Why use a Dressage Whip?

Posted on June 16, 2017 by Jerrilee.
Categories: equipment, riding, training.

*article by Karl Mikolka

photo Amd Bronkhorst

photo Amd Bronkhorst

 

Why Riders Need Whips
I frequently encounter riders who refuse to carry a whip for two main reasons. The first is always that their horses are afraid of the whip. I tell these riders that their horses’ fear stems from lack of trust, confidence and obedience: the three pillars that a rider must erect to ensure success in training. 
The second excuse is that the horses do not need the whip. This might be correct: The horses might not need a whip, but the riders do. Riding with a whip in the proper length of three to four feet requires a very relaxed wrist and a good feel in the hand. Feeling exactly when the whip makes contact with the horse’s side and maintaining this contact while in motion is possible only when a rider has acquired a proper arm-elbow-shoulder alignment and is relaxed in the wrist. All of that, of course, will improve sensitivity in the hands and, in the long run, will benefit the horse tremendously.

The gateway to the circle of aids is a horse well tuned to the whip. This is a horse who…
• is in front of the whip. He moves forward without fear or hesitation to a soft touch of the whip.
• is responsive to invisible aids. He pays attention to the softest movement form the rider.
• is guided by the rider’s legs. He withholds nothing that is possible and exerts himself as directed by his rider’s legs.
The ultimate goal of this type of training is to create a horse who “drives himself,” a horse who goes forward merely because he respects the presence of the rider in the saddle. Of course, this response shall not even remotely resemble one in which a horse races in fear of his rider. Forward always indicates a dignified, positive reaction on the part of the horse.

Each horse reacts differently to the touches of the whip. Some twitch their skin, others swish their tails, a few kick out and some react not at all. None of these is correct. The only correct response is one in which the hind legs become more lively, stepping more forward and under and flex more visibly. This is a true forward response. It is never correct for a horse to react to the whip by trying to run from it or by throwing himself into the rider’s hands. 
The old masters used to advise: “Do as little as possible but as much as necessary to reach your goals.”
It will take constant alertness on the rider’s part to never allow the horse to forget his level of sensitivity. If the touch of the whip creates liveliness in the horse’s hind legs, resulting in free forward motion, then the first stage of the circle of the aids has been established. Only then can the rider proceed to the second stage: the use of the legs in order to bring the horse on the bit, to make the horse relaxed and to prepare the horse to accept the half halts, in other words, to close the circle of the aids.

When we say that the legs should mainly act as guiding rails, we must not forget that guiding a horse on something like a circle involves a certain degree of bend if the horse is to conform to the circle. The bending around the rider’s inner leg is the foundation for all two-track movements, which are best achieved when the inner leg of the rider guides the inner hind leg of the horse slightly in the direction of the rider’s outside heel when working on a circle, riding a turn or passing through a corner. This action, known as “enlarging,” will bring the inner hind leg of the horse better underneath the rider and closer to the center of gravity.

bending around garrocha pole

bending around garrocha pole

Without acceptance of the rider’s outside leg, no horse can be truly on the outside rein. It is indeed a wonderful experience to be able to control the entire horse with just a single rein and the seat, of which the outside leg is an extension. Every dressage horse must eventually reach this stage, and the best way to achieve it is through work on the circle. We see here again the interrelationship between the circle as a ring figure and the circle of aids. Forward on the whip, enlarging away from the inner-leg pressure into the outside rein and from there to and through the rider’s seat over the horse’s back and—with half halts—into the horse’s hind legs to complete the circle of aids.

If the use of the whip is misunderstood, so too — among a broad majority of riders—is the application of the legs. Nothing is more detrimental to the training of a horse than legs that constantly kick, push, squeeze or noodle. Not only do such legs kill all sensitivity in a horse’s sides but they also teach a horse to stiffen his belly muscles in order to block against these pushes or kicks. Such tightening in the torso renders all influence by the rider ineffectual.

