Second Free Lesson on Training a Horse for Bit-Less Dressage and Pleasure Riding
Free Lesson #2
My blog today is on my second free lesson on preparing a horse for bit-less dressage. As you remember from our first free lesson, my video was on mounting Honey from the fence. We spent many days on mounting from the fence until Honey began to expect this exercise and enjoy the process. He now thinks that mounting is a grooming behavior that he has come to enjoy. The first time Kai tried to ride him away from the fence Honey fell into his old pattern of being in a hurry and wanted to go faster and faster until I assumed he would have taken off into a full run trying to get rid of Kai. However, because Honey now has a strong foundation in the Waterhole Rituals we could turn him around. Kai knew not to try to pull back on Honey’s rope because we have been told if you try to stop him he would rear, so I called him to me and he came over in a hurry and Kai then stepped off of him quickly before Honey had time to think.
So we went back to more preliminary exercises relating to halt and slowing down like leading from behind, Single Lining and some exercises on turning left and right from the ground in hand, where in every turn we asked for a halt. This was done very slowly between Kai and I working together. Sometimes I would ask for a halt from the ground while Kai was on Honey’s back and sometimes Kai would direct Honey himself.
Now Honey can be ridden in a walk, trot and halt without being in a hurry when he is warmed up and is listening well to the aids. Kai is back in Spain and I am now more focused on our next lesson that I am sharing with you today… more Single Lining.
This exercise is a warm up exercise for training, pleasure riding, bitless dressage and double lining (ground driving). Single Lining puts a horse’s mind into preforming and paying attention to the rider’s seat and rein aids by putting a horse under the rider’s seat. Most riders feel their job is to stay on the horse rather than it being the job of the horse to stay under them. When riding it is allot easier to stay on a horse when the horse would make every effort to stay under the rider’s seat. When a rider puts more focus on staying on the horse rather than the horse staying under him, there is allot of control being lost from making the wrong choices in what to ask from the horse. What I have noticed is that many riders can not tell if a horse is under their seat or not. A horse is not truly under the rider’s seat if the horse is either going faster or slower than what the rider is asking. Many times the rider is indefinite in how fast they want their horse to travel.
When you ask for a turn from the horse if the horse does not follow the exact path of the turn the rider wants, then the horse is not under the rider’s seat. All of this can be fixed from warming up daily with the Single Lining exercises. As you go along, the residual effect of Single Lining will grow and grow to a magical connection.
What Single Lining does is develop a horse to be truly between the seat and the hands of the rider without the rider needing to signal the horse in-between the initial request. The Single Lining causes a horse to self govern his own performance; self carriage becomes natural to him. When a horse is truly under your seat you would be able to ask only once with a light aid for a halt and your horse would halt. You could also ask for a horse to take the speed you would like and the horse would maintain it without any direction from you once he has taken the pace that you have asked for. In other words, Single Lining creates a rated horse from the ground without the train it from the saddle.
The result of Single Lining will create a feeling that only your thoughts or from your desire alone, are controlling your horse’s performance. The aids you use would be aids as light as a fly’s touch. For a horse to respond to aids this light it comes for a deep desire to perform and be there for his rider. This is what Single Lining will do for you and your horse.
This Exercise is not for Everyone but can be Accomplish by Anyone
Some people will not have the time or the patience. Be prepared to give this exercise 30 days at the least 3 days a week, at best 5 days a week, before you could use Single Lining as an effective warm up program for your horse before riding. You can not over do this exercise. The exercise is mostly done at a walk, at least for the first 30 days. Walk is an amazing gate to use to connect with your horse. Later we will be adding some trot work but not for a couple of months. Relax into the program and it will do wonders for you and your horse. Your skills for training will advance quickly, removing years of practices and experiences.
