Many instructors consider Arabians too "hot," or on the fast and frisky side,
for use as school horses. Watergate is unusual, however. He's especially
well behaved and calm, and he knows the class routine better than most
instructors. He's a star among school horses.
Although on the smallish side, in the field he's definitely a herd leader.
(He's one of the horses that terrorizes Tiki). Another horse had better not
try to eat his pile of hay.
Under saddle, Watergate moves forward easily, but he demands that riders
give him very clear instructions.
Bending the Horse
Bending is one of the most basic skills for effectively controlling the horse. If
your horse doesn't bend in a corner, he becomes unbalanced. You'll
probably get away with it 9 out of 10 times, 99 out of 100, or even 999 out of
1,000, but sooner or later you and your unbalanced horse are going to fall.
So fix the problem before it happens: Practice bending the horse until it
Left- and Right-Handed Horses
Be aware that a horse may be left or right handed and that almost all horses
are stiff on one side. The only way to fix this is by exercising the stiff side.
In bending your horse, how you use your legs, and intensity with which you
use them, and your timing are all important. (You don't want the horse to
speed up every time you use your leg).
To bend your horse, apply your inside leg at the girth. In this context, "girth"
has nothing to do with where the actual saddle strap is; it's where your legs
should fall when you're properly balanced. Because horses move away
from pressure, your horse should move the middle part of his body -- the
part you're sitting on -- away from your inside leg. At the same time, his
head should be looking to the inside, but only just enough for you to see the
corner of his inside eye.
Place your outside leg back, behind the girth, as a guard to keep the horse
from moving his entire body away from the inside leg. This is important.
Horses are also taught to move laterally with leg pressure. Moving your
outside leg back will let your horse know you want him to bend.
At the same time, close one hand and open the other to a corresponding
degree. Think of it as shaping the horse to the degree of the turn. No one
can tell you how much to pull on this hand or that; it depends on the horse,
and you've got to feel this yourself. Remember, though, that whenever you
use your inside leg, the pressure is received in your outside hand.
Before continuing, review the aids you use to bend the horse.
Aids to Bending the Horse
1. Position your inside leg at the girth (this is your active leg).
2. Position your outside leg behind the girth.
3. Sit on your inside seat bone.
4. Turn your shoulders toward the bend and to the degree of bend.
5. Create the bend with your inside hand, and give equally with your
Complex? Yes. Important? Yes. You must understand this concept. You
are trying to keep the horse upright and square on all four feet so he
doesn't slip. The idea is that all four feet have equal weight above them at
all times. You do not want to be riding a horse that's careening around a
corner with the only bearing surface being the side of his shoes or hooves.
Think about why trains use connected boxcars instead of one long car.
They can't lean around a corner, because they would fall over. It's the
joints between cars that get trains around corners. Your horse is jointed,
too, and you must bend him to get him around the corner.
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