Master Each Gait

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TTR JULY/AUGUST 2015 ~ FEATURE

Master Each Gait
What can you do to speed up a slow-walking horse and slow down a horse that’s too fast at the trot? And should you ever canter on the trail? Follow top trainer/clinician Julie Goodnight’s advice to master each gait and ensure that your horse is responsive and always travels at the speed you choose.
By Heidi Melocco with Julie Goodnight — Photos by Heidi Melocco

You and your horse should be prepared to walk, trot and canter when you’re riding on the trail. While the walk and trot will be your primary “go-to” gaits, it’s important to know that you can feel confident and in charge no matter the speed.
“The walk is your primary trail gait when walking in unfamiliar terrain and tumultuous footing–and to cover long distances, the posting trot is the best way to ride,” Goodnight says. “You may canter on some flat and well-groomed trails and you want to know that you can control the faster gaits in case your horse does spook and bolt.”

Here, Goodnight provides tips to help you stay in control at each gait. She’ll help you understand how to
cue your horse to travel at the speed you dictate and to listen to your body cues no matter how fast you choose to travel.

If you’re helping young children learn to ride, Goodnight also shares teaching tips. She’ll help your young rider learn to walk and trot on command using patterns to help prepare for the upward transition to the trot.

Walk Out
Your horse is packing you around at this slow but most-used gait. Make sure that you are balanced in the saddle. Double check that your saddle’s horn is aligned with the middle of your horse’s neck and back and that your weight is equally balanced from side to side.

Make sure to sit up straight and avoid riding with your legs out in front of you. You may be comfortable at this gait, but you’ll make it easiest on your horse if you are balanced as he carries you over the trails.

When it comes to how fast your horse walks, there are two kinds of horses: those with too much whoa and those with too much go.

“If your horse walks like he’s going to his own funeral, you want to speed up,” Goodnight says. “If the horse is ready to go all the time and prances and is jiggy, you need to know how to slow him down. Either way, if your horse isn’t going at the speed you dictate, he’s being disobedient. You need to set the speed and take charge.”

Too Much Slow: Goodnight reminds you that you can’t make a slow and steady Quarter Horse keep up with a Tennessee Walking Horse that walks faster than he trots. That’s an unrealistic expectation.

However, if you are walking with other horses that should match your horse’s speed and only your horse is walking too slowly, it’s time to evaluate your cues and make sure that you’re in charge.

“Horses are clever,” Goodnight says. “If it’s a horse who already is on the lazy side and he’s pointed in a direction he doesn’t want to go, he will walk slower and slower until he’s almost halting between every step.”

That’s the horse that can train you to “pedal” or constantly re-cue for the gait you’re already riding. When a horse has trained the rider, he continually threatens to stop and the rider continually cues him to go. It’s a workout for the rider and it is a disobedient and manipulative act on behalf of the horse.

“That’s not a healthy relationship—he’s threatening disobedience and you’re enabling him by constantly re-cueing,” Goodnight says.”

An obedient horse goes at the speed you dictate when asked and until another cue is provided. If you have already asked for the walk, your horse should keep walking without prompting. If the horse slows down, it’s time for a verbal admonishment or a tap with the bight of your reins or a crop.

Often one admonishment and a reminder to “straighten up” is all it takes for a trained horse to move out and know that you are in charge.

“Keep in mind that one firm correction with the reins or a stick is much kinder to the horse than constantly nagging him by kicking and cueing after each stride.”

If you want to increase the speed of the walk, increase the rhythm in your seat and legs, reach forward and drive the horse forward. Once you have reached the pace you want, he should maintain that speed without prompting. It’s up to you as the leader to decide what the best and possible speed is. If he does slow down on his own, address that with admonishment instead of simply cueing him to move forward again.

Too Much Go: If your horse walks too fast and often steps into the trot on his own accord, that is also an act of disobedience.

“Many times, I see riders who just start to ride the trot if the horse chooses the gait on his own,” Goodnight says. “As soon as you start to ride the trot, you’ve told the horse that his actions are OK.”

If your horse speeds up without a cue, you must immediately and abruptly correct him and slow him down to the speed you have dictated. Take hold of the reins hard, sit back and verbally admonish your horse for breaking gait with a “whoa.”
Trot On

You can ride the trot sitting, posting or standing with weight in the stirrups. Most of the time on the trail, you’ll want to post or lift your seat slightly by transferring weight to the stirrups. A slow, sitting jog trot isn’t useful on the trail as it’s harder on your horse’s back and it isn’t the form of the gait that helps you cover ground quickly. If you’re trotting on the trail, you’re probably trying to get somewhere!

