Al Dunning – To teach your horse to move off a neck-rein while keeping proper form is a mindful process. It requires that you, as the rider, be self-policing and ever vigilant. A common mistake when introducing neck-reining occurs when a rider pulls the rein across the horse’s neck, which creates drag on the hack-amore, thereby tipping the horse’s nose in the wrong direction. Avoid such a transgression by changing your thinking. Do not neck-rein your horse by shoving him away from the outside rein, but by giving him an opening into which he can move.
Introduce the new neck-rein command on familiar ground when your animal is quiet and calm. The backing-turn previously used to connect his face to his hind feet is a great place to start. Since your horse already is accustomed to the movement and his body can take the ideal form, adding the neck-rein here begins a good habit from day one.
Perform the backing-turn as before, but this time, as you increase the pull and bumping on the turn-rein, or direct rein, apply the outside rein in a rubbing motion against your horse’s neck. Take care to have no contact on the hackamore with the outside, rubbing rein; your horse should feel only the mecate against his hide. The rubbing neck-rein tells your horse to move away while the direct rein tells him where to go and how to get there.
Al Dunning – Being a creature of habit, your horse with repetition can move his form to function smoothly, eventually moving off the neck-rein to stay between both reins while carrying his body in the ideal form with the face-to-foot connection. This time-consuming process is not learned in a matter of weeks or months, but is instilled in your horse throughout his entire journey in the hackamore.
Left Sided Syndrome
After studying horses, horsemanship, and numerous competitive events for over 40 years, I have concluded that we ingrain “left” into our equine athletes.
Consider these facts:
· After the foal is born, we halter break them, leading them with our right hand on their left side and we continue leading the horse on the left side their entire life span.
· When we blanket and saddle, we approach from the left side. Then comes the halter and bridle, which are both handled from the left.
· For those of you that remember the old style side-by-side trailers that were popular before slant loads, these also contributed to “left syndrome.” When hauling a single horse, you hauled them on the left side because of pot holes and tire problems on the shoulder side.
· Next comes riding. After catching and leading, we saddle on the left, mount on the left, solidifying the left eye relationship. As if this is not enough, most riders never truly straighten the saddle after mounting and it is out of balance – to the left.
· And there is more! The majority of riders are right handed. When working, they pull more firmly with the right, so the horse is stiffer on that side and softer on the left. Because of all the attention to that particular side, most horses bend, turn, and respond better in that direction. In addition, most are also right leg dominant, which adds to the horse going better left and taking that left lead.
To remedy the left syndrome problem, we must concentrate on the right side. Start in the breaking process by focusing your attention on the right side of the horse. When you mount, be sure to fully straighten the saddle. Ride balanced and work two to three times more on the right turns, circles, and leads. Be sure to incorporate your left leg and hand purposefully into your everyday rides. Softening your right hand and leg will help also. When riding with one hand (left) on the reins, keep your hand neutral and in the middle and when pulling, pull straight, not to your left hip.
In conclusion, to fix what’s “left” in yourself and your horse…think right!
Al Dunning is credited with 32 world-championship and reserve-championship titles. The knowledge and passion he shares in his clinics, videos, and lessons have molded not only average students, but also some of today’s most successful professional horse trainers. Dunning’s ability to reach people comes from his love of horses and out of respect to the mentors in his own life. For more information go to www.AlDunning.com
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This article was printed in Performance Horse Digest, Volume 9, Issue 6