BY: Charlie Roach
Regardless of whether you are training your horse for the trail or the rail, it is imperative that one has a good relationship with the horses mouth.
The “key” that is over looked is the lesson plan or task of “long and low.” Let’s begin by defining long and low. Long and low is the desire for the horse to drop the head towards the ground while seeking the pressure of the bit.
When obtained properly the horse will become rounded in his back which will cause your horse to be relaxed with more stride in the rear legs. I look at a good mouth just as I do a good hand shake. Not too soft but soft enough.
Step1: teach your horse long and low
While your horse is standing still in a snaffle bit, take hold of both reins with approximately four oz. of pressure. The response that we are looking for is for your horse to take the bit and pull towards the ground. With your hands you should feel and allow the reins to slide through your hands with a slight drag. The drag is similar to that feel of a reel on a fishing rod.
Now do not become discouraged if your horse doesn’t respond correctly. Merely put more pressure on the reins until your horse takes the bit towards the ground. A pit fall will be that your horse will want to back up. You will have to apply leg pressure until your horse understands what you want.
The first four or five times your horse responds correctly you may want to release the pressure instantly and say “good boy.”
Now remember eventually it is important that your horse learns it with a slight drag, gently pulling the reins through your closed hands. Another way to in-vision this is you are holding pressure while your horse takes it from you, as you allow your horse to do so.
The goal in this exercise is for your horses desire to take the reins away from you, to become second nature. If you are patient and friendly with this task your horse will develop the habit of great desire.
Now remember, this will develop a soft feel one day. It might take from one to three days to establish this desire in your horse.
- Step two
Place your horse in a fifty foot circle at a slow walk. While at a walk begin to cue your horse to lower the head just like you did in step one. The pit fall may be that your horse wants to stop. Again, leg pressure will be needed to encourage impulsion.
Continue this exercise until the desire to take the reins from you is as strong as the desire for air in a drowning victim. This could easily take two or three weeks, with a five day work week.
If you are wondering at this point what kind of head set this will develop then you must relax and be patient. This exercise will enable you to put your horses head where ever you want it, but not until your horse is truly on the bit.
Collection and head set will be accomplished once you develop the soft and trusting relationship with your horse. This exercise will establish a softness and obedience to the bit while relaxing and improving your horses stride.
The follow-up article,in about three weeks, will teach you how to proceed in your quest for improving your relationship with your horse through a soft mouth. For now you will just have to trust me by using this lesson plan. Eventually we will have collection, head set in frame, and improved stride.