Riding Both Sides of your Horse — 5 Thoughts

Riding Both Sides of your Horse  — 5 Thoughts

by Dr. Mike Guerini, Ph.D. (www.dunmovinranch.com)

Does your horse have a difference in response on one side as compared to the other side?

As we become better riders, we must develop the ability to ride both sides of our horse – as the horse needs.

To do this, we need to feel the different sides.  Do you know which side of your horse is stiff, which side is hollow?  The stiff side has more tension and the horse’s jaw and poll is tighter and more resistant.  The body might feel like one giant solid 4 x 4 post.  Horses often lean into the stiffer side, fall (drop shoulder) into a circle, or make tight and abrupt turns.  On the hollow side, the horse has no resistance and you might have to work to keep contact on your horse because it gives so slightly to pressure.  As you move in the direction of the hollow side, the horse may drift to the outside or overbend.

There are reasons for a horse to have a difference between sides.  A horse can be right or left handed (scientifically proven based on in-utero implantation) and this creates a difference between the sides, uneven muscle development, and rider related issues (balance, rider asymmetry, etc.).

Here are five thoughts about how you can make sure you ride both sides of your horse.

  1. Determine which side is the hollow side and which is the stiff side.  When you know this, you can make certain that through correct exercises you help the horse become more balanced/even on each side.  Work with your coach to develop a plan so that you actively exercise both sides of your horse.
  2. Do contralateral training for the rider.  Make certain you are doing the right exercises for the rider – these should include contralateral exercises (exercises that rely on movement of body parts on the opposite side of the body).  This is important so that you can effectively use (for example) inside leg to outside rein (opposite parts of your body need to work in harmony).
  3. Improve Rider balance.  Work on rider balance with Pilates, Yoga, Tai Chi, or other programs that help you strengthen your balance and core.  Along the way, make sure your exercise program includes some good cardio work.
  4. Learn how to apply the aids correctly and as needed.  You may need a stronger aid on one-side verses the other (early on in your training).  Know this and make certain you adjust to the needs of your horse as you bring him into balance.  This will take time and it really benefits from riding with mirrors in your arena and even more so when you have a coach or video your rides (or video rides and review with your coach…even better).
  5. Learn to feel the balance in your horse.  This takes time but it is very critical.  Have an observer help you develop the feel.  Learn how it feels when your horse bulges out on one side, drops its shoulder on another side, has its rear end fall out of the circle or square.  Feel comes with time and it really helps to have someone coaching you (eyes on the ground as we say) so that you can have them tell you what is happening and you can develop the knowledge and feel….with this and your own rider preparation – you can then ride both sides of your horse to put him into balance and achieve rider to horse harmony.

Thank you for reading and please feel free to share.

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Dr. Mike Guerini is a clinician, author of multiple Horsemanship books, co-inventor of the Equine Hydro-T and specializes in western performance based instruction and you can learn more about Dr. Mike and his 6 C’s of Horsemanship at www.dunmovinranch.com.  Dr. Mike is also part of Coach’s Corral (http://www.coachscorral.com/), an online Horsemanship Coaching program that specializes in video coaching and the 5 Ride Program.  Dun Movin Ranch is also home to the Equine Hydro-T (http://www.hydrot.com/).

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Frame – Self-Carriage – Roundness – Collection — Do you know the difference?

Frame – Self-Carriage – Roundness – Collection — Do you know the difference?

by Dr. Mike Guerini, Ph.D. (www.dunmovinranch.com)

We take great liberties with the English language these days when we speak, text and, write. Two, Too, and To are often texted as “2” and this is just one example of us interchanging words and letters and numbers so that we do not always have to think about the exact spelling, meaning, or detail of a simple word.

As equestrians, we find ourselves in training or instructing or learning and we get challenged to describe what we are feeling.  We often use words that we think we understand their meaning…but in truth … we heard someone else say the word and we think it sounds correct or powerful or authoritative.

Four words in particular — Frame – Self-Carriage – Roundness – Collection — are often used interchangeably and by that—they are used incorrectly. These words are not interchangeable. The four terms are distinct in meaning, appearance, and feel when riding. Let us begin with defining these words normally, without the equestrian perspective….and then defining with the equestrian perspective.

