Stretching - your methods
So, how do you encourage your horse to stretch into the contact?
My gelding is one of those types that is quite content just motoring around the arena slightly above the bit, it's always just been his thing, and I've noticed how prevalent it's become since he's just coming back into work after about 2 years off. So I've just been working him mostly at the walk (mostly aka 45 minutes of a 1 hr ride), just encouraging him to stretch into a longer rein trying to get him to seek the contact, etc. He's got a consistent rhythm in his gaits, all three, he just needs that relaxation and stretch through his topline before I feel comfortable asking him to move on. Personally, I like to keep him doing serpentines, figure eights, weird little patterns etc. just so he stays more focused on me and less focused on the other horse bucking at the end of the arena.
I'm interested to hear how everyone else encourages their horses to stretch, though, and I'd love to try some. It's an ongoing battle, right now, but when he realizes that he knows HOW to already I'm sure we'll make more progress.
According to the instructor I recently had a lesson with, your horse isn't going near energetically enough. You first take up a contact, then fix your hands, then you take up the trot, and go faster, faster and more, until you're practically cantering. And then you wait, until your horse takes the bit. He will suddenly come round, just like that. . . it's amazing, you can really feel the impulsion coming through the whole body. . . but by that time, if you're at all like me, you're ready to fall off with fatigue.:shock: We only lasted 20 minutes. But since then (it's been a few weeks) my horse has been worlds better, and while I don't push so hard at home, I do know what she can do, and so does she.
There are other ways of course to develop contact, but I think this is the most honest (horses know everything about speed, not complicated!) and it sure does involve stretching. I also do a lot at the walk, but I believe now it's harder that way. Just because I don't think horses "think" of the walk as very energetic, and I try to make things easy to understand.
I establish the forward part first on light contact, use walk-trot transitions to take up the proper contact while he works from behind, and then ride transitions within the trot to start fishing the contact back out to him usually on a circle until he starts to seek the contact. My TB takes a long time to warm up his back, so usually a good canter works it's way in there before we really start trying to for stretching.
When I do arena work, I do alot of walk work - being that Nelson is 21, I feel he needs alot of extra time at the walk to warm up, limber up and get ready for "on contact" work.
I make sure Nelson does a nice forward, marching, working walk. No dilly dallying. I want him to open up and move under himself. I ride with a long rein, but not a loose rein.
I start out with stretching work. Where I have him turn his head to the inside of the arena at the walk, and to the outside of the arena, at the walk. I then get him to do "Long And Low'.
I do 20 meter circles, I do serpentines and I do figure 8's. I then merge into leg yields, where I go along the long side of the ring, asking him to leg yeild to the center of the arena, and then leg yeild him back to the wall. I'll do that both sides, both ways.
What I do on one side, I repeat on the other.
By the time I get to shoulder in's and shoulder out's, riding inside leg to outide rein, he's ready to work on a shorter rein - soft and supple enough to get to other aspects of our dressage work.
I try to make sure I am riding correctly, to be sure that I am helping my horse.
Lots of great examples. I would like to add that lateral bending is also stretching, and a horse finds it difficult to bend longitudinally if it is stiff laterally. So, plenty of deep bends side to side would be good. and a good canter at some point, on a loose rein.
Nice how you are doing lots of walk work. Don't forget walk, halt, step back a bit, halt and go forward quickly and if it isn't a quick, honest forward, then, "tap, tap" with a crop!
Yeah, walk is especially important for Willie. His previous owner let him get the idea that walk = done working, which is definitely not something I want him to continue thinking.
Thanks for sharing everyone! Keep 'em coming!
I'm terrible at explaining this stuff. You do it for a few years and it becomes second nature haha. Theoretically, you follow the training scale. Rhythm, relaxation/suppleness and finally contact. The rhythm is not chasing the horse around the arena, that is very "Old German", but it is not plodding along at the pace which the horse chooses. The rhythm is a clear, 4 2 or 3 beat gait that shows natural desire to move forward and has room for a little slowing down or speeding up for a few strides. The horse is balanced. To create suppleness/relaxation, we ask the horse to respond to the leg and move a little more forward, respond to the balancing and slowing aids and come a little slower. This begins to expand and contract the longitudinal frame. We start to take flexions inside and counterflexed, giving in between (Ie, flex left, give BOTH hands, flex right, give both hands) and keeping with the slight forward and back. As the horse's rhythm is settled into and the slight suppling both longitudinally and laterally start to flow, the horse begins to drive from behind, through a soft, relaxed body and into the contact, which is regularly giving to encourage the seeking of the bit. From here as the bridge of the back is built and becomes stronger the horse starts to develop the next step on the training scale, impulsion. Now this ends the warm up phase and we work on keeping this in a shorter frame, and work on straightness and finally collection. All with the first three steps still in place. The contact is the same feeling whether the horse is piaffing or stretching long and low.
^ I thought you explained quite well. :) A lot of that sounds similar to what I'm trying to do. It's a whole lot harder without someone on the ground to point out things that I might be unconsciously doing with my body that's throwing us both off, but we're getting there, lol.
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