This exercise will help a horse listen to your direction. My focus is on dressage and pleasure horses, although it applies to any trained riding horse that may lose lightness. It is a two-minute exercise that is a simple maneuver that will return a horse to a soft willing connection with you when you ride. Through the practice of this exercise, your horse will respond to soft aids effortlessly, easily, and naturally. It will help you gain back the leadership that you may have lost.
I can use this maneuver to test to see if I have a willing horse. I also use it as a daily warm-up to keep my horses in a soft feel to my rein aids. Practice this maneuver four times on one side of the horse and four on the other side.
Asking for these simple maneuvers from the ground will help a horse respond more easily to directional rein aids, halt, gas pedal, collection aids, and leg yield from the saddle.
The maneuvers start by standing on the left side of a relaxed horse, resting your left hand on the side of the horse’s nose. Turn the neck away from you to the right and hold it there. Next, ask the horse to move the front feet and then ask for the horse to stop. Then, ask the back feet to disengage the hanches while the front legs stay in place. The maneuver finishes with the horse standing straight with a slight arch in the neck. Repeat the same exercise on the right side of the horse. I call this the Two Minute Loop-de-loo.
Separating the response of the head, neck, shoulders, and hanches along with separating the front feet movement from the back feet movement gives a horse time to adjust and respond effortlessly. (The following video demonstrates the separate movements clearly.) In this exercise you have every part of the horse’s body responding and listening to you. When this happens the resistance is released and your leadership restored.
It sounds complicated but is very easy to practice. That is the beauty of these simple maneuvers. When I warmed up dressage horses at a show, they were a go-to for me to unite both horse and rider before the competition. It is also a powerful lesson from the ground to teach a horse not to fall in by dropping a shoulder or losing his gas pedal.
These maneuvers will create a horse to have the proper responses to your reining aids. When you direct a horse to travel on a straight path he will be straight from the nose to the tail. It will be the same when you ask a horse to circle. The whole body of the horse will bend matching the curve of the circle you are riding him on.
In order to understand a horse’s movements when they move from the nose to the tail, imagine directing a horse through a narrow tunnel, this would cause the whole body of the horse to follow the same straightness or bend of the tunnel from their nose to their tail. The whole mind and body of the horse would be engaged and on the path, you are directing him on. This is what you want from your horse as a rider. With proper bend and straightness created from the Two Minute Loop-de-loo, your horse will be following your rein and leg aids effortlessly, easily, and naturally.
May the horse be with you and stay on the lookout for new horse and human sightings.
Warmly, Carolyn Resnick
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