Why is your horse falling in? More importantly, how do you know if your horse is falling in?
The quickest and easiest way I can explain falling in is to imagine you are riding a circle. One that you have planned out beautifully in your head. However, as your horse travels around it you seem to be getting more and more off track with each passing stride. In fact what started out as a 20m circle is soon resembling a 10m triangle, drawn by a three-year-old…
Another area where this problem can tend to rear its ugly head is when traveling around a corner and, again, just like before you have set the course. You half halt, but your horse’s actual path and the one you envisioned in your head are worlds apart.
The initial problem is then compounded by the frustration that it is happening so regularly, there being 4 corners in every arena and all.
Welcome to the world of falling in… Which is almost exactly what it sounds like. You set a course, and instead of following it, your horse ‘falls in’ on the shape.
What Causes Falling In?
Now while we may initially blame ourselves for bad planning or awful usage of basic shapes, this is often not the root cause. Because, very often, after we reach for our markers to help guide us along, we begin to realize that far from this being our inability to correctly execute a circle, this issue stems more from our horse’s inability to balance himself while being ridden on the said circle.
This is a frustrating and annoying problem that may represent a fundamental flaw in a horse’s basic training. What is actually happening is your horse cannot balance himself correctly.
The Ineffective Quick Fixes…
Now, most riders’ first reactions are to pull the ‘outside rein’ and try to get back on track. This causes horses to flex incorrectly to the outside and often has the effect of the body continuing to fall in while the head and neck are poking out having a good look at everything outside the arena or circle…
When this happens, riders will turn to the next tool in their box; coupling their outside rein with a few well-placed ‘kicks’ of the inside leg. And, to be fair, often this is enough to get their horse back out to the original track. The problem comes when instead of it being an enjoyable circle, you are now having to use every ounce of strength and concentration to keep him there…
You begin to literally hold him up with your legs and reins. You have become his stabilizers or support for when he is not feeling balanced
In doing this ‘quick fix’ the problem has just been made worse by training your horse to balance on your hands/reins. This means that he will not become strong or correctly muscled enough to rely on himself for balance… Which, as we mentioned, is usually the core of the issue, to begin with.
Straightness on the Circle
So how can be we begin rectifying the problem in a way that will build a solid foundation for you to build on in the future?
By learning to go ‘straight’ on a circle. Back feet tracking corresponding front feet – not inside back foot slightly more to the outside (hind end swinging out).
When asking for true straightness, your horse will begin to work correctly and use himself for balance. Only by consistently maintaining this ‘straightness’ on a circle, will the necessary muscles develop to balance and carry you both in more complicated work and movements
Get Clear on Your Track and Your Aids
The first thing I would suggest is becoming very clear in your head about what you should be doing on the circle, and being consistent in not straying from that path, no matter what! This can be difficult, as it is so tempting to ‘fix’ your horse back onto the correct circle, but your horse must learn to ‘fix’ himself! Make sure you keep a correct position on the circle, you are asking the correct questions, and then keep persevering by riding from your inside leg to your outside rein.
Your inside leg is not a prop for your horse, so don’t allow it to become one.
The same applies for your outside rein. Try keep your leg and hand position as close to where they should be as possible, however initially, you may have to open your outside hand or rein to encourage your horse back out to it.
Developing Your Horse
Your horse must develop equal muscles on both sides of the body in order to carry himself and the rider. This will take time and consistent correct action, so don’t expect it all to happen in one day.
Rather spend a few minutes each day working correctly on both reins; slow and steady will win the race.
Initially, you may just end up going on smaller circles, but if you remain calm and true to your correct position, all the while keeping a sharp focus on not allowing him to ‘run’ forward and continuously speed up, your horse will soon begin to realize that the bigger circle, ridden correctly, is generally the easier way to go… Small circles are hard work, especially when your rider is no longer propping you up with reins and legs!
When you are riding correctly, you are not supporting the horse with your reins.
This means no neck reining or crossing your hands over (your right hand must stay on the right-hand side, and vice versa!)… Rather guiding or indicating when necessary, but then allowing him to figure it out for himself. Maintaining your correct position and consistent use of correct aids at the appropriate times will soon nullify this bad habit that may develop.
His Hindquarters & Falling Out…
Finally, make sure you are using your outside leg in a correct manner to prevent his hindquarters from falling out. This is often what will happen if you manage to ‘fix’ the front end. Your horse must learn to be truly straight on the circle. Meaning that the inside back leg is on the same track as inside front leg and same for the outside legs. If your horse’s inside back leg is following his outside front leg, he is falling out through his hindquarters.
If you find this all overwhelming, try breaking things down into steps, and be persistent in working through them, step by step, until it becomes second nature. Just, again, make sure you are correct in your riding and position before graining a habit in yourself!
The final piece of advice I can offer is to regularly, or as much as you can, jump onto a horse that is well-schooled so you can feel what it is like and how your body is perhaps compensating for your horses lack of balance, without you even being aware of it. Often we can become the ‘enabler’ to our horse’s bad habits… Make sure you are not falling into this trap.
Additional Resources to Help with This Topic
- Equestrian Fitness Challenge – Join HERE
- Your Independent Seat is Everything in Your Riding
- The Evolution of Your Aids in the Saddle
- Improving Rider Coordination
- The Direct Relationship Between Your Fitness & Your Riding
- Lunging for Riding
- Online Community for Equestrian focusing on Planning and Mindset
- Connection; the Online Membership for Equestrians
- Equestrian Fitness Challenge – Join HERE