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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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 email@example.com 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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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 )
Well what a start to a U.K. summer and its rumoured that the U.K. is about to run out of sunscreen and cold beer. Even in Scotland the sun is shining, legs are coming out that have not seen the sun in years. At the end of the day they do appear red with embarrassment.
The courses have been well attended and are going well, the first horse start is nearly over, with this being the last week. The horse above is Tina’s horse, this was I think her third ride, with the horse below also one of the young horse starts. This is a short blog with not many words. Perhaps pictures say more than words. I have a few more weeks in the U.K. and look forward to catching up with old and new friends in the coming weeks.
The new year is already under way and many new years resolutions have been made and cast aside. What is it, that you want to do with your horses? When you ask riders or auditors on courses, many have not really answered that question. Whatever your answer, be it for recreational reasons, competition or work, the horse is the common denominator and horsemanship is nondenominational. To have horses in your life shows you have a love of horses, improve your horsemanship and develop a riding horse that you are proud of. ( Horsemanship should not be thought of as a fad or style )
Over a few decades of teaching I have observed riders that make the most amount of progress in their horsemanship are the ones that educate themselves and then go away and do their homework. In this case they are the ones that over time develop a good riding horse through increasing their knowledge and refining and honing their skills What you define as a good riding horse today will be different tomorrow.
The horse above was a horse that came through a young horse intake a few years ago, he could kick and strike and buck a little. What has been exciting is to see how this little horse has developed into the riding horse that he is now. He is not perfect and will probably never win any ribbons etc. His self confidence has grown and he can work a cow both inside and outside an arena, rope horses or cattle, gather or muster cattle and amongst many other thing he puts a smile on my face when I ride him. Also what makes me smile is that I know if I had this horse 10 years ago he would not have ended up being the horse that he is evolving into.
Having a horse that is good to lead, tie up, bridle and has good ground manors is just as important as riding. Your ground work, is preparation for your riding under saddling. If your horse is not sure of you on the ground they will also reflect that when you are riding.
As a teacher/instructor I gain enjoyment out of seeing students progress, ( most instructors do I believe ). I also gain enjoyment out of seeing horses progress, from when they are started under saddle to their development into a nice riding horse. The horse below in the U.K. could really get to bucking and to be able to see the owner ride him was a highlight. It took time and dedication on both the rider and my part for this to happen.
If we can help develop ourselves our horses will reflect and benefit. Enjoy your horses and horsemanship.
Its been a month or so since I have updated with a blog or E-Newsletter. In that time I have had young horse intakes and the Legacy of Legends in Tamworth. The Legacy event is always a great time to catch up with friends and colleagues from around the world and this year was no exception. The image below was of the colt that I had to start this year. The New Zealand course has been rescheduled for later in the year, a date and venue to be confirmed soon. My Australian and U.K. schedules are up on the website for viewing, schedules may change from time to time. Events Coming Up
February: Qld – Nebo – Lesson Day Feb 4, March: Canberra – Green Horse Course – March 23, 24, 25, May: Qld – Nebo Young Horse Intake. For more info, please email: email@example.com
Horsemanship: Transitions are an important part in our horsemanship and riding. Transitions are relevant from riding young horses to older horses from one discipline to another to hacking/trail riding your horse out. When many riders are riding a young horse they are looking to survive and perhaps have the view that they will start riding their horse well when he gets a little older with a few more rides. Why wait, ride to the best of your ability every time, your horse will appreciate it and benefit from it.
Transitions will help the horse with impulsion, balance and collection, keeping the transitions smooth both up and down is also a tip for riders. At first work more on your transitions at a walk and trot, don’t try going from canter to walk while you are on the straight. In other words don’t override your horse to the extent that the downward transition becomes difficult.
As your transitions become better you will feel your horse is more off the leg and seat than being dependent on the reins. For a very forward horse you may want to do your transitions more on a circle and for a less forward horse more on the straight.
Hope all enjoyed the above, happy riding, stay safe and I look forward to catching up with everyone throughout the year.