Training Exercises: Maintain Direction

Maintain Direction

When you set a course from point A to point B, your horse should travel in a straight line, maintaining his speed and direction until you ask him to change either or both.

If you have been following this discussion in order, we have not yet worked on direction over the long haul. It is probably one of the easiest and most boring of lessons, but really important if you want a relaxing trail companion or precision performance horse.

This lesson builds on Flex Training and Maintaining Gait. (We are not concerned about leg cues or changing directions in this exercise. This discussion centers only on moving in a straight line – NOT changing directions at will)

Maintain Direction

When you set a course from point A to point B, your horse should travel in a straight line, maintaining his speed and direction until you ask him to change either or both.

If you have been following this discussion in order, we have not yet worked on direction over the long haul. It is probably one of the easiest and most boring of lessons, but really important if you want a relaxing trail companion or precision performance horse.

This lesson builds on Flex Training and Maintaining Gait. (We are not concerned about leg cues or changing directions in this exercise. This discussion centers only on moving in a straight line – NOT changing directions at will)

An arena or pasture area that has a nice wooden or metal fence line is needed. (Do not work next to an electric fence. Up-close proximity to it is unfair to your horse).
Begin next to the fence and start moving forward. A crisp walk or gentle trot is a good speed for this exercise. When your horse veers off of the fence line, use the rein on the fence side to bring him back to the fence. Your off-side hand and rein should be very quiet. The rail-side rein receives a little “face jerk” toward the rail. Be sure to release the pressure immediately when he has returned to the rail. Move forward continually, as long as you have a fence to follow. Practice miles of fence-line until he follows it without straying – each time getting a correction of he veers off.

Now move to the middle of the arena. If you have any obstacles like barrels or bending poles, choose one and head directly for it.

Sit comfortably in your saddle, look directly at the destination point and ask him to move forward. Continue to look at your destination. If you are wishy-washy, he will have no clue about where you are going, and he will not be able to commit to a direction. If he strays off the straight line, use the rein to correct his course. When you get to the spot, practice your verbal “whoa” combined with a “seat” whoa . Let him rest. Then choose another exact destination. Continue from point to point, stopping to rest each time he makes a successful trip.

The more proficient he becomes, the longer the trip can be and the more nebulous the destination. Start choosing a single post in the fence or some other spot less obvious than an object.

Now introduce distractions. The ultimate test will come when you can have more than one horse in the arena and each is going a different direction.

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