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Zig zag exercise. By Lisa Wieben and Birgit Stutz

January 18, 2020

The zig zag exercise is a great exercise that will help build strength and suppleness and can also be used as a therapeutic exercise for horses that are coming back from an injury or have been on stall rest for a period of time.

When you think about the horse’s bend, we quite often only consider the inside of the bend, for example how it bends around the inside leg or around a pylon. But what actually happens during a bending motion? First, on the inside of the bend the horse’s muscles contract and shorten through the topline and sides of the body bringing the front and hind end closer to each other. On the outside of the bend the muscles lengthen to allow the bend on the inside. During this exercise the muscles contract and then lengthen, working both sides of the body equally.

To set up the exercise place five poles on the ground lengthwise about a metre apart, forming a long line, either down the centre of the arena or along the quarter line.

Begin the exercise in working walk and ride down the line making wide loops to start to create a nice bend through the horse’s body.

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Riding a wide arc to the pole.

Turn your body in the direction of the bend, guiding your horse over each pole. A good way to think of the turn of your body is as the horse’s front feet cross the pole begin to turn into the next direction. This will keep the horse turning smoothly over each pole. Use your inside (of the bend) leg to aid the horse into each bend. Your hands will follow the turn of your body. If your horse needs more help turning use your outside aids – the outside rein against the neck will help turn the shoulder and your outside leg against the horse’s side will help turn the body. Pulling on the inside rein could cause the horse’s neck to overbend, which will then allow the body to continue to drift away from the turn.

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Nicely lined up to the first pole. Notice how the horse is stepping over the rail with the foot closest to the pole. As you progress through the exercise a few times the horse will figure out the footfalls and become more coordinated.

Once your horse is comfortable and can change from bend to bend without lifting his head and hollowing his back begin to make the loops tighter. You can do this by keeping the horse close to the poles and making very subtle changes of bend. As you make the loops tighter the horse will begin to step laterally over the pole (stepping away from the body and to the side to step over the pole). Be sure to keep the horse connected from back to front. If the horse inverts while going over the pole or starts to lean into the turn and not bend through his rib cage the exercise will not be as effective. Keep the movement slow to start with. When the horse is comfortable in the walk and can do the exercise without inverting then you can progress to doing the exercise in a working jog. As you increase the speed you may want to go over every other pole and work your way up to doing every pole at the jog.

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Softly bending over the pole. The horse is listening to the rider’s body guiding him. The rider is looking ahead to the next crossover point at the next rail.

As you progress through this exercise your horse will be using many muscles as he bends and lifts over the poles. Go slowly and work on precision rather than speed. This is a simple exercise with great results for strength and suppleness. It is also a great exercise for the rider as it teaches to turn from the centre and to keep rein aids at a minimum. The horse will respond well to the rider’s slight aids and the turn from the centre. For horses on rehab you can lead your horse through the line of poles in the same way that you would ride through. Start with larger arcs and work up to keeping the line tight and having the horse lift laterally over the pole. Have fun with this exercise and feel the difference it makes in your horse!

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There will be a moment of straightness before the change of bend to the next pole. Notice how the rider is turning to the new direction.

Photo credits Lisa Wieben. Rider Jacklyn Hegberg riding “Maverick”

This article is part of an ongoing series of articles that appear in the horse magazine SaddleUp on a monthly basis. The articles are a collaboration between Lisa Wieben (see biography below) and Birgit Stutz.

Lisa Wieben is a versatile and exceptional riding coach, balancing her skills as a Level 2 Centered Riding Instructor, Equine Canada Western Competition Coach, and Irwin Insights Level 4 Master Certified Trainer. Currently specializing in Western and English Dressage, she trains youth, adult amateurs, and professionals as well as coaching a local 4H group at her facility near Bowden/Olds, AB. Through dressage and foundational training she helps riders of all disciplines create stronger partnerships with their horses. Also, as a Hanna Somatic Instructor and Practitioner in Training, Lisa works with riders, in class or privately, learning movement exercises that target specific muscle issues in the body brought on by stress, injuries, surgeries, and overuse. Her approach, using Dressage, Centered Riding, Irwin Insights principles, and Somatics, all come together to develop a balanced rider and a balanced horse. http://www.mountainviewtrainingstables.com.

