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The Hind End

September 5, 2010

We spent today’s lesson focused mostly on the hind end and keeping it straight.  When tracking left, Carly likes to let her hind end fall to the right.  She doesn’t like to put her right hind leg underneath her.  When her hind end falls to the right, her barrel bulges out against my leg and her left shoulder drops down falls in.  So we spent our lesson working on keeping straight from the hind end to the shoulders.

This issue came up when I told Barbie that Carly was very stiff on the left rein, and when I tried to use this rein to supple her, she would toss her head up.   To fix this, we actually turned our attention to first her shoulders and then her butt.  The first thing I learned is that I need to look at Carly’s shoulder to see if she is straight, not at her neck.  She may be looking to the right, but it is most important that her shoulders are even with each other.  I can then look behind (at a halt) to see where her butt is.

We worked on hind end straightness by doing lots of little turns, and trying to make them square.  When turning left, I need to use my outside rein and think about doing a tiny turn on the haunches.  That helps her rock back and get her shoulders up through the turn.  At the beginning, it was okay if she was counterbent through the turn because of the contact in my outside rein.  “It’s okay, I did that for a whole year while learning to be straight!”  Barbie joked.  But once Carly really started making nice square turns, I started to use an indirect rein (this is where I pull my hand towards her withers  with slightly increased contact) to get her to bend slightly inside.  I have to be very careful with my left rein – too much contact will make her toss her head up, but simply moving my hand closer to her withers got us just the right amount of bend. When we did this correctly, I could really feel her sitting back and lifting up her shoulders through the turn. Before I knew it, she was coming down and rounding throughout the turn, rather than throwing her head up.  We of course repeated this exercise on the right side. She already is up in her shoulders tracking right, so I really didn’t need to work as hard to get her to sit back through the turns.  The difference when we got it right on this side was, also, not as noticeable because she is naturally straighter and more up in her shoulders on this side.

The hard part came when we tried to go along the straightaway.  Her butt flew to the right and her shoulders fell in.  Normally, I try to fix this by bending her to the inside and giving her a kick with my inside leg.  Barbie explained that doesn’t really fix the problem – Carly not only isn’t straight, she’s also on her forehand.  So when I use my inside rein alone to fix her shoulders, all I do is move her shoulders over, but her butt stays to the right and her shoulders stay too low (on the forehand).  The correct way to straighten her out is to use my outside rein, pulling back directly, to straighten out her butt.  Once that is straight, then I can use my inside rein indirectly, thinking of lifting her shoulders up and over, like we did in a previous lesson to get her straight.

Two of my friends were watching the lesson – “They have been through this, they know all about this. This part is hard, but you will get it.  You know when to release, you don’t hang on her mouth.”

And so our work continues.

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