Two Minute Training Tip – The Mermaid's Tail
Knowing where your horses' haunches are located is pretty important. When my trainer asks me during our lesson where are my horses haunches I always point to the back. She usually isn't amused and that's not what she means. Usually she wants them either haunches in, straight or haunches out. I like to think of a horses' haunches as my 'mermaid's tail'. If you remember the mermaid – they wiggle their tail and either speed off in the water or can hover in the water with less effort or wiggle. The haunches are the same. They are your power driver and you need to know where they are. A good way to figure out where your haunches are located is to practice a turn on the haunches. Walk along the rail to the left so your left shoulder and left hand are to the inside. This is how I would do it if you have never done it before so you can feel the exaggerated haunches in prior to the turn. Use your outside leg and push the haunch in. Try to do this with a rhythm of the horses outside right hind. Your hip is a little higher when the outside right hind is planted on the ground. You would then press a calf and then release the calf. As the haunch comes in then half halt and begin to turn your horse around your inside left leg. Keep the right leg pulsing at the calf and turn your horse from the left to the right. If you look over your left shoulder you should see your horses' haunches out the corner of your eye. Practice this a few times walking around the arena as you refresh the walk in between with some go forward marching steps. The turn on the haunches is a small movement, slow and methodical. Then a way to play with feeling the haunches effect on forward motion – march down the long side in this case to the right. You control the mermaids tail – your horses' haunches and see how the forward motion can be impacted by where they are. The right shoulder and hand are to the inside. So, push the haunches to the inside and notice the horse slows down. It's hard to maintain forward momentum when haunches are in. Now use the inside leg and outside rein to straighten the horse and go forward at the walk. The horse can move forward more freely. Now you can play with just moving the haunches to the inside to see the slowing effect on the forward motion at the walk, trot and canter. The turn on the haunches is done at the walk. Use it when you want to re-establish your feeling of the haunches as well as diagonal aids – starting with the outside leg and then to the inside leg. You bring the horses' shoulders around your inside leg at the girth and your hands and shoulders guiding the horses' shoulders around the inside leg. Of course, try to avoid pulling or over reining although you will 'neck rein' a bit in this exercise at first to help the horse get it.
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