General Population Definitions of these words:

Frame — to construct by fitting and uniting the parts of the skeleton of (a structure)

Self-Carriage — manner of bearing the body, deportment

Roundness — having curves rather than angles

Collection — the act or process of getting things from different places and bringing them together

Even in everyday use, these words have distinct meanings. Now let us look at them through the eyes of an equestrian.

Equestrian Definitions of these words:

Frame — Horse traveling in a predetermined outline.  Frame has a particular look.  We can influence the frame with natural and artificial aids.

Self-Carriage — the horse carries himself in the best and most appropriate manner for the movement he has to execute. Self-carriage is the result of balance.  This requires time and patience and good equitation for us to be able to work with our horse to be in balance and self-carriage.

Roundness — horse lifts his back so that the hind end can reach under further and the topline can become rounder. Again — This requires time and patience and good equitation for us to be able to work with our horse to achieve correct roundness.

Collection — to shift his center of gravity more over his hind feet by increasing the bend in his hocks and stifles. That lowers his hindquarters, shortens his strides, and means that when he thrusts off the ground, his impulsion now becomes more “up” than “forward.”  The holy grail and top of the training scale.  An often sought after, moderately achieved activity that the horse can sustain for short periods of time (note….it is not good to announce proudly that you rode your horse in collection for over an hour….just not a good plan and likely it did not happen, nor would a good equestrian want it to happen)

Simply by reading these definitions, you can begin developing a mental picture of how they are different and of course how these concepts work together. A multitude of people have discussed these concepts in excellent detail and below I share with you some of the references I use as I continue to advance my learning (See links below).

My challenge to you as fellow equestrians is to become more exacting in the words you use to describe what your horse and you are achieving.  By being more exacting – you will improve your training, develop reasonable and progressive goals, and have more fun and success.

Thanks for reading and please feel free to share this blog to encourage other equestrians to learn more and to develop more exacting standards of language as horsemen and horsewomen.

From Manolo Mendez website — Balance & Rhythm in the Young Horse: Essential to Forward and Self Carriage (first independent balance)

From Karen Rolf – Dressage Naturally — Self Carriage from a Dressage, Naturally Perspective

Meredith Manor – Training Mythunderstandings: The Training Tree: Collection

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Dr. Mike Guerini is a clinician, author of multiple Horsemanship books, co-inventor of the Equine Hydro-T and specializes in western performance based instruction and you can learn more about Dr. Mike and his 6 C’s of Horsemanship at www.dunmovinranch.com.  Dr. Mike is also part of Coach’s Corral (http://www.coachscorral.com/), an online Horsemanship Coaching program that specializes in video coaching and the 5 Ride Program.  Dun Movin Ranch is also home to the Equine Hydro-T (http://www.hydrot.com/).

10 Common Mistakes in Western Dressage Tests

10 Common Mistakes in Western Dressage Tests

by Dr. Mike Guerini, Ph.D. (www.dunmovinranch.com)

As a Coach and Judge for our growing discipline of Western Dressage, and as we get deeper into the show season for 2015, I thought I would share with you the 10 most common mistakes I see in Western Dressage tests.

1) Incorrect Geometry.  Circles that are not the correct size or shape.

2) Lack of Impulsion.

3) Lack of a free walk.

4) Lack of straightness on entry or final approach down centerline.

5) Lack of consistent cadence/speed.

6) Halt not square or falling to the left or right.

7) Rider late or early in transitions.

8) Horses that are behind the vertical or carrying pole too low.

9) Rider seat position in chair seat or leaning to far forward rather than in correct position.

10) Not knowing where you are in the dressage court and not understanding the difference/spacing for a 20 x 40 vs a 20 x 60 court.

If any of these are causing you issue, make sure to seek out a Western Dressage Professional (CLICK HERE) to assist you and your horse on the road to success.

