Diamond exercise
Posted by Irina Yastrebova on Thursday, May 7, 2009 10:30 PM
The exercise I would like to talk about will help your horse to recognize separate leg aids and respond appropriately. The exercise is ridden on a square about 15 m in size. Every corner of the square is a quarter-turn on the haunches without halting and sides are leg-yields to the outside of the square (on the right rein you leg-yield to the left). So in reality your square is more like a diamond. First, make sure your horse can leg-yield and do a turn on the haunches. I never halt my horses for the turn on the haunches. However, I do not call them pirouettes yet because the horse is not collected and may have less bend then necessary for pirouettes.
I will not go into detailed description of aids for the leg-yields and turn on the haunches. For more information you may want to review two of my previous blogs:
Turn on the haunches
I will explain the problems you can encounter on a particular case - Max, 16.2 hands Appendix gelding. His asymmetries are heavy right shoulder, too much bend to the left and haunches to the left.
On the left rein - He started a little slow through the turns. He wanted to continue leg-yield and tried to push through my outside aids because he likes to lean on his right shoulder. He likes to swing his haunches to the left which is typical responds to the heavy right shoulder. This made his leg-yields difficult to keep straight. With Max I usually carry a whip in my left hand to quickly correct his haunches when necessary. And I make sure I have good connection on the right rein, this connection goes all the way to my seatbone and thigh. Switching between leg-yields and turns made Max more focused and quick, he started to keep his balance better. When horse likes to collapse on the outside shoulder the rhythm of the walk suffers in leg-yields. They like to speed up. They sort of falling and trying to catch themselves. Turn on the haunches stops their running because shoulder has to move into opposite direction. At the beginning Max tried to stick his left hind leg too much inside in the turns which is typical evasion, it is more comfortable for him to have his weight on the right shoulder and his left hind is unloaded and mobile. He does not carry with it but pushes off to steer his heavy shoulder. Because this exercise is done at walk I can work on these issues one at a time and after a few rounds complete the whole picture. The trick is to stay very focused and catch evasions and deviations at the very root. Make sure you pay attention to your own balance. Collapsing through the inside hip, twisting to the left or sitting heavy on the left seatbone will exadurate your horse's problems.
On the right rein - Max's leg-yields are much straighter and actually he slows down and steps sideways a lot. I need to encourage forwardness this way. In the turns Max wanted to go fast and simply spin around to the right (heavy right shoulder again) and swing his haunches to the left. His idea of the right turn on the haunches is to turn like a carousel horse around the middle. Again whip on the left side helped when he tried to run through my leg. After a few turns he started to keep his left hind under himself and that helped to unload his right shoulder. He is not bending enough to the right but at least the turns are much more rhythmical, steady and under control. Leg-yielding after the turn is difficult to begin. Max wanted to continue to the right, he had a lot of inertia. I stopped my aids for the turn before completing it and started asking for the leg-yield ahead of time. With more repetition Max started to respond quicker and required less aids. The rider must be aware of the whole horse and not to try fixing everything with inside rein only. It is very important to sit centered and do not start sliding to the right. Left knee is pointing toward horse's right ear. Sitting well on both seatbones and keeping your inside leg pressed down from the hip joint. This action helps the straightness by stopping horse's ribcage from bulging to the right.
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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