Thursday, September 8, 2016

Cigar Exercise - Prep Work - Lead Change Series

One of the key exercises in body control training is 2-tracking.  If there's 1 exercise to master, this would be it, IMO. 2-tracking, where you move forward and on a diagonal at the same time. It's an incredible exercise to teach balance, agility, athleticism, to dance and is great as a prep exercise for lead changes.
@Susan Dahl

In the photo, you can see that I have done up a new banner in my arena with the lead change prep exercises I do with my reining horses. I have compiled these exercise steps when I took notes while watching Clinton Anderson's new lead change series DVDs. I highly recommend that you get those DVDs as they go into detail with his lead change program. Btw, I am not a paid sponsor of Clinton Anderson or Downunder horsemanship.

Today, I am referring to steps #5 and #11.  2-tracking at the trot and lope once you are bored at the walk and/or not needing the fence as a helper.

Clinton Anderson refers to his 2-tracking as the "Cigar" exercise.
Photo courtesy:
Interesting analogy.

 According to Clinton, the cigar exercise is to: "pick the shoulder up, clear the side (reshaping or reaching the body), and get ready for a lead change. It lets you practise a lead change without actually changing leads."

Fixing the Bowed Out Horse
Say you're on the right lead so the horse's body is arced or shaped to the right. In particular, the horse's outside, left shoulder and rib cage are bowed out in order to be shaped properly for the right lead circle. That is interfering or making it harder for the left hind leg to step forward when the horse actually does the lead change to the left lead.

So you want the body to be straight and then arced to the left. You certainly don't want it arched to the right anymore. You want to straighten the horse, and then clear the shoulder (ie. reshape the horse to the left) so the horse can change leads to the left with their hind leg first.

The cigar exercise teaches your horse to reshape their body in preparation for a lead change.

The Steps (starting on the right lead, for example): 

At the lope on a right lead:
1. At the end of the arena, make a sharp turn so that you are heading down the long length of your arena. You want to be working in the middle of the arena for safety.
2. Lope at a 45 degree angle to the long wall of the arena (making the long cigar shape). Note: your cigar will not be parallel to the arena wall.
3. With your left or outside leg, horse's head is tipped to the outside (left), push with your outside, left leg and get the horse to 2-track the long length of the arena.
4. At the end of the arena, turn your horse's head back right (the direction of travel) and make a sharp turn to begin the steps again.
5. Repeat as necessary. 

1. The length of your cigar will get bigger and bigger as the horse is better able to do this.
2. If the horse resists and/or is not ready for this, then the horse is not ready for a lead change.  You'll get there. It generally takes 2 weeks.
3. Repeat these steps for the other direction/lead, of course.
4. You can always go back to the trot for success before trying it again at the lope.
5. You can always test the lead change by sneaking one in while 2-tracking on the long diagonal especially when the horse is not expecting it. :)

I do this 2-tracking at the lope exercise as part of my warm up for any reining work that I do. I also do it at the trot if the horse is not in shape or as a Monday warm up exercise after a weekend off.

I remember how tricky or complicated this was many years ago, when I first started 2-tracking and learning to train reining horses. I had never done this in all my prior western riding lessons. It was intimidating. So I started at the walk so I could slow everything down and notice everything. Once I got the hang of it, I moved up to the trot. I did that for a while until I could do it really well and got a little bored. That was the time, I started the 2-track at the lope. It was the best way for me to learn how to tackle a complicated maneuver. Good luck!

The next prep exercise will be tying in the counter canter and 2-tracking for warm up and prep work for lead changes. Until next time....

Putting my spin on smokin' the cigar exercise for lead changes.
@KISS Reiners

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