Part two of: LONG AND LOW “SETTING UP BARRIERS
By: Charlie Roach
Hopefully your journey has been filled with “WOW” experiences so that you are now ready to move on to the next steps. Let us talk about what long and low should look like. Your horses cue to drop his head and pull the snaffle bit through you kind and willing hands should be established. Remember your horse should be able to move out in an extended walk with his head lower than his withers. Now we can move on to the exciting stuff. Keep in mind the importance of enjoying the journey.
Setting barriers for your horse at a stand still
We will start a new lesson plan with our horse saddled and in a snaffle bit at a stand- still. While on his back we will ask our horse to go on the vertical with his head by applying about four ounces of pressure on the reins, asking him to bring his face onto the vertical. The horse’s first instincts will be the desire to pull the reins through your hands and go long and low.
Do not become discouraged, he is responding to what you have taught him. Simply set that barrier and with kind but firm hands continue to hold pressure. Increase the amount of pressure in friendly fazes of firmness until he gives you a try. The instant he gives you a try reward him by releasing the reins and tell him what a good horse he or she has been. I like to give my horse about two minutes of praise before I begin the lesson all over again, as this will encourage your horse to learn quickly.
Your horse’s ability to differentiate between the different cues you will teach will astonish you. We seldom give our horse credit in reference to how much they can learn if they have a good teacher. So get busy and become a good teacher. Your horse is very forgiving. He will wait for you to become patient and consistent with your cues.
You will continue to build upon your new cue “setting the barriers .“ Begin your exercise by holding your hands low as you begin to hold about four ounces of pressure . If your horse does not respond, ask with friendly fazes of firmness until your horse says yes. The correct answer is positioning his face on the vertical.
Continue this exercise over and over until your horse is willing to hold his face on the vertical for at least thirty seconds. At this point you are ready to move on to the next exercises. Again I tell you if you take the time it takes, it takes less time.
What is meant by friendly fazes of firmness? You will merely add to the amount of pressure in sequences, a little at a time until you get the response you desire.
Setting barriers for your horse from a walk
Basically you will ask your horse to place face in the vertical position in the same manner we asked for the vertical from a stand still. The goal is for your horse to be willing to do this exercise with no resistance. One must be patient until the horse understands this cue. This will eventually lead to self carriage.
I cannot reiterate enough the importance of this exercise. It is not about holding the horses head in a certain position. It is about the desire from the horse to stay in that position without being held. Much like children becoming obedient, one will have to remind or reinforce the behavior for the rest of their lives. Your success will be not having to ask your horse for the task at hand so many times
I am going to try to hold your hand through this exercise. With our horse saddled and in a snaffle bit, you in the saddle, ask your horse to walk off on a loose rein. After a few steps we ask our horse to place his face on the vertical by taking four ounces of pressure on the reins. I personally like to keep my reins low to encourage a lower head set at this point.
If I am successful with my cue my horse will place his face on the vertical and I will keep my hands passive until my horse needs to be reminded of the task at hand. If the cue is not successful I would apply more pressure gradually and hold that pressure on the reins until I get the result I desire.
The instant my horse goes on the vertical I will reward by releasing the pressure on the reins. After several months of using this exercise you should be able to feel your horse asking you to turn the reins loose. By listening closely one should be able to feel your horse asking you to steady the reins slightly after the release.
Summary of the goals we have obtained along with what is to come
1. Lesson plan one gave us Long and Low which we should utilize the exercise to continue the horses relaxation and roundness. This exercise is one you should use the remainder of your horses life. Long and Low is also a good way to end each session. This exercise will help your horse stretch those tired muscles after a strenuous work out.
2. Part two Setting Barriers, will bring us one step closer to the engagement of the rear legs we as Walking horse enthusiast so desire. Once you have “Long and Low” incorporated and “Setting up Barriers” accomplished, you have the tools to attempt to trap that energy once you develop the impulsion. Successfully accomplishing these task will make it possible to utilize all of your horses natural ability. Remember, one cannot take a horse past their ability. Utilizing and accomplishing these exercises will enable your horse to reach their potential.
I certainly hope you find this material helpful. In the weeks to come I will be planning part three of this series titled, “Developing Impulsion to increase shoulder movement and longer stride.