Transitions & Balance Continued: In my last blog I wrote about transitions and balance and perhaps this horsemanship blog might be a continuation. During the week at the venue of Dudgeley in the English county of Shropshire, we rode a lot of transitions from halt to walk to trot, trot to walk to halt to back up. The walk and trot transitions also helped the canter transitions and all horses improved in the quality of their gaits. The transitions were ridden on a circle and on the straight.
I noticed many riders not riding their corners well. To improve this I created a smaller arena and put cones in the corners. Riders had to ride around the cones and ride deeper in the corners. Another benefit to riding corners well is further engagement of the inside hind leg – the weight bearing leg.
In this case I also worked with riders one on one on the smaller arena. Again still riding transitions and riding the corners deeper, the outcome was that horses started getting more on the aids and starting to gain more drive and power in their gaits. Riders also started to ride their horses to the corner and began to ride with more accuracy.
It has been a while since I have put pen to paper, so now might be a good time to add a few words. At home in Australia I have had horses in for starting, plus stock work and have also had courses as well, it has been a juggling act. In the next few weeks I head out for the U.K. for a shorter visit. I have been travelling to the U.K every year for the last 20 years. This is the first time that I have seen a July in Australia for 20 years. I now know why I have followed the sun.
Updates: The website has a full U.K. course schedule and also an Australian course and young horse schedule. So please check out the appropriate schedules. I have also added articles below for you to download. They are articles that I have written for Horse Deals Australia.
Transitions and Balance: Over the years I am sure I have spoken of transitions and balance and shared my thoughts and experience. So maybe I am adding to those now.
As a generalisation riders mostly feel resistance through the hand and as a result it can be easy to think that you need to be firmer with the hand or get a bigger bit. You often see horses over bent and running through the riders hand or hiding behind the bit, as well as horses above the bit. If you can keep your horse more in balance then you are more likely to avoid the already mentioned. Maintaining your riding position is easier, if your horse is in balance.
As a rider, work on keeping those transitions through the gaits and within the gaits smooth. You will have more success at keeping your horse in balance if the transitions are smooth and not rushed or sluggish. Equally not over riding your horse and pushing the horse out of balance will help with your transitions. Not staying in the gait to long is important, for the horse that may get lost or have a lot of energy. Think approach and retreat.
Where your horse is still running through your hand, bending your horse down the transitions maybe more appropriate. I often use circles to work on my transitions to start with. Bending down and going through the centre of the circle to make the downward transition. When I have smooth transitions up and down through the different gaits, I will ride transitions on the straight.
Many riders become obsessed with longitudinal or vertical flexion of their horse. If the weight is right, the flexion is more likely to be correct. If you put the flexion first your horse may end up over bent or heavy in the hand. The horse below, while not running through the riders hand is not at a stage where she can carry herself with any degree of flexion at a trot. At a walk she was able to carry what Ray Hunt called a soft feel. As she develops and her transitions improve, this will change.
There are many ways to help your horse with balance and transitions is one approach. As I heard spoken sometime ago; “Until your horse is in balance they will not be emotionally stable.”
In the southern hemisphere we are going into winter and soon it will be time for me to head for the summer of the northern hemisphere.
The title of this months blog, “Do Simple Things Well”, is very true. Ray Hunt summed it up in three words feel, timing and balance, those words may take a life time to digest and understand. Often riders are looking to progress, but until you can do the simple things well you are not going to advance.
If we pay attention to the little things and do the simple things well our progress tends to happen more organically.
How are your horses ground manors.
How well does your horse lead.
How well does your horse saddle or bridle.
How well does your horse trailer load.
What is the quality of your lateral flexion.
How well does your horse back up.
As a rider, do you have an independent seat.
The list above are examples and you can certainly add more to this list. While it is probably human nature to take the path of least resistance, if you do the simple things well then the results take care of themselves.
Projects: Over the last month I have had young horses in for starting, plus I have also been in the process of building a new set of stables. I have been fortunate to have had the help of a couple of friends that are more skilled in this area than myself. All going well they will be in use very soon.
It has been a couple of months since I last put pen to paper. In deciding what area to cover, the title; To Develop or Train a Horse came about, it is an interesting concept.
Perhaps it starts more with the humans attitude towards the horse. In my courses there is always a little bit of well intended banter and a few stories of one nature or another told. In telling of my own experiences over the now many years or those of my teachers. It is for the purpose of trying to pass on the philosophy behind the message and not just a technique.
To just employ a technique without any empathy for the horse can result in different outcomes for both horse and rider. For example if you are bending your horses head around and you are just pulling on the rein without feel. The horse may bring his or her head around but with a different attitude perhaps the horse gets defensive and scared and braces on your hand or leg, every action represents an attitude.
If your own feel and timing is still a work in progress, it is amazing how much the horse will fill in for us. For those horses that are a little more sensitive or defensive if you give them a little more time and don’t try to make it happen, often they will come through for you.
While the above is not a how to article. The message that I am trying to convey is that horsemanship is much more than a technique. You cannot preach what you do not practice, the horse will know the difference.
March 2nd & 3rd Green Horse Course , Nebo – Qld – Aust.
March 15 – 19, Horsemanship & Masterclass, W.A. – Aust
March 29, 30 & 31st Green Horse Course, ACT – Aust
The canter is a topic that can cause a lot of anxiety in both horse and rider. What many riders may not be aware of is that they can do a lot at the walk and trot to help prepare the horse and themselves for the canter. Don’t think that it is a case of take a deep breath, pull your hat down, hold on and kick like crazy and canter. Many riders experience horses kicking out or bucking going into the canter.
