Every exercise comes from a circle, even riding on a straight line. Riding a horse truly straight in a straight line is one of the most difficult but important things we aim to achieve in training. The more a horse gets in the habit of being crooked on a straight line the more uneven they become in their physical development, the more one sided they become, and the more they are likely to be ‘hollow’ rather than ‘round’ in their outline with a restricted use of their backs. So the use of circles and parts of circles is vital for ‘roundness’.
The recipe or progression is quite simple….put your horse ‘between the aids/through in their back’, using the circle they are most comfortable on and the pace and speed they find the easiest, normally a relatively slow walk or trot. Then gradually make the circle bigger, thereby reducing the bend, and then change the direction. Soon your horse can be between the aids in both directions and going in a true working trot. At this stage you can start working in straight lines with a slight bend to the inside using the introductory stage of shoulder in, position to the inside. It will then be possible to have your horse calm forwards and straight in all three paces. This really does work and as long as a horse is not in pain or stressed it can happen in a very short period of time, often in half an hour and rarely longer than a week if the horse is ready to be ridden.
OUR CHALLENGE AS RIDERS
Of course there are a couple of snags to this recipe: Firstly you need to be a competent rider to do this! You need to have an easy balance and be able to ‘go with’ your horse. In particular too few riders realise the magical importance of having a soft ‘allowing’ rein contact. Once a truly allowing hand is established then it is possible to begin to use rein aids effectively. The same applies to the leg contact, although this is easier for most riders than the rein contact. As well as being in harmony with your horse it is also helpful if you are a fairly light load for your horse! If you want your horse to be ‘round’ and ‘through’ in the back then bumping around with a few too many pounds of weight is not a helpful burden.
Secondly you need to be able to teach your horse about the basic aids with feel, clarity and effectiveness. This is often not easy with young and/or untrained horses, who understandably may wonder why they are being asked to do strange exercises in a strange arena
being ridden by a strange rider.
OUR CHALLENGE AS TRAINERS
The compromise that many accept is to do a low level quality of work initially, with the horse not being ‘between the aids’ and ‘round’ while our riding improves and the communication issues are being sorted out. The problem is that this quickly leads to an habitual way of going that is inefficient at best or at worst unnatural and often uncomfortable to the horse. Whatever the result it will mean that time and resources will be required for retraining if quality work is required. Of course I entirely accept and respect the wish of thousands of pleasure riders whose main aim is low level riding, and simply the freedom and joy of being able to ride, but quality performance, and often greater pleasure, is actually possible for many of these riders as well.
THE MAGIC OF LUNGEING
The easy route through our challenge as riders and trainers is to use circles without a rider….to lunge well. My new partner, mentioned last week, is close to the end of his second week of lungeing. He and I are now communicating well, which we both appreciate and enjoy enormously, and means that his level of ACCEPTANCE, CALMNESS and understanding of what is required is significantly
improved. His way of going is also significantly improved, with more FORWARDNESS and use of his back, and even a canter which maintains roundness and has a period of suspension. Therefore his paces have more PURITY. He is going fairly evenly in both directions so the beginning of STRAIGHTNESS is also there, but more will have to be done when he is ridden to develop this. However the key point is that with no confusion or fighting and as a result of his lungeing he is now almost ready to be ridden again…..and now that he is going better he will be much easier to ride.
It should be no surprise that good lungeing is so effective as every exercise comes from a circle, even riding on a straight line. Riding a horse truly straight in a straight line is one of the most difficult things we things we aim to achieve in training. The more a horse gets in the habit of being crooked on a straight line the more uneven they become in their physical development, the more one sided they become, and the more they are likely to be ‘hollow’ rather than ‘round’ in their outline with a restricted use of their backs. . So the use of circles and parts of circles is vital for ‘roundness’. So ONWARDS with good lungeing....and of course do lunge using a Micklem Multibridle, which is better than any other lunge cavesson you will ever find. William