Need help: Flexing vs. Steering?
I'm new to the forum and have a three year old Shire Percheron cross. I've had him for about a month now. I bought him green broke and, after a vet approval, have begun short light rides and lot's of ground work. I'm a fan of Clinton Anderson's type of training - am trying to go step by step through his book. The horse is flexing his neck like a champ already, from both ground and while standing when I'm on him. My questions is, as we continue to work in the saddle, how does he know difference between flexing his neck/one rein stops versus when I'm asking him to turn or steer? He hasn't had a bit of trouble with it yet, but I guess I'm a little confused and want to make sure I'm continuing to send him clear messages. Thanks! K
The difference is in your seat, weight shift in your seat bones, upper body position, and your leg aids. Think of how you would cue a horse to turn without using your hands.
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As for flexing vs. steering - exactly what was already posted. One thing I practiced on the ground was when practicing flexing I also applied a little pressure where one of my feet would land in the saddle, expecting the horse to turn his head and shift his body at the same time. Practicing yielding both at the same time. I also practices a lot of line-driving (driving on the ground without a cart) to get the hang of voice commands and practice basic rein cues.
From my trainer's perspective, flexing the neck from a standstill is something you don't want to do all that much, especially if you aren't doing it correctly. Correctly means that the horse does NOT tilt his head when He brings it around. many times you'll see a horse doing this excersize and he will tilt his head so that his nose comes up more toward the rider and his ears away from the rider. He's pivoting on the axis of his poll.
You want him to flex around such that his long nose remains in as vertical an alignment as possible. Then you get the stretch through the whole neck, and not just him pivoting on the poll.
So, first of all, to get the stretch benefit, flexs must be done correctly.
Secondly, if you do a lot of flexs in the more common way with the horse's head going downward and twisting around (described above) the horse is learning to lean even narder on the front end. It is , in effect, disconnecting the rein from the hind end. The rein should always have a connection to the hind end of the horse.
How? because it should always be mentally asking the horse to prepare himself to do something. To be prepared, he must have his hind end engaged, and be rocked back onto his hind (depending on what you are asking him to do).
But, I get ahead of myself.
When you do these flexions, does your hrose tilt his head as I described? Can you , by lifting the rein a bit more, have him rock his body back onto his hind? Can you get him to disengage his hind from one of these flexions? Doing that means that you tie the rein to the hind quarters.
First , you are asking the hrose to follow the rein around as you lift it . He should flex and follow the rein, and NOT be leaning on it. Then, lift the rein a little bit more and see if he won't rock back a bit and step that inside (inside meaning inside of the curve his body is making) leg under his belly and kind of step over. Release and praise. you just connected the rein to the hind end.
Eventually, just lifting the rein will get him thinking that maybe he should prepare himself for a turn . If he steps under himself with that inside hind, then the outside hind, the next step will be the inside fore, stepping over in the direction of the turn you are asking.
I apologize for this long winded and not very clear description. see if any of this makes any sense to you. Sorry, I am not always good at describing in words. And a terrible typist, to boot.
Thank you all! I'm really happy with him so far. I've tried to attach a couple of photos - hopefully it worked. He's really light, especially for a draft - and is bringing his head around correctly, from what it sounds like - straight around, without tilting. If I apply slightly more pressure, I do feel his weight shift as though he would disengage if I persisted (I haven't yet since we're just not there yet).
Tinyliny: You made my whole day with your photos! Ever since I first looked at my horse (Ares), I've been trying to find a picture of a mature horse that he may look like when he finishes growing. Yours is by far the closest I've found. Z is quite handsome.
What a big ol' shweety!! One thing that may help is to remember when your horse is moving, it's from the back end to the front. Every step begins with the rear end first!
A proper flex can be done with a finger. Really. It is awesome to feel a horse that light and responsive.
A one rein stop needs to have your leg added to control the body and not just the face.
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