Into the Bridle – Part 3

A continuation from last week’s introduction into using long reining techniques from Dan James. You can find Part Two here, and Part One was featured in the May/June issue of Western Horse Review.

Step 4 – Speed Control

Here, you will work on understanding body position in relation to your horse and the practices to have the most effective hands in order to control speed. Start out at the ¾ position and ask your horse to move forward into a walk, then a trot in a large circle. Set him up for a lope by stepping behind the eye and driving forward. Adjust your reins accordingly, ensuring there isn’t so much slack that it’s slapping the horse’s hind end, but loose enough that he can move out. Once cantering nicely, ask for a downward transition to a trot, ensuring you maintain the forward momentum so as not to have him stop completely, continuing forward into a walk.

Next, you will employ the foundation you have created so far to ask for a change of direction at a trot. Remember that you can take your time to set up the exercise successfully; it does not need to be a rush. You are working on developing the feel, technique and timing working both reins. Ask for a tighter circle and keep the forward momentum through the center of the round pen by holding the inside rein, switching in the center, then allow the outside rein the slide through your hands smoothly. Repeat this as many times as you need to until the flow is consistent and relaxed.

Step 5 – Body Control

Here, we utilize many of the techniques that we begin with our ground control training. Step behind to the side that you’re asking for flexion and use your whip to cue for the leg yield along the rail, with your horse’s nose tipped to the outside. Engage your outside rein, drive the flexion with your whip and keep forward momentum. When you first ask for this, be satisfied with three or four good steps, then release. If you get stuck, you will start over by asking for their nose to the inside and walking on. Re-establish the forward momentum, then step across and ask again. Again, accept and reward a good effort with a solid pat.

Step 6 – Moving to the Arena

When you move from the round pen to an arena, return to the set-up of one inside rein and outside direct rein. Move your horse out to a large circle, asking for a trot and then a lope. It is beneficial to ask for the lope in a larger circle if this is the first time that you are introducing this to your horse. Ask for a downward transition and gather the rein, hand-over-fist, circling him in closer to you. When you are ready to ask your horse to enlarge the circle again, ask by stepping towards the shoulder and extending your rein. As with all of these steps, make sure to repeat them in both directions.

Editor’s Note: watch for the final Part 4 of this series in an upcoming post of Roundpen. 

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