We got an email with some really good questions from Sarah in Wyoming.
"Also, it is below zero here & will be for a few more days, but as soon as I can, I want to start working on the shoulder-in & make a few videos. As you probably noticed, I do not have an arena to work in. I have been thinking I could arrange some ground rails into an "L" shape in order to have a "wall" and a "corner." This should work, don't you think? I am looking forward to working more on my in-hand work & improving my shoulder-ins! I have been working on a three year old who is new to my herd & has had minimal handling; I am slowly but surely turning his reactivity into responsiveness & think it will be lots of fun to introduce him to this stuff. Currently, I am lunging him in a cavesson & side reins & have used the bridle minimally. This made me wonder- do you ever do in-hand work in a cavesson?
Well, thanks again for the info & hope all is well with you. -Sarah"
Yes i think the ground rails will help you. Maybe even better if you can get big (cedar) logs that give you a bit of a height. Really any fence will work too, or the side of a barn or house or even the side of a trailer...
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yes to both: you can use any straight line (pole on the ground, house/barn wall, side of a trailer) to do in hand work. you dont need an arena. getting dark early? just shine your truck headlights onto the wall and work that way.
yes we work in hand in the cavesson a lot for both schooled and beginner horses. there are some things the horse needs to know first: he needs to be able to put his head forward and down (rope attached to central cavesson ring), then flex from side to side. then he needs to know how to walk around you in a circle with the head forward and down nice and rhythmically - the rope is in the same position on the central ring
then you clip reins to the two side rings on the cavesson and stand at the shoulder. the horse needs to learn to yield the poll (ie flex the head side to side with the face on the vertical while you stand at the shoulder). then he needs to learn to yield the quarters. You move him around you in the same rhythmic circle as before but this time hold th einside rein just below the cavesson with your thumb pointing up towards the cavesson, and you outside rein over the horse's neck near the wither and hel so that you can put a little pressure on the other side of the cavesson. you also hold a stick - preferably a 5ft long piaffe stick - in that same hand with you thumb pointing towards the tassle at the end. you walk backward with the horse's head low and flexed towards you in a slow circle, tapping the horse's inside hock with the stick in rhythm. keep it slow and easy. do it to both sides.
then you can yield the quarters in a circle in a corner (even if the corner is just two poles at right angles on the ground) and walk the horse down the rail with his head twoards you, tapping the inside hock over - and you have shoulder-in!
just do a few steps the first day or two/three and build from there
then on day four introduce travers (haunches or quarters-in. this time when the horse's head is at the rail when you yield his quarters in a circle, ask him to flex his head towards you and walk backwards, tapping him on the other side of his croup (i call this 'going fishing'). best is to have a friend walk on that side and give little presses with his thumb/knuckles where the rider's leg would be just behind the girth. this helps th ehorse get his OUTSIDE hind over and - boom - you have travers! eventually you wont need the friend, or even to tap with the stick: eventually you will be able to just flex the horse's head towards you and walk backwards holding the stick away from you as a kind of invitation to go into travers. this takes a couple of weeks usually
top tip: if the horse flexes the wrong direction at first dont panic. get the step confirmed, then correct his bend later on. to make him flex towards you press gently in his neck close to the shoulder - and if you have a friend helping him step over from the outside youll get the prefect travers position. once the horse understands you woint need to press or have the friend help but remember that some horses pick it up right away while others take a long time to get it. stay with it - it takes as long as it takes! main thing - relax, enjoy and keep the in hand sessions to 15 minutes or so at a time with frequent little breaks. whenever the horse gets it, really really praise him!
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