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 Training Corner

Blue Lake Arena

Foot, Face & Body Control 

Eric Hought

Welcome Riders

Welcome! to all who would like to learn new horsemanship skills and how to help their horse ride better.

The city of Blue Lake has taken great care and effort to make the riding arena better and safer for horses and riders. Much effort has also been taken toward dust abatement for riders and neighbors. Kernan Construction has donated multiple loads of clean river sand to improve the footing. Take time to thank Brian Dorman for watering with the new sprinkler system when necessary and thank Karen Dorman for posting information about our gatherings on the BL Saddle Club website. We also need to thank Darci Lima for keeping a watchful eye on the grounds and donating her time to grooming the arena surface.

There is no charge for my help but the city of Blue Lake requires a signed liability release which includes a $50 annual fee that entitles you to an arena key and the use of the arena at any time provided there is no other scheduled event taking place. Please follow the Liability Guidelines as set forth by the city. Helmets are required for all riders under 18 years of age and encouraged, but not required, for adults. I urge each rider to join the Blue Lake Saddle Club in support of the arena facility.

The October Schedule of weekly Wednesday evening gatherings, 5:30 PM to 7:00 PM, can be found on our website, www.hought.com. As the daylight hours shorten, try to arrive early, warm-up and be ready to go. At some point it will be necessary to change to Saturday or Sunday during the day provided the arena is not scheduled for another event. To find the schedule go to the Homepage Sitemap and select Training Corner. The Training Corner also has relevant articles dealing with preparing the horse.

The evening session will include a group of exercises each of which builds upon the other and focuses on your horse's development of better foot, face and body control.

Contact: Eric Hought

(707) 839-1871
email: slowway@hughes.net


Warm-up should take about 15 minutes. Do not dilly, dally, stay on task.

1. Trot and lope/canter 2 circles in both directions, more if needed. Remember, circle #1 is counter clockwise near the gate end of the arena and circle #2 is clockwise at the far end. If more than one rider is on the circle, keep your head up. If you are getting too close to the front horse, lope a smaller circle to the inside of the circle on the same lead, giving the front horse more space.

2. Turn on the haunch and forehand twice. Remember, reins are used to stop forward movement only.

3. Load, depart. Back 2, 3, 4 steps; forward 2, 3, 4 steps, do one set in a single straight line all in a single track. The purpose of this exercise is to "load" the horse's hindquarters thus enabling him to push off for the departure with energy. It is important to back with energy as it develops the urgency necessary for backing up and departing forward.

This exercise develops the urgency required to execute a maneuver with effort. The indirect gain is the horse will anticipate the back up and volunteer more effort in the stop because he is thinking about backing up. So we get improvement in the "stop" skill without specifically working on it. To keep from wearing out the horse and rider's interest in the exercise, spend no more than 2-3 minutes maximum on any sequence.

Which lead is used on the counter circle?
Which lead is used on the clockwise circle?

Everyone uses different terms for points of reference on a circle. In an effort to clearly describe the parts of a circle, I use the following reference points. Usually the point of departure is from the top of the circle.  

Circle, Stop and Sweep-
Depart onto circle #1 clockwise, red. Stop at the top of the circle, roll back to the right onto circle #2, blue, clockwise. Stop at the original departure point (top of circle). Roll back to the right, green, circle #1 and stop, at the top of the circle, backup. You should be facing the same direction as your original departure. The lead departure determines the roll back direction. Right hand lead, roll back to the right, and so forth.

The focus of this exercise is to prepare your horse to travel in a straight line and stop straight. If you can see either eye, he is not traveling straight. This exercise is repeated twice. Depart from the center cone on the left hand lead riding straight toward cone #1. Turn on the end and ride straight toward cone #3. Turn on the end and ride straight toward cone #1, a second time. Turn on the end and ride straight toward cone #3, a second time. Turn on the end ride straight toward cone #1. Stop in the center, back up and sit for a few moments to let your horse catch his air and think about what he just completed. Reverse this exercise and execute on the right hand lead. 

Depart clockwise on circle #1, completing 3 circles. Ride out of #1, staying on the right hand lead, counter lead, circling counter clockwise on circle #2. At the bottom of circle #2 on the second circle, change to the left hand lead. Complete 2 circles, counter clockwise on circle #2 on the now left hand lead.



4. Wiggle, Waggle. Turn 180° on the forehand to the left. Turn 180° on the haunch to the right. You should be facing the same direction as you started. Execute in each direction. Hint: If the first part moves left, the second part moves right.


 Arena Exercises

Each of the following individual exercises, when accomplished and combined, will begin to develop your horse's foot, face and body control. To help the horse ride better, we practice these exercises in this order as each exercise builds on the next. Most of these exercises can be developed on the trail except for circling. That is why structured arena exercises are necessary to continue your horse's development.

