Opening of the inside rein
Posted by Irina Yastrebova on Monday, December 31, 2018 02:21 PM
There will be very little dispute that opening of the inside rein is a common way to ask a horse to turn. There is also a lot of discussions in dressage circles that correct way of turning must only happen from outside rein. In my experience, focusing on only one of the reins is a mistake, because they both are very important. Their dynamic relationship and horse's response to both reins is an important part of what creates a nice balancing turn.
Too much inside rein - will create an effect of pulling a horse into a turn. A horse is not an inanimated object like a shopping cart. A horse must not be physically displaced by any amount of force. The consequences of it will depend where is stiff and soft sides of the horse. Puling inside rein on a soft side will bend the neck in and allow the horse to fall on outside shoulder. Pulling the inside rein on a stiff side will invite a horse to fall inward cutting his turns and circles.
Too much outside rein - will encourage a horse to fall into the turn, the horse listening to outside rein will counterflex and displace inside shoulder inward. This can be a good tool to work on an issue of falling on outside shoulder. However,being done too much or too often will teach a horse to cut and speed up the turns plus bending will be impossible. A horse can flex without a bend but cannot bend without a flexion.
A rider must always strive for equally light contact and prompt response to either rein. A well trained horse travels in the arena with inside positioning - inside flexion, inside front foot and inside hind foot are aligned on a line parallel to the wall, outside front and hind feet are aligned or almost aligned on a line parallel to the wall. Bent neck and/or haunches falling in or out is a mistake. This requires a horse to travel with engaged core, supple back, level in his shoulders/hips and stepping well under his center of gravity.
Now, if a rider indicates a turn almost imperceptible opening of the inside rein is sufficient for a horse to start leaving a wall or a line he was on. If that doesn't happen increasing pressure on inside rein is common but very wrong response. Upon hesitation from a horse rider's response must be outside aids particularly outside leg. The main reason of a hesitation on horse's behave is horse's outside side didn't follow into a turn. The reasons it didn't follow can be many, including horse's asymmetry, rider's issues, lack of connection or attention, etc. Regardless of the reason the only way to fix it is to improve the balance, connection and response of the horse's outside side. This scenario often happens on a soft side of the horse. Rider's unevenness in hands perception, arm's strength, stability of the shoulders, rotational issues in spine and hips will complicate the situation even more allowing the horse to exploit all the possibilities :) If prior to turning the horse was too light on inside rein compare to contact on outside rein he was out of balance already. Yielding him off the wall inward to help him take better contact of inside rein then using inside leg to improve connection even further will be a good way to work on such issue. Counter flexion can be of a great help too.
On a stiff side the common scenario is the horse leaves the wall almost too eagerly making too big step inward with inside front, he starts smaller circle then his rider has planned. Also, there is often too much contact on the inside rein already due to heaviness and stiffness of that side. A horse may even fall off the wall without any indication from a rider, often with the head looking out. Such turns feel very unbalanced, there is a perception of falling in and horse's back disappears from the rider's seat. Instinctive reaction of any human is to lean out and pull inside rein outward across the horse's neck. Never allow your reins cross the midline of the neck Even indirect rein doesn't cross the midline, it only approaches it.The rider is no longer in a position to influence the horse with positive results. In this situation the rider must "bounce" the whole horse's body outward. The opening of the rein must be created by the horse moving away from it not the rider moving it in. Both inside rein and leg must be active, vibrating, "unstable", to prevent the horse leaning on them. Use inner track often to give yourself a chance to correct your horse's balance, enlarge your circles often, use leg-yield as a corrective exercise.
Do your best to stay connected with the horse even if he is falling in and by using above mentioned exercises make him stand up in his body and develop self-carriage. Otherwise, you will be holding him up all his life. Keep outside rein connected even if your horse doesn't want to take that connection. Imagine for a moment you are going opposite direction (to the right if left side is stiff).
Exercise:Ride a shallow zigzag line starting turns left and right to even out and balance your horse and connect on both reins. This exercise is great to ride in a field or on a road where you can continue as long as necessary.
Happy riding...
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