Saturday, November 5, 2016

Leah's Second Clinic: Riding & Leading Hands-Free

Today's clinic--the second in a set of seven--was about influencing your horse without aids (leading your horse hands/rope-free), touch (massage in saddle and on the ground), and with your body (Rising trot, following seat, influencing seat, etc.)

I took my granddaughter over to the arena last night to catch her up and when she experienced leading her horse, Penny, hands-free--no rope--she was thrilled.  Today's clinic built on that.  Not only did we lead hands-free, but we also rode our horses hands-free.

One of the activities we did to help us learn to communicate with our bodies--no hands--was break into teams and lunge each other.  In fact, what we did was just hold the lunge line while our riding partner worked on riding hands-free at the walk, trot, and whoa.  Not easy.  It took Leah three times around to understand that me sitting back and pressing my heels down meant whoa.  Her walk-trot transitions got much better without the bit, though.  She was more pleasant.  She was also very good at knowing when I signaled for a walk from the trot.  I sit back and move my feet in a walking motion.

(My granddaughter lunging another young participant.)

This type of work is PERFECT for Leah.. The whole point is to get your horse so in tune with you, so wanting to be with you, so willing to trust you, that you don't need a bit or a bridle or reins or anything. Not that we got to that point today, but we did get a long way towards it.

Leah was wonderful.  She only balked at one point--crossing over a set of large plastic poles. (And, this was when I was holding the reins.) For some reason, she just did not like those poles and she bolted left.  Even watching other horses go over the poles did not ease her fears.  Our instructor saw us and came over and helped her over them a few times.  When we got her somewhat comfortable, I tried it on my own again, and she started to bolt left, but I had my crop, and I smacked her real quick on her neck. She corrected immediately and proceeded over the poles.

So about that crop.  You remember from the last post that I was using a plastic bag to block her to the left?  Well, now I've progressed to a short crop.  When she bolts, I have it ready, and I usually only need to flip it up in front of her.

Shirley pointed out two things which were quite accurate.  1.) It gets her out of her left side frame of mind.  It's almost like she has a dazed, hard eye and when you flip a bag or a crop over there, she snaps out of it.  Which leads to 2.) How long will it last?

I don't want to overuse my trick.  Last night at the arena, if needed, I used my left hand only.  I bent forward and put in front of her left eye.  It worked.  Today, I used the crop.  I haven't been using the bag at all since the trail ride, and I may not need to ever again.  The loose rein, influencing her with my body movement, massaging her on the ground and in saddle and just that overall hands-free partnership--wanting to be together--it's all working.

If you'd told me three weeks ago I would have had these wonderful rides with my left-bolting-Leah, I wouldn't have believed it, but I have.  Even in an open field today on a loose rein--she was a rock star.

I'm thrilled.


  1. Every horse gives us something new to learn. I think this is going to be a fun journey with Leah!

  2. I'm so glad that you are having good sessions with Leah!

  3. Are you right-handed and are you neck-reining her? I'm just curious if you think it would be easier for you to block bolts to the right or the left in the manner that you do. You must have a great seat if you have to lean forward while she's teleporting.

    1. I am holding the reins in one hand and working on neck reining, but I still need to plow rein her. I hold the crop in my left hand, which frees up my right to gently pull on the rein, but I don't put much rein pressure on that side because I do not want her to brace--that's what caused our fall a couple months ago. I do more of a pulsing type suggestion. I don't know about my great seat, but I am able to keep my balance enough to do what I need to.


Please feel welcome to join our discussion by telling us about your own thoughts and experiences.