Did you know horses don’t have a collar bone? This means they can move their shoulders independently of each other. Interesting as that may be it can be seriously annoying when it comes to them falling in on the turn into a fence.
The chances are if your horse falls in you grab your outside rein and back it up with your inside leg. The theory’s good but it’s not ideal. He’ll be looking away from the fence as he turns and there’s a good chance he’ll have a pole down if you can’t get him straight before he takes off.
The answer to this problem lies in your hands. Both of them. They control everything in front of your saddle – your horse’s head, neck and shoulders. When your hands stay together so do your horse’s shoulders. The slightest movement, however, can have a dramatic effect.
Often the problem is caused as you turn to look at the fence. Without realising it your inside hand drops down or away from your outside hand. As your hands get further apart so do your horse’s shoulders. When you feel him fall in your instant reaction will be to pull him out with your outside rein. Now your hands are further apart exaggerating the problem! By the time you think to use your inside leg it’s too late.
You may lift your outside hand as you try to pull your horse out. He’ll copy what you do with your hands with his shoulders. If he lifts his outside shoulder the inside one will be lower. More weight falls to the inside making him fall in even further.
So in theory the answer is simple. You need to keep a contact in both reins and keep your hands together and level. That’s easier said than done. It takes practice but it’s like rising trot. Once you get the knack you’ll wonder why you ever found it difficult.
Practice riding circles, serpentines or turns across the diagonal. Pin your elbows to your sides and turn your body from your waist taking your hands and arms round as one unit. You may feel a bit robotic to start with but, as it becomes more natural, you’ll start to relax and eventually you’ll feel as if you’ve always been doing it.
It’s amazing to think that one small thing can have such an effect but it does. Watch top riders and you’ll see many styles and idiosyncrasies but the one thing they always have is a regular contact on both reins. Do you ever see them fall in on a turn?
When you’re putting all your effort into holding your horse out with your outside rein you’re probably losing the contact on the inside rein. Whenever you lose your contact you allow energy to escape. When your horse stops using his hocks correctly he falls onto his shoulders. Is it any wonder he falls in on those turns?
If your hands stay together your turns will improve. They’ll be sharper and more balanced. There will also be a lot less going on for your horse to think about. If your hands stay still he’ll only have to concentrate on going forward and looking at the fence. And so will you.
Good luck and enjoy your schooling.
The Equestrian Store www.theequestrianstoreni.com