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Dr. Mike Guerini is a clinician and Lifetime Founding Pioneer of the Western Dressage Association of America, Professional member and Licensed Judge from North America Western Dressage, author of multiple Horsemanship books, co-inventor of the Equine Hydro-T and specializes in western performance based instruction and you can learn more about Dr. Mike and his 6 C’s of Horsemanship at www.dunmovinranch.com.  Dr. Mike is also part of Coach’s Corral (http://www.coachscorral.com/), an online Horsemanship Coaching program that specializes in video coaching and the 5 Ride Program.  Dun Movin Ranch is also home to the Equine Hydro-T (http://www.hydrot.com/).

Four Ways that Driving (or sitting) may be affecting your Horsemanship

Four Ways that Driving (or sitting) may be affecting your Horsemanship

by Dr. Mike Guerini, Ph.D. (www.dunmovinranch.com)

We all know that driving and sitting normally in a chair seat put us into that “chair seat position” we all want to avoid while riding horses.  But what other things do we do while driving or sitting in a chair for long periods of time affect our riding posture?  Any of these things listed below might just build posture habits

1) Leaning on the center console while we drive.  Sometimes I take trips to clinics or shows that are 3 or 4 hours long (or longer) and I find myself leaning on the center console for a good portion of the trip.  This collapses my rib cage (right rib cage) — something I most certainly want to avoid while riding.

2) Leaning to far forward towards the steering wheel.  This leads us to have a hunched back — something we want to avoid in our riding.

3) Leaning back away from the steering wheel.  This gets us accustomed to sitting on our seat pockets and not our seatbones… and sitting on our seat pockets is bad for our riding position.

4) Sitting in the car for long trips with our wallet (or papers or cell phone) in our back pocket (this one is especially a problem for men). This leads us to have imbalanced seatbones and this certainly messes with us being able to ride and use our seatbones correctly.

Have I got you thinking now?  What other things do you do while driving or working at your computer/desk that might be affecting your riding posture and success with your aids.  Take a few minutes and add to this list — share here on this blog and let us all begin to work on changing our habits to better prepare us for success in the saddle.

Once you have read (and added to) this list, take the time to adjust your car seat or desk chair to optimize your sitting position so that you do not compromise your riding posture.

Thanks for reading this blog and please share.

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Dr. Mike Guerini is a clinician, author of multiple Horsemanship books, co-inventor of the Equine Hydro-T and specializes in western performance based instruction and you can learn more about Dr. Mike and his 6 C’s of Horsemanship at www.dunmovinranch.com.  Dr. Mike is also part of Coach’s Corral (http://www.coachscorral.com/), an online Horsemanship Coaching program that specializes in video coaching and the 5 Ride Program.  Dun Movin Ranch is also home to the Equine Hydro-T (http://www.hydrot.com/).

Four Ways that Dancing WILL Improve your Horsemanship

Four Ways that Dancing WILL Improve your Horsemanship

by Dr. Mike Guerini, Ph.D. (www.dunmovinranch.com)

Ballroom dancing with the Cha-Cha-Cha, Rhumba, Tango, and Waltz are just a few examples of dances that we all recognize.  Many of us know how to Line Dance, Square Dance and I bet a few others are very skilled at other dance forms.  Archeological evidence for early dance includes 9,000 year old paintings in India at the Rock Shelters of Bhimbetka, and Egyptian tomb paintings depicting dancing figures, dated c. 3300 BC. Though there is controversy over the exact date horses were domesticated and when they were first ridden, the best estimate is that horses first were ridden around 4500 BC.

With Horse riding and Dancing –  we are dealing with two activities that have stood the test of time.  We hear and read about people “Dancing with Horses” so the merging of these two activities is known.

Here are four reasons that a little Dancing goes a long way in helping you with your Horsemanship.

Footfalls – Dancing has much to do with footfalls.  Your feet need to work independently, taking metered steps, change with the time and the tempo, and your feet need to flow across the dance floor.

In riding horses, one of the major keys to success are knowing and working with the footfalls of your horse.  When we take the time to learn to dance, we learn how to control our footfalls and we learn the biomechanics of how our body works.  By understanding how our body works – we are better prepared for riding correctly and using our rider aids to influence the footfalls of the horse.