Credit: Micki Dobson As you hold your hand slightly away from your normal rein position, twist your wrist to the left (in this case) to lift it up, then flex your wrist to bring the whip down, onto your thigh

Credit: Micki Dobson As you hold your hand slightly away from your normal rein position, twist your wrist to the left (in this case) to lift it up, then flex your wrist to bring the whip down, onto your thigh

Which One? How Long?

Whips come in all shapes and sizes. When choosing a whip, find one that fits your hand. Also, look for a length that is appropriate to your build and your horse’s size. If you are a tiny person on a big horse or a person with rather large thighs, you probably need a longer whip. If you are small and riding a small horse you should choose a smaller whip. A “good” whip also stings a bit and bounces well when you flex your wrist and use it against your thigh. So be sure to try several whips before buying. Another aspect to pay attention to is the button or knob at the end of the whip. The button should be large enough that you don’t have to grip it to keep from losing it. When allowed in [USEF] or USDF competitions, the whip cannot be longer than four feet. Editor’s note: Today your whip can be no longer than 47.2 inches (120 cm) including lash.

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This story was first published in the November 1996 issue of Dressage Today. Austrian-born Karl Mikolka was a chief rider with the Spanish Riding School and later coach to the Brazilian Olympic dressage team. He later moved to the United States and worked with the Tempel Lipizzan Stallions in Wadsworth, Illinois.


Which One? How Long?
Whips come in all shapes and sizes. When choosing a whip, find one that fits your hand. Also, look for a length that is appropriate to your build and your horse’s size. If you are a tiny person on a big horse or a person with rather large thighs, you probably need a longer whip. If you are small and riding a small horse you should choose a smaller whip. A “good” whip also stings a bit and bounces well when you flex your wrist and use it against your thigh. So be sure to try several whips before buying. Another aspect to pay attention to is the button or knob at the end of the whip. The button should be large enough that you don’t have to grip it to keep from losing it. When allowed in [USEF] or USDF competitions, the whip cannot be longer than four feet. Editor’s note: Today your whip can be no longer than 47.2 inches (120 cm) including lash.

*This story was first published in the November 1996 issue of Dressage Today. Austrian-born Karl Mikolka was a chief rider with the Spanish Riding School and later coach to the Brazilian Olympic dressage team.

Book Review

Posted on May 13, 2017 by Jerrilee.
Categories: equipment, health, history, riding, training.
Learning Riding Posture

Learning Riding Posture

“Dude! Did You Just Fall Off?” is a delightful new kid’s e-book on Amazon’s Kindle that skillfully and humorously attempts to prepare the horse newbie for their first and, hopefully, subsequent encounters.  It boldly asks:  what would you do if you were invited to go horseback riding, had never even been near a horse, but really wanted to go?

Obviously this is not a common invitation for inner-city dwellers, but for the nearly 30% of rural school children, and even higher percentage of suburban students, a recreational weekend just may indeed include a friend’s offer to see their family’s stabled horse. Facing the reality of being near such a big animal and actually sitting on its back can seem adventurous,  but nearly everyone quickly discovers a sudden level of panic once they become face to face with such a large animal.

This is why we picked the “Dude!” book off the shelf of Amazon. This book stands apart from the plethora of previous books by the way it brings horseback riding into your home and helps you practice balance and posture before you even head out to your friend’s barn. The list of straightening and correcting exercises range from simple body adjustments to learning ready-to-use moves while in the saddle. It had such great ideas plus a wallet saving price of only $2.99. Download it to your phone or tablet and refer to it right on the way to the stable. Personally, we found it just as helpful for adults. Enjoy..

Anzac Day

Posted on May 10, 2017 by Jerrilee.
Categories: breed, equipment, handicap, history, training.

photo:warwick daily news

A poem by Australian Horse Whisperer, Guy McLean honoring the equine soldiers drafted for service in wartime. Due to quarantine restrictions, only one Waler horse is known to have been returned to Australia; “Sandy”, the mount of Major-General W.T. Bridges, an officer who died at Gallipoli in May 1915.

