This weekend I had the joy of chatting with a Facebook friend in England about her horse. Of course we had lots to talk about. You know how we horse people are! We discussed a few things going on with her and her new horse and one in particular. Does your horse know where her feet are?
Reconnecting your horse to her feet. They know all about forward momentum. They see and know where they are going, but because of many things we do, from training, to housing, diet, hoofcare, and other things, they can actually lose the ability to know where their feet are. This will help.
I'd like to share an important exercise Diane Sept taught me years ago, that I believe goes a long, long way to helping any horse become sure footed and light on the forehand. It promotes a proper healthy posture … She calls it the, "One-Step." And I teach it in my, "Therapy For Therapy Horses," clinics. It's easy and fun to do.
Stand in front of your horse and ask for, "One Step Forward," – This means the left front and right hind, and a soft whoa. When your horse stops, ask her to, "Rock Back Off Her Forehand." And allow her to feel and process this. Then ask for, "One Step Back," the same feet and then rock back, wait and process. Do this 3 or 4 times each side, always asking for the "Rock Back" and allowing time to process. Some horses prefer to start with "One Step Back," first … I never swing into Kessy's saddle without doing this (and other pre-ride exercises).
You might find your horse has great difficulty taking only "one Step." This is because she has lost connection with her feet. This little exercise will fix that. And will also help improve body carriage and engage the hind end. Just take your time, go slow and allow your horse to, "feel the change." Let her find her feet again.
Another great exercise to add to this "One Step" is the "One Step over a row of Cavileties." Lead your horse slowly over the cavileties, but pause and rock back, at each one, each step. Allow a second or three at each pause for your horse to process. It won't take long until you will notice a difference in how your horse places her feet. When you've mastered this, back through the cavileties, one step at a time.
|Kessy & Dutch demonstrating "Rock Back"|
What is the "Rock Back?" … Look at your horse from the side, really look. Study where she carries her weight. Does it look like she has most of her weight on her forehand? Leaning slightly forward? Very gently touch her chest and ask her to shift her weight back, off her forehand. That is correct healthy posture. Not a step back, but just a "Rock Back." Do this after every step in the "One Step Exercicses."
Kessy and I hope you'll make this fun exercise part of your routine. It also goes a long way to helping a horse look for soft cues. And helping us become softer in giving cues.