The posting and standing trots are the most comfortable for your horse. As you post or stand, you are balanced over your horse’s center of gravity and it allows your horse to move easily beneath you.
Posting is not just for English riders—all riders should know how to post. Posting is the best way to ride the long trot, the extended, ground-covering version of the trotting gait.

How should you post? Posting is a forward and backward motion, using the lift in your horse’s back. It’s the same motion you need to start to get up out of a chair. Notice what it takes to move up and out of a chair (without support from your arms) then sit down immediately. First you rock forward, then back to sit down once more. That’s the same motion you’ll need in the saddle.

Make sure not to post by pushing off the stirrups; the motion comes from rocking your pelvis forward and rise from your thighs, not from pushing off the stirrups.

If your horse has a rough trot, standing slightly to lift weight off yoru seat bones, while keeping your joints and muscles relaxed will be most comfortable for you, too. Standing the trot is commonly seen on endurance rides. It helps your move easily and it is a great test of your balance.
Trot Troubles: Your horse should only trot when you ask for the gait—not because the other horses you’re riding with are starting to trot. If your horse speeds into the trot without your approval and without a cue, immediately correct him and start over.

Canter and Whoa
Cantering will cover ground quickly, but a horse can trot greater distances than canter. Plus on some trails, cantering isn’t an option because of the steep or rocky terrain.

“Here in the Rocky Mountains, I can’t imagine cantering on some of our trails,” Goodnight says. “It’s too rocky and steep.”

That said, Goodnight recommends that all riders know how to sit and control the canter—even if it isn’t a gait you would usually use on the trail.

“Any horse is capable of spooking and bolting when you’re on a ride. If you’re riding in an uncontrolled environment, you should have the ability to ride every gait—in case you do need to control a horse who canters away when spooked.”
If your trail is level and well groomed or you know of a flat and low-cut meadow where cantering can be safe, it can be a fun choice to canter on your ride. Check out the footing and conditions before you ask for this gait.

If your group decides to canter, make sure to have an established signal so that all riders know when the group will start and stop the faster gait and that the groupd stays together. No single rider in the group should canter without approval from the entire group. All the horses will want to canter if one begins. If even one rider doesn’t want to canter, no one in the group should speed up to the faster gait. Always ride to the level of the least-skilled irder in your group.

Canter Concerns: Make sure not to canter down a hill and make sure not to canter back toward the barn. Cantering downhill makes it too difficult for a horse to control his balance with a rider aboard.
Cantering away from the barn can help control speed because a horse most likely won’t want to move quickly as he heads away from home. If a horse knows that he’s headed for home and becomes spooked, he can increase speed easily and make the gait too difficult to control.

JUST FOR KIDS
Trot Transitions
When you’re teaching a young rider to cue the horse for a trot, make sure that your teaching is precise and the rider and horse learn to do the right thing. Here, we want to teach a young rider to trot for the first time. You’ll teach the trot by talking to the rider about the cue—what she’ll do when she asks for the trot. Then you’ll help the rider understand that the horse must keep the new gait until he’s asked to do something else. Finally, you’ll help her slow the horse down after a short trot.

Use cones or some visual marker to help the rider know where and when to cue for the trot then the walk. Set up two cones about 20 feet apart. With a halter and lead line under the horse’s bridle, the young rider will have control and you can lead the horse loosely to make sure all goes smoothly. You don’t want the young rider to stop the horse inadvertently by pulling back on the reins too soon.

Teach the Cue
First you reach forward with your hands and say “trot”…
Then you shift your weight forward…
Then bump with your legs…
At the Cone
When you reach the first cone, it’s time to apply the newly learned sequence.
Ride the Trot
Encourage the rider to keep her hands forward and her eyes forward so that she doesn’t inadvertently cue the horse to stop before the second cone.
End Cone
When you reach the end cone, sit back, relax and allow the horse to walk.
In this simple exercise with just two cones, you’ll teach three great skills: cueing, maintaining speed and the downward transition.

Kicks At The Canter

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Ask Julie Goodnight: Help, my horse kicks at the canter!

