- April 14, 2017
- Jenn Zeller
I’ve spent most of the winter riding in the barn and as such my ability to ride straight has nearly vanished.
Once upon a time, I quit loping circles on my horses altogether. I mean, if I can pick them up, they get round and are soft when I ask, do I really need to lope endless, meaningless (to them) circles? Eh, probably not. But now, I have another dilemma to work through — my horses aren’t always going where I tell them, as straight as I’d like them to go.
There are a couple ways you can get your horse positioned to go straight. You can move their shoulers, if they’re fading, say to the right, or you can leave him fading and push his hips into line with the shoulders. Either method or both will work, for helping the horse learn to travel straight. When he finds it, become neutral and comfortable for him.
I’ve also learned that I need to learn to use all parts of my arena, not just ride in meaningless, left/right laps, straight on the sides, turns on the end. I’ve taken to making a giant X — riding from one corner to the other, which is made even more difficult by the fact that there’s a round pen in the middle of our arena on one end.
Basically, it boils down to me learning to “think” straight, so that my horse doesn’t become accustomed to whatever pattern it is he thinks we are riding, or learns to use the arena walls as a bumper rail. I can ride straight across — North to South (the width), or straight East to West (the length), or work an x, avoiding the area near the round pen altogether. By doing strictly this, or adding it to our ride, we are working to tune the horse in to what we want, instead of what he thinks we want.
As I’ve employed these tactics, I’ve found that my stops have gotten straighter, my horse is stopping harder, and there’s less anticipation.
Moral of the story — always be thinking of ways to help your horse turn his feet over to you and learn to ride where you want him to go, not where he thinks the walls are taking him.
About Jenn Zeller
Jenn Zeller was transplanted, from a big city in Texas, to the plains of South Dakota. The only person in her family to ride, she grew up rodeoing, managed a rodeo scholarship to college, and earned a marketing degree from Tarleton State University. She went...