Monday, February 4, 2013

Stop Fix #2: Stay Soft in the Bridle in Rundown

The problem: Horse raises his head and pulls on the bit in the rundown to the stop or when the rider applies rein pressure for control in the rundown.

Why does this problem happen? There are two reasons a horse raises his head running down to the stop:
1. The rider has not asked him to collect and give to the bridle.
2. The horse is not accepting aids for collection.

A rundown should begin with a horse in a collected, balanced, straight frame in complete control and stay that way when the rider asks for speed and to the stop. That speed should be initiated by the rider, not the horse! In order to do that, the horse needs to be soft and giving in the bridle from the beginning of the rundown to the stop. If his head is too high, his back will be hollow and he will not be able to use his hind quarters effectively for either the rundown or the stop. If he resists rein pressure when the rider asks for collection, the problem gets worse.

How to correct this problem: A horse must stay soft in the bridle in a rundown to achieve a nice sliding stop even though the rider may not be applying rein pressure. In other words, even though there is no rein contact with the horse’s mouth, the horse stays soft as if there is. I check often when schooling – Is my horse there for me? Is he listening? Is he soft? I know it's all correct when my horse is light in my hands and between the reins (straight). Then there's nothing left to do but drive him forward with my legs to the stop.

If my horse raises his head into the bridle in a rundown, I know the next step is a runaway. If, when I ask him to come back (give to rein aid) to me, he pulls on my hands and doesn’t give to the pressure, I know I have to go back to basics, especially vertical flexion and collection. I go back to circles until he consistently collects at a lope and then incorporate straight lines into the program as in Stop Fix #1: Straighten the Rundown.  Finally, I go back to rundowns into stops. If I have done my homework, my horse will have learned to stay soft in the bridle as he runs to the stops.

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