You may have heard trainers or possibly someone has given you a lesson and they say, “He’s dropping his shoulder, he’s falling to the inside.” We’ve got to have a way to pick up those shoulders and move them over and out of the way. There’s got to be meaning there.
We are going to start this particular exercise in what I call a “Train Track Circle” and in this circle you can be working on and checking out part number one making sure your horse is soft in the face. (Published is last month’s issue and the video can be viewed at https://www.horsedigests.com/four-part-harmony-head-and-neck-part-one/ I call it a train track circle because I envision a train on a track. My horse’s nose is the engine and the tail is the caboose. If this train was traveling around the track, the arch would continually stay the same. My horse’s body is in a curvature, I can see my horse’s right eye and I’m wrapping my horse around my inside leg. Walking around in a correct train track circle is harder than you think. Sometimes the horse will start shouldering in or if you bend them too much you can lose control of the hind end. You want your horse to step up into the circle and walk around being able to see the eye in the direction you are going.
Now I’m going to change my horse’s body configuration, but still have the frame of reference of this train track circle, and put my horse in a counter bend. While walking to the right I’m going to lift with my left rein, I’m going to put my left spur way up by the front cinch. I’m going to keep some forward movement and I’m going to walk the shoulders around. I want my horse’s left front foot to step over the right front foot for a few steps. Then I’m going to let my horse back out of the counter bend and move into a train track circle again. I’m trying to establish an exercise that gives me shoulder control.
You need to turn your toe out, and down, and put your spur right up by the front cinch. If you’re not careful, every time you spur your horse you can just hit the back cinch. So, when I’m moving part number two, the shoulders, I will turn my toe out and make sure my spur comes up right by the front cinch. When I lift with my left rein, I’m going to draw it towards my right shoulder, and now my horse will be counter bent. It is not normal for your horse to walk in a counter bent circle. It is a gymnastic, athletic move. Ball players will do a lot of things that you think would not have anything to do with catching the ball or running to make a touchdown. But the coach knows that the players need to learn the muscle memory, the footwork and cadence that’s important for a top-level athlete.
Let’s walk around to the left. I’ll step my horse up into the bridle, stepping forward while asking my horse to walk around my left leg in a train track circle. You could also put a cone or a bucket on the ground for a frame of reference. These little things are important and if it doesn’t matter to you all the time, it won’t matter to your horse any time. We don’t want this maneuver to turn into a funky side-pass or a funky spin. We want to move the shoulders over and feel our horse’s feet moving and crossing over step after step. We will then let our horse out of the counter bend and go back into a train track circle. This is something you can refer back to during almost every training session.
You don’t have to do it just like I do it. You don’t have to call it just what I call it. But you’ve got do something to get control over your horse’s body parts.
Follow me next month for “Rib Cage – Part 3”.
Richard Winters, a horseman for more than 35 years, has been living the dream! A world-famous clinician and prizewinning trainer of horses and their riders. Richard’s credentials extend from the rodeo arena and high desert ranches of the West to being a highly sought-after horse trainer and horsemanship clinician. Among his many accolades, Richard won the National Reined Cow Horse Association World Championship and earned the NRCHA Hackamore Circuit Championship title in Pueblo, Colorado. He is a AA rated judge. Winters is a Road to the Horse Colt Starting Champion and returned for six years as their Horseman’s Host. He also won the International Colt Starting Contest in Poland. Winters was a top-five finalist at the Cowboy Dressage World Finals. He is the author of From Rider to Horseman, published by Western Horseman Magazine.
After serving as The Thacher School’s Horse Program Director for two years the Winters are embarking on a new yet very familiar adventure. Richard and Cheryl had been looking at Texas properties for 15 years, and have found their dream property just outside of Weatherfod, Texas. This is now the new home base for Richard Winters Horsemanship.
Richard enjoys traveling and helping horse owners gain the experience needed to take themselves and their equine partners to the next level. “To stretch the envelope and encourage people to do a little more than they would do on their own is very fulfilling.” International travels include Australia, Brazil, Canada, England, Mexico, Poland, Scotland, and Sweden. A love for horses, knowledge developed through years of practice and study, as well as a willingness to continue learning are the components that make Richard the “Masterful Communicator” he is today!
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