Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Half Pass

Here we go. How and why I use a half pass.

Here's my whys:

The half pass is great for increasing the flexibility of my horses for cowhorse maneuvers.
It gets their focus on me and the job at hand.
It is a great troubleshooter for me and my horse, where are our legs? How are my cues? Is she responding to those cues?
It keeps me alive on wild trail rides.

Here's the hows:

My horse is capable of a shoulder in before I start a half pass.

My version of a shoulder in has the horse coming off the rail at an angle. The bend is through the body to the inside of the arena.
I hold my horse in the bend with the inside rein directing the bend and the outside rein supporting the outside shoulder.
My inside leg is on at the cinch in support of the inside shoulder.
My outside leg is 6-12 inches back to guide the hindquarters.
We move forward along the rail.

At first I want the inside hind in the print of the outside front, creating three tracks in the dirt, then I'll ask for more and get four distinct tracks as we move along the rail.
Eventually we can circle the arena both ways, walk, trot and canter.

When I have this at a walk and trot, I go on to the half pass.

Lets start out at a right angle from the wall.
I'll put my inside leg at my cinch and flex my calf muscles in rhythm with the walk to create my bend. I add spur as needed, again, with intermittent pressure, not solid.
My outside leg pushes the hindquarters and my outside hand steadies the outside shoulder.
I'm pushing hard enough to take the horse laterally, again, I'll add spur as needed.

It's important to keep balanced. An easy check is to see if my horse's ears are even. If they're not, then neither are her shoulders.

I bring my hands (with even pressure) over so my outside rein is at the wither and my inside rein is in the bend, even with the inside ear.
I release pressure from my hands here if my horse is moving forward and laterally. I pick it up again as needed.

I make sure my horse carries her bend from tail to nose. If I have to fix my bend I do it with my inside rein and outside leg.

I make sure I stay in the middle of my horse. My shoulders are turned in the direction of the half pass.

When I teach these maneuvers I only need a step or two at first. Then I release, straighten, relax and go again. I start at a walk and like to ask for a few steps at the shoulders in, then 10 or 15 walking steps forward, then a few shoulders in. I hold them in place and make those few steps happen if I have to.

I consider the maneuver in there when my horse will do it mainly with leg pressure and only support and guidance from my reins.

Once we're in the half pass I'll go back to shoulders in if things get ugly.

I ask for a few steps of half pass and then release and go straight, then a few more. Eventually we can make X's corner to corner of the arena at the walk, trot and canter light and easy.

So there's my half pass. Dressage guys, feel free to tear it up, I'm always ready to improve things.


HorsesAndTurbos said...

Love the part about the ears...I've been checking shoulders and don't like to drop my head down like that.

Seems pretty much what I've read/seen for dressage. Not surprised, you tend to do most the same way.

Except for the cows :) Hmmm...turn some cows loose in a dressage arena and let the fun begin!


Net said...

I'm a "dressage person" but only have been doing dressage as a show discipline for a year and a half. I make this clarification because good riders use dressage regardless of their discipline. I'm already sick of the "western riders can't use dressage!" attitude out there.

Sounds to me like you're doing everything right, and I'm thrilled to know my early instructors aren't the only western riders (of any type of western discipline) using dressage basics for training. It's so easy to get the horse's head where you want it if you can control the body, and it can be done easily without tie-downs and other gimmicks if you ride right. Sure, you may want an aid at some point, but training and actually teaching the horse to let you control its body is the needed fundamental!

Bif said...

I'm curious how the cues are when they are neck instead of direct reined (especially if you need to make a correction). By that point in their training, do the reined horses mostly go by your body positioning, with no real "rein" cue for half pass?

Anonymous said...

Wow that really was a comprehensive answer, thanks, I've got a lot to work on now.

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