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Make Her Round

April 18, 2010

“Tell me to make her round,” my trainer said.

My trainer was standing next to Carly and I and was holding the reins as if she were mounted. “Well, you should take your left hand and…”

“No, just tell me to make her round.”

“Oh, well, make her round.”

Gina deftly squeezed one rein and then another getting Carly to flex one way, then another, suppling her down into a round frame. “See, you ask her be soft on this side and as soon as she softens, release the pressure and straighten her out and she’s round. Now we have to test the other side for softness. She won’t give so we apply more pressure and the second she responds, you release the pressure. You don’t need to move your hands all over, you can keep them right here by the martingale strap.”

She handed the reins back to me. “Show me. Make her round.”

I waited a minute for Carly’s head to come up and gently tugged back on a rein.

“Nope, too slow.”

She put her hands over mine. “Ask for softness and then give when you get it. Feel that? Your timing is very important. Do that until she’s round and then leave her alone.  That’s how we teach her self carriage. That’s how you get a horse to be round and one the bit with just one pound of contact.  Now trot on and make her round.”

As we trotted around the ring, I found I only need to squeeze one rein in a half halt and she would immediately drop her head down.  Amazing.  We are still in consistent with roundness at the trot and can only keep it for a few strides at the canter.  I am becoming more skilled at asking Carly to go in a round frame, though, and she is developing muscle all along her topline and I know moving in this shape is getting easier for her.

After this lesson, I’ve been able to keep my hands quieter and lower when I ask Carly to move in a round frame.  Even if I am doing “dressage” on my own, I warm up in a forward hunter seat where keeping my hands low seems more natural.  For whatever reason, when I am in a dressage position my hands creep up higher and higher and this wek at least, too-high hands seem to be the biggest obstacle to getting Carly into the right shape.  After our warm up, when Carly is more inclined to stay in a frame with even steady contact and a half halt or two, then I will switch to the dressage seat.  Whenever I run into trouble, I visually take myself back to Gina telling me to “Make her round”, place my hands in position, and test for softness on each side to supple her down.

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