When we are doing ground work – having proper footfalls helps us get in time and in tune with our horse. We succeed in our ground work, when we put our feet in the correct position to aid the horse in the movement.  If we are off balance or our feet are in the way—the horse cannot move correctly.

Coordination – Riding a horse or working with your horse from the ground takes coordination.  By learning how to dance – we learn how our body moves and we build better coordination.  Our hands and legs and seat all might need to move independently in a dance routine…much like what we might need to do when riding with finesse.

Mind – When we dance, we must learn a routine or plan (sometimes in the moment) how we are going to move. If we are dancing with a partner – we certainly must plan what we are going to do or we wind up bumping into each other.  Dancing helps us use our mind to think and plan our next move.  If we are standing on our left leg and need to go left, we have to plan how to shift our weight and move our body….. and we need to have this same level of planning in our horsemanship when we ride or do ground work.

Teamwork – Many forms of dance require a partner.  Horsemanship is the ultimate dance where both partners communicate with subtle touches, changes in contact, and often times — silent communication.  With a human dance partner we work as a team with one partner leading and the other following that guidance.

Want to improve your horsemanship – grab your husband, wife, boy/girlfriend, or find a willing friend or stranger and learn to dance and practice your dancing.  You will notice improved control of your own footfalls, a better understanding of how your body moves, enhanced coordination with your body, better mental planning, and improved teamwork.  Your horse will thank you for doing your homework and you just might enjoy the time.

Thanks for reading this blog and please share.

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Dr. Mike Guerini is a clinician, author of multiple Horsemanship books, co-inventor of the Equine Hydro-T and specializes in western performance based instruction and you can learn more about Dr. Mike and his 6 C’s of Horsemanship at www.dunmovinranch.com.  Dr. Mike is also part of Coach’s Corral (http://www.coachscorral.com/), an online Horsemanship Coaching program that specializes in video coaching and the 5 Ride Program.  Dun Movin Ranch is also home to the Equine Hydro-T (http://www.hydrot.com/).

Spice up your Horsemanship Ground Work

Spice up your Horsemanship Ground Work

by Dr. Mike Guerini, Ph.D. (www.dunmovinranch.com)

Ground work is the foundation to successful horsemanship.  At this time of year many of us are getting back to riding and we all to often skip the good review of ground work we all need. I hear things like “It is boring,” “It takes to long,” “My horse is dead broke and does not need ground work.”

In truth, every horse can benefit from ground work.  Every rider can benefit from preparing the horse with ground work. IN doing our ground work correctly, we develop correct footfalls and habits for our horse when moving, we learn how our horse moves (so we can improve this or know when something is wrong), we develop responsiveness, relaxation and respect of our horse, and we further the connection.

We have all heard that we need to make sure our horses move forward, halt, step back, move their haunches, move their shoulders, and go sideways each way.  Well there are so many movements we can add to our ground work to develop better footfalls, better communication and responsiveness, and a better connection.  Here is a short list of 30 things to work on next time you run out of ideas (or get bored) doing ground work.

  1. Walk normal speed
  2. Walk slow speed
  3. Walk fast speed
  4. Walk in circle
  5. Go forward cue
  6. Lunge in circle with reverse to inside
  7. Walk in figure 8’s
  8. Walk in squares (move shoulders or haunches at each corner)
  9. Walk in triangles (move shoulders or haunches at each corner)
  10. Walk in serpentines/cigars
  11. Walk — Ground pole step over where we choose which front foot steps over — Standing still
  12. Walk — Ground pole step over where we choose which front foot steps over — While in motion
  13. Back straight
  14. Back in circles
  15. Back in figure 8’s
  16. Turn on forehand (Small circle with forehand, no pivot foot)
  17. Turn on haunches (Small circle with rear legs, no pivot foot)
  18. Staircase diagonal walk
  19. Shoulder forward (it pushes to the right when you are on the left side of the horse or pushes left when you are on the right side of the horse)
  20. Haunch left and Haunch right  (next two are more exacting movements of this one, so I use this to warm up first)
  21. Three track right and left (horse legs in three tracks, RF track 1, LF and RH track 2, LH track 3)
  22. Four track at walk right and left
  23. Side pass
  24. Trot
  25. Trot fast (extended)
  26. Trot in circle
  27. Trot in figure 8’s
  28. Trot in serpentines/cigars
  29. Trot over ground poles/cavaletti’s
  30. Staircase diagonal Trot

After these 30, there is an entire series of obstacle courses that can be set up for ground work that include some of these along with obstacles. I am sure you could build many many obstacle courses with combinations of these and obstacles.