Let’s get Started
Remember always start with the Waterhole Rituals and then into the Uberstriechen Exercises from the ones you have learned. You do not need to know them all. You should not need to put more than 20 minutes of work into the Waterhole Rituals and the Uberstriechen Exercises before you start with the Single Lining exercises. You can spend another 15 to 20 minutes on Single Lining.
Put on some good music. Have letters up about 20 feet or so apart. I use the letters on a dressage court. I like to pretend that I am at my Spanish Riding School introducing the arena to a horse for the start of his bit-less riding schooling. It is my job to do this exercise each day until the horse accepts the exercise as a natural part of his work at the school before I change up my horse’s program. All horses at the school do these exercises in the morning at the same time and this helps the new horses to fall in line.
The horses that are ready to be introduced to the Single Lining are well trained at Liberty and Companion Walking, trotting, halt and pausing. The horse can also do the clover leaf pattern around a food bucket. Don’t forget to do your Sharing Territory exercises everyday to keep the bond growing deeper and deeper. Whatever you are already doing with your horse, you may continue doing.
Walk along the fence of the arena in a relaxed manner, stopping at each letter and waiting there until the horse is happy to stand on a short slack line until moving on. Ask for halt like in Companion Walking just past the letter so his shoulder is at the letter. When he is halted on a slack line shorten the line until the slack is out of the line then move up to his head keeping the connection and ask him to turn towards the letter as if you are going to ask him to make a turn to the outside like in a roll back. When the horse turns enough so that his front feet have put the horse at a 45 degree angle to the fence and that you can now see the letter, and his nose is right at the letter, ask him to halt and wait at the letter on a short relaxed rein. Your horse might fuss, so do not move on until he is relaxed. This will teach patience, tolerance and a willingness to allow you to control his behavior. In this exercise we do not use treats. We are developing a work ethic in our horses. This is the exercise you will do every day for 30 days…So simple to do and the rewards will be magical! What your horse is learning is that when he feels contact on the inside rein from you asking him to halt and him walking into the contact, he will not fall onto his shoulder or try to face you which would cause the horse to come off his path. What he learns is to take the inside rein and move into halt from this exercise.
Always find out what speed your horse’s natural walking speed is. When you know what that speed is, ask him to go faster or slower than he would like to go. This way you take the leadership roll in a very unobtrusive way. If he is slow, you will ask him to move faster and if he is fast, you will ask him to go slower. This will teach your horse to rate himself easily.
If at any time your horse tries to turn around and face you, when the horse feels a pull on the line from not halting when you did or you are walking slower that he his, walk up to him to stop the turn. As you walk up to him keep the slack out of the line. Once your horse has halted move up closer to his head and ask for a halt at close range. You should have the rope held about 4 inches or less from the halter. Use a strong aid to taking control of the horse to steady him that is not punitive and then when he halts move him to the wall at a 45 degree angle to the fence and have him relax there indefinitely. Hold the rope and hold the fence as if he is tied there. Don’t move on until he is completely relaxed on a shot relaxed line.
So simple and so easy but in the beginning it is a bit clumsy and that is perfectly all right, even expected . Your clumsiness will get better quickly and will not hurt the training of your horse. When moving him over to the wall pick up your energy and his speed as if you are in a hurry to move him over to the fence. This will call attention to your horse that time is of an essence. He will learn from this exercise to move quickly and then to relax immediately. These abilities are needed for dressage. There is the pause and a horse’s ability to respond immediately, the timing, connection and the rhythm that creates the gates and the dance of dressage.
In my online bit-less Dressage program I will cover more advanced details. Hope to see you in it. I want my free programs to really work for you too. Hope this is of great benefit as it has been for me for the years I have used it for training all my horses.
As I am approaching New Years Eve, I feel very present to the wonders of nature and what amazing adventures this next year has to offer to our little family here at Dances with horses and to all of us that are truly imbibing in the magic that each day provides to us.
I want to wish you all a Happy New Year and hope your celebrations around the world are all magical.
Be on the look out for new horse and human sightings and may the horse be with you.