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Posts Tagged ‘equilibrium’

Help!  My nine year old paint mare Tardee has a very long stride especially at the trot, how do I slow her down and develop a jog?  She is very quiet and willing and I don’t want to stress her.  Thank you.  Deb

Hi Deb,

It is great that you have a quiet and willing horse and even better that you want to keep her that way. There is no reason why your mare won’t stay calm and sweet as you progressively shorter her stride and slow her down a bit. This is a very common goal and a question I’ve answered before on my website Horsekeeping, so I’m going to use those Q&As below here. Let me know if you have more specific questions.

Cherry

Slow Down

©  2010 Cherry Hill www.horsekeeping.com

Dear Cherry,

My horse is usually really good, but a few days ago he just started being really stubborn.  He’ll trot way too fast because I ask him for a jog for western pleasure.   And  his lope which I finally got down perfect 2 weeks ago has turned into a fast canter.   I don’t know what  it is from.  There has been a lot more flies etc. around that go on him and he hates bugs so do you think that maybe this  is causing it?  Do you think he might not be able to concentrate because he’s thinking about all the flies on him or something? I’m really confused and I have to go to a show this weekend and if he does this there we for sure won’t place!!! Please give me any suggestions that you have.

Mindy from Indiana



Dear Mindy,

I’m going to ask a lot of things quickly at first here so you can go through a list in your mind and so that other readers with the same problem (it is VERY common!) can try to find a reason for the quickness.

This first one won’t pertain to you because in your question, you say “he” so I am assuming your horse is a gelding.  However, for those of you riding mares, be aware that a sudden quickness or irritability during breeding season (April to October) could be caused by the mare coming into heat.  Heat periods usually last about 5 days.  If you have a fussy mare, try to work through it or give her a day or two off during her worst days.

Now for some questions that will pertain to any horse. Are you using fly spray?  Do you check your horse’s chest and the area of the belly just ahead of your horse’s sheath (geldings) or udder (mares) where the skin is very thin and a feast for flies?  Flies biting in these places can make a horse very tense while he is being ridden.

Could your horse’s back be sore?  A poor fitting saddle, dirty pad or cinch or a weak back can all contribute to a horse moving short and quick rather than long and flowing.

Are you tense?  If a rider is tense or nervous (in anticipation of a show, for example) the horse will pick this up right away and start moving quickly.  You need to take a deep breath, settle deep into the saddle and relax.

Here’s a technique tip.  When you want to slow down or “rate” your horse, that is shorten his stride or slow down his tempo, accomplish it with a series of half halts or “checks” applied at the moment of suspension.  During the canter or lope, suspension comes right after the leading foreleg lands and the hind legs are reaching forward under the horse’s belly.  At the trot or jog, suspension occurs twice during each stride as each diagonal pair lifts.  A half halt or check is a momentary “calling to attention” and just like the name implies, it is about half a halt!  You want to reorganize your horse by briefly applying your aids for a halt but releasing them before the horse actually halts.

When applying a series of half halts or checks to rate a horse, be sure you release after each successful reaction.  Do not be tempted to hold on to what you gain and think you can slow a horse down by constant pressure on the reins. What you eventually want to do is have your horse learn to hold a gait at a certain tempo “on the honor system” (dressage riders call this self-carriage) – that is, on his own without you holding his speed down via the reins.

Take care.         

Half Halt

©  2010 Cherry Hill www.horsekeeping.com

Ms. Hill,

Please help. I ride western. I am a professional Cowboy trying to become a horseman. I barrel race. I do not show. I purchased your 101 Arena Exercises to help me help my horses to relax, listen, loosen up, help them learn to use themselves and become more responsive I am not familiar with the term half halt and can’t seem to find a helpful definition in the book. My best guess was that it was a transition to a slower gait but in looking at the exercises this does not make sense to me. I know you are awfully busy but I’m feeling a bit desperate. For the sake of Reuben, Foxy, Sister, Miss Mess, and Hooch, Please help.

