focus on you and follow your instructions without asking many questions.
Happy riding...
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