Video: Softening through the Figure Eight
- May 8, 2019
- Savanna Simmons
So, this video here is a little clunky. I’m pretty hesitant to post it, quite frankly, but I’m hoping it will encourage someone who feels a little like I look. I shot it myself as the sun was setting the other night, so if you see me looking at the camera, it’s to be sure I was in the frame. The crooked frame. Which, some of the time, I wasn’t.
Anyway, this is my third ride on this horse, and he’s a really nice fella and perfect for me, but he has a few sticky points. And so do I. So, we’re working our way through a few things. We’re getting to know one another.
So, I did this at pretty low drive, and you’ll notice that my horse pauses through some of the transitions. This probably could have been remedied by a little heartier walk. Next time. He also much prefers to pop his hip out, so we worked through keeping the hip in during the transitions and along the curves.
Ernie is a little bracey through the transitions, working from one side to the next, and so that was the big idea with working on figure eights. I would much rather use my legs and one rein versus both to get a horse to soften while walking. He’s pretty good about staying soft to the inside when walking a circle. The figure eight maneuver is just an added dimension versus a circle.
I tried to set him up in the transition by asking almost as if I were asking for a lead change. I used button three on the outside, to encourage that hip to stay up, and button one on the inside to shift the shoulder, all in time with a soft change in direction from the rein. (Read about buttons here.) Sometimes I would relax all my cues and just ask for forward. Watching myself, I could have used a little more of that. Again, next time.
Once I feel that softening happen a little smoother and more consistently, I will add a little more outside rein, so, using support from both reins, we can transition through the figure eight smoothly, then move it to a heartier walk or trot. I wasn’t too concerned with the track his feet were on, so keeping a consistent eight didn’t matter, but rather, I was worried about how his body was shaping up. All in good time.
This seems a simple thing, but for us, we need to keep the hip engaged and under him, not floating outside of the circle, and build less brace in collection. I don’t work on it for very long, but a little each time I ride. You might find a sticking point elsewhere in yourself and your horse using this activity!
Do you practice figure eights from time to time?
About Savanna Simmons
I'm Savanna Simmons and I live north of Lusk, Wyoming, on the Four Three Ranch with my husband Boe and our sons, Brindle and Roan. I grew up evolving my horsemanship with clinicians like Ray Hunt, Joe Wolter, and Jack Brainard, but not within a...