We just got home after 2 great weeks of camps at the James Creek Ranch. The ranch offers so many great opportunities for lessons! I wanted to share with you a lesson that I demonstrated with this big Irish Sport Horse, “Fergus.”
When I play with horses on the ground I like to look at every trot or canter and imagine that I am riding and I think “would that be a nice trot or canter to ride?” If it isn’t, then I start exercises that help my horse become more balanced and rhythmic. With Fergus, I would ask him to trot slowly on a circle. I wanted him to go slowly so he didn’t get rough and start running away from me. My goal was to have him stretch his body long, take a breath out and relax. I wanted to imagine I could have a nice comfy sitting trot if I was on him.
When he became braced and short in his stride, I walked towards his rib cage and asked him to move out diagonally sideways from the circle. This bending exercise can cause a horse to soften and stretch if you release at the right time. Timing is key!
Ask your horse to move sideways and watch for how tight the lead is, where the horse looks, and if all his body parts are moving equally. I kept asking Fergus until I could see his eye and ear soften and look towards me, and the lead came slack. It was at that moment I would release and let him go back to the circle. Each time I did this he would stretch out and lengthen his movement and take a big breath out.
At first when I did this, the stretch was very little, which can be expected when you first try this with your horse. As you ask for this many times, you will notice your horse finding the stretch easier and will be able to hold it for longer.
After some nice sideways, Fergus stretched down and relaxed. This looks nicer to ride!
Take every opportunity to teach your horse to be a better riding horse even when you are on the ground. Developing healthy bio mechanics will help keep your horse strong and healthy for years to come!
Hope this helps!
Stay Inspired by horses!