Wednesday, October 22, 2014
Working on Straightness
I haven’t seen Ellen and Dante work in the arena, lately. The last time I did, I helped her with straightness and corners. She tells me she is still having some trouble with the corners, but he is doing well on the straightaways. She is learning to correct him when he goes crooked.
Often, from the saddle it looks like your horse is traveling straight along the wall or fence, but upon closer examination, you will see his shoulder is the same distance from the wall as his hip. Since a horse’s shoulder is narrower than his hip, this means he is crooked. His shoulder should be directly in front of his hip—making it further away from the wall. If you are unsure, have someone stand in front of you while you ride down the wall, and that person can tell you what is happening.
Once you know your horse is crooked, you need to be able to develop the feel for when he is crooked and when he is straight. When he is crooked, you need to adjust him right away and do it every time. It’s a lot of work just to ride a straight line along the wall! Corners are even more complex.
No wonder I like to trail ride, but I know that schooling in the arena is important to making a well-rounded horse and rider. If you are aware of the changes in your horse’s body—telling you he is going crooked, you are more likely to notice any changes on the trail, too. He may be a little anxious about something off to the side or nervous when you are riding next to another horse. It gives you an early warning that something may happen and the potential to avoid it.
Sometimes Cole gets upset when other horses are close to him. When he “tells” me, I move him ahead or behind. If I’m not paying attention, there are times that he will bolt forward or sideways to get away. (Cole is a big sissy.)
Learning to straighten your horse easily can be handy, too. Let’s say there is some mud and your horse doesn’t want to get his feet dirty—but by going around it, your knee is aiming for a tree. By making a slight adjustment, you may save your knee and maybe still stay out of the mud, but you need the ability to make that adjustment—and your horse needs to know what you are asking.
So, working on straightness in the arena is a worthwhile endeavor—as are many other things that we do. I know this is the truth, but why is it so hard for me to get used to riding in it now that the evenings are dark and I can’t go on the trail?