The fifth exercise starts with the horse in halt, with the head almost to the ground, on a held contact line. While you are holding the contact, ask the horse to move forward. Your horse will have difficulty wanting to do this because he has become light to the aids. In this exercise, we are teaching the horse to go forward with a held rein. This is a new concept to the horse. The reason this exercise is important for dressage is that here you will ask the horse to stay soft, round up more at the same moment that he would go forward. This is a very hard concept for a horse to grasp, this is why in dressage we see horses becoming resistant, brace become unwilling, nervous and losing their forward impulsion and willingness to listen to the leg aids to go forward. This is also, what starts a horse rearing and bolting. The horse is totally confused because the rein aids are asking him to halt, in his mind, while the leg aids are demanding forward. This simple exercise takes care of these reactions in the horse by teaching him how to round up in a half halt and go forward at the same time. It is amazing that such a simple exercise from halt to walk, with the head down, would fix all these issues between a horse and his rider, but it works amazingly well. Of course, one has to have the program of all the exercises in place for this one to be completely effective.
If you do not do dressage, this exercise will help your horsemanship skills to advance to a higher level as all the other exercises will, and deepen the trust and willingness of your horse for bridle less riding. When you ask the horse to go forward on a contact rein he will resist wanting to go forward, but keep requesting, you can use a reed to encourage him, by tapping him behind you. When the horse offers a half step release the contact, say good boy and walk forward with him on the twenty meter circle, when you get to the half way point on the circle, request halt, lower his head to the ground and repeat. This is all there is to this exercise. As you increase the difficulty of the exercise, hold the contact on the horse in longer increments of time, which would look like holding a strong contact as the horse is taking three steps forward before the release.
If you have a horse that doesn’t want to go forward on the held contact, there are two ways you can approach it. Fist, you can ask a friend to walk behind the horse and drive him forward, like you would encourage a horse to step into a trailer, at the moment you ask the horse to go forward from the held contact rein. The other thing you can do is to release the hold and ask him to keep his head down while the rope is released, then ask to walk on, and through the habit, the horse will listen to your request to go forward even though he feels a held contact later on.
For many of you that may need to see a Youtube on this exercise, we will have one out shortly.
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Remember, when you start with the exercises, that you take time sharing territory with your horse and that you are enjoying each other’s company, and that your horse is relaxed and has the capacity to listen to you rather than paying attention to other things. He has to have your full attention. Do not do these exercises if you have any feelings inside of you that remove your personal well being. If you have anything that is bothering you, the horse will pick this up and it will affect negatively the training session. If this is the case practice the exercises by walking through and doing them without your horse to music that is soothing.