Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Day Ten: Flexion


Being able to flex the neck is an absolute prerequisite to the first ride.  A horse that braces against pressure on the face is not only difficult to ride, but leaves you with no control if something goes wrong.  Before I think about stepping on a horse, I need to know that I have the ability to turn them. 

Winding up

This is an exercise that is very easy to teach.  Most horses respond very well to this, learn it quickly, and seem to enjoy it.  When winding a horse up, we are asking the horse to tolerate a rope behind the hind legs, to flex his neck in response to pressure, and to move his feet accordingly.

Start by running the your lead rope from the halter, behind the horse (above the hocks), and back to you on the other side.  Putting pressure on the lead rope should cause your colt to flex his neck.  Walking backwards, you'll continue to put pressure on the rope, resulting in your colt yielding his hips.  If you continue walking, the front end should start to pivot around the hips, and the horse will finally walk forward towards you.

Start slow, working step by step.  Pretty soon, you'll find your colt will soften up and figure out this 'game'!

Lateral flexions

You can practice basic flexions you'll need when riding while you are still safely on the ground.  Stand back by the withers, you can put your hands in a position close to where they will be when you are mounted.  Practice flexing your horse's neck towards you from either side.  To increase the challenge, toss the rope over the horse's neck and flex the neck away from you.  Challenge yourself to see how soft and light you can get your colt.

Please use caution and common sense.  Horses are large animals, with an exceptional amount of power and strength.  They are also concerned above all with their own personal safety, and will do whatever they feel it takes to keep themselves from harm.  Being individuals that act and react differently, the only certainty you have when working a horse is uncertainty.  I am a professional trainer with twenty plus years experience, yet even with the knowledge I possess, I still get hurt from time to time.  This blog and the accompanying media are for entertainment purposes only.  No responsibility will be assumed for injuries or damages incurred while trying to use these methods at home.  Please ride responsibly; protective gear can save your life! 

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