Respectfully,
Jodi Campbell

Hi Jodi,

It is great to hear from you and to hear of your goals. Have you read Exercise 14 “Half Halt or Check” in 101 Arena Exercises? It describes in detail what a Half Halt (or Check as it is called in Western riding) is and how to apply it. But it is such a good question and I’m sure there are some readers out there who don’t have 101 Arena Exercises, that I’m going to print an excerpt from that book below.

Before I get to the excerpt, though, here are some other ways to think of a Half Halt……a pause, a moment in suspended animation, a compacting of form, flexing in every joint. Although half halts are traditionally associated with dressage, they are used in all kinds of riding. Western riders “pick up” on the reins and “check” their horses to “rate” them or get them to slow down or get more rhythmic in their gaits. When a horse “falls on his forehand” he is traveling with bad balance and rhythm, so we try to energize him from the hindquarters forward and elevate his forehand somewhat so he can move in balance. When a horse is not in balance (heavy on the forehand) he first has to pick up his forehand and then turn.The more in balance a horse is, the quicker he can change directions (especially important for a barrel horse) and at a moment’s notice – he doesn’t need a lot of advance notice. Half Halts or checks help to balance and energize a horse.

The following is excerpted from 101 Arena Exercises:

A half halt is a preparatory set of aids that simultaneously drives and checks the horse. In essence you are “capturing” your horse momentarily between the aids. A calling to attention and organizer used before all transitions and during all movements as a means of momentarily re-balancing the horse, elevating the forehand, increasing hindquarter engagement, evening an erratic rhythm, slowing a pace, and reminding the horse not to lean on the bit or rush. A momentary holding (a non-allowing in contrast to a pulling or taking), immediately followed by a yielding (within one stride or a few seconds). This results in a moment of energized suspension with a listening and light horse. Once a horse has learned to respect half halts, they serve as a reminder that encourages self-carriage.

HOW TO APPLY A HALF HALT

The sequence, grossly oversimplified, goes something like this

1. Think

2. Seat, legs and hands

3. Yield

1. Mental message: “Hello, is anybody home?” OR “Attention!!” OR “Let’s get organized” OR “Let’s halt. No I changed my mind.”

2. An almost simultaneous application of the following aids with an emphasis on the seat and legs and a de-emphasis on the hands:

  • Upper body straight or slightly back with elevated sternum.
  • Deep, still contact of seat bones on saddle from flexed abdominals and a flattened lower back which brings seat bones forward.
  • Both lower legs on horse’s side at the girth or cinch. Light tap with the whip or spurs if necessary, depending on the horse’s level and response.
  • A non-allowing of appropriate intensity with both hands. The following is a list in increasing intensity of that non-allowing. Use only as much as necessary.
    • close fingers
    • squeeze reins
    • roll hands inward
    • move arm backward from shoulder
    • lean upper body back

3. Yield aids without throwing away what you have gained.

When do you apply the half halt? Long enough (a second or two) ahead of the transition or maneuver to allow the horse to respond but not prolonged (through several strides) or it will result in tension.

How strong a half halt should you use? Tinker Bell or Industrial Strength? Occasionally an industrial strength half halt is necessary to be sure it “goes through”. After using a major half-halt, confidently use light ones or half halts will begin to lose their effect for you.

THE ALL-IMPORTANT YIELD:

Often you should give more than you take. The timing of the yield is often more important than the driving and non-allowing.

Did you feel a positive response…even a hint of compliance? If you wait so long that you can feel the full effects of the half halt, it would be way past time to yield. The yield is what encourages self-carriage. No yield leads to stiffness and tension.

Should you use more than one half halt at a time? Sometimes it takes a series, one each stride, to accomplish the necessary re-balancing.

BENEFIT Balance, collection, essential pieces of the riding puzzle.Cherry Hill

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Dear Cherry,
I have a 10 year old quarter horse mare who has never been trained by an “excellent” trainer. She is a perfect horse on the ground and out on the trail. But I have noticed she doesn’t travel behind the vertical. She has her head pretty high up. I have no clue where or how to train her so that she is behind the vertical. I know this is causing her to have a very hollow back. It cant be very comfortable for her. I’m wondering if this is also causing some other problems with her, like bucking when I ask her to canter and rushing in the trot. Will a de gouge or Chambon help her? Please help me figure out how I can fix her. I love her so much and she is an amazing horse to ride. I just don’t want her to be uncomfortable. Taylor

Hi Taylor,

When a horse has a high head and a hollow back, that usually means that the horse’s hindquarters are not “engaged”. By that it is meant that there is not enough propulsion or energy coming from “behind” – the horse is trotting or loping out behind himself rather than up under himself with his hind legs, which causes him to be strung out and hollow backed and high headed.

