The kids were home from school last week for spring break. Alas, I’ve fallen behind on my blogging and just about everything else. I try not to stress too badly because I know that in the near future I will miss all of this – the crazy schedules, the messes, the laundry… So, for now I enjoy every minute and apologize for my tardiness.
With the Breeders Show quickly approaching, I’ve decided to document my journey toward what will be my second time in the show arena. I have been trying very hard to stay calm and focused, and also to remind myself that it is my horse the judges are looking at. Of course how I ride will affect how my horse looks, but I tell myself this as a way to calm my nerves.
For the last two weeks I have been riding without stirrups hoping to perfect my seat and leg position. This has been tremendously helpful. In addition to helping me discover muscles I didn’t know I had, it has forced me to use my seat for balance and communication. I have come a long way in the last eight months, but there are still improvements to be made. I think everyone can say this. If there is one thing I’ve learned about riding, you never really stop learning. The mere fact that I am able to canter comfortably around the arena without my stirrups is alone testament to how far I’ve come. There is no way I could have done that a year ago.
Last week Austin and I worked on staying straight. For a long time neither of us were particularly straight. Now that my riding has improved and I am more centered in the saddle, it is time to work on Austin’s straightness. Every horse bends naturally to one side over the other. This is what is commonly known as lateral bending. In Austin’s case he moves more easily to the right. Whether a horse moves naturally to the right or the left is dependent on a number of factors, including his spine, muscles, and movement of legs.
It is easy to constantly hold a horse in the position you’d like it to go, but doing this will not solve the problem. My instructor has convinced me that it is much more effective to make a sharp correction, and then go back to straight. When Austin begins leaning on the right side of the bit, I make a sharp correction by pulling on the left rein so that his head is moved away from the direction he is leaning. When doing this it is important to relax your hands once he straightens out. It is only by applying pressure and then releasing it when he responds that Austin will learn what is expected of him. As with training any animal, the key here is consistency and then praise when they respond appropriately on their own. For more information on keeping your horse straight, I highly recommend that you checkout Straightnesstraining.com which provides valuable insight into the reasons for lateral bend, and is chock-full of helpful tips on how to straighten out your crooked horse.
Does your horse move more easily to one side or another? How do you straighten out your crooked horse? Your personal insight could help others. Please, share your thoughts in the comments section.