Lately I have received some very nice compliments regarding the horses we show. Obviously, this pleases me very much. Over and over again, I am asked how I achieve this level of training. Well, I'll try to answer that question in general terms....
As I am bringing my show prospects along or keeping proven horses in tune, I try to make things fit together - "dovetail" if you will. Everything coming together nicely towards a planned-out and expected result. For example, knowing I will be teaching a leg yield, I will first go through a series of exercises that will make leg yielding easy for the horse to understand and will make the work non-stressful. I do this with everything I teach. Layering all the smaller segments until I get where I planned to be.
Then it gets interesting! The horse needs to be kept in a neat and tidy package or "bundle" to do his work well. This means paying attention to details. A simple example of this would be jogging down the rail (or better yet, a straight line down the center of the arena) and asking for a stop. The horse should stop square and stand quietly. His head should be in the bridle, giving totally to the bit (and not because he's afraid, but because he's been trained and understands). The horse should not be leaning on a shoulder, throwing a hip out or have a front leg stuck out in front (a common mistake).
You don't want to lose the body control you have accomplished as you move forward into new steps. Another good example of this is control of the bridle. You must have control of the face, head and neck to accomplish a quiet, supple stop. If your horse is not giving to the bit, he will be tense through the rest of his body. If he is pulling on the right side of the bridle, he will be putting extra weight on his right shoulder.
So, controlling with your leg, rein and seat any paying attention to the details will help keep your horse where you need his body to be. This is that nice tidy package I was talking about. This package is collection and collection means balance. Pay attention to the details and it will pay great dividends! Talk to you next week. JD