When a horse is engaged and working energetically behind, he rounds his whole topline which raises his back ! Yeah !


So, you want to start working from the back to the front NOT from the front to the back. You want to work on developing more forward movement from the hindquarters.

You mention “she doesn’t travel behind the vertical” – well that is a good thing ! A horse in balance and working energetically forward will hold its head and neck in a nice balanced position with its nose approximately 10 to 15 degrees IN FRONT of the vertical – that’s a nice place for both you and the horse to have a back and forth communication.


So you want to work on forward, long and low exercises to strengthen her back and abdominal muscles and then slowly gather her up and start to collect her – but this will take months of training. Be patient and work for degrees of improvement. A good reference for you would be 101 Arena Exercises.

Look at the frame of the two horses on the cover of my book below – I looked through hundreds of photos to find these two which exemplify balanced working frames and as you can see, both of the horses carry their heads in front of the vertical.


I’m also going to provide you with some links to more articles on my website that talk about the phases of training and collection for your continued reading enjoyment and reference.

Best of luck,

Cherry Hill

The Phases of Training: by Cherry Hill

Your Horses’ Physical Development – The Early Stages: by Cherry Hill

What is Collection?: by Cherry Hill



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I’ve had several queries in regard to the post about No Fear of Loping so here is some more information on the lope or canter.

Becoming an Effective Rider by Cherry Hill

Following is an excerpt from Becoming an Effective Rider on how to ask for a canter and Exercise 10 from 101 Arena Exercises that describes the canter (lope) and how to sit the canter.

Horse Riding

Aids for the Canter or Lope

and Sitting the Canter or Lope

©  2010 Cherry Hill © Copyright Information

Aids for the canter or lope, right lead:

  • Apply the aids when the left hind leg is about to land
  • Think – “Come under behind, come up in front, and roll forward smoothly into a three-beat gait.”
  • Seat – Right seat bone forward and up; left seat bone back and down.
  • Push down on the left seat bone then follow the forward movement to the right (without leaning forward) just as the horse creates the forward movement, not before.
  • Legs – Right leg on girth; left leg behind the girth; both active
  • Reins – Right direct rein to create flexion and an appropriate amount of bend; left supporting rein or bearing rein to keep horse from falling in on right shoulder.

DESCRIPTION The canter (lope) is a three-beat gait with the following foot fall pattern:101 Arena Exercises by Cherry Hill

  1. initiating hind leg or outside hind
  2. the diagonal pair or inside hind and outside foreleg
  3. leading foreleg or inside foreleg
  4. regrouping of legs or a moment of suspension.

If the initiating hind leg is the left, the diagonal pair will consist of the right hind and the left front, the leading foreleg will be the right front and the horse will be on the right lead. When observing a horse on the right lead from the side, his right legs will reach farther forward than his left legs. The right hind will reach under his belly farther than the left hind; the right front will reach out in front of his body farther than the left front. When turning to the right, normally the horse should be on the right lead.

The canter has an alternating rolling and floating feeling to it. The energy rolls from rear to front, then during a moment of suspension, the horse gathers his legs up underneath himself to get organized for the next set of leg movements. The rider seems to glide for a moment until the initiating hind lands and begins the cycle again.

A lope is a relaxed version of the canter with less rein contact and a lower overall body carriage.
HOW TO Ride the Canter, Right Lead

It is not enough that your horse is on the correct lead. You must ride every step of the way to keep him in balance and in the correct position.

    • Right seat bone forward, left seat bone in normal position
    • Upper body erect
    • Outside shoulder forward, inside shoulder back
    • Right leg on girth, active, creating right bend and keeping horse up on left rein
    • Left leg behind the girth, active, keeping hindquarters from swinging to the left, maintaining impulsion.
    • Right direct rein to create appropriate amount of bend and flexion
    • Left supporting rein or neck rein if appropriate

USE All western performances and Training Level dressage.

