What makes a good turn?
Today I had my first go at leg yielding! I was wearing my new jodhpurs, which I shouldn't have bought today but my best friend talked me into it, and my instructor loved them. Anyway, after warming up and doing transition work, and riding out my stitch, she got me to do my first leg yielding!
We did it in walk, trot, and trotting to the wall then cantering. My instructor said that the leg yielding was great, but my turns onto the three-quarter line weren't very good and sometimes I was drifting in them.
I know the leg aids for circling and so on, but I was wondering if you guys could help me out with the properties of a good turn! I'm turning from A or C to get onto the three-quarter line. I need to get him straight and parallel to the wall as soon as possible, so I can start the leg yield.
Your trainer mentioned you were drifting, which most likely means he's bulging at the shoulder and not respecting your aids. To keep his shoulder in line, make sure your outside rein is acting as a steady support with assertive (not harsh, but noticeable to the horse) contact.
As far as when to begin cuing, you should begin to put on light aids as soon as you start your turn. Give a clear half-halt as a heads-up, then slide on your supporting outside leg back and press, as well as grab some contact with the supporting outside rein aid to keep his shoulders in check, then take your inside leg (active aid) and bump/press right behind the girth. To encourage him to straighten quickly, continue to use your inside leg as the active aid, but bring your outside leg up behind the girth to allow his hind end come more behind him again.
If you have troubles getting bends in general, travel on the straightaway, first at the walk, and ask for a true bend for only five strides, or until you get one good stride, then switch to a counter bend for five strides, and repeat. He'll understand bending in no time!
Thanks - I'll keep all that in mind next time I'm riding. I've just switched to a different horse; he's a lot more sensitive to the steering and won't plod neatly around the track; he particularly likes to cut corners so I'm learning to use my inside leg more just to keep him close to the wall, and keep a firmer contact on the outside rein.
I don't know how to do half-halts yet, though I know the principle. These are all old school horses, so they need pretty firm aids to get an effect. My instructors have me riding them so they know they've got to work right from the start, and I always begin with a few transitions to make them attentive, but they'll never be the kind of horses that listen to a mere brush of your leg!
As I only ride in lessons, I don't have the opportunity to really 'do what I want', and it's difficult for me to provide any kind of consistency for the horse when I'm only on him for half an hour or one hour a week and he has many riders in between. I do get to decide what I'm working on in my lessons, though, so unless my instructor has something particular that she wants me to work on, I can ask to, say, learn about bend or the different effects of your leg aids. Unfortunately, as I only have one or two half-hour lessons per week, I don't have much chance to drill myself in the basics every day.
So, you've told me what to do for a horse that drifts in his turns - would you by any chance have some advice about those who like to cut corners and drift inwards from the track, other than a firm outside contact and using my inside leg?
ask for his shoulders to come in and his haunches to go out :)
How do I do that? I understand that moving my leg back gives a command for his hind legs, leg on the girth encourages him to bend round it, even contact on the reins to keep his head straight, but only in very basic terms.
I don't try and second-guess my instructor in lessons, but having the extra info really helps because I have a clearer idea of what she's asking me to do :)
It depends on how the horse is drifting to the middle. If it's his shoulders that are moving to the inside, then you can give a check with the inside rein to tell him to keep him shoulder on the track. Perform this check as often as necessary, but don't hold rein. If you hold it, it becomes a great place for the horse to lean and pick up other naughty habits.
If his rear starts to swing in first then give another correction, but with the inside leg this time. Swing it back and give his flank a bump. As soon as he responds, move your leg back to it's original place behind the girth and let it continue to be the active aid.
Generally, the horse will respect (or be more sensitive to) one aid more than another (leg vs. rein), which will cause either the hip or the shoulder to swing inward first, depending on which aid he is more dull too. Even if it is slight, you should be able to pick up on it and correct it before it even becomes a problem with the methods I mentioned above.
If he is keeping an even bend and drifting with his entire body at once, then he's telling you that he's dull to your active, inside leg aid. If this is the case, then you should first check to see if your support aids (outside leg and rein) are doing more than required for their light, inactive job. Once they are the correct tension and pressure (which is light and not overbearing), then soften him to your inside leg. When you try to get the bend with a press of the inside leg and he does respond (with a correct bend), then give a small bumps until he yields to the correct position along the rail. If he doesn't give the correct bend with the press, then you'll have to increase the intensity and activity of your inside leg accordingly.
Keep in mind the release (suppression of all aids as a reward for correct behavior) though. If you're trying to increase his sensitivity to your aids, the correct release is imperative. As soon as he indicates that he understands (starts to bend, gives to the pressure, etc.) even in the slightest way, back off with your aids for a few moments, strides, seconds, or even just for an instant, so he realizes that he did the correct thing. He'll quickly pick up what you are trying to help him understand with good, timely releases.
