“Softness” is something any knowledgeable horse owner wants to have in their equine partner. The key to creating softness in your horse begins with your horse understanding the “signal” that you are sending to them using your bridle rein and bit. Lateral Flexion is the first exercise that I use to start creating this “softness” in my horses.
This is the first exercise that I do with a horse when I mount and before I walk them off. The reason for this is that I want my horses to associate me stepping in the stirrup, and getting on their back, with getting “soft”. If every time I step up on a horse I flex them laterally first thing I reinforce this habit of getting “soft”. It is very important that you are consistent in how you ask for a lateral flex. When I ask for a lateral flex in one of my horses I reach down my rein with full extension of my arm, grasp the rein, and bring the rein back to my thigh just below my hip, and hold that pressure until the horse gives me two responses:
- The horses legs have to be still and not moving
- The horse needs to find that release point where they are not hanging on the bit.
It is very important that you obtain these two responses before you release. Helping your horse find that release point by applying slight pressure or discomfort with your rein connecting to your bit is the key. The release is what let’s your horse know that they gave you the response you were looking for.
Lateral Flexion is an exercise that sets up and leads into a multitude of other exercises that we will talk about in the coming weeks. One thing you always have to remember with this exercise is that you are training two parts of this horse, the right side, and the left side, and you want to try to create equal softness in both sides. This is key as we move forward into other exercises that this exercise is a prerequisite for. Always be patient and don’t ask for too much flex at once, start slow and make sure your horse is rewarded for any effort. Don’t expect them to bring their head to your stirrup the first time you reach down your rein and bring it to your thigh, that’s unrealistic. Use some common sense and flex your horse similar to how you would stretch in the morning. Start slow and as your horse loosens up ask for more.
Always remember, your horse cannot read your mind, they’re just responding to the signals we send. Have a great week and be sure to check out our site and follow us on Facebook.