Remembering the LightHorse:

I was one of thousands of horses Bred on the mountains and plains
Known as a breed called the ‘Waler’ With courage and stamina a-flow in my veins
Like the men and women of our country We were called upon for war
And just like our human comrades We were drafted by the scores
I was broken in to the bridle They were trained to the rifle and bayonet
I learnt to jump and run with stifling weight They learnt from blood and tears and sweat
I was a trooper’s horse, a ‘Lighthorse’ Known for bravery and speed
My larger brothers pulled the heavy guns Each one, a credit to our breed

Our training days were over And the best of us walked the line
Thousands of Australians Who were called upon to shine
We were loaded on a metal ship Spending months upon the sea
Floating to a land of war To our very destiny
I was fearful, I was wary But obedient and brave
My trooper asked for brilliance And that is how I would behave
As the shoreline of the war fields Broke the far horizon grasp
The gunfire and the burning sand Would make a bold soul gasp
We waited for the order Then plunged onto the sand
We were ready for this challenge Noble steed and brave young man
We galloped to the war zone To join our comrades side
Jumping bodies of the fallen Who had fought and died with pride
Our line was being peppered And I watched my brother’s fall
But the vast majority made it safely And we were ready for the call

We were picketed out at night time Fed small rations from the stores
We were bred for this, to be hardy Brave and honest to the core
Our victories were many As we charged the enemy line
Jumping bunkers and gun turrets We would surge, time after time
Casualties were common Injured horses, injured men
But we were soldiers, so come morning We would saddle up again
The conditions were atrocious And the challenges were great
But I’d treasure every meal time And a kind word from my mate
His gun would kill the enemy His actions, regimental
But his heart was kind and honest And his touch was kind and gentle
While the war exploded round us I would calmly wait his cue
He would stroke my mane to ease me Just one soul, from bodies two
I can’t recall the miles we trudged Or the numbers that we lost
But we were fighting for a greater good And a triumph worth the cost
Our Victory was won from courage That made us famous round the world
Our Lighthorse brigades, unbeatable And the ‘Waler’ horse, the pearl
But unlike most other victories Where the winner takes the spoils
Our Victory meant the end for us No more would we touch the soil……
…..Of our homeland, of the mountains Of the lush and rich grass plains
We were laid to rest on a land of war Our blood and bone to stain……
……The beaches and the memories Of the soldier men who ride
They couldn’t take us home with them And with us, a piece of them would die
So though our earthly gallops finished We still roam the plains of dreams
Where our history shaped the future Like rushing water in a stream
And as I talk to you from the pastures That lay beyond this world
Please remember me ‘The Lighthorse’ As your destiny unfurls
Written by Guy McLean ANZAC DAY April 2010

Australian light horsemen on Walers prior to their departure from Australia

Banjo Peterson – Australian Poet

Posted on May 1, 2017 by Jerrilee.
Categories: history, riding, training.

Featuring A.B.Peterson’s poem:
Man From Snowy River

artwork by Julie Duell

There was movement at the station, for the word had

        passed around
That the colt from old Regret had got away,
And had joined the wild bush horses – he was worth a
thousand pound,
So all the cracks had gathered to the fray.
All the tried and noted riders from the stations near
and far
Had mustered at the homestead overnight,
For the bushmen love hard riding where the wild bush
horses are
And the stock-horse snuffs the battle with delight.

There was Harrison, who made his pile when Pardon
won the cup,
The old man with his hair as white as snow;
But few could ride beside him when his blood was
fairly up–
He would go wherever horse and man could go.
And Clancy of the Overflow came down to lend a
hand,
No better horsemen ever held the reins;
For never horse could throw him while the
saddle-girths would stand
He learnt to ride while droving on the plains.

And one was there, a stripling on a small and weedy
beast,
He was something like a racehorse undersized,
With a touch of Timor pony – three parts thoroughbred
at least-
And such as are by mountain horsemen prized,
He was hard and tough and wiry – just the sort that
won’t say die-
There was courage in the quick impatient tread;
And he bore the badge of gameness in his bright and
fiery eye,
And the proud and lofty carriage of his head.