Birgit Stutz is an Irwin Insights Level 4 Master Certified Trainer and offers horse training, riding lessons in the English and Western disciplines, horsemanship clinics, mentorship programs, intensive horsemanship courses, workshops, short courses and demos on various topics, as well as working student programs at Falling Star Ranch Academy of Foundational Horsemanship in Dunster, BC. Birgit’s passion is to help humans have a better relationship with their horses through understanding of equine psychology and body language, biomechanics, as well as fundamental riding skills based on classical dressage. http://www.fallingstarranch.ca.

Long-lining – a great ground work exercise. By Lisa Wieben and Birgit Stutz

January 12, 2020

Long-lining – the preparation stage. By Lisa Wieben and Birgit Stutz

January 5, 2020

In-hand work part 2. By Lisa Wieben and Birgit Stutz

April 21, 2019

In the last blog post, we talked about the basics of in-hand leading, a groundwork exercise we can do with our horses even when the temperatures are cold.

Topics included timing of turns, use of whip, flexing for stretching, as well as halts.

Today we are looking at turns on forehand, turns on haunches, as well as in-hand work over/through obstacles.

Turns on forehand

Stand next to your horse at his shoulder with your core (belly button) facing his hip, your inside hip (the one closest to the horse’s head) will be open. Shift your weight onto your outside  foot. This allows the horse to bring his head towards you.

Keeping contact on the lead rope with your inside hand, send impulsive (pushing) energy from your hand or a whip towards your horse’s hip, asking him to take a step away from you. Depending on your horse you may also need to take a couple small steps towards your horse’s hip in order to increase the pushing energy from your core as well as the drawing energy from your inside hip. If your horse dose not yield his hindquarters give him a gentle tap with the whip.

Keep repeating these steps until your horse has completed a quarter circle, and eventually a half circle, rewarding at each step.

As always, pay attention to your horse’s body language. If he raises his head and braces, he is not only feeling physically tense, but also and mentally tense and stressed. Stop applying pressure to his hip and encourage him to lower his head with the figure eight flexing motion explained in last month’s article. Be sure that you are breathing and not holding any tension in your body. Reward your horse for the smallest try.

Turns on haunches

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Turn on haunches: Dawn is using her outside shoulder to guide the turn, her inside hip is open, and her right hand is there to help guide if needed. – Photo credit Lisa Wieben

Stand about half a foot to a foot away from your horse, slightly ahead of his nose, with soft, slightly bent knees and core folded. With your hand closest to the horse’s head, hold the lead rope with contact.

Start applying pressure to his shoulder with your hand or a whip as you step in the direction you want him to go. Make sure your horse is straight or slightly bent in the direction of travel. This will make it easier for him to cross over with the front legs. Keep your body turning with the horse with your outside shoulder guiding the turn.

As soon as you feel your horse shift his weight away from your push, no matter how little, immediately stop applying pressure, reward, then ask for another step. A pushy or stoic horse is likely to push back into your push, so instead of using firmer, steady pressure, we find it is more effective to adjust the push by using our thumb or fingertips or even the whip handle and applying pressure in a rhythmic manner.

If your horse is still not shifting his weight away from you, tap him gently on the shoulder with the whip.

Make sure your horse stays in a level to low headed frame during the exercise. If he raises his head and tenses, stop applying pressure and encourage him to lower his head with the figure eight flexing motion.

Introducing obstacles

When starting to introduce obstacles that are stationary, such as a trail bridge, you can walk your horse past the object with your body positioned closest to the obstacle. This gives the horse confidence and allows him to bend away from the object without pushing into you. Keep him bending around both you and the obstacle. Do this in both directions, giving him the opportunity to see the obstacle from both sides. Once he is comfortable walking past the obstacle with you between him and the object then lead him past the obstacle with him being between you and the obstacle. Again do this in both directions.

