Sunday, August 7, 2011

Get My Drift?

One of the common problems in steering I see with riders, is definitely most noticeable in circles - an exercise every rider does with their horse.  Any figure that requires a curved or rounded line. Why is that? 
  It's also easiest to spot while loping, though you can still see it while walking, jogging and trotting. So for example, while loping a circle, a rider without realizing it, will drift towards the rail or wall - making an ever bigger circle. Some riders have a tough time keeping their horses on the correct circle. Again, it's most noticeable while training for a proper circle maneuver in reining.

 And what happens unfortunately if a rider doesn't know how to remedy this, will 'sneak' an inside rein to steer the horse where they should go.  Not good. I've seen a lot of western riders being taught incorrectly to use an inside rein for steering or fixes and of course, that's not proper neck reining.
Notice the horse leaning on the outside, right rein and the rider using an inside left rein to steer.

In The Beginning there was Rail Riding
  I remember when I was first taught to ride many years ago, I was always taught to ride along the rail. Back then, everyone western (I can't speak for the english side), was always taught western pleasure and to ride on the rail. Why is that? 
   Perhaps to get maximum square footage for riding? Was it easier for the instructor to teach? Or the instructor assumed everyone was going to ride in a rail class someday? Who knows? It was probably all of that.

  I see horses often ridden close to the rail for a lot of their riding session. I see it all the time.   Many riders still today are first taught how to ride staying close to the rail for comfort and then just get used to riding there. Or think that's where they should be...

Rail Competition
Speaking of where they should be..., this makes sense for the 'rail' riders in competition - in which case, it's a very good thing! And so I'm not referring to those riders. I'm talking about generally riding around an enclosed riding area and most times being near the outside wall or rail for no specific reason.

Why am I mentioning this?  Well... without realizing it, riders are teaching their horses to drift towards the wall. The horses realize that it's where they are supposed to be.

Get My Drift...
  Horses get used to being ridden near the rail.  So naturally they will gravitate towards the rail.  The problem is that when riding not near the rail such as circles or other figures around the arena, the horse will lean on the rider's outside leg and outside rein and drift back towards the rail - a very familiar place to be.

 This is a problem.  If rider's don't realize it, the horse just slowly moves back towards the rail and learns to lean.  And then when it comes time to steer in circles, the horse is not responding as well as they should be to a request from the rider's outside rein and/or leg.  Often times riders don't realize this.

 It's important for the rider therefore, to do exercises to keep the horse responding well to the outside rein and leg and to remember to not let your horse drift towards the wall.

Keep Off The Rail
Anyone who has taken lessons from me knows that I stress the 'keep off the rail'. I can understand that beginner riders may need the comfort of the rail when first starting but I encourage riders to come off the rail as soon as they can. And using the rail or wall to start to teach body control maneuvers is good too. Again, coming off the rail as soon as the horse or rider is ready to advance. 

So remember, if you don't want your horse to get into a bad habit of leaning on your outside rein and/or leg, then don't let you horse drift back towards the rail.  Lope a circle or two and you will see what I mean.

Putting my spin on getting my drift in steering!
@KISS Reiners

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