By Jenny Richardson BHSAI
When taking your horse out for a ride, there are plenty of chances to school and train him, to help maintain his suppleness and obedience. With the following suggestions, always assess the conditions and safety of your location; quiet country lanes and bridleways are ideal.
It is a necessity that your horse halts at a road junction immediately when asked, so simple ‘walk to halt transitions’ must be practised until perfect, so the horse can be completely relied upon to stand still. If a large vehicle needs to pass, and you need to be immobile on a grass verge, it is reassuring to know your ride will follow your instructions. At selected safe places on your hack, ask him to stand still for approx 4 – 6 seconds, which can be increased in stages until it is second nature. As he learns, responds and improves, praise the horse generously with voice and pats.
Another good exercise in responsiveness is to be able to do walk/trot and trot/walk transitions. A planned sequence is a good idea, for instance ten walk strides, ten trot strides, alternating the two paces.
Tailor your routine as you please, with any amount of strides, not necessarily the same in each gait, and alter them at your will so he does not anticipate. A good thing to learn is an ‘emergency stop’, where you are able to halt from trot, as this could avoid a potentially tricky situation. In all paces, you can ask for collection, medium and extended, and again these can be used in sequences.
3. A technique for suppleness
A bonus to riding on the roads/bridleways is that you will usually have long straight lines to ride along. Shoulder-in and leg-yielding are excellent for increasing the suppleness and flexibility of your horse. Shoulder-in is a lateral movement whereby your horse bends around your inside leg. The shoulders and front legs are brought off the straight line and the inside foreleg passes in front of the outside foreleg whilst the hind legs stay straight. On the roads, it is wise to bend his head to the right so that he is able to see any on-coming traffic, and you can bend to the left when off road. Leg-yielding is when the horse moves on two tracks, forwards and sideways. His body remains straight except for a bend at his poll away from the direction in which you are going. With leg-yielding you would need to start the exercise in the middle of a quiet road and leg-yield back to the edge, only doing this when there is absolutely no traffic. Off roads, it can be done in either direction at will. Practise both these exercises at home, in a school if you can, before attempting them whilst hacking.
4. Canter work
It is very important that your horse does his canter work at different places, thus not anticipating where he speeds up. Vary your hacks as much as possible to give you different options. A sequence of trot and canter, as explained earlier with walk and trot, is excellent and will keep him tuned to your aids. Teach your horse to strike off in canter on left or right lead as you choose.
Jenny Richardson BHSAI is Equestrian Centre Business Manager at Ireland’s Castle Leslie Estate, a venue that offers luxurious equestrian riding holidays and training breaks in the heart of Ireland. The team welcomes riders of all abilities and age groups and offers expert tuition, gentle hacks and exhilarating cross-country rides over an extensive XC course. Visit www.castleleslie.com