Ok, one more suggestion...sorry it's so long! Another thing that you could be doing to ask him unintentionally to go to the middle is being crooked in the saddle. If you're heavier on one seatbone than on the other, it will encourage the horse to move in the opposite direction from it. In this case, you're outside seatbone would be bearing more weight than you're inside, causing him to move toward the middle. You could very well be balanced in the saddle, or he might not even think twice about the pressure of your seatbones since he's a lesson horse, but it's something to look into. Have your trainer look at you from the back, at a square halt and ask her to tell you if your heels look balanced and even, as well as your hips and shoulders. If they're uneven in anyway, your trainer can help you realign yourself...or you can come back here to ask more questions! I think I've said enough for today, though. So, good luck in keeping your horse straight (or well-bent, rather) and keep us posted on the progress. :)
Thank you very much - I don't mind long posts at all. It's an awful lot to think about, and I don't think I'm quite ready to be able to hold all of it in my mind at once, but I'll try and remember as much of it as I can when I'm riding and try and pay more attention to things like his bend. When I'm working in the indoor, having the mirror down at one end should help :)
One thing I don't understand - you were describing how his body might start to drift while walking along the track around the arena. If his shoulder is drifting in, does this mean his head is coming in too? If so, wouldn't a little tug (I say tug, I don't mean pulling hard, just rolling my hand back a little) cause him to turn inwards? I'm not really sure how all that works.
I have a lesson on Tuesday - it's with an instructor I haven't worked with in a while, so if she doesn't have anything in particular she wants me to work on, I'm going to ask to learn more about how you control the different parts of the horse's body, what you do and how it all works. Being able to put the practical in with the theory should help me understand what to do a lot better.
It's times like this that I wish I was at least able to loan a horse - as my lessons are only half an hour, there isn't that much time for practice-practice-practice. There's so much I want to learn, and only a few more weeks before I go to uni - which means a month or so without riding and then group lessons, once a week :(
I'm not all that sensitive to the horse's responses yet, particularly for releasing an aid, so I'll try and concentrate on that a bit. I'm getting better at keeping contact - when I started, like most new riders I was scared of pulling back because that would make the horse slow down, and it was hard enough to get him going! Now I'm much better at getting the horse moving forwards and I understand what it feels like to have a proper contact so you can feel him on the ends of the reins.
As for the listening-to-my-seat thing - last night I was watching my friend's group riding lesson. They were working on riding stirrupless and using their seat to affect the quality of the gait; trying to collect and extend using just their seat, only bringing leg and rein into it if necessary. Some of the riders had the more sensitive lesson horses, and were doing great; my friend had one of the lazy old school horses. She could get him to extend his trot, but he kept trying to pretend that collection meant slowing down. So it is possible that they listen to those sort of aids - and just as possible that they ignore them completely xD
Thank you very much for all your help. I'm the kind of person who, when she doesn't understand something, tries to get absolutely all the information she can to get a clearer picture of what she's supposed to be doing! And an interactive help guide thing (i.e. you guys :P) is so much more useful than a web page.
Enough chit chat! Generally, when the shoulders drift in to the middle, leaving the haunches on an outside track, the inside shoulder is bulging (to the inside). This is either due to too much outside rein, unintentionally asking the horse to counter bend (bend to the outside), or disrespect for the inside leg aid. You should be able to tell which is the case by where the head is positioned in relation to the shoulders. If the head is to the outside, but the shoulder is to the inside, that means the outside rein is overbearing and is more active than the inside leg is, thus asking the horse to flex his neck to the outside. If this is, indeed, the case, then a simple loosening of the outside rein, inside rein check (which will realign the shoulders) and continuing to bump with the inside leg will remedy it quickly. On the other hand, if he simply doesn't respect the inside leg, he'll show it blatantly by pushing his shoulder to the inside as well as his entire head and neck. And this is very rude, in case you didn't catch my drift (unless, of course he's never been taught, but that's a whole 'nother story). The easiest way to fix this problem is to bump/pull with the inside rein straight back to your inside hip to encourage his inside shoulder back into place, create an opening outside rein (hold arm out to the side and pull rein from there) to allow space for his outside shoulder to swing back into place and bump, bump, bump or even kick with the inside leg until he's back on the rail with the proper bend (then release!!).
So sorry to overload you, but you'll catch on quickly enough. You seem like a pretty smart, interactive rider. And I also know what you mean about not having your own horse to ride whenever you want. It does make learning and picking things up and little more of a challenge, but think of it as having a variety of horses to learn new things on. Most people who own horses don't have that luxury.
Thank you - that makes a lot more sense, I'm able to visualise it better now. Darcy's a huge horse - he's only 16hh but he's a massive skewbald cob, and it's sort of very easy to see how the different parts of his body are moving compared to some of the other horses. That's why I first learnt about diagonals riding him, the movement of his shoulder is pretty obvious. Hopefully I have him today; I'll pay attention to how he's moving ^^
Just to check I've understood this (thank you so much for your help!) - inside leg on the girth asks him to bend around that leg, that's why I put my leg there in a turn. If I was asking him to bend around that leg and he was instead throwing his shoulder out, which is very naughty, stronger aids with that leg would tell him to behave, and if he didn't, flexing his neck to the inside means his shoulder can't bulge in unless he's some sort of dragon with a snakelike neck. And keeping the outside rein open allows him to get back into place ^^
I've no idea if that was what Charlie was doing in my leg yielding lessons, but as Darcy's more sensitive to the steering and so on I'm going to be paying lots of attention to how he moves today and try and use better aids to make it clearer for him just what I want him to do. I'm also hoping that when I switch to group lessons at uni, if there's more hanging around and waiting in those lessons, and of course less individual attention, knowing this stuff will give me more to work on during them. I'm absolutely awful when it comes to ... well, everything. I always like to know a lot more than I need and I hate not being able to talk about a subject without at least some idea of what I'm on about. As I'm a very scientific person, picking everything apart to work out what's going on and using all the precise words is just plain fun xD
Thank you thank you thank you!
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