Category Archives: English Riding answers

The Value of Consistency in Horse Training

Why your horse isn’t learning as fast as they should

By April Reeves

I have a herd of 10 horses. No matter how long I leave them, I can go out into the 80 acres, catch any one of them (most will come without a halter) and start off exactly where I left their training, regardless of how long that was. How does that happen?

This is the value of consistency. Not the type where you take a lesson then ride the way you always do the next day. No. This is the type where you say to yourself, “Today, I am going to ask at least one new thing and apply it every time I need to in a consistent manner until my horse understands the question.”

We don’t realize how damaging it is to the horse when we change the question. Example: you were taught how to back up your horse, but today, he does not want to back up and it’s been a few months since you asked for it. So you do what you know to get him to back up, but he hesitates and stalls out, so you try another method, same zero results, then you try something else while you get more aggressive and by this time, your horse is hyper anxious and tense and the entire lesson is lost.

You have just asked him more than one question and there is no way you will get any result you will like.  Let’s use the backup as an example.

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Why do Trainers use harder bits? Light or soft: is there a difference?

Question: I’m going to see a horse for sale tomorrow. The trainer is using a shank bit because it makes the horse soft. I’m not familiar using them: I’ve always used french link snaffles or some equivalent. Why do trainers move into harder bits?

Response from April Reeves: When I hear of anyone using a shank to get softness I get a multitude of red flags.

The use of a shank bit is not for softness. Softness comes from correct training that utilizes the mind to create that softness. It does not start at the physical head or the body.

Shank, or what I call, “finishing bits” are the graduated step of an obedient horse. They are for horses that have a high level of responsiveness and are usually at the end of their training, not the beginning or middle.

Let’s go over the difference between “light” and “soft”.

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The German Martingale Part 1

My Horse Slams Me Against The Wall When I Ride, And Won’t Do Circles Properly.

Question: In the indoor arena where I ride, my mare keeps slamming me up against the wall. I try to use my outside leg to push her off, but my teacher doesn’t like me coming off the wall.

My mare also doesn’t do circles very well. What can I do?

Answer from April Reeves: Get off the walls! We call it the “loser’s loop”, when people ride up against a wall or fence with no real clue as to why they are doing so. Ride at a minimum of 5 feet (10 if you have room) from any wall. One of my students rides in an indoor arena of 60 feet by 100 feet, and rarely uses the wall (on a continual basis. You do need to get close once in a while when doing certain exercises).

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My horse jumps into the trot: How can I prevent this?

Question: I have a horse that jumps forward into the trot when asked to move from a walk to a trot. Any suggestions on how to make the transition smooth? Thanks

April Reeves:  Hi Kristi! First off, the response from your horse to be “quick” into the up transition is actually a response I ask for, at the beginning. You do want a horse that responds to your cues immediately. I consider that obedience, and once that’s established, you can move on to refine the process.

Next step is to soften how you ask for the up transition. All your methods have to become lighter and softer if you expect the same from the horse, from the use of hands, legs, voice and seat. Get very familiar with what that feels like, because this is how you bring a horse into refinement and a finished bridle horse.

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Downward Transitions: Why am I not getting them easily?

This was an ongoing email from a young rider in Australia. These are often the most fun!

Question: I have been riding English for about 7 years now. I think I’m a pretty good rider, and I do take lessons in the cooler months. I’m trying to learn about down transitions. I can’t get them and I’m confused from what my coach tells me. I have to keep my legs on and bring my hands back, but my mare just slows down and gets bouncy and doesn’t stop. I don’t understand what the reason for having my legs on the horse to stop is? My coach can’t tell me in a way that I get, and was hoping you could.

Answer from April Reeves: Well Alli you are not going to like my answer much, because it goes against everything your coach is telling you.

First, lets address legs on. If it confuses you, it should. It is the signal for forward and, done correctly, to bring the hindquarters under the horse, and although a lot of teachers believe you should have your legs on for downward transitions, I don’t and here’s why.

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Equine Agility Horsemanship and the Benefits

By April Reeves, with help from Guliz Unlu (see below: one of Canada’s best Equine Energy & Body Workers)

I work in several high-end barns of various English disciplines. My clients are looking for ways to work with their horses without always riding them. Some of those clients want specific training on the ground that transfers to the saddle and aids in the training of eventing, hunter/jumper, dressage and other specific disciplines.

What is Equine Agility Horsemanship?

Agility Horsemanship is working with your horse to improve his/her ability to become obedient, maneuverable, flexible and multi-tasked. The point of the work is to help keep the horse sound in both mind and body, and to set him up properly for his chosen discipline with select groundwork first. The horse learns to move his body in ways he would not come across naturally, but will have to learn once asked under saddle. Many horses get caught up with not understanding or feeling confident about their footfall patterns and lack grace and fluidity with lateral and backward moves. As the horse builds physical abilities, he builds mental as well, creating a versatile, safe and athletic mount that’s eager and happy to learn. It’s important to note that this work can speed up saddle training, and save hours of frustration. It’s also just plain fun.

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