Changing the frame
Finally, Stephen discusses how riders should be able to fully influence where their horse’s head and neck is. “When I’m judging, I see lots of horses going in what I’d call half-way house mode,” he says. “They’re almost up to the bridle but not quite. They’re half an inch behind the vertical rather than genuinely taking the contact forwards into a natural position. In that frame, a horse won’t be able to benefit from the use of a real half-halt.” If your horse is behind the vertical and a little low at the poll when you make a half-halt, that connection doesn’t take the weight momentarily to the hindlegs — all it really does is shorten the neck even more. “When I’m training, I try to make it clear that you either have the horse stretched — through and loose in a low, long frame — or you have him properly up to the bridle, with his poll at the highest point of his neck and his nose line slightly in front of the vertical. The horse is working into a genuine contact point. Until that’s made clear, or if it’s never made clear, there will always be a limit on how well you can train the horse.”
Stephen advises varying the frame you ask your horse to work in while schooling. You shouldn’t keep him in the same frame for any length of time. It’s all about elasticity and suppling and not about
keeping the muscles under pressure for too long. When you feel you have your horse in front of your leg and in balance, see if you can influence where he puts his head and neck. “You’re going to suggest that he puts his neck lower and then, as he does, allow the rein to go a bit longer, but don’t lose contact,” says Stephen. “I want him to feel that he’s allowed to step forwards and take that contact point forwards and down. It’s about establishing that connection from your leg to your hand and then, as a reward, allowing that contact point to be taken forward.” Stephen explains that you’ll find this easiest to ride on a circle to start. Beware that, at first, your horse may not understand what you’re asking. Try not to overreact and over-ride, just wait, keep riding forwards and suggest with your hand that you want him to follow the contact point down and out. Stephen stresses that throughout this work you need to check that you’re working from your leg to your hand, before you try to influence him with the rein contact to encourage him to stretch lower and allowing him to take the contact point forwards.
With thanks to Russell Guire and the team at Centaur Biomechanics for their help with this feature. Find out more at centaurbiomechanics.co.uk.
“An upward transition creates and produces energy and forwardness. A downward transition is about shifting weight onto the hindlegs”
If your horse tucks his nose behind the vertical, ride forwards from your legs and allow your hands forward, encouraging him to take the contact out and down
Having a thorough understanding of what all t he a ids m ean w ill h elp your training progress
DECEMBER 2018 Riding one handed helps establish a stable and consistent contact WWW.YOURHORSE.CO.UK