Canter/Lope Departures — Hips Left and Hips Right

Canter/Lope Departures — Hips Left and Hips Right

By Dr. Mike Guerini (www.dunmovinranch.com)

We all have experienced riding a horse and having issues picking up the correct lead.  Sometimes we ride and ride and ride while asking for the canter or lope and all we get is a really fast/extended trot.  So how do we solve this problem?  We get to work from the ground up to the saddle and following these exercises you will be a success.

To begin with, we need to think about where we will be placing our aides in order to help cue the horse to the proper lead.  We want to use pressure at the flank (Position #3) to direct the hips into position for picking up the correct lead.

These positions are where you will be placing your hand to move the horse’s body as you do your groundwork.  In the beginning of your lessons, using these approximate distances shown in this diagram are good for making sure you are clear in your request for a particular movement.  As you teach your horse and you and the horse become more in tune with one another the distance between position 1 and 3 will become shorter and shorter until the mere movement of a few inches allows your horse to know what you are asking.

Why are these positions so vital and why is touching your horse in these places important when you are doing groundwork?  The answer is simple—where you put your hands when you are doing the groundwork is where you will place your feet when you are riding.  Isn’t it cool that you can prepare your horse for riding by teaching from the ground!

Once we understand the above, we start with ground work.  All of my yearlings begin to learn this and become quite good at moving their hips.

Hip Right from the ground

Lead from the left (near side) at the horse’s shoulder with the horse between you and the rail.  Give yourself about 5 feet of space between the horse and the rail.  Take the lead in your left hand and place your right hand on the horse’s flank at Position #3.  Apply gentle pressure to move the horse’s hips to the right and toward the fence (away from you).  Walk the horse for four or five steps with his hips toward the rail and his head toward the center of the arena.  Release the pressure and allow the horse to walk straight.  Repeat three or four times.

Hip Left from the ground

Walk along the rail with your horse to the inside of the arena.  Place yourself next to the horse’s shoulder between the horse and the rail.  Take the lead in your right hand and place your left hand on the horse’s side at Position #3.  Apply gentle pressure to move the horse’s hips away from the rail and towards the center of the arena.  You may need to gently pull your horse’s head towards you using your right hand (so that the head faces the rail).  Walk the horse for four or five steps with his hip away from the rail and his head towards the rail.  Release pressure and allow the horse to walk out straight.  Repeat three or four times.

SADDLE TIME—

Now it is time to transfer what we are doing on the ground into the saddle.  Please remember that we will do these exercises at the walk, trot, and get them right before we ever ask for a canter departure.

Hip Right

Give yourself about 5 feet of space between the horse and the rail.  Take the reins and ride straight forward.  Then place your left leg on the horse’s left side at the flank (Position #3) and use pressure and release to get the horse to move its hip towards the center of the arena.  Walk the horse for four or five steps with his hips toward the center of the arena and his head towards the rail.  You want the horse’s body to be at a 20 to 45 degree angle to the rail.  Head is about 2 feet away from the rail.  Once the hip is towards the center of the arena and the horse is straight from tail to head, release the pressure and allow the horse to walk straight again.  Repeat this multiple times at the walk and then at the trot.

Hip Left

Give yourself about 5 feet of space between the horse and the rail.  Take the reins and ride straight forward.  Then place your right leg on the horse’s right side at the flank and use pressure and release to get the horse to move its hip towards the center of the arena.  You want the horse’s body to once again be at a 20 to 45 degree angle to the rail.  Head is about 2 feet away from the rail.  Once the hip is towards the center of the arena and the horse is straight from tail to head, release the pressure and allow the horse to walk straight again.  Repeat this multiple times at the walk and then at the trot.

Here is a diagram to help you on your angles.  In each example, there is an arrow right next to the rail.  This is the direction of travel when the horse is moving straight.  A 90-degree angle would have the horse facing directly to the fence.  A 45-degree angle would have the head near the fence and the rear towards the center of the arena.

 CANTER/LOPE DEPARTURE

When you want the correct lead departure, move the hips towards the center of the arena, make sure you keep your inside leg (one towards center of arena) off the horse (allowing the horse to move freely) and then press on the outside flank with the outside leg (bump and press is okay), elevate your body, inhale, smooch or cluck (make noises if your horse knows this from round pen work), rock your hips forward and urge the horse into the correct lead.  Also make sure your shoulder is turned towards the inside of the arena (towards the lead you will be picking up) and that you are giving pressure with your outside seat bone and have a soft inside seat bone.  Make sure you are looking where you want to go and not at the horse or ground or the rail.  Look forward and think forward.

By teaching your horse to move his hips, you are positioning your horse so that he can easily pick up the correct lead.  For a right lead (R), the first leg that steps is the left hind leg, then the left front and right rear step at the same time and finally the right front foot steps.  For a left lead (L), the right hind leg steps first, then the right front and left rear step at the same time and finally the left front foot steps.

I encourage you to ask questions of me or other equine professionals and enthusiasts to understand the importance of moving the hips left and right.  Truely this is the most useful exercise for acheiving canter departures and picking up the correct lead.

This is how we begin to teach the lead.  We are asking the horse to step in the direction of the lead and it helps the horse and rider position correctly. Once the horse understand’s what is being asked of him and the rider is soft and giving aides at the appropriate time, we then can ask for a straight line lead departure.  Yes, the horse is crooked in the beginning but once they learn, we are able to move into straight line lead departures.  With all things on the back of the horse, collection is key to success and we work to maintain collection even through this series of exercises…hence why we start with the walk and trot and teachable moments.

Be sure to check out my clinic schedule and let us work together to bring one of my clinics to your area in 2013.  Visit my website for contact information.  I welcome comments, questions and great discussion on this topic.

Dr. Mike Guerini is a clinician and you can learn more about Dr. Mike and his 6 C’s of Horsemanship at www.dunmovinranch.com.  Dun Movin Ranch is also home to the Equine Hydro-T (www.hydrot.com).