Keep your body slightly ahead of him, with your hip closest to him open, allowing him to bend away from the obstacle if he gets worried. Reward every sign of relaxation and softness. As always maintain a low to level head throughout the exercise.

When introducing an object that you can move, pick it up (or drag it along the ground) and begin to back away from your horse and have him follow you. He will most likely become curious and want to move closer to touch or smell the object. For some horses this can take some time, for others curiosity will bring them in quickly. Once the horse is comfortable touching the object you can stand with him in a bend and bring it in closer to his body. Any sign of tensing up (for example inverting), pause and lower his head before proceeding further.

Maintaining calm and relaxation throughout these exercises will have your horse be a willing partner that will enjoy his time spent with you. Everything we do on the ground will translate to a willing partner under saddle as well.

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Allowing the mare to follow a scary obstacle instead of bringing it to her builds confidence. – Photo credit Rebecca Wieben

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Curiosity has won and the horse is checking out the tarp. – Photo credit Rebecca Wieben

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Once the horse is comfortable touching the object Lisa keeps the horse bent around her and brings the tarp closer to her body. Any sign of tensing up, stop and lower the horse’s head before proceeding further. – Photo credit Rebecca Wieben

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Still holding her in bend, Lisa gently drapes the tarp over the mare’s back. – Photo credit Rebecca Wieben

Have fun!

This article is part of an ongoing series of articles that appear in the horse magazine SaddleUp on a monthly basis. The articles are a collaboration between Lisa Wieben (see biography below) and Birgit Stutz.

Lisa Wieben is a versatile and exceptional riding coach, balancing her skills as a Level 2 Centered Riding Instructor, Equine Canada Western Competition Coach, and Irwin Insights Level 4 Master Certified Trainer. Currently specializing in Western and English Dressage, she trains youth, adult amateurs, and professionals as well as coaching a local 4H group at her facility near Bowden/Olds, AB. Through dressage and foundational training she helps riders of all disciplines create stronger partnerships with their horses. Also, as a Hanna Somatic Instructor and Practitioner in Training, Lisa works with riders, in class or privately, learning movement exercises that target specific muscle issues in the body brought on by stress, injuries, surgeries, and overuse. Her approach, using Dressage, Centered Riding, Irwin Insights principles, and Somatics, all come together to develop a balanced rider and a balanced horse. http://www.mountainviewtrainingstables.com.

Birgit Stutz is an Irwin Insights Level 4 Master Certified Trainer and offers horse training, riding lessons in the English and Western disciplines, horsemanship clinics, mentorship programs, intensive horsemanship courses, workshops, short courses and demos on various topics, as well as working student programs at Falling Star Ranch Academy of Foundational Horsemanship in Dunster, BC. Birgit’s passion is to help humans have a better relationship with their horses through understanding of equine psychology and body language, biomechanics, as well as fundamental riding skills based on classical dressage. http://www.fallingstarranch.ca.

In-hand work part 1. By Lisa Wieben and Birgit Stutz

April 14, 2019

Winter time with its cold temperatures, snow, icy footing, and short daylight hours can make it difficult to work with your horse. Don’t feel guilty. There is nothing wrong with letting your horse have break. It may be beneficial for him physically and mentally to have a break from his regular workout (as long as he still gets some turnout).

However, if you are looking for things to do with your horse that keep you warm as well, there are lots of groundwork exercises you can do.

In this blog post, we are looking at the basics of in-hand work.

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In-hand leading with the flexing hand position.Notice how the mare is almost leaning forward with a downhill appearance. This form of leading is great to help flex the horse down if it is high headed, but once the horse is relaxed you may switch to the second hand position. This mare is already relaxed and low. See next two photos.

 

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In this photo the handler is using the whip and a lifting hand to ask the mare to lift up and shift her weight back.

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In this photo you can see how the mare’s withers have come up and she is walking in a more natural topline for her. We would want her to walk in a more uphill balance for dressage.

