“In true collection, there’s a weight transfer from the front end to the engaged hindquarters. “
As I’ve said before, the one thing you must have to train any horse is forward movement. Nothing happens without this essential ingredient. just as in the lateral flexion exercises, the forward-movement exercises I describe here further teach your horse to yield to pressure, follow his nose, follow a feel, turn right and left and rate his speed. They allow you to really work with direct and indirect rein pressure.
“I like to call this exercise North-South-East-West because those are all the directions you go when you perform it.”
Place eight cones (in pairs of two) in a circle on a level patch of ground, either in an arena or a pasture. I like to use cones because the horse can see them and understand the reason behind the turns you ask him to make. (See diagram, “North South-East-West Exercise.”)
There’s no set pattern to this exercise. But, one of the keys to horse- manship is knowing where you’re going before you ever ask it of the horse. This exercise will tell on you, if you don’t know where you’re going. You can’t make last-minute decisions because then the horse is open to make lots of mistakes. So know where you’re going before you get there. Think ahead. Form that habit as you work with your horse.
In this exercise, you can enter or leave the circle only through the four imaginary north, south, east and west gates formed by the cones. Es- tablish a pace or rhythm and ride through the cones, turning right and left through the gates as you go. Crisscross through the middle around the cones north, south, east and west. To add variety, circle your horse, say by going from the south gate through the west gate or north gate and then through the east gate.
Work first at a walk, then the trot. (The trot is your real working gait.) This is a great exercise to learn to move with your horse. The best riders I know ride with the last 6 inches of their spine. By that I mean their seat is in rhythm with their horse. You’re not sitting on the horse, you’re moving with him. You’re not making him do all the work. You’re actively riding and guiding him with your hands, seat and legs.
Place your hands in a working position in front (about 6 inches) of the saddle hornnot behind it or way out down the horse’s mane. Keep your hands low. Remember, low hands, low head.
Also, don’t lean into the turns by dropping your shoulders into them. That unbalances your horse and causes him to lean into them as well. Sit straight and in the middle of the saddle to maintain good balance.
Direct rein as you move through the cones by leading with the rein in the direction you want to go. Literally, pick up the rein and move it out in the direction of travel. In the beginning, you might have to exaggerate as you teach your horse. Someday, you’ll be able to refine your hand movements and rein one-handed. But for now, on a young or problem horse use both hands to direct rein through the cones.
For example, in asking your horse to turn right, lead out with the right rein. He should follow your suggestion and turn right around a cone. Support the leading right rein by laying the left rein on the horse’s neck. In this case, your right rein is your leading rein and your left rein is your supporting rein.
Remember, your legs do what your hands do. If you lead out with your right rein, open up your right leg by taking it away from your horse’s body. Support this by laying the outside or left rein against his neck and placing your left leg on his body. Throughout this exercise, your horse is giving and yielding to rein and leg pressure.
Guide him through the cones with right and left turns. While there’s no set pattern to the turns, know where you plan to turn next as I said ear- lier. Soon, you’ll develop a rhythm or tempo and your horse will begin to “turn loose,” get soft throughout his entire body (head, neck, rib cage and hindquarters) and in tune with your cues.
A Native Texan Craig Cameron, one of the original clinicians, is on the road more than 44 weeks a year covering 80,000 miles demonstrating the style of horsemanship he has perfected in the last 23 years. Called the “public defender of the horse,” Craig dedicates himself to those who educate their horses by first educating themselves. At an age where most have long since retired the thought of starting colts, Craig Cameron known as “The Cowboy’s Clinician,” starts hundreds of horses each year. Learn more about Craig Cameron at w w w.CraigCameron.com