Maybe Sideways

(“. . .to breaks up [your] monolithic aids which the horse can so easily defend against.”)

In a “pick my brain” moment a rider will often describe some resistance-related training situation prefaced by “what should I do if….” Her horse doesn’t come through in a downward transition. Or it hollows in a canter depart. Or it drops its back from medium to collected trot. Or it braces and won’t take a step backward when she tries to make a reinback. In these and a raft of similar circumstances, the first question I ask is “have you tried it through some sort of yielding?”

There are many reasons this can help. Many riders inadvertently lock themselves up when things go south. Making some steps of leg yielding or shoulder in breaks up their monolithic aids which the horse can so easily defend against. In other words, it restores the rider’s awareness of the need to find coordination among her aids.

A horse’s center of balance must be adjustable if you hope to execute many exercises correctly. When he blocks your ability to shift his weight to the rear, a lateral displacement which is relatively easy to achieve makes him more vulnerable to the half halt that isn’t working. Sometimes the solution is to operate on one side of the horse at a time – get a softening reaction somewhere and then apply it to the other side. Other times a yielding will let you make a diagonal connection where you can literally channel the energy in the classic “inside leg to outside rein” manner and deliver the horse through his topline to the hand.

When these sorts of issues crop up as you try to solve a horse, consider my first thought: “Maybe sideways?”