Question: I have 3 horses, all of which do the same thing. They walk and trot quietly, but when you cue for lope, they will kick up in the back. I know it’s probably a training issue, but I don’t know what to do next to try to get them into a canter without the kick up. I am a senior and have been riding all my life and showed for years, so it’s not lack of riding ability, but may be related to not riding often enough. I’m sure I could carry on once I got them started loping without getting bucked off. Answer: Since all three horses are exhibiting the same behavior, you have to consider the common denominator, which is the rider. While you should always rule out a physical problem first, the fact that all three horses are exhibiting the same behavior tends to point to the rider. But don’t feel badly, most “horse problems” are actually rider induced and you’ll be way ahead of the curve just knowing this, because before you can solve a problem, you must identify it.

Answer: Without actually seeing you and your horses in action, I cannot really diagnose the problem, but I can tell you that this is a very common problem and I see it all the time in clinics. In fact, we have an upcoming episode of Horse Master on this very problem—over-cueing for canter.

Generally speaking, when you cue a horse for trot or canter and he launches into the gait like he was shot out of a cannon—you over-cued him. In the case of the canter cue, there are compounding issues related to the flight response. When the horse is cued to canter, in a way, you are cueing for the flight response; so if you over-cue him you may get more than you bargained for. It is not uncommon for horses to have an outburst of emotion when cued for canter and kicking out the heels is one such example.

To resolve this issue and get a smooth, relaxed canter departure, you’ll need to get more systematic in your canter cue and tone down the signal, adjusting to each horse’s level of sensitivity. While you are working to improve the canter departure, you’ll want to cue from the slow sitting trot. This gives the horses fewer options to get the right answer; but don’t cue from the long-trot. At the slow collected trot his legs are close enough together to reorganize easily into the canter but as he moves into extended trot and his legs spread farther apart, the canter is more difficult to pick up. If he misses the canter cue and goes into long-trot, bring him back immediately to slow trot by using your seat and reins to check him back. As soon as he comes back to slow trot, you’ll cue him again for the canter right away.

Before you give any cue, always prepare the horse that a cue is coming by shortening the reins slightly and closing your legs on his sides. You’ll know he is ready for a cue and listening to you when his head comes up a little and his ears come back on you; that is your horse’s way of saying, “what do you want me to do?” If you develop a consistent and systematic cue for canter, the horse will understand better and he’ll know what is coming next.

Once he’s ready and listening, you’ll give a cue using all your primary aids in sequence: legs, hands, and then seat. First, use outside leg, slightly back; this sets the horse up for the correct lead and also helps him differentiate from the trot cue, where you use two legs at the same time. Next you’ll slightly lift the inside rein; this is less of a rein cue and more of a repositioning of your body into the canter position for the inside lead, with your inside shoulder lifted and your weight in the outside stirrup. The last part of the cue is a push with your seat in the rhythm of the canter motion—like you are pushing a swing. Leg-rein-seat; in a 1-2-3 rhythm.

If your horse is eager to canter or exuberant in the departure, you’ll want to keep the focus on your seat aid, rather than on your legs. There are many horses that cue to canter just by a simple rocking of the seat in the canter motion. If the horse is over-reactive to the cue, use less and less pressure each time until he accepts the cue quietly.

By sequencing your aids and getting more systematic in your cue, your horse will learn what you want and will not stress over the cue. As you practice your transitions, you should be able to make your cues more and more subtle, using less and less pressure. Start by slowing the rhythm of the cue down so that you are taking longer to cue the horse. This helps him think through what is coming next so he is not surprised. Practice many trot-canter-trot transitions. Each time you make a transition, it should be a little smoother as the horse learns the cue better, thus reducing his anxiety.

When horses kick out at the canter departure, often it is because it seems to him as if you are yelling at him when a whisper would work. As you get more systematic with your cue and your horse comes to understand, you can use less pressure. If he is ready for the cue when it comes and you use less pressure, the kicking should go away. You’ll find more help on my Canter with Confidence DVD and my Perfect Practice DVD: http://shop.juliegoodnight.com/
Good luck!

–Julie Goodnight Trainer and Clinician

Riding Skills: Making Smooth Gait Transitions

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Clinician Julie Goodnight tells you how to use pre-signals and breathing techniques to improve your horse’s transitions between gaits.

Are your horse’s transitions between gaits as smooth as glass? Or do you hold your breath and hope for the best as your horse hops on his forehand to slow down and lurches forward when asked to go?

If your response is the latter, then it’s time to relax and take a big breath, in and out, says horse clinician Julie Goodnight.

