Con­trol and re­ac­tion

Your Horse (UK) - - Your Horse's Training -

The first thing that all horses should learn is to go for­ward from your leg into a quiet and ac­cept­ing rein con­tact. This needs to be es­tab­lished be­fore you can be­gin to in­flu­ence him in any way. “You can train a horse to go for­wards, but it’s dif­fi­cult to train a horse to want to go for­wards,” ex­plains Stephen. You also need con­trol, but you won’t have con­trol un­less your horse is in front of the leg. When your horse un­der­stands these two foun­da­tions, you can think about what to do to make en­gage­ment, self-car­riage and sup­ple­ness ac­tu­ally hap­pen.

Cre­at­ing re­ac­tions

Rid­ing tran­si­tions will help you es­tab­lish the two ba­sic prin­ci­ples of re­ac­tion and con­trol. “Tran­si­tions help to create the re­ac­tions we want,” ex­plains Stephen, “but you can ride 1,000 tran­si­tions and they’ll have no ben­e­fi­cial ef­fect on your horse’s way of go­ing if you ride them in the wrong way.” Stephen ex­plains that rid­ing good tran­si­tions is about train­ing your­self to sit still and create re­ac­tions, rather than help­ing your horse too much. His ad­vice is to fo­cus on your po­si­tion, so you sit qui­etly, sit tall and make a soft fist out of each hand that main­tains an elas­tic, non-back­ward con­tact.

Whizz, bang, pop

In an up­ward tran­si­tion, for ex­am­ple from walk to trot, Stephen wants to see the horse re­act af­ter just one aid. He should spring for­wards to a soft, quiet hand and then the rider should sit qui­etly with legs re­laxed. “If your horse doesn’t go for­wards when asked, then re­mind him the stride af­ter­wards that you ex­pected a lit­tle bit more whizz, bang, pop. When he gives you that, you sit qui­etly like a mouse,” he says. Stephen ex­plains that a down­ward tran­si­tion is about the rider’s po­si­tion in­flu­enc­ing the en­gage­ment of the hindlegs, fol­lowed by the rider’s hand clos­ing around the rein against the for­ward move­ment. From this, the horse has to find a way to shift his weight back­wards and come down a gear. Once your horse has made the tran­si­tion, your job is to re­ward him by re­lax­ing through your body and open­ing your hand slightly.

“As rid­ers we’re very good at train­ing horses to be dull to our aids. I want rid­ers to feel like they just sit there and the horse does the work”

Your horse has to un­der­stand that he must move for­wards from your leg into a quiet con­tact

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