Horse & Rider
Advantages of FLAG WORK
You don’t have to work cattle with your horse to benefit from working the flag.
shows you how you can add flag work to your riding
routine to help teach your horse basic riding fundamentals.
Working the flag is an essential training tool when you ride cow horses or cutting horses, but did you know it can also help your horse develop basic skills he needs for other aspects of riding? Flag work has everything to do with cow work, and nothing to do with cow work. It teaches your horse how to better read a cow, but it also teaches him control, how to move his body around, and how to listen for your leg, hand, and seat cues independently.
I’m going to cover the different ways flag work can help your horse, even if you never have plans to work a cow. Then I’ll talk about some of the most common problems I see during flag work and the different drills you can use at home to correct them.
Benefits of Flag Work
A lot of people think that if they never have plans to do a cattle event that there’s no point in teaching their horse how to work a flag. But I’m here to tell you that’s not true. Flag work is a great way to reinforce basic riding fundamentals and ensure your horse is listening to your cues and body language.
Move his feet. Having control over your horse’s feet is very important, even if you never work a live cow. Being able to move your horse’s feet can keep you from getting into trouble both in the arena and outside of it. For example, if you come across a water crossing on a trail and your horse balks at it, having control of his feet can keep you from getting stuck in a bad situation. It can also help with going over different obstacles you might find during your ride.
Leg and seat cues. Your horse needs to respond to your leg and seat cues, and working the flag is a great way to test that. When you trot your horse parallel to the flag, you’re using your legs and your seat to push him forward. When it comes time to stop, you release your legs away from him, drop your heels, and sit deep in your seat. If your horse is paying attention to the flag, he should be stopping when it stops, but your leg and seat cues will help reinforce this.
Rein cues. Your horse also needs to be responsive to your rein cues when you work a flag. If you ask him to stop and he doesn’t respond to your leg and seat cue, the next step is using your hand. You need to know that he’ll be responsive when you do go to your reins. You also use your reins to help guide your horse when you make a turn, which will help him learn how to follow his nose and understand direct and indirect rein cues.
Keep him responsible. A flag keeps your horse responsible. It causes him to pay attention to what he’s doing and where he’s going. When the flag stops, he should stop. When the flag goes the opposite direction, he should turn and stay parallel with the flag. While you should have control of his feet, you don’t want to have to micromanage every step he takes.
Whether your horse is a seasoned pro on the flag or still in the beginning stages, there are a few different drills you can incorporate into your riding program to solve common problems that happen on the flag.
But before you start, make sure that you safely introduce your horse to the flag so you can get the most out of your