That deep breath, she finds, is the first step to making well-balanced and easily executed transitions in your horse from one gait to another. By combining breathing with a good pre-signal and consistent cues, you’ll set your horse up to smoothly switch gears.

Level of Intention
To get a good transition from your horse, you have to make your intentions really clear to him. If you’re unsure about making a transition, your horse will feel that apprehension.

“The rider has to be committed to whatever she’s asking the horse to do,” Julie says. “Horses are really keen to your level of intention when you’re riding-sometimes they know it better than you know yourself.”

For example, if you’re asking your horse to canter, but you’re nervous about cantering, it’s likely that you’ll unintentionally pull back on the reins as you’re kicking your horse forward. That sends your horse a mixed message. When the lines of communication falter, you’re unlikely to get that beautiful, prompt transition.

The inadvertent use of the reins during a transition, whether speeding up or slowing down, is one of the most common problems Goodnight sees. The end result is a horse that becomes nervous, antsy, angry, or indifferent in response to his rider’s unclear directions.

If you are unintentionally grabbing for the reins, you need to address the underlying issue. Are you scared of your horse’s next gear? Nerves are okay, and pretty darn normal. You just need to find a way to deal with them. Maybe you need more riding lessons to improve your balance, or your horse needs time with an experienced rider to build his confidence as he moves to the next gait. Or maybe you just need to work through the transition and really focus on not pulling on your reins when you become uncomfortable.

Perfecting the Pre-Signal

The best way to get a good transition is to give your horse a clue that you’re about to change something. Julie refers to this as a pre-signal. “It’s typically just a matter of shortening the reins and closing your legs around the horse,” Julie says.

With that subtle shift, your horse’s attention should switch directly to you, with him waiting for your next request.

“If your horse isn’t listening to you, then you might as well not bother asking for the transition,” Julie adds.

When your horse does respond appropriately to your pre-signal, you should feel like he’s tuned in mentally-and preparing himself physically-for the transition, whether you’re going to ask him to speed up, slow down, or stop.

As a pre-signal to her horse, Julie shortens her reins and applies pressure with her legs. These pre-signals let her horse know that he needs to pay attention, because something is about to change.

Your breathing can also become part of your cue to your horse, Julie says. Before an upward transition, she suggests inhaling, which is associated with movement. For example, a deep inhalation fills the lungs, and then the blood, with oxygen, which helps prepare the body for exertion or exercise. Breathing in also fills your chest with air, and naturally moves your center of gravity forward into an anterior tilt. “Inhaling is like saying, ‘Okay, get ready to move with me,’” Julie says.

When pre-signaling for a downward transition, do the opposite by exhaling and emptying your lungs.

“When you exhale, you kick back and relax,” Julie points out. Often, breathing out-or sighing-releases stress and tension. In the same way, it tells your horse it’s time to slow down, too.

If you’re consistent with your breathing, your horse will begin to associate your deliberate breathing with your pre-signal and, ultimately, the transition.

Cueing for the Transition

The next step for your transition is to actually cue your horse. Make sure your cues are deliberate and consistent, so your horse understands the request.

For your upward transitions from a halt to a walk, or a walk to a trot, squeeze both of your legs and give the go-forward cue. Also use a verbal cue, such as a specific word, cluck, or chirp. To ask for the canter, Julie suggests applying pressure at the girth with your outside leg as you tip your horse’s nose to the inside. Then add the motion of your seat going into the canter. Again, combine your body cues with your verbal cue, this time a kissing noise, the word “canter,” or whatever word or noise works for you.

If your horse is unresponsive to your request for a transition, Julie suggests the “ask, tell, demand” method of cueing. Start by asking nicely, then up the pressure and tell your horse what you expect, and, finally, demand with a light tap or spank with a crop or the ends of your reins, Julie says. Let your horse know exactly what you expect him to do.

Julie uses her breath to help cue her horse. Here, she blows out, letting the air expel from her lungs. This action causes her body to sit back, another clue to her horse that he’s supposed to slow down. The opposite happens when Julie breaths in. Now her chest rises and body moves forward, telling her horse to get ready to move forward.

When executed properly, the upward transitions should feel as though your horse is springing and stepping forward into the next gait.

