What this episode is all about & how it can help you:-
- Realise that you do not ‘turn the horse’
- Set up circumstances that will help make each bend successful
- Understand that you have to ‘allow’ your horse to actually ride through the bend
- ‘Support’ your horse rather than ‘control’ your horse
Have you ever considered how many times you ride a bend, corner or circle on each single ride? The fact is that every ride at some point after you get into a saddle, you are going to have to turn around.
I see time and again how riders manage to establish whatever they are working on while on the straight. However, as soon as they begin to travel around a bend or corner, it all falls apart.
In this episode of the Daily Strides Podcast we will look at how you can, starting with your very next ride, begin to ride bends, corners and circles as they should be ridden. As paths that take you from one straight line to the next, without changing how your horse is actually ‘going’.
If you understand your role when riding a successful bend, you will inevitably support your horse to travel through the bend with more consistency.
Your Role when Riding a Bend, Corner or Circle
This seems like a strange place to begin, however I feel that if you have a better understanding of your responsibilities, the whole exercise becomes a whole lot easier! Easier for both you and your horse. There seems to be a fair amount of confusion surround who does what when it comes to riding through bends and around circles…
Your responsibility, first and foremost to both you and your horse is that of ‘rider’ or ‘team leader’. What this means is that you are taking responsibility for both planning the bend and then setting things up so that both you and your horse have the best chance or succeeding.
This means that rather than the bend or corner being a piece that connects two other pieces together, it actually becomes an important stand alone movement itself.
It is prepared for just like any other school movement or exercise you would ride. Correct planning will include where you are going to travel. How you would like to travel through it. What you need to do beforehand in order to support both of the above. And, not least, accurately and clearly communicating what you want to your horse so that he can make it happen.
Then realise that you don’t ‘TURN’ your horse… You rather ask your horse to turn…
Creating the Circumstances that Lead to a Successful Outcome
It has been said time and again that the plan is only as good as the implementation of it. This is where your responsibilities as ‘rider’ or ‘team leader’ will truly be called on.
Often riders choose a track that is simply too difficult for where they are in their current training. I am going to suggest planning your initial track to complement what comes before it and what comes afterwards.
Think simple yet as specific and therefore accurate as you can be when travelling through or around it.
Where you are coming from and what you want to do when you get around the corner will also play a big role in plotting out the actual track you want to travel on with your horse. So too will how supple you and your horse are. How ‘tight’ of a corner can your horse ride without losing rhythm, relaxation and forwardness?
Your horse must be supple enough to replicate, through his back, the arc that your track takes you both through the bend, corner or circle.
Using cones or markers to ride between is the easiest and most effective way to make sure your horse stays on track as you travel through the bend and corner. Start by plotting a track which you feel will be pretty simple for you and your horse. Then ‘tidy’ things up as you go.
Setting up the ‘Ideal Conditions’ for Your Horse
So you have your ‘track’ planned. Now what? Well, the next responsibility you have is firstly getting your horses attention so that he too realises something is coming up. This is where the half halt comes into play.
How many half halts you will need to apply will depend on many factors. What is safe to say is that it is very, very rarely just one!
Use your half halts to firstly get your horses attention. From here, you can begin asking him to make subtle adjustments that will help him remain balanced, forward and rhythmic through the bend or corner.
Correct flexion or bend is essential to successfully riding through a corner or bend. Your ‘job’ is to ask for the bend or flexion and then allow your horse to actually move through the corner.
It is not your job to ‘hold’ or ‘control’ the horse as he travels through a bend, corner or circle. In fact, ‘holding’ him will result in a loss of forwardness and, usually, an excessive amount of tension through the horses body. Both will cause the horse to lose rhythm and balance.
Finally, your aids are there to communicate what you would like to have happen. They are not there to actually ‘make’ it happen. That is your horses job. However, you must always make sure that you are clearly applying your aids so as to not confuse your horse or contradict yourself.
Allowing the Horse to Ride through the Bend or Corner
From here, you simply allow things to unfold! This can often be the most difficult part for many riders. However, if you would like to eventually have a solid partnership with your horse, you must begin giving him responsibility for his own actions.
It is important to realise that there is a huge difference between delegating and abdicating…
Think of it as delegating the task of actually moving through the bend or corner to your horse to carry out. You have given him the parameters you want him to use or stay within. He also has everything he needs to carry out the task successfully.
Your position throughout the bend or corner is vitally important. All the setting up in the world cannot undo a rider who is leaning or tilting through the corner. A good position will channel the energy where you would like it to go. It will also remaining supportive – rather than restrictive – to the horse as he travels through the bend or corner.
Providing Correction and Extra Input Where Necessary
Keep in mind that delegating also requires you to give occasional input and make occasional corrections. Sometimes your horse will feel unsure as to what is being asked of him. A ‘good’ team leader or rider will be quick to reiterate and encourage the horse that he is indeed doing the right thing.
Sometimes, even with the best preparation, things will fall apart a little inside of the bend or corner. A good rider position is essential to quickly help the horse to make an adjustment that will help him to reestablish what was lost.
Remember that once you have made the correction, your job is done. It is, again, up to your horse to carry on through the bend or corner.
Sometimes, especially early on in your training or relationship, you may have to make quite a few ‘corrections’ through each corner or bend. But as time goes on, and as you consistently allow your horse to be responsible for successfully travelling through he corner, this will become less.
Bends, corners and circles are an important part of your riding and your training with your horse. It is well worth taking the time to ride through them in a way that builds and developing the overall ride with your horse.
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