Sunday, June 29, 2008

Spin 'Til You Barf!

I'm ready to delve into the turn on the haunches. Be warned, in my world, I'm talking about what I call a spin or turn around. I wish my pictures would come back from the Palomino show. I have a photo of my yellow mare spinning that I think you'll get a kick out of.
Once again, I'm pulling this out of my head, a combination of what I've been taught, what I've read, and what I think.
A spin is different from a roll back.
In a rollback I'll be moving Hilda in a straight line, maintaining a lot of forward. I'll ask for my Whoa. (I'm a Whoa'er not a Ho'er)
When Hilda stops I will rock her back over her hocks, open my inside leg, turn my upper body in the direction I want Hilda to go, apply outside leg pressure, and off we go through the turn, into the opposite direction.
Basically I'm doing a half turn, just like in horsemanship.
Hilda will depart out of this half turn over her hocks at the same speed we went into it. If she was loping when I first asked for the Whoa, then she will depart out of the turn at a lope. If she was trotting, we will trot out etc.
I do a lot of gait variation in practice, it creates a slight wait in my horse, and helps them stay calm through their run downs.
A correct roll back has two parts.
1. Run down and stop.
2.Roll back and depart in the opposite direction.
A good stop should leave Hilda rocked back over her hocks, so all I have to do is turn and go.

A spin or turn around is a forward motion. Remember this. It is vital.
This should take days, weeks or months to teach, depending on where you and your horse are at. Give lots of rests, releases, and quit for the day sooner, not later.
As always I use two hands to teach any maneuver.
Before I start to teach this maneuver Hilda will walk, trot, lope on the correct lead, all on a loose rein.
She can turn on the forehand without anxiety.
I can guide her with my inside rein, and contain her shoulder slightly with my outside rein.
Hilda knows to move into my open leg.
She tries to stay balanced between my reins and legs.
I can move her hips to the left and right with leg pressure.
Hilda is balanced enough to trot a twelve to fifteen foot circle, upright, with even cadence.
I am balanced enough to sit upright, my shoulders level, not looking down. My inside leg is at the cinch for support, my outside is pushing lightly at the back cinch. I have my weight evenly balanced on my seat bones. Hilda appreciates this.
Try this exerxcise at the walk if you have trouble feeling where the forefeet are going. At the walk only you can look down at her shoulders. The point of her inside shoulder will move into the turn first.
When you're both comfortable at the walk, you can move on. Quit looking!
I start her spinning from the trot.
I trot a straight line, roughly 10 feet or so. My seat bones are evenly balanced.
I will drop my weight to my inside seat bone.
My inside leg will come off Hilda.
My outside leg will push Hilda, from the calf, back by my back cinch.
My inside hand will ask for the turn.
My outside hand will restrain Hilda's outside shoulder enough that I only see the corner of her inside eye.
When I start my turn, my hands are not low by my hips, they are at the middle of her neck, the reins about 4 or 5 inches off her neck on either side.
When Hilda begins the turn I'll put my outside rein on her neck, and the inside rein will be guiding her, with up to a foot of space between her and the inside rein.
Since Hilda knows to try to keep herself centered underneath me, she'll seek a way out of the knot I've put her in.
I won't jerk, pull, or increase pressure. I'll wait.
My outside leg and hand have created a rock solid, immovable wall. My inside hand, inside seat bone, and open inside leg are her invite to turn.
Hilda will set her inside hind leg, and begin to turn, her outside front crossing her inside front.
That will place her evenly between my hands again.
When I feel even the first step, I'll release, and we trot off.
There's your first stepping stone.

If Hilda rocks back on her hind end, I'll kick her forward and try again. If she's too far back on her hocks she'll cross with her outside behind the inside front. It's important for her to stay forward and get the sequence right. If you can't feel it, get a friend to watch for it.
Never get mad when your teaching a new maneuver. Never, ever, ever.
I want Hilda to be interested in what I'm doing.
I want her to figure her way out of each knot I create. She can't do that if she's worried about getting thumped on.

Now that Hilda can trot off straight, understand my shift in weight, turn those first few steps, and then trot on, without getting worried, I'll start setting up squares.
I'll trot forward about 10 feet on a loose rein, set up my turn, get enough of a turn for a right angle, release, trot forward on a loose rein, set up again, etc.
I'll keep at it until Hilda and I are creating pretty, even cadenced squares, all over the place, in both directions.
Release, and forward, are the key words here.
Hilda likes to move, and she just loves that release. The only time she feels restraint is when I gather her up for the turn.
She is learning to seek that turn when I gather her up. She realizes the faster she correctly
makes that corner, the quicker she's moving forward on a loose rein.
If Hilda is getting stressed about this, I'll just make my squares larger, say 15 feet or so. I will still hold my hands solid and steady until she finds the turn. I'll come back down in size when she's ready.
I will begin to make my squares smaller, as Hilda can handle it, until we're going maybe 5 feet before I ask for that turn.
That's stepping stone number two.