NOTE The trot-canter transition develops a good forward working canter.

RELATED TERMS

Disunited is when a horse is on one lead in front and another behind. Also called cross-leaded. This is very rough to ride.

Counter-cantering is cantering on the “outside” lead on purpose as a means of developing obedience, strength, balance, and suppleness. If counter-cantering on a circle to the right, the horse would be on the left lead and he would be flexed left.

CAUTION Don’t force a horse to carry his head too low or he will be unable to round his topline and bring his hind legs underneath himself and will subsequently travel downhill, heavy on the forehand.

Don’t slow a horse down too much at the canter or the diagonal pair of legs can “break” (front landing before its diagonal hind) giving rise to a four beat gait where the horse appears to be loping in front and jogging behind.

Be sure the horse is moving straight ahead, not doing the crab-like canter.

Hope this was helpful. Have a great ride !

Cherry Hill

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Improving Balance

Balance is equilibrium, a state where weight is equally distributed. 90 percent of humans are right-handed but both left- and right-handed riders need to be ambidextrous. The rider who is equally strong and coordinated on both sides has a better chance of having a comfortable and safe ride. Stretching and strength-training exercises can help you even your left and rights sides. When riding, first pay attention to your posture at the halt and walk. Work on form before you add speed. Stand in your stirrups at all 3 gaits to improve your balance.

Switch Sides

  • When cleaning stalls, switch the normal position of your hands on the fork.
  • When grooming, hold the curry in the opposite hand.
  • Comb your hair and brush your teeth with your opposite hand (and get ready to laugh!)
  • Open gates and stalls with a different hand every day.
  • Lead from the off side.
  • Mount from the off side.

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Balance

Balance is equilibrium, a state where weight is equally distributed.

Where is your Center of Balance?

It is located within your abdomen near your belly button. The lower your center of balance, the closer it will be to the horse’s back. If you have long legs, wide hips, and a short, light upper body, your center of balance is low and you have a natural physical advantage as a rider. If you have short legs, a long waist and a heavy upper body, you have a higher center of balance and may have to work harder to maintain a stable upper body position and overall balance.

Men tend to have a higher center of gravity because more mass is located in the upper body; women’s lower center of gravity is due to the majority of weight being located in the lower portion of the body.

Note! When performing the following physical tests, do so at your own risk. Wear loose clothes, no shoes, and don’t strain. If you’ve had an injury or surgery, proceed with extreme caution.

TEST: Stand with your hands on your waist and shift your weight to one of your feet. Bend the other leg at the knee and place the sole on the inside of the opposite knee with the toe pointing toward the floor. Try standing in this stork position for 30 seconds. Try the other leg. Now close your eyes and see how long you can balance. If you can’t balance for 30 seconds with eyes closed, work on it. It will help you when riding in the dark or when your horse loses his balance or spooks or bucks.

TEST: Do you routinely lose one of your stirrups? You may be contracting (collapsing) one side of your body; as that side crunches together like an accordion, your shoulder and hip get closer together, the entire side gets shorter, your heel raises, your foot loses contact with the stirrup tread and the stirrup swings free. Have an instructor evaluate your position from the rear, front and side. Evaluate your own riding by watching yourself on video.

TEST: How do you sit when you drive? If you lean on the console, you are collapsing your right side. If you ride like that, it’s hard on your spine and difficult for the horse to perform in balance. If you slouch when driving and carry that habit to riding, you weight the horse’s forehand and could easily pop off in the event of a stumble or abrupt stop.

TEST: What’s your cell phone posture when driving? How many sideways S-shaped curves does your spine make from your seat bones up to your phone-holding hand up to over to your steering hand back to your listening ear? Ideal driving posture is weight evenly distributed on both seat bones, shoulders over hips, lower back and shoulders touching the seat, hands at 10 and 2 on the wheel, and looking straight ahead while talking into the hands-free microphone on your visor! Sounds an awful lot like great riding posture, doesn’t it?

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