by Marilyn Pineda
We have been working on building blocks toward side passing in our Riding Well Grounded exercises on the ground with focus on bending in the neck, yielding to subtle pressure, moving the hindquarters from the ground and from the saddle and moving the front quarters. This is done while asking the horse to move his feet just one step at a time. Now we should be ready to practice moving the front quarters from the saddle.
It is important to have front quarters moving successfully in ground training to be readied for success from the saddle. We will be using exaggerated motions in the beginning; you will be able to refine your communications to more subtle movements as you move forward with practice.
Let’s start with moving the front quarters to the right. Sitting comfortably balanced with a loose rein in each hand, lift your right rein out from the shoulder of your horse to create an “open place” for the horse to move towards. Opening the rein will also have a tendency to tip the horse’s nose and set him up for movement in that direction. Do not pull on the rein. The horse can already feel the weight of the rein and pulling on it would likely cause confusion and result in a shift in his hind quarters. After opening the rein for a brief moment, apply a bit of lower leg and/or heel pressure with your left leg along with an appropriate amount of neck rein with your left hand until your horse moves his shoulder to the right. Your left leg can be set a bit forward for this and your right leg should remain quiet.
Be prepared for some awkward movement from your horse when first starting this exercise, but do not stop with your request until he moves his front quarters to the right. You need to work for a step that includes the left foot crossing over the front of the right foot. If he happens to move his hindquarters first, simply keep asking until he moves his front quarters with the desired cross-over step. Maintain a calm seat and be ready to release your horse immediately upon executing a single cross over step. Release is made by bringing your right hand back to its original position in front of you to close that rein and ending the pressure from your left leg and left rein. Don’t worry if your horse continues to move after you release him and avoid using any corrective measures with your reins or legs unless it is necessary to keep him from moving forward or backward. Ultimately, the hind feet should NOT move except for a slight pivot to allow his body to shift to the new position.
Horse Training Tip: You need to focus on exactly what you want and use extra effort to use impeccable timing for your horse to understand what you are asking. The timing of your release will let your horse know when he has accomplished your request. It is important to stop for a few moments after the completion of each attempt so your horse can process his accomplishment. Only ask for one cross-over at a time and accept what he offers even if it isn’t perfect. Slowly increase the number of successful cross-over steps from both sides until you can move your horse in a complete circle in either direction, pivoting on his hind feet.
The ground training and individual riding components we have been working on in this building block series all have valuable benefits. Next month we will expound on those benefits as we work the front and hind quarters together to create the side pass and an even stronger path to Riding Well Grounded.
Published June 2014 Issue
The Northwest Horse Source is an independently owned and operated print and online magazine for horse owners and enthusiasts of all breeds and disciplines in the Pacific Northwest. Our contemporary editorial columns are predominantly written by experts in the region, covering the care, training, keeping and enjoyment of horses, with an eye to the specific concerns in our region.