Saturday, January 24, 2009

Putting the Pieces Together

At this point you should be able to yield both the hindquarters and the front end in both directions. Now we are going to put both exercises together in what I call Hind/Front.

Lets start with the horse tracking left on a circle around you (at an active walk, of course). As you yield the hindquarters, the left hind leg will cross over the right hind. After a couple steps of hindquarters pause and allow the horse to pause and rock his weight back onto the hindquarters then yield the front end to the left (left front is the leading foot, right front crosses over) until the horse is positioned to track right. Add some forward motion and the horse is now circling you to the right.

At the beginning it can be confusing for people organize in their mind which way they are supposed to turn. In the example above, as the horse is yielding its hindquarters it is looking (or being bent) left. It is going to continue looking (or being bent) to the left as it yields the front. If, after yielding the hindquarters you find yourself straightening the horse's neck and changing the direction it is looking, you are preparing to yield the front in the wrong direction! Remember that the horses stays bent in the same direction for both hind and front.

To start with let the horse complete one of two circles each time you change directions and focus on achieving Hind/Front. As this becomes more comfortable, change directions every 1/2 circle. Be precise about getting the changes of direction at exact points on the circle so you learn to control the timing of the maneuver. Lastly, practice moving your 1/2 circle towards a destination. You will be walking in a straight line with your horse moving on a 1/2 circle in front of you, achieving Hind/Front with every change of direction.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Moving the front end

Now that you have the basics of yielding the hind quarters working for you, lets move on to yielding the front end. It's quite popular to hear talk of yielding the hind quarters and the one-rein stop, but you don't often hear people taking it to the next step. Moving the front end is the balancing maneuver to yielding the hind quarters. It is the "other side of the coin," if you will. We focus on yielding the hind quarters before moving the front end because hind quarters is the step the horse uses to prepare itself for moving the front.

First it's important that you understand what you are looking for. You want the horse's leading front foot (I'll explain which foot the is in a second) to move out to the side and back a little bit. Then you want the other front foot to cross over the leading foot. If the horse is turning to its left, the left front is the leading foot and the right front is the crossing over foot.

Okay, now on to the mechanics of moving the front end. For this example we will move the horse's front end to the left. Start after your horse has disengaged the hind quarters and is stopped facing you. The lead rope will be in your right hand with the tail of the rope in your left. Step to your right (your horse's left). This puts the horse in a "tight spot" and causes it to rock its weight back on its HQ. Then use your left hand to influence your horse into moving to its left. The horse will end up in the position to track right if you were to send it forward on the circle.

To clear up any confusion, I often tell students to visualize an imaginary line coming out between the horses front feet. Step across that line, then move the horse feet. If you want another step of front end you will need to again step across the line, then move the feet.

Remember you're looking for the leading foot to move first, then the other to cross over. You probably won't get a cross over at the beginning, keep stepping to your right (across the line) and moving the feet until the horses hind quarters remain stationary (pivoting on the outside foot) and the leading front foot moves out and back, resulting in a cross over. Pause to give your horse a release of pressure. With practice you will be able tell whether or not a cross over is going to happen by how that leading foot moves. So pay attention. The sooner you can recognize it and give a release the soon your horse will understand and the happier he will be.

If your horse is moving forward you are probably oriented to far back towards the horse's shoulder. Make sure you stay in front of the horse's nose to "shut the front door" and cause the horse to turn instead of coming forward.