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My Horse Bends to the Outside

Q: My western pleasure mare travels canted along the rail and bent to the outside of the circle. I’m only walking and jogging now. How do I fix this so I can move on?

A: Often, a horse is not doing what the rider wants but is doing what the rider is asking for. So when your horse isn’t doing what you want, ask yourself, “What am I doing to cause that?” By tipping your mare’s nose to the inside and putting your inside leg on her, you might be asking her to transition into a circle. Form a channel with the reins and your legs to keep your horse straight, and make sure your shoulders and hips are facing straight ahead.

There are many exercises that can help you improve straightness. First, however, you need precise hip and shoulder control, using the softest possible cue. You want to be able to ask for a turn on the forehand and haunches with a specific number of steps.

Once you have good hip and shoulder control, ride circles and serpentines with a smooth bend in your horse. Ride from point to point looking far ahead, always making sure that you are straight. Ride in an arena about 10 feet off of the rail and stay as parallel to the rail as possible. Keep your horse’s nose from tipping to the inside with the outside rein.

One of my favorite exercises is riding a square. Set up a square with four cones and ride straight from one corner to another, randomly choosing whether to do a turn on the haunches or forehand each time you arrive at a cone.

Liked this article? Here are more training exercises for western horses:
Riding Squares for Better Circles
Bodybuilding for the Western Horse

JIM McDONALD is an American Quarter Horse Association Professional Horseman and a Certified Horsemanship Association and Centered Riding instructor.

This article originally appeared in the September 2014 issue of Horse Illustrated magazine. Click here to subscribe!

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