Training the Mind of the Horse and Rider

Training the Mind of the Horse and Rider
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Sunday, July 18, 2010

Teaching the Lope Lesson Part 2

I had a fantastic lesson last week, teaching 2 adults to lope the lesson horses. They did fantastic. Both were apprehensive, a little scared, and tense, but after showing what the horses can do on a lunge line, they both were loping short distances off the line!

I got on Starlet first, to show how she lopes. I think that helped them a lot to see her lope, as it showed the riders what the horse will do and how the lope on her looks.

After the adult lesson, I had a youth lesson with a youth who has been with me awhile. She has loped a little for the last 2 years, but now at age 11, she was able to put it all together and lope Starlet around the arena a couple of times before stopping. I had a fantastic time with my youth rider too.

Yes, I can't wait to share how I did the lessons and what Centered Riding exercises I used. But what I will really share is the connection between the horse and rider. And the connection between Starlet and I.

The previous post, Teaching the Lope Lesson, Part 1, went through the exercises to get the rider prepared. The exercises did more to relax the rider as much as to “awaken” their joints and muscles. As the riders went through the exercises, they became more comfortable on the lesson horse. They were paying attention to how to do the maneuvers, and they could move the horse where they wanted the horse to go.

The riders started with leg exercises, to open up the hips. I had the riders find their Neutral Pelvis by rocking their pelvis back and forth. We worked on putting our head in alignment through the Building Blocks exercise. This helped the riders to lift their chin a little higher, and able to see further ahead. Using Soft Eyes, the riders could see more of the arena and where they were going to lope their horse. I had them Ground themselves, by feeling their weight into their feet, as if they are standing on the ground. I wanted them to feel the weight through their legs, into their feet, and moving down to the ground and feel like they could sink into the ground, as if they are standing in sand.

We worked on moving the horse with Breathing and using the rider’s Center. The horse needs to be moved with our center, as well as our hands and legs. Think about your center as a small ball moving backwards. If you want to have your horse move out, mentally spin the ball faster. If you need the horse to go slower, spin your center slower. If you need the horse to have a longer stride, spin your center larger. Have your center grow from a golf ball size to a beach ball size, or any size in between. Picturing a certain size ball spinning in your center will help you with your horse’s movement.

We also use our center by spinning in the direction that you want to go. As we prepare for the lope to the left, we want to spin our center forward and to the left.

We lope off with Clear Intent, We need to know, and express to our horse with exact cues, where we want to ride our horse to, at what speed, and knowing what to do if the horse breaks to a trot.

For my lesson horses, they will lope off better for people with these cues: I have the riders hold with light contact on the reins. I have the riders take a deep breath. I have them look in the direction they want to go, and as they breathe out, I have the rider squeeze with their outside heel. Depending on the horse, the leg cue can be soft with Chick or it needs to be firm with Starlet.

If the horse only trots, we stop the horse, take a step back to make sure we have enough control to stop the horse if we need to. Then we ask the horse to lope off with a more exact cue. As the rider looks ahead as he lopes, we continue to add enough leg cue to keep the horse loping.

When we use our Center and give the horse exact cues with Clear Intent, then we can do anything that we want to do. Practice and you can accomplish whatever you want to do.

“Embrace the Journey!”

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