Sunday, November 27, 2011

Half Pass to Walk

My horse now knows how to give to the bridle, give to my legs, walk, jog, trot and lope. I can half-pass him at a walk, jog and lope and can half-pass into a lope departure in the correct lead. The next step in this progression is to half-pass from a lope back down to a walk.

Purpose of this exercise: To encourage the horse to be respond willingly to rein and leg pressure at the highest level without fear.

The Exercise
Warm your horse up as usual, including jogging, trotting and loping. Then ask him to half-pass at a walk, jog and lope in a large circle – both directions – as in previous exercises (The Half PassHalf Pass at a Lope). After half-passing at a lope a few times, leave your leg on (spur if necessary), maintain the half-pass position but with your body language asking him to walk. When he walks with head and haunches to inside of circle, release leg pressure and rein aids. When he has walked relaxed for a few strides, half-pass into a lope and repeat. After two or three times, change directions. Timing, consistency and “feel” is of utmost importance in teaching the horse this exercise but, once learned, he will willingly execute a half-pass to a walk because he is allowed to walk! Also, he learns to be unafraid of leg and spur pressure for the same reason – because he is allowed to walk and relax!

Where can it go wrong?
  • The horse will not maintain a half-pass position to a walk. Either the horse has not learned the half-pass well enough (does not give to rein and leg) or the rider is not able to “time” his aids well enough. Practice the half-pass more at a walk until the maneuver is more refines.
  • The horse loses forward motion. Without at least enough forward motion to walk, the maneuver fails. The rider may have braced up (as for a walk or stop). If the horse is in a half-pass position but has stopped, encourage him to walk (with half-pass aids still in place) by bumping him with the inside leg. That is, if you are half-passing to a walk in a left circle with your right leg on him and your left rein asking and releasing, bump with your left leg)
Note: If it seems impossible to convince my horse to half-pass to a walk from a lope, I will allow him to take his head to the outside of the circle to move his hind quarters into the circle – because it is easier for a horse to leg yield with his head away from the direction of travel and because I will at least accomplish half of the exercise this way (rather than letting him out of the exercise when he fails to perform it).

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Half-Pass at a Lope

Before I attempt to half-pass my horse at a lope, he must thoroughly understand basic leg yielding and half-pass at a walk and jog. When he can perform a half-pass at a walk and a jog, I progress to a half-pass at a lope. The aids are exactly the same except I need to keep my horse in a lope. This can be quite demanding for both horse and rider.

The Exercise
Warm your horse up as usual, including jogging, trotting and loping, collecting at all three gaits as in previous exercises. Then ask him to half-pass at a walk in a large circle – both directions. (The Half-Pass) Repeat the half-pass at a jog in both directions and then pick up a lope.
After loping a circle or two, apply half-pass aids to move your horse’s haunches in to the circle. In a circle to the right, apply give-and-take pressure with the right rein toward your left shoulder (to indicate to the horse where his head should be but without holding it there) and hold him on the track with light but steady left rein pressure, then apply pressure with your left leg to move his haunches into the circle and at the same time continuing to urge him forward with your body.  At first, accept any decent attempt by your horse to do the maneuver.

Where can it go wrong?
  • The horse will not give to rein pressure. A horse will not ever half-pass at a lope if he is resisting and/or throwing his head in the air. Go back and review the basics up to and including half-pass at a walk and jog.
  • The horse will not give to leg pressure. Review the basics as above.
  • The horse will not assume the half-pass position at a lope. Review the exercise at a walk and jog, then try again.
  • The horse breaks down to a jog or walk when you apply half-pass aids at a lope. Although this may be a natural response when a horse is learning, it is the rider’s responsibility to keep him moving forward. Either too much rein pressure (telling him to slow down) or not enough encouragement from the rider’s body to keep him loping will put the damper on loping. The first requirement is that he is moving forward so get that first, then ask again making sure you are using a give-and-take pressure with your inside rein, not steady pressure.
  • Horse overbends and drifts to inside of the circle. Either you are asking too much with the inside rein or not enough with the outside. Be sure to apply enough outside direct rein to keep him on the circle and only enough inside rein in a pull-release motion to keep his head in the direction of travel.
Note: This is very a very physically and mentally demanding exercise for the horse so, at first, accept any attempt on his part to perform it. Even after he has learned what you want, ask only a few times, then walk. Remember, it’s a huge reward for your horse when you release your aids, so take advantage of that and soon he will happily half-pass the length of the arena – because he knows the pressure will be end!
Don't be fooled by thinking the half-pass is a English-rider only maneuver. Although no where in a reining pattern is a half-pass found, it is a useful training tool for total control, flexibility and multiple training situations.