Monday, June 23, 2008

Turn on the Forehand - Bwaa Ha Ha Ha!

I have no idea what the Bwaa Ha Ha was about. It's late, I'm tired, I might be slightly insane, but I was thinking through my turn on the forehand, turn on the haunches thing.
All day today.
Pity my horses.
When I'm thinking about things like this, I work my problem physically, while running it verbally in my head.
I want to think through each step,what it means to me, and how it effects my horses.
Which means each horse gets to do each step, at whatever level it's at, over and over.
I know I preach release, release, release.
I believe in it, really.
Except when I'm thinking through a problem. Be it a new training technique, or trying to explain something to a client, I learn through repetition.
Come be my student, hear me go on about muscle memory. I'll drive you batty.
So guess what? My horses get to step up, and do what they're told. Over and over. I tend to get in a zone, forget about their tender little psyches for a while, and float away into the task at hand.
It really pisses them off.
I really don't care.
We're all usually the better for it. I believe that they need to periodically just go to work and kick it. When I'm sorting through my training techniques they work really, really hard.
So remember that when you ask me to explain myself.
My ponies are begging you.
So let's talk about turns on the forehand.
I have warned you guys about my anal tendencies.
Remember, I use the terms inside and outside instead of left or right. I am talking about whichever leg (yours or the horse's) is inside the turn or curve.
When I start a young horse each step connects to the next. Think stepping stones. So I have to start at the beginning, kind of.
I'm only talking about turns on the forehand tonight, it is the first maneuver that evolves from my starting a colt. I think it's all I have time for too.
When Pancho first comes to train with me, he gets to know the tie rail intimately. He'll spend a day or two just hanging around with everybody at the rail.
He'll learn that he doesn't have to freak when another horse snarks at him. He'll realize they can't reach him. He'll begin to understand containment. He develop a taste of patience.
Pancho will learn that when I approach him he needs to swing his hind end away from me. He'll learn to look at me, and clear his shoulder as he turns.
He'll learn he can't cross in front of me. Ever.
This simple maneuver starts the basic thought behind a turn on the forehand.
When Pancho moves his hind end away, and begins to clear his shoulder, he will cross the hind foot nearest to me in front of the other in order to step away.
It becomes second nature to move away, and so the first stepping stone is set.
Then Pancho and I start our ground work.
I have to be honest, I too, get impatient with ground work. What I want is pretty basic.
When I step to his hip, I want Pancho to move his hind end away from me. I usually swing the end of my lead rope around, and pop him with it, until he steps away.
I don't beat him with it. I will however, use whatever force it takes to move his butt away from me.
As he goes to move around me I check him with my lead, and bring him around to face me.
I don't want him on top of me.
I have a large sense of personal space, for horses and people, so BACK OFF!
Told you I was tired.
When he comes to face me I'll swing my rope at his outside shoulder. (whacking if needed) I am encouraging him with the lead rope to step off in the opposite direction at the same time.
This will turn him towards me and through to the other direction.
Or send him into a spasm of jumping, leaping, charging at me with a pointy inside shoulder, trying to longe, whatever mayhem he can come up with.
This doesn't bother me. I keep flipping my rope around while offering him an escape in the direction I want. When I get it, I release. We stare at each other a minute. We start again.
Pancho's inside hind leg will cross in front of his outside hind, and his inside front will cross his outside front as he performs this turn before I'm happy.
Essentially this is a reverse towards me on a circle. That's the second stepping stone.
OK, we'll skip the other ground stuff, because that doesn't pertain to the turn on the forehand.
Fast forward to Pancho's first rides. I've already got him riding light and forward on a loose rein. He'll happily walk, trot, and maybe lope around the arena. He accepts gentle guidance with the right and left rein. He whoas off my seat. He backs a step or two.
I start riding serpentines across the arena at the trot. I pick a rail across the short side and head straight to it. As I approach my turn I guide Pancho's head with only my inside (or leading) rein and apply pressure with my inside (or same side) leg. My weight is on my inside seat bone. I push Pancho's hip around with my inside leg, to line him up with his head and shoulders. I look ahead to my next line of travel. I release my leg and rein pressure. Don't look at Pancho! I'm getting a big swingy turn with the hips going way wide through the turn. That's fine. Be happy. Pancho's trying.
Then I head off to a rail across the arena with my seat evenly balanced. Repeat. Repeatedly.
Remember to release through the straight aways, legs and hands.
If Pancho gets a little fast, I'll ignore it. The upcoming turn will slow him. If he gets real fast anywhere during this exercise, I'll pull him into the ground with my hands and back a few steps. Then I toss out my reins and start again.
After Pancho is pretty good at this, I add a supporting outside leg, (no pressure, just solid support) at about my back cinch. I also add some outside rein pressure, only through the turn.
I gently pull the outside rein towards my outside hip bone. I keep the pressure even with my inside rein.
This should align his neck and shoulders and increase the step through of his hips. It should smooth out your turn.
This is also a good time to practice picking up the correct diagonal. Sit through each turn, and come out on the right diagonal. Yowza! Stepping stone number three.
Now we're ready for a turn on the forehand.
Stand quietly in the center of the arena on a warmed up Pancho.
I shift weight to my inside (left ) seat bone.Press my inside calf into Pancho's belly, at about the back cinch.
Bend his nose slightly to the inside. (left)
Bump with my inside leg if needed.
Release after one or two steps.
Practice this both ways until I'm getting a pretty good, but loose, shambling swing around of those hips. Pancho's front feet will still be moving.
Then I'll add the restraint of the outside rein. I'll pull back gently towards my outside hip bone, while guiding with my inside (leading) rein. This should set his inside foreleg as his pivot foot. I'll keep up the leg pressure until I get a clean step around with Pancho's hind legs. I only ask for a few steps at a time before I release.
As Pancho gets better I'll ask for more, until he quietly moves full circle.
Be warned. Pancho will get stuck about 3/4 through the turn. He needs a slight release of the rein so he can reposition his inside foreleg.
Good luck. I hope this made sense.
I'm going to bed.


