Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Turning a baby -- some great advice

UPDATE: Riley has his new shoe, and he is coming home at 10:30am tomorrow!

Riley is on hiatus from work, as you know. But when he does get back under saddle, I'll be following some advice from Katherine, a member of the ultimatedressage.com forum. I always look for her posts because they are informative and detailed, but simply written. In a recent post about training naturally crooked youngsters, here is what she observed...

The problem defined
With a trained horse, you should be able to ride with both reins in contact. However, he does not understand, and because his balance is not yet correct, you also will not be correctly weighting your stirrups. You'll find you try to turn [Editor note: in the horse's "bad" direction] but end up having to stop him entirely so you will not run into things....as he does not understand turning. In the western world, getting the horse to correctly respond to the inside rein, which is your turning rein, is called "teaching the horse to follow his nose." Instead of his body following his nose which is necessary for him to turn, he may only give you his head and neck. Check to see if the outside rein is blocking his outside shoulder. It cannot step forward and inward as is necessary for the turn. When this happens, it also throws your weight into the outside stirrup, rather than the inside one.

The fix
When you go to turn, release the outside rein forward, and make sure you get your weight onto the inside stirrup. When you feel his body actually begin to turn, then gently take back the outside rein, and try to sustain the turn, working the greater weight of your inside stirrup toward a higher and somewhat looser outside rein. In the other direction
[Editor note: in the horse's "good" direction], it will be the inside rein that still gets released a bit forward, and also be careful that you do not put too much weight on your inside stirrup, or he will be bending too much in this direction...falling inward instead of trying to go straight as he was doing in the other direction.


  1. Ok, believe it or not, I spent and entire lesson with Patrice Edwards, a classical trainer from Britain, riding my youngster entirely off the outside rein. This was turning him to the left using just the outside rein. I had to focus on my seat and drop the left rein completely. When it was right, the kid bent to the left and turned perfectly. When it was wrong, we ending up stuck to the wall or perilously close to stepping over the calvaletti set to block the open end for spectators.

    I never quite feel the outside rein "blocking the shoulder." Rather is is support to bring the shoulder over and keep the neck from overbending and the horse falling to the outside. We ride the inside hind leg to the outside rein, and then use the outside rein as a kind of "containment" for the energy and balance. If the outside rein is not in play, the horse can step too far under itself laterally and lose its balance.

    Eventually, with the trained horse, all the turns are mainly from the outside rein. The inside rein just establishes the flex.

    On the long lines, with my more trained horses, using more inside rein would get them to stretch down and round while picking up the outside rein would pick them up on the bit.

    I totally agree about the seat falling to the outside. What we want is for the horse to follow the rider's seat.

    OK, done now. Hope I haven't confused things.

  2. Hi, I agree with you in that I think the position of the body/seat matters more than the reins. My question is when a horse is not schooled in what the seat means, what do you do with your seat other than use your weight to encourage one direction or another? It all sounds terribly perilous doesn't it? I like that Katherine refers to the outside rein as more of a form of encouragement than containment at this stage. I suspect that a lot of our concern with subtle aids is lost on our baby horses :-) I know with Harv, I have slowly learned that reins are not a very effective way to influence the horse and esp. not to correct problems. It's more the seat and weight.

  3. Oh, and Jean, thanks for the Ebay tip. I bought a bunch of vetwrap and some elastikon...

  4. Cool insight! I had this EXACT lesson with my trainer on Monday with my 3 year old. It is amazing how they can be falling in on the circle one second and falling out the next. She's talked to me since day one of breaking my horse about him always needing to first and foremost follow his nose. I am going to really pay attention to my weight in the stirrups tonight and see if that is exacerbating the issue.


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