There are two ways to lead the horse in-hand. The first way is our preferred way for working with young horses, problem horses, or horses that have a tendency to be high headed and need more boundaries. Start out by walking next to your horse’s shoulder, with the hand closest to the horse underneath his neck. Hold the rope like a rein, with your wrist turned so the thumb is level. The basic hand position is under the horse’s neck directly in line with the middle of the body in order to keep the horse’s neck straight and the head low without pulling. How to achieve this low relaxed position is further in the article. The second way to lead is to hold the rope from underneath with a slightly lifted feeling. The hand will be rotated so the thumb is turned up. This hand position works well for horses that are further along or that have a tendency to shift their weight forward onto the forehand. As you push forward with the whip you can lift the hand and ask the horse to lift through the withers. This sits his weight back to the hind end (the power end), where we will need them to be for any sport. With either method your belly button (core) should be facing straight ahead, in alignment with the centre of the horse’s chest. Imagine a railroad track, with you walking on the one track and the horse’s middle of the chest following the other track. The two tracks are always aligned (parallel or congruent). Hold the tail end of the rope in folds in your opposite hand. Do not hold it in loops for safety reasons.

You may choose to carry a dressage whip that can be used to encourage the horse forward.

Pick up contact on the lead rope, then ask the horse to take the first step before joining in. This will maintain the contact without you inadvertently pulling on the rope. It is important to work the horse from back to front by “pushing” the horse from the hind end into your receiving, never pulling hand.

Use the lead rope and the arm closest to your horse as a boundary so the horse doesn’t come into your space. Never pull on the rope or send pushing energy into the horse’s head or neck with your belly button, shoulders, hips or hands.

Maintain good contact and keep the horse straight or slightly bent around you.

Ensure that the horse is level headed and does not invert (high-headed with hollow back).

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Hand position used to lift and shift the weight back to the hind end.

Flexing for stretching

If your horse’s head is high, you can ask him to lower it by gently flexing the lead rope. Roll your wrist in a “flat” figure eight movement so the thumb of the right hand points up when the hand slightly moves to the right and down when the hand moves to the left. This is done with correct diagonal timing with the horse’s front feet.

This is a great tool to stretch the horse’s topline and getting him to relax and feel good while being led.

If your horse is already low-headed, you do not need the flexing motion.

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Flexing with the movement of the horse. The handler is flexing right as the mare steps with her right front. As she steps left the handler would then flex left. This is used to calm a horse and bring it down to a level topline.

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Flexing down hand position to help the horse relax.

Timing of turns

Always initiate a turn when the horse is on the outside diagonal so that the horse is balanced and level headed during the turn. Diagonal timing in groundwork refers to the horse being on the correct outside diagonal front leg of whatever bend it is in so that he is balanced to do whatever turn the horse is asked to do.

For example, when turning left, ask the horse to turn when he is standing on his right outside front leg.

While turning right (leader on left side of horse), it is important to step ahead of the horse’s shoulder and around his head and neck (not into it). Before asking for a right turn, make sure the horse is in a right bend. Never bend a horse directly from left to right; always walk a few steps straight in-between.

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Turning the horse balanced on the outside front leg.

Timing of use of the whip

The timing of the use of the whip is also based on the correct outside diagonal and is used for a “push” into the horse’s hips, shoulders or girth. The whip should only tap the horse as his barrel swings away from you.

Halts

Halting the horse should be done in three and a half steps.

Inhale and grow tall, then exhale, slow your movement, and if needed, half-halt with your back and core, before coming to a halt.

If the horse doesn’t stop, stay aligned with your horse (remember the train tracks!) and ask him for a turn on the forehand until he is willing to halt. We will talk about turns on the forehand in the next article.

Never force the horse to halt or stand still and also never pull on the lead rope.

If the horse tries to come in on top of you with his head, put up a block at the corner of his mouth, either with your hand holding the whip or with the knob of the whip.

In the next blog post, we will discuss turns on the forehand and turns on the haunches as well as introducing a horse to obstacles.

Pictures by Lisa Wieben. Handler: Jacklyn Hegberg with May, 12-year-old Warmblood mare.

This article is part of an ongoing series of articles that appear in the horse magazine SaddleUp on a monthly basis. The articles are a collaboration between Lisa Wieben (see biography below) and Birgit Stutz.

