Any exercises to teach a horse to soften at the pole? - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 6 Old 06-03-2010, 07:36 AM Thread Starter
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Any exercises to teach a horse to soften at the pole?

My instructor got on Kiara for the first time yesterday. She kept trying to soften her at the pole (and bend the neck if I put it correctly, I'm not really good at terminology) but she had nose in air constantly (my instructor is great, btw, she's teaching horses dressage/jumping succefully, shows, and has years and years of experience).

Instructor suggested the ground work, but I showed her right away that horse responds to the pressure on pole just fine by lowering her neck and relaxing: whether I use my hand or the halter - slight pressure is already enough. She also relaxed there when I rode her and my instructor was pulling (well, not the correct word) on reins. Looks like she's just silly and can't understand she has to do the same thing when person is in saddle and ask her to. So are there any exercises to help me to teach her that in saddle?
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post #2 of 6 Old 06-03-2010, 08:10 AM
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Sounds like just a matter of getting her working forward in a rhythm first. Bend of the neck and poll doesn't come from just pulling on the reins and swinging the horse's head side to side until it drops it down. Everything stems from the 'engine room' - the hind legs. Once the hind legs are reaction by taking a bigger step each time the leg is applied, one can ask for the back to start working.

In simpler terms, MILLIONS of transitions. You should see the warm up on my very green ottb. I'll walk on a long rein for a good 15 minutes and do a lot of leg yield, and the next 10 minutes at least (however long it takes for him to relax and respond immediately to my aids) will be trot-walk-trot-halt-trot and so on. Every few strides there is a transitions, the second the horse releases it's jaw I will make the transition. Transitions are the most fabulous exercises for getting a horse over its haunches and using its back.

For now, don't worry about where her head is ;) Just keep a consistent steady contact with the bit and focus on what her hind legs are doing.
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post #3 of 6 Old 06-03-2010, 09:42 AM
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You can also do basic stretches with her while under saddle.

When I get on greenies and even when I am on Nelson *since he's 21* . What I do is I will pick up the right rein, and ask the horse stretch back, where I can see the eye's and inside nostril, and will hold it until the horse relaxes and drops.

The drop isn't drastic, it is very slight, but you have to be aware of it to release. When the horse drops you have to notice it to release the pressure and praise the horse "yes, this is what I want"

Then I will do the same thing with the left side. I will pick up the left rein and bring my horses head to where I will see the eye and the nostril, and will hold the rein until the horse relaxes and drops.

I will continue to do this a couple more times both ways.

Then I will do this at the walk going down the long side of the arena.

This exercise helps alot :)

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post #4 of 6 Old 06-03-2010, 11:09 AM Thread Starter
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Thank you, ladies! Good suggestions I'll try on her!

Kayty, "pull" was not a correct word of course , she kept steady same pressure on reins while she was riding, but after 30 mins of work horse was even worse then in the beginning. And we don't even know if it's her being so dumb, or she's just being horribly stubborn for the instructor. I highly suspect it's combination of both with more of 2nd reason involved. I'm not such a great rider with my aids, so that's why I asked trainer to ride her (she W/T/C and collected my other horse last year in 10-15 mins work, because she knows how to ask for it unlike me).
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post #5 of 6 Old 06-04-2010, 08:49 PM
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Very shallow serpentines. They're fantastic for establishing to inside leg to outside rein connection and create the subtle bend in the body that you need for proper flexion. To do shallow serpentines, pick up a nice walk, establish proper rein contact being sure to follow the horse's motion to keep the contact consistent. To start the exercise, use an indirect inside rein by rotating your hand counter-clockwise a quarter turn so your knuckes are facing up. While you're doing that, just take your inside knee off the saddle so your horse bends in that direction. Just take a few steps in that direction, take one straight step, and then do it the other way. The other way you can use your legs in this exercise is the more proper way, but the exercise I learned just involved the above method which is why I posted it first. The more proper way to use your legs are, while applying the indirect rein, soften you inside leg so your horse has a nice soft object to bend around. Bring your outside leg back a little and use your outside rein to cue him to bend off the rail. I actually like the first way better because it is extremely simple and still accomplishes the same result. You're not looking for any extreme bend, just enough to get the horse to "wander" in the direction you want. The head should only bend enough to where you see his inside eyelash and nostril. Coincidentally, it's the same degree of flexion required to keep a horse supple and moving freely. Sorry this is so wordy. Hope it makes sense.

You just have to see your don't have to like it.
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post #6 of 6 Old 06-04-2010, 09:12 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks, MyBoyPuck, I'll try that too! I'm trying all suggestions this week. :)
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