More IS Less

Posted by in 1/2 10m circles, about horses, attention, balance, balance of the rider and horse, Blog, get your horse listening., go forward, how to ride your horse straight, inside bend and straightness, schooling, training a horse on Oct 6, 2012


When you change the rein what do you actually do to tell your horse you’re going the other way? You’re probably thinking you need to swap everything. You have new inside reins and legs to think about and new outsides too. But stop and think about it. That’s a lot to change in a couple of strides. Do you really need to? Can you imagine the information your horse has to sift through just so you can go the other way? Think about it again. What would happen if you did none of those things and just looked where you were going? Exactly…


As an example take a change of rein across a long diagonal. These are just straight lines across the school between markers. When you cross the centre line you shouldn’t have to change a thing. Your horse can see where you’re going and he doesn’t need to bend or look anywhere but straight ahead.


Often riders come off the corner with too much bend. They spend three or four strides trying to get their horse straight again. Then at X they ask for the new bend! Their horse then turns his head to the inside and either drops his shoulder and falls in or falls out through his outside shoulder.


When a horse falls in his body comes inside the line you want him to take. When he falls out his body goes wider than that line. It doesn’t matter where you position his head – if you haven’t got him straight his body is free to do what it likes.


Imagine changing the rein from E to B. Turn at E with too much bend and you’ll struggle to get him straight before X. He’ll still be unbalanced when you start to ask for changes in the middle. Is it any wonder he gets confused?!


Not all changes of rein are straight lines. Half 10m circles between EXB come up even at Prelim. OK you need your horse to bend around the curve of the circles but do that by turning your shoulders and hips to the inside not by fiddling between your reins or legs. That way, when you ride through X, all you have to do is square your body up to the centre line and then turn onto the new half circle. How much clearer is that? Keep it simple and he’ll be able to hear what you’re saying.


Poles can be really useful to help you feel where you’re going wrong. Use them to ride between not over. And use them just after the turns at either end not (as they’re more commonly used) in the middle. Poles are far more useful than cones or blocks as they’re longer. This means you have to get your whole horse straight – you can’t squeak past and ‘get away with it’.


On a long diagonal position 2 poles either side of the line you want to take over the ¼ and ¾ lines so you will have to ride between them. Place them about four feet apart so there is very little room for error. You’ll be amazed at how focused you’ll become!


For a turn E to B use two pairs of poles as tram lines between the track and the ¼ and ¾ lines so you have to ride a sharp balanced turn. You will because you have to.


Half circles can be improved dramatically if you position two poles on the centre line. This is the point you straighten up and turn to the new rein. Nag at yourself to do as little as possible in that short space. Your horse will understand much quicker if you stop bombarding him with new aids.  


It’s not just the middle of these half circles that causes trouble, it’s their size. Place a single pole over the ¼ and ¾ lines to make a false fence you have to ride inside. You’ll be amazed how much you usually allow your horse to bulge out. He still gets back to the track in time because he has to with the track there – or in the case of the first you have the centre line to aim for. A single pole lying on the floor will focus your attention; your circles will be more accurate and he’ll stay balanced.


As you leave the track for any turn make sure you turn your shoulders and your hips. Your horse will turn. Take your hands round as a pair in front of your body and you’ll take both his shoulders round together. Use both legs in their usual position and you’ll push his quarters up behind his shoulders.


There’s more to changing the rein than insides and outsides – and in this case more really is less!


Good luck and enjoy your schooling. 

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