"you will start your horse around you in a circle, then walk forward in a straight line, working your horse back and forth in front of you. You will continue to advance at a steady pace. You might need to walk slower than I might to start until you get your timing sorted out and your horse gets the idea of the exercise. This exercise puts emphasis on your horse’s front quarters. His hind will step over, but not quite as cleanly as they will when you are working on a full circle." - Eclectic Horsemen, Buck Brannaman.
Basically, you walk forward, driving your horse in a half circle in front of you. Never letting him go all the way around, but cuing him to change direction and pass in front of you again. The horse has to sit back on his haunches and really move his feet to keep up with your forward progression.
I started out walking Really Slowly. Mostly because I had to figure out how to pass the rope and stick and cue effectively. It would be no fair to the horse-and very not productive-to walk fast and be totally discombobulated in my communication.
This teaches the horse to respect your space, and to pay really close attention. Click through to the Eclectic Horseman article, it's very detailed and very helpful.
We worked on it with the rest of our jogging fun all winter, and eventually got decent at it. Between that and the jogging, we're getting distinctly better at Liberty.
I feel like the half-circle exercise connected some dots for us, and motivated Midas to use energy and his haunches to do what I ask.
I try to mix it up, some days I use a rope, some days I don't. I do some of the jogging with me, and some of the yielding, and some of the lunging. If it's a ropeless day and ropelessness is not working, we go back to the rope.
Yield the forehand:
Lunging at liberty has three stages right now.
The first time or two around the circle where he is super attentive.
The second stage he decides to test the boundaries and starts going all over our space--be it ring or paddock--I keep his feet moving, forcing a direction change whenever I can manage it.
The third stage he comes back, circles and changes pace and direction right on cue like a pro.
Halt (nice and square!) and a pat:
Dutiful direction change:
Small, attentive circle:
Super on cue direction change:
|Interestingly, he is very heavy on his front end, it takes A LOT to get him to tuck his butt under and pick his front feet up.|
We're going to have to work on that more this year.
That's a smug looking horse.
One of the things I love about this whole ground work thing is that it's so low pressure. I mean, I have a horse saluting when I say salute, and I've never had to use force or fear. He does it because he wants to do what I want him to do. I don't baby him, I don't let him push me around, and I don't accept disrespect from him. But correction never needed to be violent. A word and a look are all it takes these days.
He parks extremely well, if he doesn't it is usually because I forgot to tell him to stay.
Most of the time it only takes one reminder to get him back on track. Except with grass, that can take more. And after the day at the races--where he stuffed his face all day at the hands of an adoring public--he did not want to ask permission to eat grass. Three corrections (hard bumps from the halter) and he finally remembered who was holding his lead rope and ignoring my presence was not OK.
He's quite a gentleman, and a lot of fun. People who didn't know him before have no idea what a bullish freight train he used to be. Why would they even suspect it?
Horse training so much fun, and so rewarding.