Now we're ready to get down to business.
Hilda and I will trot 12 to 15 foot circles to the left, with plenty of energy.
She is even between my reins, and my seat bones are evenly balanced.
I will pick a point in my circle, that I am going to use every time.
At my chosen point, I will drop my weight to my inside (left) seat bone, open my inside (left) leg, and guide Hilda into a spin to the left, pushing with my outside calf at the back cinch, my hands the same as for the square turn.
She may only get a step or two, she may go all the way around, she may just freeze and yell "Uncle!"
Don't worry, send her forward, and go again.
The goal is to get one solid turn around, her front feet keeping the cadence of her trot, and then
trotting forward back into her circle. That would be both ways.
You need to do lots of these. Lots.
Not all in the same day buckaroos and buckarettes.
As soon as I get that first good try, Hilda and I are going for a lope, no muss, no fuss, so she can shake off all that containment.
We might work on it again, might start another day. Depends on Hilda, her mind set, her athletisism, or her anxiety. Depends on me, my mind set, my athletesism, or my anxiety.
Some of you might shy away from using the same spot in your circle to start your turn around. I'm a big fan of anticipation. I use it when I'm first teaching Hilda a maneuver, whenever it shows up.
Anticipation is a good thing. I want Hilda to know that we are always going to turn in the same place so she starts thinking about it.
A horse only anticipates because they're trying to do what you want.
If they're trying to do the wrong thing, that's your fault.
Be kind in your correction, and just show them again what you want.
That's the next stepping stone.

When Hilda can really motor around, I'll begin asking for two turns, then three, etc.
I'll ask her to spin in different places in the circle.
I read once that a horse doing a spin expends the same energy as one lap in a collected lope around the arena.
I try to keep that in mind.
Now I want Hilda to try to spin from a stand still.
I'll take a warmed up Hilda, stand her in the middle of the arena, and set up my spin cue.
Drop my inside seat bone, take off my inside leg, and push with my outside leg. My reins will come up, inside rein tipping her nose in just enough to see the corner of her eye, outside rein supporting her, and I wait.
I'll let Hilda find her spin. It doesn't have to be fast at first. Just correct. When she takes a correct step or two, I relax, move her forward, stop, and do it again.
I'll alternate these two exercises until she starts clocking around pretty good.
Hilda will learn to increase the speed of her spin in correlation with the cadence of her trot in the circle.
That's the last stepping stone for beginning the spin.
When you can do all this stuff with your own little Hilda, let me know, we'll polish it up.
As always, good luck, and let me know if it works!
There you go Fugs, turn on the haunches, turn on the forehand, ala mugwump. I hope some of it applies to the VLC.


  1. This is pretty cool! Maybe I will try it sometime.

    Just one question - you say "Hilda knows to move into my open leg." Does that mean that when you take one leg off of her, she automatically moves her body in the direction of that leg? Or is it just that she'll move away from the pressure of the opposite leg towards the invitation of the open leg?

  2. I'd like Hilda to move to my open leg, not just from pressure from the outside.
    If I always open my inside leg first, she'll start to go to it instead of waiting for the ourside.
    If she moves to my inside leg (therefore balancing herself back under me) I won't follow through with pressure. I'll just rest my outside leg on her for support.
    There's her release.

  3. "I am balanced enough to sit upright, my shoulders level, not looking down."

    Why, oh why, is it so tempting to look at the horse when you're riding? For me there is an obvious difference in the horses behavior and way of going when I'm looking at them. Their back hollows, they are more on the forehand, out of balance and/or pissed. And yet....

    Sometimes I want to put a collar around my neck. Sortof like dogs get so that they dont lick their stitches but this one would block my view of the horse even if I look down. Thats a totally safe solution to the problem, right? ;)

    Also, anticipation as a teaching tool, very interesting. They know when you want this new thing, they set themselves up for it, and you cue them exactly when and how they're expecting it. I had never thought of it that way before.

  4. Man, this is fascinating. So utterly different from teaching pirouette. Even the open leg, I'd still have my leg on to activate the inner hock to keep under and balanced.

  5. gillian- For years I have wanted to fit my students with shock collars...
    I could sit in a lawn chair with an umbrella and lemonade.
    "Don't look at your horse!"
    "Loosen your reins!"
    You get the picture.

  6. ahh but fd, the hind legs in a C pirouette must stay active and light, I like to think of a 'bounce" where as the spin focuses the weight of the horse back and down on the haunches.

    Its hard to explain :P a pirouette your inside is active to keep the canter.... and this is why I'm sticking to halter now :)

    I've only been lucky enough to ride a good reiner a few times. and gotten almost sick after the spin.