In the downward transitions, you want to help your horse stay balanced, so he steps down from the gait, rather than lurching and falling on his forehand. To help your horse stay balanced, Julie says to avoid using the reins to slow your horse. Instead, use your breathing, along with the weight of your seat. Sit back and down into your saddle, and combine it with a verbal cue. The word “easy” is a popular choice for slowing between gaits. The word “whoa,” of course, should be reserved for complete stops. Most horses are pretty happy to stop, and will happily do so without their riders pulling on the reins, Julie points out. If you always use your aids in this sequence when you cue for the stop: voice-seat/legs-hands (only used if needed), your horse will elect to stop before the pull on his mouth comes.

Practice Makes Perfect

Once you’ve perfected your pre-signals, breathing techniques, and cues for transitions, it’s time to keep practicing. The more transitions you do when you’re riding, the more responsive and engaged your horse will become. He’ll also become physically stronger, especially through his back and hindquarters, which only makes his transitions better. Pretty soon, you’ll feel like you’re sailing over glassy water to get to your horse’s next gait.

Copyright ©Julie Goodnight 2000. All Rights Reserved. No part of this website may be reproduced without owner’s express consent.

Riding Skills: Lead Changes

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Question Category: Riding Skills

Question: Julie,

Hope all is going well for you. I’m continuing to enjoy teaching kids riding lessons. My question this time: What’s the best way to teach advance kids how to do flying lead changes? I’ve tried the use of the pole method (in the center of the adjoining circles) and I’ve tried using an “x” at the trot, getting shorter and shorter to give the horse the idea of the pattern, and the switching of leads. When I was a kid, we were taught to “crank” the horse over in tight circles, changing directions. This method I know is neither safe, nor good training for the horse. What would you suggest?

Best wishes
Katherine

Answer: Katherine,

Flying lead changes, Sheesh! Everyone wants to do them but no one wants to put in the time and gain the skills needed to execute proper lead changes. In my opinion, this is one of the biggest disservices we do to the sport– to let kids that are no where close to having the necessary skills compete in classes like Western Riding, where flying lead changes are required.

In our instant gratification society, everyone wants to be able to do everything right now. This leads to short-cut methods and poor execution. Before a rider and horse can properly execute the flying lead change, the following skills must be solid:

1) Thorough understanding of leads and the footfalls of the canter
2) Smooth canter departures from the walk and halt, getting the correct lead 100% of the time
3) Rider being able to feel which lead the horse is on (no looking)
4) Flawless simple lead changes with only one stride of trot, on a straight line
5) Total control of the horse’s haunches; able to walk and trot haunches-in in both directions
6) Able to leg-yield or two-track at walk and trot in both directions
7) Able to sit the canter/lope in a balanced seat and have independent hands and legs
8) Horse can maintain collected canter/lope in frame, going straight

There are probably more things required but these are just off the top of my head. The horse begins the canter/lope with the outside hind leg. Thus, when his haunches are to the right, most of his weight comes on the left hind and he strikes off with the right lead. A flying lead change is done by moving the horse’s haunches during the moment of suspension so that he can switch hind legs and change to the other lead.

The rough (but commonly used) method you describe of jerking the head to the new direction throws the horse onto his forehand and may cause a change of the front lead, leaving the horse in a cross-canter (one lead in front, other lead behind). To execute a flying lead change properly, the horse must change from behind first. Thus, the need to have total control of the horse’s haunches.

As you may have noticed by now, this is a pet-peeve of mine 😉 No one wants to do all the hard work to prepare for such an advanced skill; they just want to know it now. It may help to have a list of necessary skills for the riders to work on first, such as the ones listed above. When they can do all these things, they are ready to work on lead changes. Then the exercises you describe above may work. Loping over a pole in the middle of a figure eight is a useful and commonly used exercise, but will only work when the rider has adequate skills.

An age-old piece of wisdom says that the best way to improve the canter/lope is to improve the trot. So, as usual, go back to basics. Work on position, use of the aids (more seat-less hands), transitions, haunches-in and knowledge. There are no quick fixes. Good luck!

JG

Copyright ©Julie Goodnight 2000. All Rights Reserved. No part of this website may be reproduced without owner’s express consent.

Issues From The Saddle: Kicks Out At Canter

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Question Category: Issues from the Saddle

Question: I have 3 horses, all of which do the same thing. They walk and trot quietly, but when you cue for lope, they will kick up in the back. I know it’s probably a training issue, but I don’t know what to do next to try to get them into a canter without the kick up. I am a senior and have been riding all my life and showed for years, so it’s not lack of riding ability, but may be related to not riding often enough. I’m sure I could carry on once I got them started loping without getting bucked off.

