There was a crooked horse...
Yea! Summer is almost here. We have passed the Memorial Day marker and school is almost out. The weather is getting warmer and we are now able to ride outside (when it is not pouring out). Our horses are able to get a nice bath and dry while grazing on the new grass coming up from all the rain we have gotten. Oh, life is good!
Now that it stays lighter out later, I hope you are able to enjoy a nice evening ride. No? Are you running into problems? Is your horse giving you a slight problem? What, you can't get your horse to go straight? Hmmmmmm, now why would he go crooked?
Because he can!~
Most schooled horses will listen to what you ask them to do. Are you asking him correctly or do you start trotting and just seem to forget you have to direct the horse? As you know most horses would rather stand. Did you ever notice that when you are in a lesson and you stop to talk to your instructor, your horse has no problem standing. In fact when some horses see other horses standing around, while their riders talk and relax, your horse seems to want to join them? This is their nature. So, we as riders have to convince them that they want to do what we ask. Why should your horse go all the way around the ring, when he can cut over and get to the same place? Getting your horses attention is the first step. Remind him you are there. You can do this by asking him to do something. Give him a job to do. When you first start warming up your horse, walk in a figure eight. Move his hind end over. Walk and halt. Transitions help keep you and your horse focused. They also help balance the horse. Don't do the same thing every time you warm up.
Before you begin to trot, tell your horse that a change is coming. I do not mean that you lean over and whisper in his ear..."hey, we are going to trot now." I mean, half halt him and then ask for the trot. Never surprise him. You should half halt every transition. Walk to trot, trot to canter and back down to trot and walk. This keeps him focused on you and he will know a change is coming. You can add verbal cues, but, keep your voice low as not to interfere with the other riders in the ring. There is nothing worst then being on a sensitive horse and another rider is yelling at her horse to canter. Clucking is not a good habit either. Yet, we all do this. I find myself clucking at my dog. Please try not to do this when riding in a ring with others. When you are done riding PLEASE do NOT slap your horses neck loudly, thinking you are rewarding him. I have witnessed first hand, other horses being startled by the loud slaps. I also do not agree with slapping horses necks but, that is another story.
Okay, now you have half halted and asked your horse to trot. Is your horse trotting straight or do you feel your horses body going one way and his head another? The more you try and correct this just causes you to be all twisted and out of control. You turn his head to the right, yet his body isn't following. Stop and get yourself together. Your horse is not balanced and you need to help him regain his balance and direction. He has learned to just bulge and no one has corrected him. Most likely he does the same thing at the walk at times. Do not allow him to keep doing this or before long you will not have any control. He will just be going where ever he wants. Not such a fun way to ride on a nice summer night.
While you are walking try to get him collected by slightly half halting, sitting deep and squeezing your legs. Your legs should slightly suggest a trot but, your hands are saying no. A truly collected and balanced horse will be response to your cues and be smooth to ride. At the trot a half halt is just that, your body suggests a halt but, your hands give and take allowing the horse to keep moving his hind legs up as if to halt, yet you keep him moving forward. Watch other riders halt. Become aware of what their bodies are doing just before they stop. It is at that second that the horse would stop when you would push him forward. The half halt is one of the hardest things to understand, yet, one of the best things to know. Once you have mastered it, it can be used at anytime to re balance your horse.
Now that you have worked on re balancing your horse, you are ready to start trotting again. Only this time you are going to make sure you keep his head turned just a little bit towards the inside. What? He keeps turning in? Well, you also need to learn to keep your inside leg on him so that he doesn't turn in. Your horse needs to learn to ride on the outside rein. You need to learn how to keep him going straight when his head is slightly turned. I mean turned in ever so slight. Just so you can see a little bit of his eye. Keep that inside leg on him. This can best be done at a slow sitting trot. Sit up tall, butt tucked, shoulders and chest open, yet not stiff. Try it at the walk. If that seems to go well, trot. Halt if you feel him start to come in. Ask him to move over with your inside leg only. Head should still be bent towards the inside. Make sure you are sitting up tall and not pulling his head in the direction you want to go. Keep your inside hand back just a little towards your hip. Do not trot if you can not keep him straight at the walk and do not canter if you can not keep him straight at the trot. If you cantered him before you fully corrected him at the trot, he will be cutting the corners and going where ever he wants...........not a good thing to be doing with other riders in the ring. So, start slow and be patient. One step at a time. The hot weather will be upon us soon and you might just want to just relax and walk. Enjoy and stay cool.