For a long time I have said that forwards is your friend, if in doubt ride forwards. That is not to mean that your horse runs off with you, getting your horse to carry you in the gaits is really important. If you have to peddle / continually kick your horse in the walk & trot then you are probably going to struggle with the canter. Equally keeping your transitions smooth both upward and downward. If you “ambush” your horse into the canter through the sudden use of a crop etc, you are likely to find your horse starting to run into the canter.
I also encourage riders to use trotting poles or a cross rail to transition into the canter. The horse then often finds the canter without the rider having to override their horse. If you can feel your horse is really on the forehand at the walk or trot, you may wish to get your horse more in balance before asking for the canter. Asking for the canter transition going up a hill will have your horse more in balance. At the walk and trot try and feel for your leads, then when asking for the canter see if you come out on the lead that you thought you were on at the trot.
Knowing the foot falls of the canter will also assist in your leads. In the image above you can see the horse taking the first stride on the left lead. (The right hind being the first stride for a left lead.) The middle image showing the moment of suspension before the left hind starts the sequence for the right lead. I trust that the above is helpful to those struggling with the canter.
Trailer Loading: Will get you advice from everywhere and will be a subject that has many stories and will create many more. It is also applicable to everyone with a horse. From a recreational rider to a competition rider. A couple of suggestions:
Do not wait until you are late for the “show”
Be prepared before you go near the trailer
Preparation in this case, means having your ground work in order: How confident is your horse, does your horse follow a feel well, does your horse lead well, can you move your horses hind and forequarters, back your horse up. How is your horse with a flag.
Look at things from the horse”s perspective understand that being confined in a small area is not always going to be in the horses nature.
There are many approaches to loading: Look at whats going to be safe for both you and your horse. Loading a horse up a truck ramp or into the back of a trailer already loaded with horses may require you to load from outside the trailer. Other situations may require you to lead your horse in. Look at what is best for both you and your horse.
I look forward to catching with up with everyone through out the year. Enjoy your horsemanship and horses.
Whats Happening or Coming Up: With the end of November and another year upon us all. Temperatures are beginning to climb as we officially enter the Australian summer. Since my last blog there has been a home course here on the family station in Queensland. This was a green horse course, there is also a horsemanship/cow working course planned in mid January as well. Another green horse course will be held in early March at the end of the young horse intake.
U.K.: Next years U.K schedule is available for viewing on the course schedule page. Please contact Tina for more info at email@example.com
Young Horses Modules: The young horse modules are quickly filling up so if you are wanting to send your horse please contact to ensure availability.
New Zealand: In January on the dates of 25, 26 & 27 I have a 3 day horsemanship course in the South Island, again more info is available on the course schedule page. On the 28 I am having a lesson day, please email Scott and Michaela at firstname.lastname@example.org for more info.
Below are some of the images taken this year of young horses and of my travels from Australia to the U.K. Below is also a horsemanship article on backing, so please scroll down. I hope all enjoy these blog updates and horsemanship articles. I can be contacted via email at email@example.com
Horsemanship: Backing Your Horse:
A backup has 2 beats and is the diagonal back and front
The weight distribution is to the hind quarters
The poll should be the highest point
You should feel your horse lifting through the withers and starting to round out through his back underneath you.
Some tips to improve your back up:
If your horse is dragging his or her feet try backing up a hill to encourage your horse to start to pull with the hind end instead of pushing.
You can also back on a circle if you live in flat country.
As your horse’s balance and impulsion improves so will your horse’s back up.
Don’t get to pulling your horse back wait for the feet to come, the weight should change first.
I have now been back home in Australia for a week. It is quite a contrast to have the dust flying again and be feeding cattle after my travels through the U.K and Europe. To date, we have had 170 ml of rain for the year and that would be more than others. While stopping over with friends in Dubai I had the opportunity to go on a Dessert Safari. The image below is of a little bit of Dune Bashing, thankfully we did not get stuck in the sand and then there was the night entertainment as well. While crowd participation was encouraged thankfully it was not always necessary. Thank you Juan for your hospitality.
Thank you for all the support on both the U.K. and Europe courses and to those that sent horses to the young horse intakes in the U.K. I trust that everyone is getting along a little better with their horses. Below is also a: whats coming up: and a horsemanship article on: Trailer Loading ( Please click on the read more at the bottom )
There are now only a few weeks left to my U.K. schedule. To date we have had 17 horses come through the 2 young horse modules and the courses have all gone well and been well attended. The horse below was one of the horses that came through the last intake of horses, the image was taken on the 9th ride.
During the courses of late I have had a few discussions about being more effective on the end of a lead rope and not having to resort to the flag all the time and timing up with the feet. (There is nothing wrong with the flag, just don’t get dependant on it. ) I have also spoken about riding more with your seat and legs and trying to do less with our reins.
Riding with your seat and legs, and having more feel both on the ground and in the saddle does take time to develop. For some riders things fall into place vey quickly and for others not so. The sensitivity the horse has is amazing if we get that to working for us, it has to be great thing. While at times it may seem like we are in the slow lane, equally we should look at it from the perspective of where we would be if we had not started. I think that we would all agree that we are better off having started on the horsemanship road than we would otherwise be.
We also try and have a little bit of fun on the courses. Having me behind the bar at a steak house is always going to be fun.
For a brief moment I thought that I was in the movie Cocktail , I probably have more the Bryan Brown look than Tom Cruise. There was no hippy hippy shake going on either.