Training Exercises: Bending at the Walk

Bending at the Walk.

A supple body and a supple mind make a horse into the best ride possible. Controlling your horse’s body – each part of it – is everything.

A horse who goes around a circle with his head on the outside is off balance and could actually fall if asked to do things quickly or complicated. Practicing circles under saddle with the correct bend will help to fine-tune the body-neck arc, which gives your horse great balance, fluidity, and grace.

Caution Working is small circles puts a lot of stress on a horse’s back. He should be lunged and worked over a period of time to build those muscles. Riding in tight circles takes a lot of musculature that builds gradually. Don’t just hop into tight circles right away.

We have not spent much time on riding correctly. This blog was initially started to document ground training techniques for REAL beginners and to show how ground training affects riding. In many cases we started with wild horses who were not ready for a rider at all.

I never took riding lessons and thought that “riding” was the act of staying on top and upright on the horse – much like a balanced sack of grain. Nudge or kick to go. Haul back to stop. Well, that is not going to cut it as we proceed. My finesse as a rider must grow. I assume that many of you are also fairly unschooled and could use a little help. A “little” is all I can offer at the moment. But there are some important concepts to understand, even if you can’t accomplish them with skill at this time.

Your riding skills can grow as you teach your horse new lessons under saddle. You will automatically become a better rider if you are able to understand how to cue your horse through the exercises under saddle.

It is important to understand your body, leg and rein positions to get proper horse-body control. Bending at the walk started clear back in learning to flex laterally and learning how to line-lunge with a nice arc to the body.

Moving to saddle exercises: This shows the starting position of the rider.
* Your body should be sitting squarely upright in the saddle.

* Your outside leg barely forward, pressure the front quarter and your inside leg holding the middle-girth position acts like a post around which your horse will bend. (This rider is not yet pressuring or turning)

* Your inside rein has contact (with a little bit of pressure) to tip your horse’s head to the inside of the circle. The INSIDE rein is the “active” rein. You should see her head tip enough that you can see the corner of her close eye.

* Your outside (supporting) rein provides a counter to the directional (inside) rein keeping the horse’s head from coming too far around. In most cases, the rider should see little more of the horse’s face than the outline of her eye. If her nose is coming around more than that, the supporting rein is not doing its job. The supporting rein can even be held in a completely locked position with your hand braced on the saddle pommel. Once you know how much length to give this bracing rein, it need never move again.

Practice in the corner of an arena or pasture. It is easier to get a nicely arced bend when two sides of the circle are blocked off.

Bending at the trot and canter come easily if the walk is conquered.

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