Answer: Since all three horses are exhibiting the same behavior, you have to consider the common denominator, which is the rider. While you should always rule out a physical problem first, the fact that all three horses are exhibiting the same behavior tends to point to the rider. But don’t feel badly, most “horse problems” are actually rider induced and you’ll be way ahead of the curve just knowing this, because before you can solve a problem, you must identify it.

Without actually seeing you and your horses in action, I cannot really diagnose the problem, but I can tell you that this is a very common problem and I see it all the time in clinics. In fact, we have an upcoming episode of Horse Master on this very problem: over-cueing for canter.

Generally speaking, when you cue a horse for trot or canter and he launches into the gait like he was shot out of a cannon, you over-cued him. In the case of the canter cue, there are compounding issues related to the flight response. When the horse is cued to canter, in a way, you are cueing for the flight response; so if you over-cue him you may get more than you bargained for. It is not uncommon for horses to have an outburst of emotion when cued for canter and kicking out the heels is one such example.

To resolve this issue and get a smooth, relaxed canter departure, you’ll need to get more systematic in your canter cue and tone down the signal, adjusting to each horse’s level of sensitivity. While you are working to improve the canter departure, you’ll want o cue from the slow sitting trot. This gives the horses fewer options to get the right answer; but don’t cue from the long-trot. At the slow collected trot his legs are close enough together to reorganize easily into the canter but as he moves into extended trot and his legs spread farther apart, the canter is more difficult to pick up. If he misses the canter cue and goes into long-trot, bring him back immediately to slow trot by using your seat and reins to check him back. As soon as he comes back to slow trot, you’ll cue him again for the canter right away.

Before you give any cue, always prepare the horse that a cue is coming by shortening the reins slightly and closing your legs on his sides. You’ll know he is ready for a cue and listening to you when his head comes up a little and his ears come back on you; that is your horse’s way of saying, “what do you want me to do?” If you develop a consistent and systematic cue for canter, the horse will understand better and he’ll know what is coming next.

Once he’s ready and listening, you’ll give a cue using all your primary aids in sequence: legs, hands, and then seat. First, use outside leg, slightly back; this sets the horse up for the correct lead and also helps him differentiate from the trot cue, where you use two legs at the same time. Next you’ll slightly lift the inside rein; this is less of a rein cue and more of a repositioning of your body into the canter position for the inside lead, with your inside shoulder lifted and your weight in the outside stirrup. The last part of the cue is a push with your seat in the rhythm of the canter motion—like you are pushing a swing. Leg-rein-seat; in a 1-2-3 rhythm.

If your horse is eager to canter or exuberant in the departure, you’ll want to keep the focus on your seat aid, rather than on your legs. There are many horses that cue to canter just by a simple rocking of the seat in the canter motion. If the horse is over-reactive to the cue, use less and less pressure each time until he accepts the cue quietly.

By sequencing your aids and getting more systematic in your cue, your horse will learn what you want and will not stress over the cue. As you practice your transitions, you should be able to make your cues more and more subtle, using less and less pressure. Start by slowing the rhythm of the cue down so that you are taking longer to cue the horse. This helps him think through what is coming next so he is not surprised. Practice many trot-canter-trot transitions. Each time you make a transition, it should be a little smoother as the horse learns the cue better, thus reducing his anxiety.

When horses kick out at the canter departure, often it is because it seems to him as if you are yelling at him when a whisper would work. As you get more systematic with your cue and your horse comes to understand, you can use less pressure. If he is ready for the cue when it comes and you use less pressure, the kicking should go away.

Good luck!
Julie

Copyright ©Julie Goodnight 2000. All Rights Reserved. No part of this website may be reproduced without owner’s express consent.

Transitions

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Set Up For Success: set up cones to help you plan transitions
There’s an old saying in horsemanship: “All of training occurs in transitions.” A transition occurs any time you ask your horse to speed up or slow down—it is in the asking and your horse’s compliance that the training occurs. Be precise with your transitions and try to execute them at a specific place. I like to keep markers set up around my arena, using cones or brightly colored duct tape on the fence, marking the mid-point on each side, as well as quarter marks on the long sides. This way, I can execute my upward and downward transitions right on the marks and learn more about my horse’s preparation/response time and how precisely he follows my cues. Remember, practice does not make perfect—only perfect practice makes perfect!