Question: Can you give me an outline of one of your typical rides? I just want some kind of idea of what you do with the horse, what you try to do yourself, and how long you took. Oh, also what you were trying to achieve. Thanks, Mandy.
Answer from April Reeves: I will give you a day in the life of a somewhat green Andalusian that is going very nicely (Mya) and has no real issues. She already has 100 days on her. She is not being worked for anything in particular, just as a pleasure and trail horse. This is just Grade 2 foundation work. I will put links in to find the exercises in case you are not familiar with them. The writing is short, more of a guideline.
– Follow, stop, back, trot off, stop, back, turn sharp, back… Does the horse respond quickly? Obedient? Politely? Groundwork link
– Sending exercise to test if horse is fresh or ready. I will ride right away if the horse feels right. No spooking, must have both eyes on me. I don’t mind the horse having energy. I do mind if the horse is not ‘with me’. 5 minutes or more.
Walk and jog or trot, loose rein, no tight circles, keep on rail, then across diagonal, then down middle.
Topline: highest point of neck equal with withers – this is the start, then we bring head and neck up.
Reins: equal on both sides; watch length.
Lots of walk and trot; don’t wind horse. Change direction all the time. Move about.
If the horse wants to stretch to the ground, let him unless it feels like a buck coming. Longitudinal stretching link to video.
About 15 minutes.
Begin to Work
Reins equal on both sides with loose tension.
Box your hands evenly on both sides (see top photo in post below this one). Allow horse to hit left and right, which asks horse to find the middle on his own. You don’t need to fight horse. Allow horse to do the work. Responsibility. Keep your hands apart at a fair distance. Keep hands solid. Keep hands slightly behind withers for hindquarter control.
Single gait transitions. Walk, trot, walk, halt, walk, trot…
Stand and softly follow feel left and right. One rein stop softening link.
Rock the walk – halt, back, forward, all in one motion. No stopping in between. Horse must rock on back legs and spring forward. Not a backing up of paces. Teaches horse to sit and engage. Also teaches horse how to use his body ‘behind the saddle’. You must feel this exercise. You must feel the horse sit.
Perfect the halt from the walk. Horse must stand with weight at the back. Don’t let horse move any front or back leg forward. Move horse back into place immediately if he does. Horse must not lean forward. Majority of weight behind the saddle.
Once horse has good halt, try the halt at the trot. Horse must sit. Use ‘rock the walk’ for this. Spend time developing this. Works for other gaits and helps them to improve. Weight in HQ. Evaluate each stop. Don’t let him drag the front legs.
Bridle up – softly move head side to side – asks horse to soften jaw and poll.
Straightness – not squirming around. Link.
Keep horse walking forward in good stride.
Vertical flexion. Side to side flexion.
Ask horse to pivot with cross over on front legs, then walk free, changing direction. Use steering aids. Keep inside leg back; get it out of the way of the horse’s front legs. Shorten reins and hands in front of saddle. Link to exercise
Exercises for obedience:
Move the hindquarters/hip.
Move the shoulders.
Go. Stop. Go. Stop….if he’s lazy, go longer distances; if he’s hot, shorten to about 6-10 strides go, stop.
These help with all maneuvers.
Keep horse between the reins. Horse must guide between reins.
Bump bump with legs to ask topline to come up; becomes a cue for horse later to come up. Don’t just bring up hands, use body and legs to complete cue.
To slow horse, use soft bumps, lifting up on reins, but instead of mechanical movement, feel the timing and release. Horse must tuck head and not bring nose up. Its about lifting the shoulder and topline, not just lifting the head. Vertical and side to side flexion.
Trot and Lower
Trot out long and low. Ask for stretch down, engaging longitudinal muscle groups. Helps to strengthen and build muscle in back, bringing it up. Hips must rock, tail must swing both ways evenly. Steadies the topline, helps horse stay on the bit, gains rhythm, corrects shoulder to straight, and balance.
Bring your arms back; don’t cock wrists: it changes energy flow. Straight arms with elasticity. Horse bumps into bridle; teach that pressure does not mean to break down. Create a wall with boxed hands – ask horse to back off. Once horse settles in, back off. Don’t pull horse in. You won’t win. Allow horse to carry himself naturally this way. Use boxed hands again if horse unsettles. You must allow horse to find the soft spot: responsibility. Eventually horse will stay put for longer times. This exercise can take up to a year for consistency.
Advanced lope work
Counter canter – use canter counter in a box shape, asking the corner to be sharp by moving HQ away. Teaches balance, cadence and rhythm. Confidence builder. Use counter canter for circles. Start big, end small, move big again. Perfect round circles. Not eggs.
Keep tension out of your ride. Leave ego at the gate.
Anatomy is what it is; can be a friend or foe, but can’t be changed. Skeletons are forever. Muscle can be reconstructed to a certain point. Ride your horse as nature intended him to move.
Ride straight keeps the horse straight. Use saddle horn as guide. Even weight on both legs? Elbows open and close during post?
What if the horse speeds up into next gait? Take up one rein and bend into small circle, then out and move into gait again. Do over and over until horse starts to focus on obedience and you.
Cool out horse well, brush well, hose legs, clean feet and inspect, run hands down legs. Pamper with one carrot and apple. Tell horse he is the most wonderful horse in the world. Thank him for the ride.