But still so slight and weedy, one would doubt his
power to stay,
And the old man said, “That horse will never do
For a long and tiring gallop – lad, you’d better stop
away,
Those hills are far too rough for such as you.”
So he waited, sad and wistful – only Clancy stood
his friend-
“I think we ought to let him come,” he said;
“I warrant he’ll be with us when he’s wanted at
the end,
For both his horse and he are mountain bred.”

He hails from Snowy River, up by Kosciusko’s side,
Where the hills are twice as steep and twice as rough,
Where a horse’s hoofs strike firelight from the flint
stones every stride’
The man that holds his own is good enough.
And the Snowy River riders on the mountains make
their home,
Where the river runs those giant hills between;
I have seen full many horsemen since I first
commenced to roam,
But nowhere yet such horsemen have I seen.”

So he went; they found the horses by the big mimosa
clump-
They raced away towards the mountain’s brow,
And the old man gave his orders, “Boys, go at them
from the jump,
No use to try for fancy riding now.
And, Clancy, you must wheel them, try and wheel
them to the right.
Ride boldly, lad, and never fear the spills,
For never yet was rider that could keep the mob in sight,
If once they gain the shelter of those hills.”


So Clancy rode to wheel them – he was racing on the
wing
Where the best and boldest riders take their place,
And he raced his stock-horse past them, and he
made the ranges ring
With the stockwhip, as he met them face to face.
Then they halted for a moment, while he swung the
dreaded lash,
But they saw their well-loved mountain full in view,
And they charged beneath the stockwhip with a
sharp and sudden dash,
And off into the mountain scrub they flew.

Then fast the horsemen followed, where the gorges
deep and black
Resounded to the thunder of their tread,
And the stockwhips woke the echoes, and they
fiercely answered back
From cliffs and crags that beetled overhead.
And upward, ever upward, the wild horses held
their way,
Where mountain ash and kurrajong grew wide;
And the old man muttered fiercely, “We may bid
the mob good day,
No man can hold them down the other side.”

When they reached the mountain’s summit, even
Clancy took a pull,
It well might make the boldest hold their breath,
The wild hop scrub grew thickly, and the hidden
ground was full
Of wombat holes, and any slip was death.
But the man from Snowy River let the pony have
his head,
And he swung his stockwhip round and gave cheer,
And he raced him down the mountain like a torrent
down its bed
While the others stood and watched in very fear.

He sent the flint-stones flying, but the pony kept his
feet,
He cleared the fallen timber in his stride,
And the man from Snowy River never shifted in his
seat-
It was grand to see that mountain horseman ride.
Through the stringy barks and saplings, on the
rough and broken ground,
Down the hillside at a racing pace he went;
And he never drew the bridle till he landed safe and
sound,
At the bottom of that terrible descent.

He was right among the horses as they climbed
the farther hill,
And the watchers on the mountain, standing mute,
Saw him ply the stockwhip fiercely; he was right
among them still,
As he raced across the clearing in pursuit.
Then they lost him for a moment, where two
mountain gullies met
In the ranges – but a final glimpse reveals
On a dim and distant hillside the wild horses
racing yet,
With the man from Snowy River at their heels.


And he ran them single-handed till their sides were
white with foam.
He followed like a bloodhound on their track,
Till they halted, cowed and beaten; then he turned
their heads for home,
And alone and unassisted brought them back.
But his hardy mountain pony he could scarcely
raise a trot,
He was blood from hip to shoulder from the spur;
But his pluck was still undaunted, and his courage
fiery hot,
For never yet was mountain horse a cur.

And down by Kosciusko, where the pine-clad ridges
raise
Their torn and rugged battlements on high,
Where the air is clear as crystal, and the white
stars fairly blaze
At midnight in the cold and frosty sky,
And where around the Overflow the reed-beds
sweep and sway
To the breezes, and the rolling plains are wide,
The Man from Snowy River is a household word
today,
And the stockmen tell the story of his ride.