Please share this blog and let me know how you and your horse are doing with these movements.

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Dr. Mike Guerini is a clinician, author of multiple Horsemanship books, co-inventor of the Equine Hydro-T and specializes in western performance based instruction and you can learn more about Dr. Mike and his 6 C’s of Horsemanship at www.dunmovinranch.com.  Dr. Mike is also part of Coach’s Corral (http://www.coachscorral.com/), an online Horsemanship Coaching program that specializes in video coaching and the 5 Ride Program.  Dun Movin Ranch is also home to the Equine Hydro-T (http://www.hydrot.com/).Spice up your Horsemanship Ground Work

Can you recognize and respond to Medical distress and Emergencies for other Riders?

Can you recognize and respond to Medical distress and Emergencies for other Riders?

Can you recognize and respond to Medical distress and Emergencies for other Riders?

by Dr. Mike Guerini, Ph.D. (www.dunmovinranch.com)

All of us who show horses, trail ride, attend clinics, ride at a local arena, or ride at home do this because we enjoy our time with horses. We are passionate about making sure we have the right saddle, best pad, a stylin bridle, a good trailer, a trusty vehicle, a first aid kit (the one for the horse is often better stocked then the one for people).  We are always watching our horses to make sure they are comfortable.  We worry about colic, being off feed, fevers, a misstep, lameness, excessive sweating, or shivering.

Are we watching our fellow riders for any signs of distress?  Are we prepared to help a fellow rider who might be injured, in distress, or having an emergency?

According to the American College of Emergency Physicians, the following are warning signs of a medical emergency. Would you be able to realize that all of these might require medical intervention – and if you do know this, are YOU prepared to step in a save a life of your fellow rider?

Bleeding that will not stop

Breathing problems (difficulty breathing, shortness of breath)

Change in mental status (such as unusual behavior, confusion, difficulty arousing)

Chest pain

Choking

Coughing up or vomiting blood

Fainting or loss of consciousness

Head or spine injury

Severe or persistent vomiting

Sudden, severe pain anywhere in the body

Sudden dizziness, weakness, or change in vision

Upper abdominal pain or pressure

Excessive sweating or shivering

Stuttering or difficulty speaking

Sudden loss of balance

Some of these may not be easy for us to recognize…but we need to start paying attention.  These fellow riders are our extended families.

This blog is a call to action for all of us and I encourage you to share this information.

Action plan:

1… Take a CPR and Basic First aid course from the American Red Cross or the American Heart Association.  This is great basic training that may help you save the life of one of your fellow riders. I will be making sure I get signed up to refresh my training.

2… Check that first aid kit you have in your trailer or barn.  Restock it and make sure the bandaids are not from the last century.  Cannot find one in your trailer or barn – get one purchased today.

3… Have the emergency contact info for the people you ride with readily available.  Be able to call an emergency contact (sending a facebook message just does not work).

4… Have a plan for overnight housing of someone’s horse or be able to get their horse home if they need to go to the hospital.

We are a family of riders — we need to be ready to help our equestrian family.  Take the time to follow this action plan today…I am sure your friends that you ride and show with will appreciate how much you care.

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Dr. Mike Guerini is a clinician, author of multiple Horsemanship books, co-inventor of the Equine Hydro-T and specializes in western performance based instruction and you can learn more about Dr. Mike and his 6 C’s of Horsemanship at www.dunmovinranch.com.  Dr. Mike is also part of Coach’s Corral (http://www.coachscorral.com/), an online Horsemanship Coaching program that specializes in video coaching and the 5 Ride Program.  Dun Movin Ranch is also home to the Equine Hydro-T (http://www.hydrot.com/).