Many moon cycles ago, back when our right lead was nonexistent and I didn’t know the soft caress of French leather, we started working on our haunch turns. I wanted our shoulder control to be pristine, so every ride I worked on teaching him to yield to my rein and leg. These days it only takes a slight shift of my hands and he’s turning on a dime at the walk and the trot—and the canter’s developing, too!
But while I’ve been sharpening up our shoulder control, tiny warning bells have been going off in the back of my head. We haven’t spent any time on hip control and I knew it was going to come back to bite me…
Unsurprisingly, it took TrainerM all of three seconds on my horse during his training ride to find that massive hole in his training. She’d put her leg on to move his haunches and he’d happily fling his shoulders around, only to end up infuriated when she told him that was the wrong answer. She rode through his tantrums and then immediately began planning
my demise my next lesson.
I wasn’t originally scheduled for a lesson last week, but when StevieO and I suddenly found ourselves with coinciding days off it was a no brainer. While StevieO picked up some tips and tricks for riding her green OTTB, TrainerM had Raglan and I tackling our hip control problem. Luckily, at some point in his training I did install a rudimentary (read ugly) version of a turn on the forehand, so he wasn’t completely unaware of how to move his butt—he just couldn’t really do it while he was in motion.
Teaching a horse lateral movements is like teaching algebra; there’s a lot of partial credit involved. You ask them a question, they guess wildly, and when they do something even a little bit correct you give them a pat so that they know they’re pointed in the right direction. It didn’t matter if his shoulders squiggled around or if he charged off at Mach 10 or if he flung his head in the air, if his hips so much as twitched in the right direction he got lavish praise and I stopped jamming my spur between his ribs.
So mostly we looked like we were doing a lot of drunken circles and wobbly lines.
It was a hard lesson, because it didn’t really feel like we were making any progress and Raglan just kept getting angrier and angrier. We quit early (when his rage became a physically palpable entity threatening to murder me the next time I kicked him). ALSO IT WAS SO HOT OUT.
But the next day I came out to ride and while he still wasn’t thrilled to have another haunches-in-focused ride, he got it. He couldn’t hold it for more than a couple of steps (it felt like a car with a bad transmission clunking into gear and then clunking back out a few seconds later), but it was clear that he’d been mulling over the concept while I was gone. Even the smallest progress is always so thrilling!