Thursday, August 25, 2016
For anyone starting out, this can be confusing. It can be for your horse too, so I like to start simple so it is a good experience for everyone, both students and horses. I would rather use a surcingle and I have one so why not? If the horse is fresh, I give them the chance to blow off a little steam in the round pen or on a lunge line before we get started. This way their mind is settled and they're ready to work.
Because the livingroom floor doesn't move or fuss so I am able to take better pics this way. Besides it was raining again outside, probably because I had brought home a few sets of polos and the pad I use, had hosed everything down and hung it up to dry....
You'll notice the surcingle has a few sets of rings on it. For starting out, whether teaching someone how to do this or the first time in the lines with a horse, I like to start out with the lowest set of rings. These are the two out on the ends by the billets for the girth. These rings make it very easy for the person working the line and for the horse as well, to figure out that the right rein means bend or turn right, left rein, bend or turn left. Its pretty much the same concept with using a saddle and your lines run thru the stirrups. The pessure is coming from that side and the horse pretty much has to turn that way. With a young horse or one in the first few time in the lines, this also does a few things. It teaches them to bend and give laterally as well as making your cues pretty much exagerated with the correct response or answer being the obvious choice for the horse. So your teaching them to give to pressure, bend laterally and setting them up to do it right no matter what. Win!
So you're ready to start working your horse. Run the lines thru the lowest ring and snap them to your bit, you have your gloves on and you pick up your lines to get started. Again I like to keep things simple. I bridge my reins and if you've ever ridden with split reins you may already know what this means. If not, what this means is that the right rein comes into my hand thru the bottom and out thru the top, over to the left, in thru the top and out the bottom, laying out to the left side and behind me. The left rein comes up thru the bottom of the left hand, out the top and over to the right, in thru the top, out thru the bottom and laying off to my right side and behind. This way you can slide your hands up and down the reins, taking a shorter hold, letting the reins out and repositioning with little effort. With the lines spread out and going behind you on either side like this, it helps keep them from getting tangled and you ending up in a bad spot creating a mess in the making.
Ribbons has agreed to demonstrate bridging the reins, using two different colored phone charging cables to clarify things for us visual thinkers and below is how the reins go thru your hands, again with two different colors and only one hand since somehow I still had to take the pic.
I take my position a little behind the horse. For the most part I like to stay close enough they can hear me, but also just out of kicking range if they don't like the ropes touching them for whatever reason. It's also not a bad thing to just let the horse stand here for a little bit and take everything in. You don't want the horse to think, ok they picked up the lines we're ready to go now.... and start moving off without you. This is a good way for things to go south. The horse should wait until you're ready and ask them to move. With driving there are times you have to stop and wait so establishing that now pays off later on.
To begin I ask the horse to walk. That's all we will really worry about the first few times out. Later we can focus on developing the walk, but to get started we just want the horse to be relaxed and walk off quietly. I cluck kiss to get them going along with a firm "Walk on"". If the horse doesn't move, I may repeat it with a tug to the inside rein- whichever rein is on the inside of the pen or arena where you're working. If the horse still doesn't move I repeat it and tug a little more. The horse will eventually move off in that direction and may only take one step, but praise them for responding and moving. Try again and praise the response. If you get them moving and they want to turn around and face you, use your other rein to keep them from doing so.
If they walk off without much pushing on your part, again praise them and let them know this is what you wanted. Let them walk maybe a circle or two and quietly ask them to stop. You don't have to yell or haul in on the reins, but take a little contact and ask for the stop. If you don't get it, ask again. Whoa should be said calmly and soothingly. Stopping is a good thing. When they stop they get to relax and aren't going forward working. You're establishing your 'brakes' here and also building your horses trust that you're not going to be beating up their mouth with the reins and building their confidence that everything will be ok. When the horse stops, step forward and loosen up the lines a little. All pressure is off. They did what you wanted. Give them a minute to take it all in and process it and then ask them to walk on again.
If they move off without you asking them to, ask for the stop again. The horse is testing the boundaries and who's in charge. You don't need to get mad at them, just ask for the stop and wait for it. Just keep asking as long as it takes. Remember there is nothing personal about this. They are not trying to annoy you or piss you off. Eventually they will give in and stand, maybe even cocking a hind leg and really relaxing. Do a few stop and go's, then ask the horse to turn while walking and go the other direction. Stop and go some more in this direction, maybe change direction a few more times and quit there for the day.
Also when the horse is walking forward, remember to let the reins loosen up a little as you follow along behind the horse. You're asking them to go forward and when they are, you need to let them. As long as they are moving, you're job is to simply guide them and keep them going straight ahead, between the lines. You want your horse to work on a loose rein and this is no different.