Two Questions: How to train neck reining and lead changes? - The Horse Forum

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post #1 of 9 Old 11-25-2012, 12:26 AM Thread Starter
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Two Questions: How to train neck reining and lead changes?

I have an eight year old mare who is just now starting to get into a little more advanced training. I would like to know if there are some exercises I can do with her to teach neck reining, as I would like to show her in western in the upcoming summer. She is pretty good with leg cues, but doesn't quite understand the neck rein.
As for lead changes, I think the problem is I don't quite know how to cue it. She sometimes does a flying change on her own, but usually breaks down to a trot to change it.
Thanks!
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post #2 of 9 Old 11-25-2012, 12:38 AM
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This isn't really directed at you, but I'm really astounded by the number of questions there are about "neck reining" a horse and trying to teach one to "neck rein." It's something that is so simple, it's really just riding your horse.

How exactly are you cueing this horse? Western horses (show horses, I mean) aren't really "taught neck reining," it's just more of what they've been doing since they were young -- ridden off of legs and seat. When they are young and still two handed, either in a snaffle or a curb, you're never just pulling their face around to turn, there is always a push from the outside with both the rein and mostly from the seat and legs.

If you are currently plow-reining to guide your horse, then you need to first start riding more through your seat and legs, which means your legs are always in contact with your horse (from thigh to foot).

Obviously when you are first starting a horse it takes a more obvious cue, but the more familiar they get, the less you have to do.

This is the level of control you should be striving for. Notice that she is using her seat and legs to maneuver him through the pattern:

As always, I recommend finding a trainer that can teach you and your horse. Especially in lead changes which are practically impossible to teach through the written word.
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post #3 of 9 Old 11-25-2012, 11:34 AM
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^ ditto to what she said! And that was a great pattern. Neck reining really is a misnomer, because it's more about using your legs and not your hands.
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post #4 of 9 Old 11-25-2012, 12:03 PM
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Originally Posted by GotaDunQH View Post
^ ditto to what she said! And that was a great pattern. Neck reining really is a misnomer, because it's more about using your legs and not your hands.
Maybe for the arena but not the trail. On the trail you should have to do nothing more than roll your wrist a bit to get your horse to turn where you want.

I take my horses out to a narrow trail to train them. When I say narrow I mean a well defined track your horse can see, usually hedged in by brush and trees but not to wide. It also can be a dirt trail that has sunk down, has grass growing on the sides but is very easy to see. I don't mean narrow as in it's a foot wide with a cliff on one side (though those are fun). You want a trail that visually reinforces the physical cues you give. Working around tree trunks or other obstacles also work, just not as fast from my experience.

Now to go from plow reining to neck reining. Pull on one rein like you normally do but also lay the opposite rein on their neck and give some leg all at the same time. As they pick it up you can back off how much you pull on the one rein until eventually you don't pull on it at all but just bump it a time or two. Once you've reached that stage you can now collect your reins in one hand and start neck reining. Do this for each and every twitch in the trail and you'll be basically neck reining at the end of a couple hour ride though it will take many hours to get them polished. Time it will take really depends on your skill and if your horse is a dunderhead or not.

Once they have that down and you want your horse to work off a rolled wrist. Just gradually back off using leg until they turn using nothing more than a rolled wrist.
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post #5 of 9 Old 11-25-2012, 12:09 PM
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You should be using your legs. Especially since this OP wants to show her horse.

If you are just trail-riding, obviously it doesn't matter. If you are competing, it absolutely does.
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post #6 of 9 Old 11-25-2012, 05:24 PM Thread Starter
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My mare hasn't been exposed to neck reining until now. So for her, it's not just 'riding your horse.'

I have been riding her with one rein in each hand, and with my hands close together, so its almost like it would be one handed, and I can easily give a little tug of her head if she doesn't respond to the neck rein. She's starting to get it with just the rein on her neck and leg pressure, but I don't have much control of her. If she wants to go somewhere else that I don't want her to go, she won't respond to the neck rein and I just have to pull her head. I was wondering if there were any exercises to help her get it more, or if just repetition is the trick.
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post #7 of 9 Old 11-26-2012, 09:53 PM
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Its just going to take time. It really depends on the horse and the rider. If she isnt riding off seat and leg alot try exagerating your seat and leg to teach her to work off those cues better. The horse really has to have an idea seat and leg cues to learn to neck rein. Try to focus on moving the horse with your body and not the bit, and then just lay the rein on the outside of the neck to re-enforce the turn. Try to only use the bit to corrcect the turn.
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post #8 of 9 Old 11-26-2012, 10:47 PM
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I taught my horses to neck rein. I would just do it, while using a lot of leg and looking to where I want to go. If they ever got sticky, I would use the direct rein to turn them while also applying the outside rein pressure. But I do agree, it's a lot about your legs too. One of my horses steers really well with just my legs now.
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post #9 of 9 Old 11-26-2012, 10:48 PM
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As for the lead change, you need to do a lot of bending work and getting the horse to move all body parts independently. I'm still working on that too.
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