Consistency in your riding.
"Ride like you Run" is a phrase that my students hear daily. It's so easy to just "ride" when training isn't your job. Remember that YOU are training every time you ride your horse. The key to training horses is consistency and repetition. It's easy to get frustrated with your horse for not doing the right things, but have you asked yourself, "Am I consistent?"
My students often hear "99% RIDER error" as well. As easy as it is to blame the horse, as I said before, horses are a product of the rider (Smile). When I teach my students, I preach to practice as if your making a run. Now, that doesn't mean go ten million miles an hour all the time, quite the contrary. It simply means that any movement I will need while making a run, I want to ask my horse on the regular basis.
The first thing I ask of my young horses and one key part to a solid foundation is having one soft in the face. I believe that a good foundation and having a horse that is actually broke (Control from the tip of his nose to the tip of his tail) can head off hundreds of problems. I practice having the horse give willingly in the face, because if your horse is resistant, you are missing a huge part of your foundation. It is my belief that you will never have a true 1D horse that fights you. He needs to be a willing partner and enjoy his job.
The next thing I ask of my horses is to have good control of their shoulders. When I ride my horses around, even off the pattern, I ask them regularly to move their shoulders. This means at any gate, when I change directions, I either move their shoulders or ask them to follow their nose in a smooth even circle where both the front and hind feet are on the same track. This is very important because if I have one thats turning too much on their front end, or giving me too much of their face, it can cause problems as I speed them up. So let me ask you, are you consistent with your riding? Do you let your horse ride around unbalanced and then get frustrated with him when he does the same thing at speed? 90% of your problems can be fixed by having a solid foundation.
I also believe that a good stop is important. Every time I ask my horse to stop I say "Whoa"and sit deep in my saddle. Not only does this promote a good stop on my horses by "clearing up the cues," but in some situations I might need to get my horse collected and get a hold of him without wanting him to slow down or stop. Another thing that this helps with is consistency in my turns. When a rider runs to a barrel, the rider is forward and then sits to brace their body for the turn. By sitting every time I ask my horse to slow down or stop, as I come into a barrel and sit, my horse is conditioned to rate without me pulling on his face. When you can win a barrel race by 1000th of a second, that little bobble of his head can slow me down enough to put me out of the money.
Think about your horse mechanically, every time you pull on their face, you shorten their stride, therefore eating time on the clock. Not only will you eat time, but this can cause your horse to be unbalanced. An unbalanced horse is not only unsafe, and prone to more injuries, but it can also cause your horse to be prone to jerking shoes. It's important for a rider to practice these consistency tips so that you're not constantly pulling on your horses face to get them to do what you ask.
When you are frustrated that your horse is not using their hind end, rib cage, and shoulders while speeding up, or slowing down ask yourself is this something that you make him do daily? Anytime I have one that pushes their hind end out when coming into a barrel or is having trouble getting themselves together, I slow them down and make them do the correct movement slow. I practice many circles having my horses follow their nose, holding them self up moving their shoulders correctly, and driving with their hind end. Don't forget "ride like you run." Meaning all of the movements I ask of my horses are movements they will do while making a run.
Tricia and "Streak" Susie has a Penny.
Photo by Tal Campbell
P.O. Box 334
Aubrey, Tx 76227