 


 

 

 

 

Tribute to those at Little Big Horn

Posted on April 25, 2017 by Jerrilee.
Categories: equipment, history, military, riding, training.

Excerpt from the historical pages of QuarterMaster Museum

Water Carrier Ravine – Little Big Horn, Montana 25 June 1876

On 25 June 1876, the 7th Cavalry under the command of Lieutenant Colonel George Armstrong Custer, engaged the combined Sioux and Cheyenne forces along the banks of the Little Bighorn River in Eastern Montana. The 7th was part of a combined Army campaign to bring the Sioux to the reservations. Approaching the Indian village, Custer divided his command into three battalions; one under Captain Frederick Benteen, who took three companies and Regimental pack trains and maneuvered to the south; one under Major Marcus Reno, who launched a frontal attack against the village from the south. Then the remaining five companies went with Custer, to attack the village from the north. Every man in Custer’s command died. Reno’s attack was repulsed and he, along with Benteen were besieged for two days on the bluffs above the Little Bighorn, besieged by an estimated 3000 warriors.

Major Reno’s command attacked the village as ordered located on the plains in the background. Repulsed, Reno led his men up a ravine, losing a third of his regiment along the way. Joined by Captain Benteen, neither man knew of Custer’s fate but knowing that their own situation was desperate, ordered their men to dig in.  By the second day, the men were suffering from lack of water, especially the wounded. Survivors later described the situation: “..the sun beat down on us and we became so thirsty that it was almost impossible to swallow.”

Quartermaster Medal of Honor Recipients:

Captain Benteen called for volunteers to make an attempt to get to the river. Seventeen volunteered. Four men were selected to provide covering fire including Blacksmith Henry Mechlin and Saddler Sergeant Otto Voit, both Quartermasters. The attempt was successful. Nineteen Medal of Honors were later awarded for heroism at the Little Bighorn. Two of those went to Mechlin and Voit. These two, along with two other sharpshooters, positioned themselves on the bluffs on either side of the ravine to provide covering fire. During this engagement only one trooper was seriously wounded.  

The above is a canvas at the Quartermaster Museum,Fort Lee, Virginia


Comanche:Trainers of the Cavalry?

Posted on April 15, 2017 by Jerrilee.
Categories: breed, health, history, riding, training.

This interview by FOX Business talks with Documentarian S.C.Gwynne about his book “Empire of the Summer Moon” and explores the facts of how the Comanche Tribe became the first to use combat from horseback. 
The book also probes the historical time-line of the Comanche People and brings in new information on the Quanah Parker band of Comanche warriors.

Horses and Plains Indians; R.E. Moore

Posted on April 6, 2017 by Jerrilee.
Categories: breed, equipment, history, riding, training.

scene from movie: Dances With Woves

The Indians got their first horses from the Spanish. When the Spanish explorers Coronado and DeSoto came into America they brought horses with them. This was in the year of 1540. Some horses got away and went wild. But, the Indians did not seem to have done much with these wild horses. They did not start to ride or use horses until much later.

In the 1600s there were a lot of Spanish missions and settlers in New Mexico just to the west of Texas. This is where the Pueblo and Navaho Indians live. The Spanish in New Mexico used Indians as slaves and workers. These Indian slaves and workers learned about horses working on the Spanish ranches. The Spanish had a law that made it a crime for an Indian to own a horse or a gun. Still these Indians learned how to train a horse and they learned how to ride a horse. They also learned how to use horses to carry packs.

In the year of 1680 the Pueblo Indians revolted against the Spanish and drove the Spanish out of their land and back down into Old Mexico. The Spanish were forced to leave so fast they left behind many horses. The Pueblo Indians took these horses and used them. The Spanish did not come back until the year of 1694. While the Spanish were gone the Pueblo Indians raised large herds of horses. They began selling and trading them to other Indians such as the Kiowa and Comanche. The Pueblo Indians also taught the other Indian tribes how to ride and how to raise horses.

