Try this exercise for straightness, handiness and emotional steadiness.
By Kalley Krickeberg
Have you ever noticed horses in a pasture have no problem doing a simple thing like following their nose as they turn? They walk, trot, canter and gallop straight, they don’t lean, squirm or fall out of lead while traveling at Mach 1 around the pasture, and they don’t turn their heads in the opposite direction they are traveling. But when we get in the saddle, all of that trouble can begin.
In an effort to fix all the issues we might be having, riders often start “sticking our fingers in the leaks of the dam.” Pretty soon, the horse can’t do anything decently athletic without the rider holding him together, holding him back, kicking him forward, lifting the shoulders, pushing the hips, or pushing his ribs—the list goes on and on.
All that said, there is no replacement for teaching and training body control. It is a must if we want to advance into any type of collection or self-carriage, whether it has an English or a Western style to it. But there’s a challenge in actually achieving those goals, and it usually comes in two parts. The first challenge is to stop micromanaging, allowing ourselves to let go of all the places where we are propping up our horses and letting the horse fail so they can learn. The second challenge is to not go back to the same old redundant fixes that we have always done in our attempts to achieve that self-carriage, athleticism and straightness we see horses perform so effortlessly when they are out in pasture.
Enter the Load ’N Go Exercise
This exercise can be done at any stage of training, added to any discipline-specific training, and it is an exercise that is useful whether you are interested in collection or not. It builds mechanically correct straightness and self-carriage, and also has a repetitive throttle up and throttle down aspect to it that builds a handy and emotionally stable horse. This simple-but-formidable exercise vacillates between “throttle down” (deceleration) into a corner or banking turn to “throttle up” (acceleration) into a powerful, straight-line forward.
This is an excerpt from the full article—get the whole story in the Spring 2022 Chrome magazine, which is sent to all current APHA members. Not a member? Join or renew at apha.com/join