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Re: Nose in the air/head tossing

>Aside from formal riding instruction to fix me, my gelding learned to carry
>his head better with lounging him in side reins.  I have not done a lot of
>side rein work, but would recommend it to anyone needing to teach a horse to
>accept bit contact and travel in the proper frame if you can get some
>direction to get started.

I'm not a real fan of side reins.  And YES, I have used them in the past
but I've "seen the light"! ;-)  All too often side reins are adjusted to be
at light contact when the horse's head is near vertical...and once the
horse starts moving, he can lean on them...maybe not a lot at first, but it
will increase as time goes by and his neck starts to tire.  When that
happens, he switches his neck muscle usage to the underneck muscles (the
"leaning" muscles) and, even tho he may be going at a steady, even trot, he
will be hollow and not in self carriage.  If you want to use something
during lungeing, use balancing reins.  The horse can't lean on them and
learns to carry himself.  He has a certain range that he can move but can't
dive his nose to the ground or pitch his head up but can still bend for
largish circles.  He soon learns to reach to the end of the line and gently
hold it.  

This is all translated to the saddle with the rider's hands not having a
solid hold on both reins at the same time.  One rein (the "outside" rein)
gently holds contact as if it were holding a child's hand, the other hand
(the "inside" rein) either tickles the reins or does a gentle squeeze and
release for communication, depending on which way the horse is bent or
going and what you're trying to tell him.  Whenever you bring your
shoulder/elbow/hand back to position a horse's bend (whether doing lateral
exercises, turning a certain direction, or going in circles) you always
pull back with a squeeze and release or vibrating the reins -- DO NOT pull
back with any arm in a solid hold.  Give and take, give and take, give and

Your horse will learn to listen to a light touch when you can hold a
consistent weight in your hands...about 1-2 pounds in the steady, outside
hand and a variance on either side of your weight of about 1/4 to 1/2 pound
on your giving, "talking" inside rein.  When you're walking or cantering,
you let the horse gently pull your hands forward and you reciprocate by
moving them back when her head comes back maintaining a steady weight at
all times...not letting the reins go tight, loopy, tight, loopy, etc.  That
translates to BANG, BANG, BANG on the horses mouth.  When the horse trots
and the rider posts, the tendency is to move the hands up and down with the
rest of the arm, again going BANG, BANG, BANG on his mouth.  When that
happens, go into your two-point and concentrate on keeping your heads
steady, steady, steady...parked about 4" above the withers on the flat and
closer to the mane and a bit further up the neck on inclines.  They should
stay put wherever you assign them to be! ;-)  When your hands steady, go
back to posting.  Frequently check your rein length since they do tend to
slip and you'll soon discover that you no longer have *any* steady contact
or control...and you're not exactly sure when that happened. ;-) 

And the secret to keeping your hands steady and light???  Keep those heels
down, keep weight in your heels, and think of your hips, knees, ankles,
shoulders, and elbows and joints in a continuously working set of pistons.
Absorb the motion as if you were trying to stop a trampoline.  Think of
your legs as shocks in a car...and your torso as the body of the car.  And
you want to be a Mazerati (Maserati, Massarrattii <g>) and take those
corners like one!  THIS will quiet your hands and allow you to be solid and
light with your outside hand and solid, light, and communicating with your
inside hand.  When you ride zig-zags thru the woods, turn your body right
and left as you go around the curves and consistently and gently switch
inside rein and outside rein.

What happens?  The horse quits pitching his head because your hands are
quiet and talking to him, not hurting him.  He brings his head down, lifts
his back, and goes into self carriage.  Add a little inside leg off and on
when you need it and he brings his back leg under further, pushes off
harder, lifts the front end, increases his stride, lifts his back more,
arches his neck more, and brings his face nearer the vertical...all with
self carriage.

Now THAT'S dressage...for the endurance rider! ;-)

Tyee Farm
Marysville, Wa.

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