    And i'll now go back to waiting for the next installment.

  7. mugwump:

    Thanks so much for explaining things in such minute detail, it's helping me a lot, and if you don't mind I'm printing out your stuff for the training binder.

  8. Mugwump - What do you get for 30 days of training?

  9. austriancurls-use it how ever you like, but try it first, this is my stuff, as I see it....don't know how it translates.
    soshorses- 500.00 a month, I provide hay and salt, and me. The rest is up to you. My prices are probably going to go higher when we get in this years hay though.
    I've been travelling also, it seems to be working out. 35.00/hour, or 50.00/half day plus mileage.
    When I travel I either work with the owner or on the ground. I don't ride.

  10. justaplainsam, I agree, it's a different movement altogether to a pirouette, but that's why it's interesting. When I was young a trainer told me when I'd get frustrated that, "there's more than one way to skin a cat." As I'm growing older (old enough to not bounce anymore) I'm finally understanding what he meant, instead of paying lip service to it.

    Correct me if I'm wrong someone, having never ridden a reiner and trying to ride this in my head might mean I miss something vital.

    In your rollback, basically, (as if it's that simple ha) you come in balanced and square and drop the haunches, but instead of dumping the momentum to halt, you redirect it forward and sideways, in order to enable the horse to bring its forehand round? I'm watching videos on youtube and I think, correct me if I'm wrong, the better the rollback, the less the horse's forehand needs to come up to get round?
    What I'm seeing, I guess is a balance of opposing forces, rather than balance over a point as in dressage. Sorry about the newbie q's. *rueful* I get carried away when something interests me. May have to do some proper research.

  11. As a mainly English rider who's never delved into the world of reining, I am with you FD!

    I feel like I keep asking silly questions but as long as Mugs is willing to keep answering..

    By the way Mugwump, thank you for adding me to your links! That was really nice of you.

  12. Thanks, Mugwump -- above the level I'm working at just at present, but I have it starred for future reference! And the discussion of differences & clarifications is fascinating.

  13. I have to thank you mare was started with turns on forehand, turns on haunches, - and of course, forgot a lot, with being very green at it, then not being asked, and me clumsily asking for it sans spur jabs...and I could get her to turn on her haunches, but not very smoothly, and barely on her forehand...well, we practiced with today's ride and the concept of "working out of the knot presented" and it really worked for both of us! I opened my leg, gave her the support, and she did the smoothest turns so far on both forehand and haunches! I don't know if she was placing her legs correctly, but it was smooth and stress free, and I could tell she was *thinking* instead of *reacting*. I'll have to get someone who knows to help me with what is really going on underneath. Of course, this is in an English saddle after I was doing some very low jumps...must look pretty funny to the young bling bling wp girl next door :)

  14. fd- The rollback works like this, the horse accelerates with every stride, thereby elevating the forehand, until the whoa.
    Then the horse will stop square, with the forehand loose and still peddling. That's where you get the slide. After the horse comes to a complete stop you have finished the first part of the maneuver.
    The second part consists of the roll back over the haunches.
    If the horse ran down on it's right lead it will roll back to the left, and come out, in frame,on the left lead.
    Then the horse accelerates with each stride again, pushing into the next stop.
    No more until I've to think about it!
    many misad- I added you because I have fun reading you're blog!
    fssunnysd- it's not that advanced, just play with the circles and squares....
    jackie- Yay! I'm glad it worked for you. The bling blings need all the shaking up they can get.....

  15. Yeah..that bling bling is who "broke out" and nearly "broke down" my mare, and still can't figure out how I am doing it all without spurs and on a French link snaffle!!! Told me my mare was dead-sided and had a tough mouth LOL! Funny...her hubby said that he couldn't figure out why the horses they sold got better *after* they sold them.... ;)

  16. I am beginning to think that taking the time to think it out and write it down would be of a great benefit to alot of folks! I have tried to communicate "open leg" and "shifting weight" and "contain with one rein" to so many folks, and they just don't get it.

    I am lucky.. it is just how I ride. And I am at the point in my life where I ride with a bunch of folks who ride alot, but don't have a clue how to ride. Anyone else out there know these folks???

    Anyway.. they see me getting results with my horses and ask how, and its so simple to me.. but they are just flat clueless. They get up, sit down and get off a few hours later.. nothing accomplished, nothing gained, except a few miles..

    I have to sit back and realize that not everyone has to have a purpose for riding. But for me, even if I am moseying down a trail, there is something to be taught that day.

    I appreciate your thoughtful, careful, procedural training. Thank you for sharing!


  17. frannie-I can't tell you how much writing out the way I do things has helped me clarify my own methods.
    This has been a great exercise for me, I think anybody who trains should do it.