Softening Exercises for Schooling Horses on Contact

Feb 17 12:26 2007 Ron Petracek Print This Article

Softening Exercises for Schooling Horses on Contact Whether green or well schooled, many horses will lay in the rider’s hands instead of taking true contact. Some may do so as a form of resistance or greenness; whereas, others may be traveling on the forehand, sore, accustomed to pulling the reins from the rider’s hands, off the track or are unable or resistant of performing self carriage.

Whether green or well schooled,Guest Posting many horses will lay in the rider's hands instead of taking true contact. Some may do so as a form of resistance or greenness; whereas, others may be traveling on the forehand, sore, accustomed to pulling the reins from the rider's hands, off the track or are unable or resistant of performing self carriage.

For horses that need a little help in learning how to stay soft and carry themselves, a few easy exercises are suggested below. All exercises are performed first at the walk, then trot and later, when you and your horse are ready, at the canter. Ensure that your horse is moving forward freely at all gaits.

First, warm your horse up on a long rein. Gradually take up your contact as you apply leg. Don't just haul the horse into your hands. At the walk, maintain contact on your outside rein and give with your inside rein every three steps by pushing your inside elbow forward. You should feel no contact on the inside rein. Give for three strides and softly take back contact. Repeat. Follow with the same exercise at the rising trot, giving with your inside rein while the horse is still on contact on the outside rein.

Next, prepare to supple your horse with some flex, counter flex movements at the walk. As you walk through a corner, bend into the corner using your inside leg at the barrel to bend your horse through his back and "sponge" your inside rein lightly to flex his head and neck. Hold for two strides. Straighten for two and counterflex your horse toward the rail using your outside leg at the barrel and sponging your outside rein. Hold for two strides and allow him to walk straight. Perform the exercise at the trot and in the opposite direction.

Now advance that exercise to a simple serpentine. Flex your horse through the corner again and instead of straightening the horse, ride the bend onto the quarter line of the arena, straighten for two strides and counter flex as you head your horse from quarter line to rail again. Do so only on the long sides of the arena and go straight through the short sides. Perform both directions at walk and trot. You may also incorporate full serpentines that loop across the arena from long side, across the center, to long side, changing direction with each loop. The goal for both serpentine exercises is to maintain rhythm and have three loops of equal size and equal arc of the horse.

Finally, the last exercise is a version of the first giving rein exercise. However, here you will give both reins, alternating between them. At the walk, give with your inside rein so you have no contact on that rein, pushing your elbow forward, for three steps. Gently take up the contact again on that rein while giving the outside rein for three steps. Repeat each side then perform at the trot.

If you follow these exercises, your horse should feel lighter in your hands, feel more balanced in self carriage, have a lower poll and softer jaw and jowl and be willing to stretch forward and down in soft contact as needed without pulling your reins out of your hands.

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Ron Petracek
Ron Petracek

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