Creating an Even Keel

In last week’s post, I looked at why some horses have trouble moving in a certain direction or picking up a certain lead. If you haven’t read that post yet, please do. The exercise that I describe below builds off of the two exercises I presented there.

This exercise is meant to be done at a lope. You should be getting the correct lead at least some of the time now, after doing last week’s exercises. If your horse is still really falling apart at the lope, don’t start with that. Instead, introduce them to the exercise at a long trot. There is really no benefit in walking it.

You are going to turn your arena into an hourglass. Normally, you just ride around it in a rectangle shape, following the long and short walls all the way around. For this, you will be following the short walls, but ducking in on the long walls.

Pick up your gait (trot or lope) and begin. If you have arena letters, start at A (if you don’t, it’s a good idea—go get some). Lope to F, and from there use your outside leg to push and bend the horse into the middle. At this point, they are in what is known as a counter canter, or bending to the right while loping to the left. It is hard, and your horse may have trouble balancing. Help them as much as you can. If you find you cannot ride the lope nicely, bring them down to a trot until you have both found your balance again.

Some symptoms of losing balance are speeding up, breaking gait or switching leads, or bucking. You can help the horse on these counter bends by picking up the rein closest to the wall and shifting some more weight onto your inside seat bone.

When you come to M, having given B a wide berth, you should be at the wall again. Continue along beside C, and at H start ducking to the middle again. Be insistent about getting an outside bend; that is the point of the exercise.

Keep going for a bit until your horse begins to feel like putty between your legs. The ideal is to have a horse that moves and bends away from a small amount of leg pressure. Keep the ideal in mind and go experiment!

The Horsegentler

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