1. Ride the perimeter of the arena in both directions, two to four laps, at the walk and/or the trot so your horse sees all obstacles with both eyes. Ride him up to anything he is unsure about. Probably only once in each direction.
2. Lope/canter 4 circles to the left, repeat to the right. Lope right hand circles at the far end of the arena and left hand circles at the gate end. The goal is to ride in round circles keeping your head up looking forward. As you ride, you are working to develop speed control and guiding along with control of foot, face and body.
3. Turns-forehand and haunches: Turn on the forehand in both directions and turn on the haunch in both directions. Repeat twice. Use reins only to stop forward movement.
4. Load and depart: Back up 4 strides, depart forward 4 strides, all in a straight line. Repeat 4 times.
5. Chase tail. Choose a partner to follow. This socializes your horse, develops guiding, circling, foot control, backing and disengaging.
6. Circle Weave
7. Cigar: Make 3 circles the full length center of the arena, stop in the center and back up. This develops guiding, straight lines, speed control and stops.
8. Canter/Lope Squares: Ride two sets on both leads.
9. Circle, Stop and Sweep: Depart to the left on a circle, stop in the center and roll back to the left onto circle #2. Make one circle, stop in center and roll back to the left going back to circle #1, stop in the center and back up. You should be facing the same direction you started.
9. Lead Changes: Lope 3 circles to the right. Ride out of the right hand circle into 2 counter lead circles to the left. Change leads at the bottom of the circle into the left hand lead, complete one circle in the left hand lead, stop and back up. Lead changes are executed on a straight line. The lead change is not a change of direction. Yes, a change of direction may occur but it will be one or two strides after the change.

Evaluate each exercise on a scale of 1-10. Who was the leader? What does it take to be a good leader. Remember, the horse is a herd animal.


 The Game Slowed Down

The phrase "the game slowed down" is one repeated by many professional athletes who describe the turning point towards success in their field as when the "game slowed down".

The same observation can be made of riders who do not canter, gallop or lope their horses. Riding in the faster gaits can be challenging because everything is happening quicker. Correct balance is achieved by riding centered on the seating bones. Grasp the saddle horn for balance and security if necessary. We all have seen riders who balance with the reins on the horse's mouth.

When a rider's game slows down, suddenly riding becomes simple. When this break through happens it becomes easy to sit and "let the horse take you for a ride". Then, all that needs to be done is sit still, stay out of his way with your hands and feet and respond to the answers the horse sends up to the rider.

The only way to develop the self confidence is to practice the canter gait. If riding with a group, it would not be wise to practice cantering. Practice when riding solo. The horse can then, focus on you, the leader.


 Personal Growth Exercise

Here is a series of questions to test your understanding of the exercises we are using. They will help you evaluate your personal growth as well as your horse's progress. Hint: Always remember, you need to know what to do before the need arises.

1. Why do we practice a structured group of warm-up exercises? What are they?
2. If we use the clock as an example of points of references on the circles we ride, where do we usually begin a circle, where is the top of the circle __?__ and the bottom of the circle __?__?
3. Which circles are ridden clockwise, and which are ridden counter clockwise?
4. The circle, stop and sweep follows 2 rules, what are they?
5. The "cigar" exercise focuses on a primary skill, what is it? What must we focus on when we make the turn at the ends?
6. What is the wiggle, waggle and explain how to execute it. Good luck, grinnnn.
7. At what point should the rider lean to the inside of a sharp change of direction as in the rollback?
8. How does your horse know when he has given the correct answer? What do you do?
9. What cues do you give your horse to back up? Is there a body language correlation between the back up and the stop?
10. If you are cantering on a circle with a group of riders and you are getting too close to the horses in front of you, what is the correction?
11. The exercise "Load and depart", when executed with energy both forward and backward, results in a "free" skill. What is it? What is the primary focus of this exercise?
12. Is there a correlation between the rider's body position in the back up and the stop? Why or why not?
13. When cantering squares, what would you say is the key factor to remember in order to execute square corners?
14. What would you say are the two most important goals in the exercise "circle weave"?
15. What are the main skills of "chase tail" and how will it help your horse develop?
16. Why is it important to work on an exercise for no longer than 2-3 minutes?
17. How can cantering squares aid the "cigar" exercise?
18. Do you focus on any of the natural traits of the horse? Which ones? An example is, the horse is a herd animal.
19. What does the term "counter canter" mean?
20. If your horse is off lead in the "cigar" exercise, where and how do you make the correction?

I am beginning to see "happy faces" on our riders because they are having fun and their horses are beginning to show improvement in foot, face and body control. Success only comes with practice, therefore riding 2-3 times in addition to our weekly gatherings is important. If you are able to ride 3 days in a row, your horse will be better on day two then on day one and so forth.


 Email - hought@hought.com

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