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Wintertime Groundwork Review (Part 2 of 3)

Leading Willingly Without Pressure on the Lead Rope

If you find yourself having to drag on the rope to get your horse to move, step back until you are behind his shoulder and drive him forward with the end of the lead rope. Then ask him to follow you once he is moving. Even well-trained horses can get lazy. If a horse is dull on the lead rope he’s likely to be dull under saddle. Proper leading keeps your horse light and responsive.

Longeing in a Circle Around You

Teaching your horse to walk, trot, and canter a 20 meter circle is time well spent. You may not always have access to a round pen and longing is an excellent way to help your horse get focused and work off a little extra energy before being ridden. Never allow your horse to plunge wildly around on the end of the longe line, but a few gentle crow hops can help your horse work out any kinks in his system. During longing ensure that your horse keeps his attention on you and his nose tipped toward you, and that he maintains the correct bend on the circle.

Rolling the Hind End (Turn on the Forehand)

Once your horse is moving forward freely on the longe line or lead rope you can tighten the circle and ask your horse to disengage his hindquarters by stepping across and under his body with the inside hind leg. This movement is like stepping on the clutch in a standard transmission vehicle. It prepares the horse for a new speed or direction. This maneuver is particularly valuable in disciplines where speed and turning are required.

Bringing the Front End Around (Turn on the Haunches)

After your horse has rolled his hind end by stepping up under his body with his inside hind leg, he should be positioned to bring his front end around to complete the change of direction. As your horse’s head crosses the line in front of your body, extend your leading hand in the new direction and step up to what was the horse’s outside shoulder. This drives rather than pulls the horse in the new direction. It takes practice to develop the correct timing for these moves and, in the beginning, it is fine for the horse to bend his body as he moves into the new direction. As his skills improve he will be able to execute a more correct turn on the forehand or turn on the haunches with straightness through the neck and ribcage.

About the Author

Madalyn Ward, DVM, owns Bear Creek Veterinary Clinic in Austin, Texas. She is certified in Veterinary Homeopathy and Equine Osteopathy. Memberships include American Veterinary Medical Association, American Association of Equine Practitioners, American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association, Texas Veterinay Medical Association and the Academy of Veterinary Homeopathy. She has authored several books and publishes the monthly newsletter, “Holistic Horsekeeping.”

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