Lisa Wieben is a versatile and exceptional riding coach, balancing her skills as a Level 2 Centered Riding Instructor, Equine Canada Western Competition Coach, and Irwin Insights Level 4 Master Certified Trainer. Currently specializing in Western and English Dressage, she trains youth, adult amateurs, and professionals as well as coaching a local 4H group at her facility near Bowden/Olds, AB. Through dressage and foundational training she helps riders of all disciplines create stronger partnerships with their horses. Also, as a Hanna Somatic Instructor and Practitioner in Training, Lisa works with riders, in class or privately, learning movement exercises that target specific muscle issues in the body brought on by stress, injuries, surgeries, and overuse. Her approach, using Dressage, Centered Riding, Irwin Insights principles, and Somatics, all come together to develop a balanced rider and a balanced horse. http://www.mountainviewtrainingstables.com.

Birgit Stutz is an Irwin Insights Level 4 Master Certified Trainer and offers horse training, riding lessons in the English and Western disciplines, horsemanship clinics, mentorship programs, intensive horsemanship courses, workshops, short courses and demos on various topics, as well as working student programs at Falling Star Ranch Academy of Foundational Horsemanship in Dunster, BC. Birgit’s passion is to help humans have a better relationship with their horses through understanding of equine psychology and body language, biomechanics, as well as fundamental riding skills based on classical dressage. http://www.fallingstarranch.ca.

Warm-up exercise. By Lisa Wieben and Birgit Stutz

November 4, 2018

In this blog post, we are discussing another warm-up exercise that will help your horse become more focused, supple, and responsive to your aids. This exercise also creates more impulsion by getting the horse to move more off its hind end.

Before attempting this exercise you should already know how to ride a leg yield. The leg yield is a basic lateral exercise in which the horse travels both forward and sideways at the same time. Just as the name of it implies, it teaches the horse to move sideways, or yield, away from the rider’s leg pressure. The leg yield benefits as both a suppling and straightening exercise, therefore improving a horse’s balance. The horse will also develop more swing and stretch as he develops more suppleness. It also teaches the rider how to use her aids independently and bring the horse properly into the outside rein. We covered how to properly execute a leg yield in the February 2017 issue of SaddleUp.

In this exercise the rider will yield the horse from the track or wall toward the centre of the arena and then perform a half circle back to the track or wall maintaining the same bend.

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Nice bend through the circle to return to the wall. Inside hind is stepping under the body well.

Inside and Outside refers to the horse’s bend, not to inside or outside of the ring.

* Start the warm-up exercise by tracking right in a working jog, sitting or posting.

* As soon as you turn onto the long side and achieve straightness change the horse’s bend from right bend to left bend by using the left leg to create left bend through the rib cage by pressing at the girth and gently applying the left rein for slight flexion. The left rein will stay off the horse’s neck with consistent light pressure. Remember to turn your seat and body slightly in the direction of the horse’s bend toward the wall.

* Ask your horse to leg yield off the wall. The horse will be bent around the rider’s pressing leg. Imagine the bend of a banana. Apply your inside leg at or slightly behind the girth, depending on the level of your horse’s training, in timing with the horse’s swing of the barrel (apply leg pressure as the barrel swings away from the inside leg as this is the timing when the inside hind leg is moving forward and can cross over).

* Sit tall with eyes forward and shoulders parallel to the horse’s shoulders. Shift your weight very slightly in the direction of travel (leg yield to the right, shift right). The horse will balance under the rider’s weight. Shifting in the direction of travel will aid the horse to the direction as well as creating lightness on the rider’s inside hip, aiding the horse to bring his inside hind up and forward.

* Your outside leg is positioned slightly behind the girth of the horse in order to keep the forward energy and to prevent the horse from going sideways too quickly, or to prevent the hip from leading the movement. The outside leg does not apply a steady pressure, but is ready if needed, lightly on the horse’s side.

