In Hand Guy. Part II
Posted by Irina Yastrebova on Monday, December 18, 2017 08:31 PM
DIV>This is the second and last blog on work in hand inspired by Joseph Newcomb clinic. The exercises here are continued sequence from the previous blog. Click A>here to read the first part.
4. Reinback - This exercise helps to "frame the horse and shape his legs". It can be done with lead rope, reins down or over the neck. It is important to observe how the horse reinbacks. Horses can be crooked, wiggly and arrhythmical, they can lean into the reins and drag their feet. If the horse is slow to react and leaning into the hands do not pull steadily, wiggle the hand to sort of shake him off the leaning. Also tapping on the chest with a whip can be helpful. Later the whip can be held on the side or top of the haunches as the horse reinbacks to help lower them.
Rhythm of a reinback is two beat like trot. If the horse tries to move each foot separately without diagonalization, it means lack of balance, coordination and engagement. Also, horses can feel like pushing a rope backwards. They have to stay engaged and firm with their spines; legs are pulling the body back. The bottom line - reinback helps the horse to connect it's body into one functional unit.
Do not just practice 3-4 steps, make variations, sometimes ask for 10-15, ask on a straight line, on a circular line, walk faster, walk slower see how it affects your horse.
5. Yielding on a Small Circle - With lead rope or reins in your hand ask the horse to walk a small circle around you. Then ask him to yield the haunches a bit out bending through the body and giving to the hand pressure. The asking is done with the whip or a bamboo stick. It is better to ask at the area where inside leg usually located to encourage bending instead of simply swinging haunches out. The whip can also be positioned across the back pointing upwards and away from the handler. Make sure the inside hind steps forward and under the body instead of just out. If the inside shoulder keeps falling in swing your arm that holds the rope/reins toward the horse's shoulder to send him out.
This exercise should be done in walk, trot and transitions in between, both directions. The purpose is accepting the aids. Teach a horse to trot just from one cluck, instantaneous response. Work both directions.
6. Half-steps - Now, after working on all the above exercises the horse should be quick and sharp to respond to either aids - driving (cluck, whip) or restraining (half-halts on the rope/reins). Facing the horse and moving backwards start with small and rapid transitions walk-trot (few steps each) asking for short but very active trot steps and gradually asking the horse to move less and less forward.
You can also try asking for leg lifts with more and more increased tempo while inching backwards yourself until the horse starts grasping the idea of jumping from one hind leg to another keeping them under the body and starting to diagonalize. Do not keep the horse on the spot doing this! (this is what made my mare confused).
Be willing to improvise. If something feels stuck or not working change your tactics, go back to previous exercises or invent your own. There is no wrong method, each horse is unique and responds differently. The only wrong is to be forceful, unclear and inconsistent. The better you can prepare your horse beforehand the more successful the outcome will be. Joseph Newcomb has a Youtube channel where he is very generously sharing his expertise. There are dozens of videos of him working horses toward piaffe and explaining his principles. It is worth watching!
Working with riders - With horses who were introduced to half-steps work from the ground in previous clinics Joseph worked with the riders riding them. Riders were asking from the saddle and him helping from the ground with the whip touching/tapping the horse's haunches and/or hind legs depending on the horse's reactions. Horses naturally want to run away from the tapping of the whip that is why it is important that horse understands this work prior to person helping from the ground, otherwise, it can be dangerous for the rider and ground person (rearing, bolting, kicking out, jumping up/down). His experience allows him to guide rider's actions to improve rhythm, balance, engagement and self-carriage. He was absolutely adamant to convey the message to the riders not to hold their horses with strong contact. Half-halts,- often, short in duration, lots of times upward if the horse is leaning down on the hand. If the horse got too tight in the top line he was asking riders to ride forward into rising trot, long and low keeping the tempo slow, or canter, forward in light seat to make the horse use his back before returning to half-steps work.
With young horses or horses who haven't started on half-steps work from the ground Joseph worked toward developing lift and swing in trot by bumping their front legs lightly with bamboo stick. First at the walk the horse is introduced to touches of the stick as he brings each leg forward. The stick bumps the legs on the front of the cannon bone at each step. The horse starts to step higher anticipating a bump. As soon as the horse grasps the concept Joseph asks for trot and runs along the horse continuing bumping him every step. At the first indication of higher, slower steps with more upward swing he praises the horse.
For young horses this is all he asked with lots of forward trot in between. For more trained horses he insisted on more work developing passage like steps, helping the horse with two sticks - bamboo in front and regular whip behind. Still lots of forward in between with stretches and praise.
With more advanced horses/riders Joseph helped from the ground in canter too. He asked the rider to start a working pirouette around him and he was giving light touches just above fetlock joints to make the horse jump more under and jump quicker.
Watching Joseph inspires you to work with your horses in more positive and constructive way. He is very calm throughout any challenges or hurdles that come his way. He is very consistent and doesn't back off until the horse gives him some answer in the right direction. But he is quick to recognize it and praise the horse and also quick to change his tactics if the horse shows fear and apprehension instead of try. All his actions are calm and deliberate, he doesn't overreact to anything even if it is a wrong reaction from a horse like a kick or attempt to run away. Plus his own energy is amazing. From 9 am to 5 pm he was walking and running with horses without showing any sign of tiredness or lack of focus.
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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