The Clockwork Exercise, Part 2
July 10, 2014
Written by: Keith Hosman
Written by: Keith Hosman
Teach Neck Reining, Sidepassing, Backing Up, Spins & More
Here's an idea of what you can do with this exercise:
- Teach neck reining by simply teaching your horse to move away from the opposite rein. That is, teach him to move onto 1, 2, 3, 4 or 5 with his right front leg when you apply pressure with the left rein
- Use your left rein to ask your horse to step repeatedly on "4 o'clock" with his front right foot and you've got a reverse-arc circle to the right.
- Use your right rein to ask your horse to step repeatedly on "4 o'clock" with his front right foot and you've got a reining spin.
- Use your left rein to ask the front right foot to step on three, then the back right leg to also step on three. When you get the back leg stepping at the same time as the front, you've got a sidepass.
- If you've got a horse who refuses to back up or go forward, pick another number that you can get consistently. For instance, get a three, then four, then five - and finally a six to get your back up.
- When you're circling and your horse drops it's shoulder and leans in, you can pick up your rein and ask the front feet (and hence the shoulders) to stay up/in place. So you wouldn't have to pull his head "more into" the circle which would have the effect of throwing his entire body off of the circle's arc.
Alternatively, you can teach this exercise by backing up. We teach both methods simply because we find in our clinics that some riders prefer or excel using one method versus another. If you've got a horse that really wants to stop and stand still, you'll probably want to stick with always moving forward. Asking that same horse to back repeatedly and then move forward might prove too big a challenge for some riders.
To teach the Clockwork Exercise by backing, begin by backing up on either one or two reins. If your horse seems to drag through the back up, try disengaging the hindquarters first or backing at an angle. After a few backward steps, squeeze and drive your horse forward and to the side - away from the direction he's looking - for one step. Drive forward till he softens his nose, then release and let go. Use less rein pressure then you think. Be patient. Once you pick up the rein, the horse know you want something. He can only go six directions (forward, back, up, down, right, left). Motivate him to move with pressure from your legs, then wait till he "stumbles upon" the direction you have in mind. This entire exercise goes more smoothly when you think about what you're doing and don't try to outmuscle your horse.
When we say "drive your horse forward and to the side" what we mean is this: Squeeze with both legs and apply the pressure/angle necessary to get your horse to move off the track (as discussed previously) and to the side. Try to get the horse's entire body to move to the side and onto two o'clock (or ten). Better yet, begin by asking the hip to move forward and to the side first, which then pulls the shoulder over. This extra step encourages the horse to lift and move his ribcage, an added bonus.
Some riders find this method easier (then the "always forward" method) because disengaging and backing your horse helps put your horse in a position that sort of "encourages" him to move to the side.
If your horse begins tossing it's head, reacts negatively to other horses or otherwise acts like a butt head, disengage his hindquarters. Do it until he's quiet and wants to stop.
If you back your horse using your left rein, then ask it to move forward and to the right - but it just sort of turns to the left, (instead sidestepping to the right) then immediately return to backing up. Make sure that you encourage the horse to drop his head and stay soft through his neck: Once he understands the movements, don't release until his neck (going either forward or backward) is soft. You may need to make a few exceptions when first teaching the lesson. In other words, "pick your battles."
This is the end of part 2 of a two-part article series. Click here to jump to part 1.
Tip: Teach almost anything to your horse with the "Clock Work Exercise." That's a chapter in the basic training book "What I'd Teach Your Horse" - and you can hear the whole section right now for FREE on audio when you click here.
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."