* The outside rein is a supporting rein and guides the horse into the direction of travel, while also preventing the horse from overbending through his neck and bulging through the outside shoulder. Use half-halts to maintain straightness and rhythm. Half-halts will also be needed if the horse gets rushing or pushy. To attain a quicker sideways action you will need more outside rein to slow the forward movement and take it sideways.

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Moving away from the wall. Horse is bent around rider’s pushing leg and rider’s body matches the bend of the movement.

When the horse is a few strides past the quarterline, start a half circle back toward the wall, then track left when you reach the wall. The horse will already be bent in the direction of the turn.

* Use your inside leg to maintain bend and prevent the horse from falling in. The outside leg will maintain impulsion.

* The inside rein will stay off the neck slightly and maintain the bend, without pulling. The outside rein will be supporting the amount of bend needed for the size of the half circle and will also prevent the horse from falling in, when used in conjunction with the inside leg.

* The rider’s seat will turn in the direction of the half circle – outside hip toward the horse’s inside ear.

* You can add a degree of difficulty by pushing the horse’s hips out on the half circle by moving the inside leg back. The rider will need more outside rein to keep the horse’s shoulders on the circle as the hips move out.

When you reach the wall, track left, then repeat the exercise in the opposite direction.

The horse should remain relaxed in its gaits, without speeding up or slowing down.

This is a wonderful warm-up exercise to create suppleness and looseness in the horse as well as responsiveness and obedience to the rider’s aids.

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Moving away from the wall and preparing for the circle back to the wall.

This article is the 29th in a series of articles on Western dressage and is a collaboration between Lisa Wieben (see biography below) and Birgit Stutz. The articles appear in the horse magazine SaddleUp on a monthly basis.

Photos by Lisa Wieben. Rider Jacklyn Hegberg and her horse Maverick.

Lisa Wieben is a Level 2 Centered Riding Instructor, EC Coach, and Irwin Insights Level 4 Master Certified Trainer. Specializing in Western and English Dressage, she coaches near Bowden/Olds, AB. Lisa is also a Hanna Somatic Instructor and Practitioner in Training, working with riders, in class or privately, to learn movement exercises that target specific muscle issues in the body brought on by stress, injuries, surgeries, and overuse. A balanced rider equals a balanced horse. www.mountainviewtrainingstables.com.

 Birgit Stutz is an Irwin Insights Level 4 Master Certified Trainer and offers horse training, lessons (English and Western), clinics, mentorship programs, horsemanship courses, workshops, short courses and demos on various topics, and working student programs at Falling Star Ranch Academy of Foundational Horsemanship in Dunster, BC. Birgit’s passion is to help humans have a better relationship with their horses through understanding of equine psychology, body language, biomechanics, as well as fundamental riding skills. www.fallingstarranch.ca.

Rollback collection exercise. By Lisa Wieben and Birgit Stutz

October 14, 2018

We love the following collection exercise. Doing this exercise with your horse will create more ‘push power’ in your horse’s hind end, as well as lift in the front end.

For this exercise, you and your horse should know how to execute a turn on the haunches. You can review by reading the blog entries https://fallingstarranch.wordpress.com/2016/11/09/western-dressage-turn-on-the-haunches-by-lisa-wieben-and-birgit-stutz/ and https://fallingstarranch.wordpress.com/2016/11/28/western-dressage-turn-on-the-haunches-part-2-by-lisa-wieben-and-birgit-stutz/.

Start by riding your horse in a working jog on a 20-metre circle. Ask your horse to come to a walk by inhaling and growing tall (creating a feeling of lightness in your body tells the horse that a change is coming), then exhaling and sinking down. Hold through your centre through the transition. Make sure to maintain straightness in your body, no leaning forward or back, with your legs close to the horse to maintain straightness and forward energy into the walk. There should be no feeling of ‘halt’ in a downward walk transition.

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Working jog on the circle.

Shorten your horse’s stride with your seat and rein aids while maintaining rhythm. Keep your legs on the horse in order to maintain the activity of the horse’s legs.

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Turn on the haunches: nice bend through the body in the direction of the turn.

