See Yourself Leading When Riding
July 10, 2014
Written by: Keith Hosman
Written by: Keith Hosman
I'm going to give you a training technique you can use in the saddle, one simple change you can make today that'll make big -- very cool -- changes immediately. Your horse will understand your requests far more quickly and all it takes is for you to "see things differently." The material we'll cover here can be used by novice riders as well as those with more experience who have found themselves "stuck in a rut." New riders will be given the advantage of establishing a more-correct foundation in their approach to training; experienced riders will have a new trick to add to their repertoire. I think you'll later agree that it's amazing how simply approaching something from a different angle, perhaps employing some type of visual or mental "trick" as proffered here, can offer such instant, positive and objective results.
Riding Tip: When riding, use your reins to "lead the horse from his back."
Here's the crux: When riding, try seeing yourself using the reins to "lead the horse from his back."
First, understand that there's a time and place for any sort of training method or exercise you might use. Don't follow anything you read robotically. What might be necessary with a young, green horse, might be hugely unnecessary with a more finished horse. (Case in point, the pressure necessary to motivate a youngster is going to be different than what you might use with a more finished horse.) Maybe it's a matter of using a different approach or maybe it's a matter of using the same technique to a greater or lesser degree. (What might work to teach one horse speed control might "jazz up" another.) Maybe some of the steps in the sequence have become unnecessary. (For instance, if you're teaching the horse to back up by first disengaging his hips - but he's learning the sequence and that entire first step is no longer required because he's understanding the result you're after.) Factor common sense into anything you learn here. Try "mixing and matching." Don't be afraid to "think out of the box." And don't be afraid to make mistakes. That's a big part of how we learn.
So, the next time you're out riding, (training, actually) try seeing yourself as if leading the horse from the ground through each request. If you're teaching a turn on the haunches, for example, picture yourself making that request from the ground. What would you do there? Try replicating that very movement from his back. Don't be afraid to really exaggerate your movements at first. If you want him to step his right front foot to the right, then take that right rein in your right hand and really guide him over into that spot as if on the ground. Too often we make things entirely too difficult (in our minds) while riding - when the very same thing was so simple to do five seconds ago on the ground.
Understand that the horse doesn't care where you pull from, up high, down low - it's all the same to him as long as he gains a release. The real communication here comes not from some specific new angle at which you hold the reins. Any success is direct result of you "thinking different" and your body following through with small, unconscious changes that signal your desire to the horse. (A leg will drop back or press a different spot. Your pelvis might tilt or your weight might shift. Etcetera.) The horse will more quickly comply because you're communicating more clearly. The "bigger than life" movements you might have begun with can be gradually pared down as the horse begins to learn. Before you know it, your hands will be making tiny movements, there in front of your belly button.
That little technique there is all about helping you concentrate. You might look a bit odd at first - but relax, you're training now, not showing. Your improved focus translates into subtle changes in your body that remain consistent between requests. It also helps break bad habits, create new muscle memory - and you'll find yourself using far less pressure for better results.
Wanna teach your horse to drop its head and stay relaxed? When you're finished with this article, click here to read about the "Classic Serpentine."