Rion, being the thoroughbred he is, has created a plethora of emotional tools to escape having to listen and actually work. I have been told a million times when he rears, or just refuses to go forward to 'use my leg'. I agree, of course, but as Mark said to me it is not as easily said as can be done. To receive forward from Rion and any horse that is so inclined to behave like him needs to be pliable to the leg and pliable from the hands. Rather than be braced by the hand. He must stay in front of the leg, long and low - at this stage - working from behind through to his shoulder, relaxing over the back. He must remain on the bend of the circle, only when he drops the head and he takes the hand forward do we give the reins and allow him to walk on a long lead. This is the reward for taking the contact rather than bracing against it.
Today, I warmed him up on the lunge, a little sluggish to the aids at first but ending much more responsive to me he was showing himself as a much calmer horse. Mark jumped aboard first. Moving him forward into a marching walk, keeping him forward. Mark made the importance clear to me in not throwing my reins away while I was riding, keeping the contact in the direct line to his mouth but giving my hands towards the bit. I noticed as I took Rion for a spin after Mark schooled him that he was much softer and more responsive to the leg and accepting the contact. He has always moved off my leg but just as everything else he has done it was bracing and heavy. When I put my leg on to move him out onto the circle it was instantaneous and light, a smile lit up my face as in that moment he took my hands forward and I gave him the rein and a little pat.
Mark taught me that there are three parts to the horse:
A: The head to shoulder.
B: The shoulder to flank.
C: The hindquarter.
Each of these parts has their designated controller and need. In order to make a pliable horse the parts need to be able to move in isolation and in conjunction.
The moving turn on the forehand is my best tool in softening Rion. The first point of business is to 'puppeteer' the hands, not pull the horse's mouth and move the leg backward to control part C by applying the leg on and off, squeezing the side as he moves. The aim is for the horse to step through with the inside hind leg, with the forelegs walking forward on a small circle. When the cross over is well received the horse can walk forward again onto the circle. The product should be a softer, more rounder horse. If this is not achieved the exercise should be repeated. The same applies at the trot and the walk. The results are great, to have a horse that is soft and moves from my leg without question is a good feeling for a change.
After a rewarding and successful lesson we finished with a long walk through the property as a nice cool off.
Hopefully the winning streak can continue.