When I'm having a tough ride, I need to put Guinness in a lower frame and ride him much deeper until he relaxes and gives.
Let me start at the beginning because while this might seem advanced, it really isn't.
Guinness is built to carry his head and neck fairly high. It's lovely, and really ideal. His neck is tied in high on his body and is nice and long. With a good arch in it, his poll is the highest point and he is a lovely picture. Unfortunately, he isn't always strong enough to hold this frame and work over his back.
|Here's an example... (I am so sorry for the quality of these terrible screenshot photos!)|
I've always thought the best way to get him into the bridle and working through from this position is to push him forward into that frame, basically forcing him to lift his back and loosen up. This usually ends up with me chasing him forward into the contact; him racing forward, getting more and more heavy in his shoulders, and causing me endless frustration. A half halt is pretty much impossible here, too. His lack of connection makes a good half halt completely ineffective, usually resulting in him slamming on the brakes and throwing his head up.
So what's a girl to do? LOWER THE NECK.
|Wow. Terrible quality. Try to focus on the silhouette, okay?|
When I lower Pig's neck (similar aid to stretchy circle, you just don't stretch all the way), I make sure to keep my outside rein solid. Almost the moment his neck lowers, I can feel him relax and start swinging through his body. It's that instant.
He doesn't stay here long, though. Every couple of strides I have to remind him to keep his neck down. It's harder work down there, and he's constantly looking to go back to the higher-headed way he's used to.
|Nice and round in the neck...|
If I find Pig is leaning on my inside hand to maintain his bend, I push him more with my inside leg at the girth and give for a step with my inside hand.
|Giving with the inside hand, should probably be giving less with my whole damn body. Oops.|
There are a couple of things to remember when working your horse in a lower and deeper frame:
1. Keep the nose out in front or on the vertical. If your horse is prone to ducking behind the contact, this may not be the exercise for you.
2. Keep your hands steady. While making them a little wider and lower is helpful here, I wouldn't go overboard and plant your fists on your knees. The goal is to be able to lower your horses frame and ride him there with normal hands. In fact, I find lowering the neck takes my hands out of the equation. With a lower neck and more active back, Pig moves almost entirely off my seat.
3. Focus on relaxation of the poll and jaw to get relaxation through the whole body. When the poll and jaw are relaxed, the horse can move nicely through the neck and body without a spot of tension ruining it.
This lower-neck trot work is not just for warming up. It is also great for developing nice collection and thrust. I shorten my reins, keeping the neck low, and ask Pig to compress his frame. I don't ask for faster, but instead "bouncier."
I have known about changing the frame for a long time, but for some reason this is the first time the exercise's use has actually sunk in for me. Maybe Pig and I had to be at the right place in our training to be able to effectively use it. Still, I think it's a great tool and one I'll be using a lot!
Have you guys ever experimented with changing your horse's frame like this?