  1. Mugwumps...when can I come visit you? ;) I'll have at least one filly, possibly two, to start in a couple of weeks.

  2. I wish you could Liz. Business is slow, slow, slow...

  3. I found your blog through fugly - I love it! I feel like I'm learning a lot... as much as you can learn through reading, lol. You've also given me a lot of good places to start reading.

    I really like when you break things down like with this post, and the lead changes one. You explain things in a way I can really understand.

  4. I really, really like the way you break things down. I have plenty of training books, and I really like them, and I still go to them when I'm having issues with a particular thing. Most of them don't break movements down as much as you do, and I really like the way you show us all the things you do BEFORE you ask for the movement.

    If I had young western horses, I would be sending them to you :) Of course all I have are adult english horses, but it's the thought that counts, yeah?

    Also, I must say your lead changes post was one of my favorites. I am going to try that with my mare at some point this summer, I think, after we establish a nice canter.

  5. excellent descriptive post! i always find that i learn more about myself, my horse and my training techniques when i have to take the time to break them down into small steps. and more often than not, i find a step that could be improved upon with a slight alteration!

    i'd love some more groundwork posts - even though it doesn't excite you ;)

    i've gotta yearling who's smart as as whip and cool as a cucumber about everything i've thrown at him so far and i need some more ideas to advance his workload!

  6. Mugwump what about Sonita though? Is she working out? Did her leg heal okay?

  7. Just got email from your Regumate mare asking me to take you out for dinner and drinks, mugwump. ;-)

    Like the others who've commented, you're doing a great job making TOF and lead changes really clear. I'm telling myself that this is exactly how clear I have to be to the horse. Many thanks for that insight.

  8. I am so glad these come through clearly...I'm always afraid I'm babbling...
    glad to have you all-canadian!
    fanoffugly-I'll pick up on Sonita next post...
    I'm still thinking through turn on the haunches..
    livedtotell-what did Regumate Queen tell you to slip in that drink? She's a little miffed at me at the moment.
    anonymous-my yearling is getting halter broke, learning to pick up his feet, and gelded,then he's going out to pasture to run like a loon until next summer!

  9. >>She's a little miffed at me at the moment.

    Yep, gathered that from your post.

    Nothing in the drinks, though she did suggest I write "Release!" on all the bar napkins.

  10. *sigh*

    I KNEW that's what you were going to say about the yearling.. LOL! i agree, but this is not my horse. i've got 5 more sessions of 'work' to do with him.

  11. anon- tell them the same....charge them double for having to teach them common sense!

  12. mugwump, I tried to post a comment here, but it didn't seem to take. I must have made some sort of error. But thanks, again, for your comment on my post on equestrianinkblogspot and for your interest in my books. I'll be interested to hear more about Sonita. That was a great story--well told.

  13. I am going to print this out and stick it in my training binder. Yes, I have a training binder, I guess that makes me a bit of a dork on top of everything else...

    These days, I am reminded constantly that training a horse has so many comparisons to LIFE. It's all made up of steps. Some steps are smaller than others and sometimes that's the only step that can be taken. It's better than standing still with the hooves sunk in the dirt.

  14. heidithehick-if you're a dork, so am I,I have one too.

  15. Liz, you have a three horse trailer, don't you? Take me with you when you go visit Mugwump. I want her to ride the VLC and give me her opinion.

  16. VLC- My Dad lives in Spokane. My sister lives in Tacoma. I owe them a visit. Is that close enough?

  17. Yes, I do. A 3 horse and also a camper. :)

  18. Mugwumps, you could swing by when you were in town! I bet Cathy and I would be happy to do dinner/drinks night. And I have a couple of other friends that would probably like to join us!