Ask for a turn on the haunches to the outside of the circle. If circling to the left, perform the turn on the haunches to the right.

Open the inside rein to flex the horse slightly into the direction of the turn. The outside rein limits the amount of bend in the neck while allowing the shoulders to move around the turn. Move both hands slightly in the direction of the turn to lead the forehand around the hindquarters. The inside rein is a leading or opening rein, while the outside rein is brought closer to the neck to guide the horse around the turn as a supporting rein.

You can slightly shift your weight onto your inside seat bone and keep your inside leg on the girth to maintain bend and suppleness throughout the body and encourage engagement of the inside hind leg and to prevent the horse from stepping back in the turn. Move your outside leg slightly behind the girth to help bend the horse around the inside leg and to prevent his hindquarters from swinging out. The upper inner thigh can help push the horse around the turn. The inside hind leg will become the pivot point, however instead of a pivot foot, imagine the horse walking his hind legs around a dinner plate, while the forelegs and outside hind leg step around on a larger circle. If the horse pivots on a foot the foot picks up and sets down close to the same spot maintaining a walking rhythm. The outside front leg should be crossing over the inside front leg.

Allow your outside hip to move forward slightly as you turn your body to match your horse’s turn. However, too much turn through your hips will push the hindquarters out of the turn so keep the movement subtle. Keep the buttons on your shirt or your belt buckle lined up with the horse’s mane and your eyes looking through your horse’s ears. Overturning with the head will create too big a shift in your body weight and cause the horse to get heavy on the forehand.

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Walking to the turn on the haunches.

Maintain a following seat and keep the walking rhythm. The horse must maintain its bend and remain forward throughout the movement. Once the turn is completed ask for working jog onto the circle.

While executing the exercise, the horse should stay forward, relaxed, balanced, and on the bit, while maintaining rhythm and correct bend.

If the horse pivots on the outside hind leg instead of on the inside hind leg, the horse is backing up instead of staying forward. You may need to use more leg to keep the horse forward. Asking for the turn with a straighter neck or slight counter- bend may also help get the horse more onto the inside hind leg.

To increase difficulty, you can also do this exercise from a lope. Lope a 20-metre circle, ask for a jog, then walk, shorten the steps in the walk to a turn on the haunches, maintaining the forward steps, complete a 180 turn on the haunches, then lope out.

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Turn on the haunches: the rider’s body is balanced with the turn.

Overview of exercise:

1) Begin on a 20-metre circle in working jog.

2) Pick a spot to perform a downward transition to walk. Ask for transition using seat, voice, and rein aids if needed.

3) Shorten the steps in walk by using seat and rein aids.

4) Perform a 180-degree turn on the haunches to the outside of the circle with horse in correct bend for the turn.

5) Jog out of turn.

6) Repeat exercise.

This is a fun exercise and you will find your horse will enjoy the challenge!

This article is the 28th in a series of articles on Western dressage and is a collaboration between Lisa Wieben (see biography below) and Birgit Stutz. The articles appear in the horse magazine SaddleUp on a monthly basis.

Photos by Lisa Wieben. Rider Jacklyn Hegberg and her horse Cash.

Lisa Wieben is a Level 2 Centered Riding Instructor, EC Coach, and Irwin Insights Level 4 Master Certified Trainer. Specializing in Western and English Dressage, she coaches near Bowden/Olds, AB. Lisa is also a Hanna Somatic Instructor and Practitioner in Training, working with riders, in class or privately, to learn movement exercises that target specific muscle issues in the body brought on by stress, injuries, surgeries, and overuse. A balanced rider equals a balanced horse. www.mountainviewtrainingstables.com.

 Birgit Stutz is an Irwin Insights Level 4 Master Certified Trainer and offers horse training, lessons (English and Western), clinics, mentorship programs, horsemanship courses, workshops, short courses and demos on various topics, and working student programs at Falling Star Ranch Academy of Foundational Horsemanship in Dunster, BC. Birgit’s passion is to help humans have a better relationship with their horses through understanding of equine psychology, body language, biomechanics, as well as fundamental riding skills. www.fallingstarranch.ca.