Another exercise my trainer has me do with Phil, this time to help with his straightness. Phil is very crooked, and was mostly crooked going to the right. He would pop his left shoulder out, and leave his right haunches in. This made it very difficult to ride him that direction at either the trot or the canter. To help with this, my trainer had me slowly bend his neck to the right in degrees like you'd see on a clock. 12:00 was straight ahead, then bending the head to 1:00, then back to 12:00, then try 2:00, etc, until we were at maximum of 3:00 and were able to go from 12:00 to 3:00 easily. The key here is to go slow, both in the bending and the returning to 12:00. The exercise can be seen during a lesson with my trainer here -
The hardest thing about this exercise is keeping the horse on the 20 meter circle, as they have a tendency at first to dive to the inside and avoid having to stretch and bend. This exercise is about stretching the side of the horse that is stiff (in Phil's case, his left side is stiff), so going on a small circle would just allow him to curl the whole body. By asking the horse to keep on a large circle, but bend the neck and body to the inside, the outside of the horse gets a nice stretch. It also helps the outside front leg to reach farther forward, a bonus for that stiff side.
I'm now finding that Phil feels crooked to the left now, so we are starting this exercise the other direction. Doing the exercise both directions is going to help Phil develop straightness, which is sometimes really elusive on a wiggly young horse!
Our New Girl
17 hours ago