Monday, October 15, 2007

Rachel and Grandma and Arabian Horses - The Lessons Part 2

The first post of the Rachel and Grandma and an Arabian Horse series was posted several months ago and documents Rachel's journey on her way to her dream of competing one day at the Arabian and Half Arabian US National Championship Show.

Lessons Part 1

Breaking a habit like pulling the horse's head to steer is hard. While the horse will definitely follow his head, he will not be engaged from behind which is the goal of collected work. That is where I have found the use of the cones really helps.

The visual target is a huge assist in being able to gauge how effective Rachel is being with her aids. In trying to keep the Arabian horse on the correct line of travel, Rachel has resorted to whatever crutch works for her. In Rachel's case (as most beginning and even intermediate riders) that would be pulling on the inside rein to accomplish the turn.

However, the turn is not the only thing the Rachel needs to accomplish. Because I have set the cones as close together as I have, the horse must be going very slow to be able to do the small circles within the visual confines I've allowed. That slowness must come from collection.

For the horse to be collected he must drive squarely (the key word here is the word squarely) from behind. That impulsion will lift the horse's back and then the shoulders following on through into a lift at the base of the horse's neck which in turn carries the weight of the neck and head. When this is done correctly the result is a smooth and fluid movement.

The degree of collection is determined by the length of the horse's frame. For more collection, the frame is shortened. For less collection, the horse's frame is lengthened. The slow easy gait of the western pleasure horse is produced with a large degree of collection, i.e. a shortened frame. A hunter pleasure horse, while still being collected would be in a longer frame so moving faster.

When Rachel causes the horse to go around the circle by pulling on the inside rein, the horse moves his head towards the center of the circle. This causes the horse to drop his shoulder into the circle (falling in on the circle as the dressage folks would say) and the horse is no longer square underneath the rider.

This is not the only change in the horse's frame. When the horse's shoulder falls in behind his nose, his hip swings to the outside. The horse is now diagonally underneath Rachel. From the ground, I actually see what looks like the horse's back end speeding up as it moves around his slower front end.

The power that results from the horse driving with his back lags is still there. Without the horse being squarely underneath the rider, it will seek easier ways to dissipate than by lifting the back, shoulder, base of neck, etc. Instead of the lift, the horse will hollow it's back and speed up. That translates to a loss of collection.

The speeding up means Dandy can not complete the circle in the amount of space allotted. The only way the horse can complete the task is by being extremely collected.

The only way Rachel can keep the horse collected enough to accomplish these circle is to keep him square beneath her. The the horse's ribcage must be wrapped around her inside leg. To steer, Rachel must turn her head to the line of the arc of the circle. To steer the horse, Rachel must also use her outside leg to push the horse's ribcage around the circle. Any deviation will result in a loss of the desired collection.

To be continued.........

Part 3

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  1. Wow you would have a field day with me and my riding skills LOL. You could sure teach me a thing or two. Sad really that I have all of these horses, something that I wanted since I was 9 years old, but they have become such a lot of work that I can't enjoy them. I know I could make a good rider but dont know any where near enough knowledge to achieve that. I feel at home on a horse, they dont scare me, even my filly Lori who is a real livewire LOL. When I do ride on occasion I feel comfortable and at home. Maybe one day you can give me much needed lessons too.



  2. OMG!!!!! I adore riding Arabian's! When I live din Calgary that is all I would ever ride, they are the most beautiful horse...except for the farting, do your's fart constantly?Thank you for visiting my blog, I wasn't sure which is your main blog?

  3. GREAT entry! I sure learned a lot!! Looking forward to finding out what happens next! :D

  4. I'm going to have to try the circle exercises. Magician tends to get strung out and has a hard time getting and keeping underneath himself squarely. Thanks for posting such wonderful tips.

  5. You've been tagged. Tell us “Eight Things You Don’t Know About Me.”

    There’s a link to your web site (and a tagging!) at

    Thanks for playing.

    Anne (smellshorsey)

  6. Great learning tips! I think I shall print this one off for future reference. My guys go back to the stable tomorrow and I am heartsick. I just miss them so when they aren't here. They are only about 5 or 6 minutes away so I really shouldn't complain but it's not the same as when I can sit on my back deck and watch them in the pasture. It's a neccessity though as we are gone a lot in the winter also the city won't allow us to keep them here in the winter even though we have all this land. Just a code issue. Keep the great posts coming!

  7. lori, it's true the numbers can get overwhelming and there's no time to do anything but just take care of them. I wouldn't be able to do the training I do without Lindsay's help feeding and cleaning stalls.

    As for lessons for you, we'll have to figure out how to be a bit closer together than we are now. lol

    dj kirkby, I'm not sure about the gas. Not all the time, but sometimes. lol I'm not sure which is my main blog either. lol Probably this one I started it first. The horses make me sane so I even can post on the other one. But that one seems to be helping lots of people so I will continue to try and post to it daily as well.

    equinespirit, I'm glad that it was helpful for you.

    mary, yes, magician would have trouble getting under himself. He is flatter in the croup and his hocks are out behind himself a bit, if I remember correctly. Those two things go together and they make it harder for a horse to get underneath himself.

    The exercises would help but you need to build him up to them. It's not good on a horse's legs to just dive right in to lots of little circles. Start off bigger and gradually bring them down in size.

    Anne, OK, I still have one more tag to complete before yours. I will try and speed up my game. lol

    midlife mom, I'm sorry your boys can't stay for you to gaze at them. I love that too. It would be hard not to have my horses here.

    I have 4 over with Rachel and that is hard but I still have lots here. lol