Horses spread across the Southern Plains pretty quickly. French traders reported that the Cheyenne Indians in Kansas got their first horses in the year of 1745. Horses changed life for the plains Indians.
To read more of our guest article click :  R.E.Moore

Horses for Healing

Posted on January 18, 2017 by Jerrilee.
Categories: equipment, handicap, health, military, riding, therapy, training.

Combat veteran Rick Iannucci with Cowboy Up!

Photo:Melanie Stetson Freeman

excerpts from article by April Reese in Christian Science Monitor:

For 2-1/2 years, a stream of Iraqi and Afghan war veterans – many carrying both physical and psychological scars of combat – have found their way to Mr. Iannucci’s Crossed Arrows Ranch, about 15 miles south of Santa Fe, N.M. After first learning to groom and walk the specially trained quarter horses, the vets work their way up to mounting and riding them around the arena. As the veterans bond with the horses and learn how to “read” them, they begin to heal and feel connected with the civilian world again, Iannucci says.  “Horses are so in tune with you – if you’re uptight, they’ll know,” he explains. “They coax a certain level of contemplation out of you. They demand for you to be in the now. When the vets start working with the horses, they immediately start calming down.”

Some arrive with physical disabilities, such as limited use of arms or legs wounded in combat. Others are dealing with traumatic brain injuries, a result of roadside bombs or sniper attacks. Many have been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). “We call it ‘post-traumatic spiritual disorder,’ because we think the thing that happens to people in war is a wounding of the spirit,” Iannucci says. “Our goal is to find that [wound] and start working on it.”

Iannucci, a compact man with a purposeful demeanor and a walrus mustache, grew up in horse-racing country in southeastern Pennsylvania. From about age 12, Iannucci trained and rode quarter horses his family kept at his cousin’s farm. After retiring from his job as a US marshal working in Colombia, he moved to New Mexico and returned to horsemanship in earnest. He bought the ranch and built a horse arena, initially to provide a place for children to ride. A few years later he started inviting veterans to come and work with the horses. Word about Cowboy Up! began to spread. Brig. Gen. Loree K. Sutton, former director of the Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury, visited the ranch last year. Rep. Ben Ray Lujan (D) of New Mexico has also paid a visit. “Rick doesn’t hesitate to take on a challenge, but he’s also a very humble and patient person,” Mr. Lujan says. “The program is truly impressive. Just to see the faith these men and women have is incredible.”

Sergeant Reckless

Posted on January 11, 2017 by Jerrilee.
Categories: breed, equipment, history, military, training.

reckless_400px

 

Photo: Library of Congress  Sgt Reckless in Korean War

During the Korean War (1950-1953), Sergeant Reckless, a pony sized, 14 hand mare believed to be of Mongolian descent, became famous for her unescorted trips carrying munitions to the front lines. She carried rifles, ammunition and supplies for the Marines as a pack horse, and her commitment and reliability to her work earned her lifelong recognition.

In 1953, during a five-day test known as the Battle of Outpost Vegas the little sorrel mare transported a total of 9,000 pounds of shells. In one day alone she made 50 trips, packing ammunition up the hill and carrying wounded soldiers down. With the exception of the first trip or two, she made these journeys solo, with no human  leading her. The savagery of that battle was legend. “Twenty-eight tons of bombs and hundreds of the largest shells turned the crest of Vegas into a smoking, death-pocked rubble,” it was written at the time.  The artillery was firing at the rate of 500 rounds per minute!

“Enemy soldiers could see her as she made her way across the deadly ‘no man’s land’ of rice paddies and up the steep 45-degree mountain trails that led to the firing sites,” according to the fan site SgtReckless.com, which goes on to quote Sgt. Maj. James E. Bobbitt recalling, “It is difficult to describe the elation and the boost in morale that little white-faced mare gave Marines as she outfoxed the enemy bringing vitally needed ammunition up the mountain.”

