Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Last in the Series ~ Winter Horse Play

Well somehow I got behind on posting the last two articles for our Winter Horse Play series in Just Horses Magazine here on the blog. Sorry about that, but hopefully you have been practicing your Work in Hand all winter long, and are out now applying these principles in balance while up on board!  (Tip for the Ride videos for Parts III & IV are coming. Please stay tuned!)
If you have found these interesting and rewarding, consider coming to the 5-Day Work in Hand Clinic here at the ranch in Haines, Oregon on May 4 - 8, 2013. Give us a call...we'd love to have ya!  (541-856-3356)  Alice

PS: Idaho Horse Expo is April 19-21, 2013. I'll be presenting all three-days. The focus in the main arena will be on specific exercises/patterns to ride to supple your horse. Hope you can come join us and please stop by the booth to say 'Howdy'.  

Winter Horse Play ~ Part III

No doubt about it, winter is here, and I imagine for even the most hearty among us, it is often a little difficult to bundled up to go out for ride.  This Winter Horse Play series will give you some great ideas for ground-work exercises you can do to warm up you and your horse, while ultimately developing self-carriage and self-confidence in the both of you.  Give these work-in-hand maneuvers a try for just 20 minutes a day, a few days a week, and I guarantee you will see a huge difference next time you ride.

Review: If you are just joining us, review the elements of Work in Hand, how to make the rein triangle, and watch the Tip for the Ride videos, Part I & II. (www.tnthorsemanship.com) As always, remember to start your sessions in a positive attitude, reviewing your Horseman’s Protocol, and picturing a balanced, rhythmic outcome.

Haunches-in:  You will recall that in Part II of this series, we concluded the exercise pattern that involved a leg-yield to the wall with a step in front of the horse’s shoulder, and then a slight backup or rein-back. This was a great exercise as it laterally engaged the inside hind foot towards the outside (outside of the bend) shoulder. The backup asked the horse to round through the back, release the energy through the small of his back, and drop the croup.  All good suppling movements.  Now you are going to ask for a new type of lateral movement. With the haunches-in maneuver you will be asking the horse to carry his energy from the outside hind foot to the inside (inside of the bend) shoulder. As example if the horse has just completed a leg-yield with a slight left bend, he was carrying his energy from his left hind foot to his right (outside) shoulder. This time as you step in front of the horse’s shoulder at the wall, notice that his haunches may be slightly off the track towards the inside of arena. Now is the time to ask for the horse to move forward with his haunches remaining slightly in, as you step backwards down the track.

Use of the Whip & Positioning: As with most work-in-hand, the use of the whip is an important tool in accomplishing communication with the horse. The whip is not a discipline device, but rather an extension of your thoughts to help convey to the horse the movement for which you are asking. In accomplishing the shoulder-in or leg-yield postures you used the whip to push energy on the line in which you were asking the horse to move. In the haunches-in and half-pass postures you will be using the whip to draw the energy in the direction of travel. Picture that you have Velcro on the end of the whip and on the horse’s inside hind leg. Your job is to create a search in the horse to follow the movement as you pull the whip from the Velcro on the horse.  It may take a tap-tap-tap with the whip to get your horse to think about what it is you are asking of his hindquarters.  The second before he makes that first attempt to move his haunches away from the wall towards the inside of the arena…pull the whip away and backup a step in your feet. You will be amazed at how fast your horse will come to this, and soon will mark on your body positioning and intention with very little use of the whip.

Half-pass: While the haunches-in maneuver is important for suppling, it is critical for many of the types of jobs we will be asking of the horse under saddle, that we quickly ask for the half-pass. The half-pass carries the energy from the outside hind foot to the inside (inside of the bend) with the shoulder leading, but on a diagonal line. This is not easy for either horse or human!  However, if you have your haunches-in working well along the wall, simply start to backup as you draw the horse’s hindquarters, on a diagonal line towards the inside of the arena. At first your horse may only make one or two steps before loosing the bend in the direction of travel. No problem…simply reposition your body for the leg-yield, change your picture and leg-yield back to the wall to start over.

It may sound daunting on paper, but watch the video. You’ll pick it up quick, as will your horse, and you simply will not believe the benefits.  Watch for Part III of Winter Horse Play on the Tip for Ride videos, and join the blog. (http://horsemanshipjourney.blogspot.com/

 Winter Horse Play ~ Part IV

It’s hard to believe that we are just about through with our ‘Winter Horse Play’ series, even though I am truly ready for some spring riding!  If you are just joining us, take a moment to review the past three articles and Tip for the Ride videos discussing various Work in Hand maneuvers to accomplish with your horse from the ground to keep him light, supple, and ready for riding.  Visit: www.tnthorsemanship.com

Review:  In Part III we added ‘haunches-in’ and ‘half-pass’ maneuvers to the Work in Hand dance. These postures required the horse to carry his movement into the bend, or into the pressure or suggestion of whip and/or leg-aid if you were on board. As example, if the horse had a slight bend to the left, and was traveling on a left-lead, then the half-pass posture would find the balance moving from the right hind foot, laterally towards the left front foot…from outside hip to inside shoulder. This is much more difficult than a leg-yield or side-pass maneuver, and requires greater balance, self-carriage, and engagement from the horse. So why would us ‘Western-type’ riders need have this posture in our bag of movements for use under saddle? One, it is a great suppling and strengthening exercise. Second, it sets up the posture for balanced canter departs, lead changes, and correct haunch-turns. In short, it helps to position the hip and hindquarters for many necessary jobs be it on the ranch, out on the trail, or in the dressage arena.

Half-Steps & Beginning Piaffe: Ok, I bet I have really turned you off with these ‘dressage-ie’ terms! But give me a chance, and you simply will not believe the benefits acheived when you are in the saddle, no matter what discipline you are pursuing. Half-steps are accomplished when the horse re-balances over his hindquarters, drops the croup, flexes the hock, and lightly lifts his hind feet in rhythm. Easy! To get the feeling on your two-legged horse, stand on one foot with a flexed knee, erect back,
balanced shoulders, and pick up your heel on the other foot. Now switch…heel up - toe down on one foot, while you balance on the opposite leg. Note the amount of strength this requires in the weight-bearing leg. Next, add some rhythm switch from toe to toe. Ta-Da…Half-steps and you are feeling the beginnings of piaffe.

Team Approach: I find the best success in teaching my horse the beginnings of piaffe by employing a human friend to assist. Start at the wall where you will be standing at the head of the horse, your reins in the ‘rein-triangle’, and you body perpendicular to the horse’s shoulder. Your job will be to impede the horse’s movement either  forward or backward, and create a search in the horse where he lowers his croup and half-steps.

The job of your human team mate is to help the horse search. Using a whip that might be a little longer than a dressage whip, and preferably with a light, wispy popper , your friend will lightly and rhythmically tap the croup. At first the horse may want to bring the haunch in, or back up, or even kick up. Hang in there with a clear picture of those half-steps in your mind. The second before you feel him begin to search in the right movement, have your friend quit with the whip, praise the horse, and move forward on a loose rein. It will not take long so that when you move into position at the head and your friend just raises the whip over the croup that the horse will respond with the half-steps. You may also accompany this with a click or kiss to help establish rhythm.

Again, it may sound daunting on paper, but watch the video. You will be amazed at the gymnastic benefits this will give to your horse and the life-long benefits you will experience under saddle. Watch for Part IV of Winter Horse Play on the Tip for Ride videos, and join the blog. (http://horsemanshipjourney.blogspot.com/)