Thursday, January 15, 2009

Cruise Control

The Need for Balance
Some rider's have a tendency to be "hanging on a horse's face" to balance themselves especially when first learning to ride. Still others have a tendency to only use their reins for cues (& very little leg). (I remember being taught this way about 25 years ago.) I still see some riders today who use their reins for everything (and their legs very little).

Horse's in my youth (and still some today) were also taught to have all of their cues mostly from the reins. This developed a horse that is heavy on the reins (remember
Trigger's Evaluation?) It also teaches a horse to not want to move freely forward as the reins are always being pulled or held a lot of the time.

Cruising Around
One important lesson that a trainer can teach a horse is to go forward with impulsion on their
own; without rider intervention.
I don't think I'd want to constantly have my face picked on (or nagged).

Impulsion Exercises
As I've talked about in other articles (see
Impulsion, Warm Up), impulsion allows a horse to go forward collected. This allows the horse to stay balanced (with you on their back) and perform the maneuver or request with finesse, lightness, suppleness and correctness. (The horse doesn't stumble or look awkward).

Collection is, according to
Jack Brainard in his book "If I Were To Train A Horse": "The weight transfer from the front end to the engaged hindquarters." I'll talk about Collection more in a separate article. Just remember to ask the horse to collect while they are doing this exercise (if you know how).

Lesson 14 - Cruise Control
One exercise that I like to teach horses and students is the Cruise Control exercise. I often use it as part of my warm up to check to make sure that the horse is travelling forward well on their own.

Basically the exercise starts in an enclosed arena after the warm up.
The rider then asks the horse to walk and places their hands on the horn. (The rider is not allowed to steer or direct the horse in any manner).
The horse is then allowed to go wherever the horse wishes, as long as they walk (the requested speed).
The rider only corrects the horse if the horse slows down or speeds up. (This also teaches a horse to rate themselves or stay at the same speed).
Once the horse has not needed any corrections in several minutes, the horse is then 'flexed to a stop' and allowed to rest as a reward.
After a rest reward (comparable in length to the effort put out by the horse), the horse is then asked to jog.
The process is then repeated for the jog.

The process is then repeated for the trot & lope.

Other Notes
I usually establish a starting point in terms of the number of minutes the horse was able to walk with impulsion without corrections. Say that's 5 minutes. The next time I do this exercise, I will not do the Cruise Control at a walk for anything less than 5 minutes (our base point).
The objective is to increase the length of time the horse can go at the requested speed on their own without being corrected. This implies to the jog, trot & lope as well.

Just to Prevent Boredom
Another thing I like to do in the Cruise Control exercise is add in suppling exercises to prevent boredom. I like to 'check in' with the horse every now and then to make sure they have not tuned me out. This is once the horse is familiar with this exercise (of course!).
I will add a quick flex to the inside or a 'hip in' or 'shoulder in' exercise (anything to get them paying attention to me but not a steering exercise) and then place my hands on the horn and let the horse continue on cruise.

It's a great confidence booster for the horse. And it's a test of trust for the rider.

For information on my very innovative& fun approach to training & learning, please contact me. I'll be happy to discuss it with you.
Putting my spin on Trust.
©Copyright KISS Reiners


  1. Sue -

    You don't tell us what to do with that "hot" horse that gets to the lope, and lopes 4-5 strides and then takes off, or builds almost immediately. I know - E1RS, but how/when will she get over this irritating habit? Loose rein + lope = run like a friggen idiot to my horse. Help!

  2. Hello Person with Hot Loper or Chargey Horse!
    I believe the horse is asking for freedom. I believe the horse is asking for permission to do their job .... being.... to go at the requested speed with no interference from the rider. I'm not crazy.... Let me explain....
    You have the right idea with the ER1S. A rider certainly CANNOT allow a horse to know that they can take off after 4-5 strides of loping. Or rather gaining speed on their own at anytime. So as riders we want to try whatever method(s) will work to get across to the horse that this is not acceptable (& potentially dangerous).
    ER1S is a good choice that you took because you are not only telling the horse that taking off has consequences but you are also making it clear by stopping them. (The complete opposite to what they want to do). That's excellent.
    In reining, we also called call this 'drawing them into the ground'. (I would actually try flex to slow down first to see if that would work. If not, then E1RS).

    In reference to the Cruise control exercise, you are already in a safe enclosed area so you are OK to let the rein loose & see if they will lope nicely and not take off. I wouldn't leave this area until it is fixed.
    Yes, you may have to do this for quite a while. It depends on how long the horse has been doing this bad habit. It takes at least as long as it took to develop the habit. You may luck in and have a shorter time.
    Training does involve patience. (It's a great virtue to have). I have stories of friends seeing me out riding with a thermos of tea tied to my saddle horn! Who says we can't drink tea while riding. :)
    You can also tag team it if you have to. The point is consistancy. Always... always... always NOT reward her for charging off like that. You are on the right track.

    If you've repeatly tried the ER1S and that doesn't work then try flexing to slow down in a tight small circle. Perhaps an ever decreasing circle. Just make it uncomfortable for her to go faster. (I know it's a trust issue for us riders. That's why the Cruise control exercise is great for riders to build trust with our horse...).
    Like Larry Trocha would say.... "if 1 method doesn't work..... try another." You will get a feel for what the horse responds well to. Certainly do the opposite of what the horse wants to do.
    Lastly, nutrition may play a part in it. I certainly would not be giving this horse anything with a ceral grain in it. No sugars... Just fat & fibre & vit./min..
    Some horses are born hot like that too. Is she used for barrel racing or a sport that requires alot of speed? Then I would REALLY make sure that I would do the Cruise Control exercises and E1RS everytime she took off. Great tune up work for horses with speed jobs.
    Good luck.

  3. I also want to that I teach all my babies to stop after a few strides when they are first loping with the Flex to a Stop for this very reason! I don't want them to get scared or EVER get the idea to charge off. Horses can get a tendency to go faster and faster and faster (specially if the rider will get scared and stop. Horse love to play games).
    I will let the young colts lope increasing longer and longer length of time as long as they are calm and not scared. The moment they get scared or rush off, I flex them to a stop and simply start again.
    I love flex to a stop & flex to slow down!