Lt. Eric Pedersen found the mare at a Korean track where she racing under the name Ah Chim Hai, or Flame-in-the-Morning.  He purchased her for $250. As the story goes, the young boy that owned her, Kim Huk Moon, was reluctant to sell his beloved horse, but wanted the money to buy an artificial leg for his sister, who had stepped on a land mine. Her new name, Reckless,  was derived from a  new weapon, the recoilless rifle anti-tank gun.

Once recruited to the Korean war front her division soon discovered to watch their supplies. She was known to sneak into food bags and devour their contents. In addition to a morning cup of coffee, she loved cake,  Coca Cola, Hershey bars and all candy), and was famous for escaping her pasture and sneaking into tents for a warm night’s sleep. Sgt. Reckless includes among her many military honors two Purple Hearts, Good Conduct Medal, Presidential Unit Citation with star, National Defense Service Medal, Korean Service Medal, United Nations Service Medal, Navy Unit Commendation, and Republic of Korea Presidential Unit Citation.  Reckless died in May 1968 at the age of 20 at her home at the Marine Corps’ stables in Camp Pendleton, CA.

reckless2

 

(thanks to the equestrian news)

Minimalist Horse Training I

Posted on December 12, 2016 by Jerrilee.
Categories: equipment, health, riding, therapy, training.

*Jentry rides her pony round the cones

Minimalist training is exactly what it implies. When circumstances demand our absence from our horse for long periods of time, the moments we spend with him can be highly productive by minimizing and focusing what we try to accomplish with him. Training the horse takes place every time we touch our horse. The horse learns how we prefer him to behave. Minimalist training does not attempt to build muscle on our horse; only daily, vigorous forward riding can do that. But it can produce an obedient, trusting animal in only a minimal amount of time. Well structured, short sessions always produce ample results, and sets the tone for subsequent training sessions.

Whether you have been away from your horse one day or sixty days, it is always best to start an exercise session by either free- lunging your horse, or on the long line before doing anything. This gives you a chance to see how the horse is moving, specifically if he is favoring or limping on a leg or hoof. Even though you were away and and haven’t seen the horse, he could have twisted or stepped on something in his turnout, or paddock time. Once you determine he’s moving fine it’s time to exercise.

If you are able to ride once a week you can actually accomplish a lot with the use of  cones. With just two cones you can address bending, balance, and response time to cues.  Three cones is a luxury where you can set up a spacious triangle, or a straight line, and combine threading and circling to promote bending and re-bending. Cones provide a great short cut to helping your horse learn how to stay on the intended circle; not to change speeds on his own; and to bend both to the right and to the left. As he gets the hang of it at the walk then you can pick up a trot, taking care in keeping him balanced and adjusting his tendency to dip around turns.  Practicing halts, changes of stride from longer to shorter, using transitions between the walk and the trot, these changes keep your horse’s attention by keeping him focused on the work. Remember, you are not developing muscle so much as alertness to cues, and obedience to direction.  If you are able to move to canter work you will find endless options for practicing figure eights, flying changes, and even counter canter.

Ground poles can expand your cone lessons by changing the focus from turning and flexing exercises to lessons on lifting and carrying.  This helps activate your horse’s hind quarters, and subtly addresses ‘dragging toes’, a problem where the horse drags his back feet across the ground which causes stumbling. One of my favorite uses of ground poles is to lay down two parallel poles in three different places in the riding ring, placing a cone at the ends of each group of poles. Then I have the horse step over the center of one set of ground poles, bend right around the end cone, come back and step over the center of the poles again then turn left, (making a figure eight), and as we step back over the center of the ground poles once more then we move into either leg yield/shoulder-in/or half-pass toward the new set of poles where I can repeat my figure eight. None of these activities require extensive muscle strength, but they do address alertness, suppleness in bending, and stepping the hind legs under the horse’s barrel. Remember that minimalist training is for infrequent riding, focusing on building behavior, response, and trust. I have found it fully effective with horses ridden as little as three times a year! Muscle strength and stamina, however, can only be developed through a daily, vigorous riding program.
Next: Minimalist Training II  Scaling it down even further.

*photo from Jennifer Buxton; Braymere Custom Saddlery

equi-works

equi-works