Lesson Plan Jan 26 – Jan 31, 2015

For this weeks lessons the focus is going to be on hands. Hands are one of the key components for communication with the horse. Improperly held/used can cause miscommunication, and at worst can cause unjust pain to the horse.

The idea of bit communication is not to cause pain, but rather a tool to communicate. I like to compare it to holding someone’s hand to stay together in a crowd, or to guide a blind person. You don’t want to yank the person’s hand to guide them (unless they are in danger!), but nor do you want such a weak contact they aren’t really sure what you want.

The two biggest issues I see are hands that are held to open, and hands that are allowed to get flat.

Open hands are an issue for a few reasons. The main one is that they create an inconsistent contact with the horse. A horse tends to learn to protect itself from this inconsistent contact by carrying a stiffer jaw and resisting this type of contact. There is also the risk that if the horse pulls the reins will slip, and the horse will then learn to pull to get a release/reward! Finally, a rider that rides consistently with open hands won’t learn proper feel as the reins will be held along the fingers and not along the palm as we want.

Flat hands are an issue as this twist the bones of the forearm and slows the feel and reaction time of the rider’s hand and arm. It also pulls the reins away from the neck, so you lose the added cue for the horse of the feeling of the rein against the neck.

Hands should ideally be held at a slight angle, similar to the angle of the horse’s shoulders. The thumbs should be folded over the top of the reins and make a roof holding the rein. The knuckle of the thumb should be pointed at the horse’s ears, and the hands should be about as far apart as the horse’s ears. The fingers should be bent in a loose fist, with the reins against the palm of the hands. The fist should not be tight like you are trying to strangle the reins, but should be tight enough that if magically turned into hamsters, you would not let them squirm free!

Holding your hands only as wide as the horse’s ears, means the reins will be against both sides of the horse’s neck when the horse is straight. This is important, as you want the horse to feel when the rein comes away so it learn to listen to this cue! The issue is that this pull of the reins tends to make riders want to allow their hands to get flat…you need to get used to this feeling and keep the reins against the neck unless you want to turn or flex their neck!

Now if you want to increase the pressure against the neck, it is important you don’t cross the hand over the neck as you will twist your body and be off balance. Instead turn your hand so your pinky twists closer to the neck. This will bring the rein against the neck without twisting the body.

If you wish to use the rein to encourage flexion/turning of the head and neck, it will have to come away from the neck, but you don’t have to exaggerate this movement) unless you are schooling flexions). Just move your hand enough that the rein is off the neck…if more is needed it needs to come from your LEG. Don’t exaggerate hands to make up for weak leg!

When jumping, it is additionally important the hands stay together as we want the horse to be quite straight through their neck and body so they approach the jump in balance. It can help to think of neck reining (using outside rein to steer) more than pulling to steer. At the jump the reins should follow either the crest of the neck (forward and slightly up) to release, or follow down towards the horse’s mouth. There is no reason to lift the reins UP and away from the neck on the approach or at the jump. The release MUST be along/beside the neck.

So to work on this we will have some turning exercises as well as a grid! I might have  a “tool” to help remind people to hold their thumbs up and hands close as well…


Date/Schedule changes

Please note, the first day of herd health has now been moved to Friday the 6th, rather than Wednesday.

This Saturday’s morning lessons have been cancelled, but I can teach at 3pm if demand warrants. The lessons are cancelled as Candence, Zander, Izzy and I are attending a jumping clinic next weekend! We ride from 9:30-11:30 on Saturday and 8:30 – 10:30 on Sunday. I will post the address in the barn in case anybody wants to come. There is no charge to watch!

I have also posted information for the Jane Stone clinic in the barn: I already have two people signed up to haul in for the clinic!  To register for the clinic I just need a cheque and to know when you wish to ride, and if you want to do jumping or dressage. I will have a sign up sheet in the barn soon, but payment is required to confirm a spot.


Herd Health Time Again

I have posted a sign up sheet in the barn for the 2015 herd health program. I have booked Feb 4, 20 and 27 to get teeth done, start vaccinations and any other vet work you would like done at this time. There will be a further appointment in March to finish the vaccinations.

It is recommended that dental work be done (or at least checked) annually, and February is the best month for it as it is Dental Health Month! It is required that all horses get their E/W/T, Flu and Rhino vaccines, with Strangles and West Nile being optional. Also recommended is to get a Fecal Egg test done so that we can ensure that your horse is being treated properly for worms and we can only re-deworm the horses that needs it.

I have three appointment times booked, so pick the day that works best for you as you shouldn’t ride the same day as the work is done.

Feel free to talk to me if you aren’t sure what vaccinations or additional care you want done to your horse this February!


Lessons Jan 13-17, 2015

Finally looks like some consistently nice weather for lessons! Horses will all need some lighter weight blankets and it might get icy outside again, but I will be happy to get out of this deep freeze.

This week in lessons we will have a “Make your own Jumper Course” challenge. I will set up a course of jumps and help you warm up over them, but then it is up to the rider’s to come up with the most efficient way to do the course for their horse. For example, a short strided horse or one that tends to get rushy might benefit from tighter turns, while an awkward or lazy horse might need more generous approach.


AEF Reminder

With the new year, I would like to remind everyone to get their Alberta Equestrian Federation membership for 2015. Their memberships run on a calendar year, so get your membership now to cover you for the entire year. AEF memberships are needed for many shows, but also give you liability insurance in case the horse you own or are showing causes damage.

This year I decided to also register for their “Ride and Drive” program. I had read about it, but thought it might be more for kids…but decided to sign up anyway. Apparently you track your hours in the saddle (or driving) and get awards when you submit your hours. Not sure what the prizes are…but I figure I will finish the 2000 hour log book in about 5 years…fortunately there are many smaller achievement benchmarks along the way. In the meantime I got a nice log book and a green clicky pen.

This week in lessons: Jan 6-10

Happy New Year everyone!

It’s going to be on the cold side this week, so will plan on the lessons being less intensive so that the fuzzy beasts don’t get too sweaty.

We will be working on lower leg position (so some stirrups may be tied) and trot and canter work over small jump grids focusing on keeping the leg still. We will also do some tight turns, focusing on landing and then regaining the leg position (if lost) before turning, so that the horse and rider are in balance for the turn.

Be ready for lots of two point and posting exercises!