Ride for­ward for con­fi­dence, im­pul­sion.

This stop-and-go ex­er­cise helps you learn to ride with im­pul­sion and con­fi­dence at the lope.

Horse & Rider - - Contents -

Do you ride your horse for­ward? If not, that’s a prob­lem, be­cause you must go for­ward be­fore you can do any­thing else. I train many dis­ci­plines, and a goal for them all is get­ting the horse’s hind leg mov­ing up un­der­neath him. This kind of “for­ward” has noth­ing to do with speed—it’s all about hind-end en­gage­ment.

Timid rid­ers of­ten hes­i­tate to push for that en­gage­ment. The feel­ing of im­pul­sion it cre­ates scares them. They worry their horse might get out of con­trol, the way a truck driver go­ing down­hill wor­ries when he’s not sure of his brakes.

With this ex­er­cise, you’ll learn not to fear go­ing for­ward. In a re­peat­ing se­quence, you’ll go for­ward, then ap­ply your horse’s “brakes,” then move for­ward again with en­ergy un­til you feel com­pletely con­fi­dent do­ing so.

Ride this ex­er­cise in a se­cure arena with safe fenc­ing and good foot­ing. Out­fit your horse in the bit he re­sponds to best.

Why It Works

When a rider is fear­ful, her body never fully com­mits to the lope. The horse is go­ing, yes, but the rider’s body isn’t go­ing along. She may keep check­ing with the reins, or in­ter­fer­ing with the move­ment by stiff­en­ing and not fol­low­ing through with her seat and lower back.

In­stead, I tell my stu­dents to think of catch­ing a wave. You must ride along on top of a wave; you can’t try to hold it back. It’s the same on your horse. As long as you’re go­ing along with the move­ment, it’s all good. Only when you try to hold back or go against the move­ment does it start to feel out of con­trol.

The so­lu­tion is go­ing just short dis­tances at a time. This en­ables you to con­cen­trate on get­ting into the can­ter rhythm and en­cour­ag­ing im­pul­sion with each stride. You can do this be­cause you know you’ll be stop­ping soon, and so there’s no need to worry about your horse get­ting out of con­trol.

You’ll start at a trot, then move on to the lope.

How to Do It

Warm your horse up as you nor­mally do, then put him into a for­ward trot on the rail, driv­ing him for­ward with your seat and legs. Continue for sev­eral strides, sit­ting up tall and re­lax­ing down into the sad­dle, or post­ing (ris­ing

ev­ery other stride) if that’s more com­fort­able for you.

Then sit deep, pick up on the reins, and ask for a stop. Once your horse is still, re­main there for a mo­ment to re­ward him, then trot for­ward again.

When you feel com­pletely com­fort­able do­ing this—that is, you’re 100-per­cent con­fi­dent about your horse’s brakes—move on to rid­ing the ex­er­cise at a lope.

Now, the Lope

At first, lope just a few strides be­fore stop­ping. Know­ing you’ll stop soon helps you re­lax and find your horse’s can­ter rhythm. It’ll also give you the con­fi­dence to go ahead and push him for­ward with en­ergy.

Don’t hold back with your body. Think “push,” us­ing your legs and seat, rather than pulling with your reins or block­ing with your body. In this way, you’ll drive your horse’s hind legs up un­der­neath him to achieve bal­ance and im­pul­sion.

Then, af­ter a few strides, sit deep again, pick up your reins, and ask for the stop. As be­fore, stand qui­etly for a mo­ment, then re­peat the se­quence.

Let It Be Fun!

Even with my se­nior ladies who be­gan rid­ing later in life, this ex­er­cise helps them re­lax and learn to feel what’s hap­pen­ing un­der them. Be­fore long, they don’t want to keep stop­ping. They want to keep lop­ing around the arena.

And that’s the best part—be­cause rid­ing your horse at the lope is re­ally fun when you do it right.

Your goal at the lope is to ride your horse for­ward, en­cour­ag­ing im­pul­sion by sit­ting deep, fol­low­ing the mo­tion with your seat and lower back, squeez­ing with your legs as nec­es­sary. Lop­ing like this is fun!

TOP LEFT: The rider is hold­ing back with reins and stiff body, rob­bing her horse of im­pul­sion. TOP RIGHT: Pe­ri­odic stops can al­le­vi­ate the rider’s fears plus help the horse gather him­self. ABOVE: Now the rider is go­ing with her horse—and his hind leg reaches nicely for­ward.

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