Teaching your horse to move different body parts independently is important for body awareness, communication, finding balance and as the foundation for lateral movements such as shoulder-in or haunches-in.
Basically, you’re teaching your horse to isolate different body parts and put it on cue so that you can ask for:
Lateral Flexions – where your horse bend their head to one side
Quarters Over – where your horse calmly learns to step under and across with the hindlegs
Shoulders Over – where your horse learns to shift his weight back and move the shoulders to the left or right
These are great exercises in body awareness and suppling, as well as your communication as you figure out how to explain to your horse to move in a certain way.
They also build into other exercises. For example, if your horse bends to the outside on a circle, you can use your cue for lateral flexions to help explain the correct bend and help your horse find better balance.
Or, if your horse always falls out through the shoulders, you can use your cue for ‘shoulders over’ to explain how to control that loss of balance and stay in the right alignment.
Or, if you’re working on leg yield and your horse is trailing the hindquarters, you can use your ‘quarters-over’ cue to bring your horse’s awareness to her back legs and help her to stay engaged in the movement.
One of the most common problems I come across is people trying to fix these more advanced movements without the cues for these isolations in place, which makes it really difficult and confusing for you and your horse to figure out. By teaching them first, you have all the clarity and communication you need to progress smoothly.
My aim is always to make it as relaxed and rewarding as possible for the horse. I use positive reinforcement in my training because it’s so effective at building motivation. Using a marker, such as the clicker in clicker training, enables me to communicate more precisely with my horse as I can pinpoint the moment they did the right thing.
Watch the full Gymnastic Groundwork Demo series here:
P1: Getting Started with In-Hand Work: Leading with Connection
P2: In-Hand Work: How to Start Lateral Flexions and Shoulders & Quarters Over Using Clicker Training
P3: In-Hand Work: Teaching Lateral Movements with Clicker Training
P4: Pole Exercises for Confidence, Body Awareness and Strength
➣ We have a full Home Study Course on Gymnastic Groundwork in the CT Club. This shows you exactly how to train these movements, starting from leading and building from there, right up to shaping the trot and teaching lateral work in-hand. It’s laid out clearly step-by-step showing real horses learning every step of the way so it’s perfect if you’ve never done it before and/or you’re looking for a way to train groundwork using clicker training or positive reinforcement.
The CT Club is an online membership site where you can get access to hundreds of step-by-step training videos on training your horse using positive reinforcement. You can find out more and sign up here. We look forward to seeing you there 🙂
➤ You can also find out more in the #1 bestselling Connection Training BOOK 📖 Get it on Amazon (search for ‘Connection Training’) or download Chapter 1 free here for a preview 👀
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