Video #1 is the start of the roundpen basics. It’s the simple task of 1) establishing direction and 2) drawing in. Establishing direction is the start of getting a horse responsive to you and your cues. The second part is allowing the horse to rest, relax and reset themselves after being asked to be responsive. In the second part, this is where the horse learns how to stand still with a quiet and calm attitude. This skill then translates to teaching a horse to tie and even ground tie without the unnecessary fidgeting. Most horses that struggle to be tied, i.e. they pull back, paw, fidget, etc. will struggle with the standing still part of this exercises. The common problems includes a horse coming right up to you when you draw them in and a horse wandering off before you ask them to. Whichever the case, you send them off again, work on getting them to follow the direction and try it again. Rinse and repeat until they can stand quietly for a period of time without losing focus or that calm mindset. When the horse does offer to stand still, allow it! Stand there as long as the horse allows it, this will tell you how long your horse will likely stand tied with a soft and relaxed attitude. For more videos on groundwork, I have an online groundwork course. 🙂
Video 2 is working on upward transitions in the roundpen. The important rule to upward transitions is the “3 SECOND RULE”. The 3 second rule allows the horse time to think about the cue, prepare to respond to the cue and finally responding to the cue. If a horse knows the cue, they’ll respond within 3 seconds, if they don’t understand or aren’t interested in trying, they won’t respond and it gives you the opportunity to increase the pressure to help the horse understand what you are asking. It’s so important to allow the horse time to think and respond. Demanding they respond quickly can cause a horse to over react or eventually just tune out because there isn’t anything in it for them if they respond. Allowing the horse the responsibility to respond, encourages the horse to put in effort that he then is rewarded for. The reward is the most important part of the deal. When a horse understands that he is in charge of the outcome, they start to try hard, pay attention and actually enjoy training because they ARE apart of the program. Constant nagging to keep them going is not productive, especially if you have a lazy horse! The reason is… there is no reward for the horse because no matter how he responds, you continue nagging. The secret to good, soft and relaxed forward is rewarding the try and leaving them alone when they are doing it right. If you want more effort, work on transitions rather than keeping them going. Energetic departures create better and more balanced movement.
Video #3 is changing directions in the roundpen. Changing directions is an important step because it reveals a few things. 1) Is your horse comfortable with changing directions towards you. This challenges them both physically and mentally. Physically, inside turns are harder than outside turns. Outside turns “make” a horse turn sharp but inside turns reveal how much true bend, cadence and flexibility your horse has. A horse that locks up and rolls back may look cool, but it usually represents tension and brace in the body and mind. A horse that does a big ole U-turn is a horse that isn’t engaging his body. But a horse that can do a small fluid circle without losing his balance is a horse that is mentally and physically more comfortable in the task. 2) Changes of direction will challenge a horse to practice putting you in his other eye. Horses that have a stronger side will tend to resist going on the weaker side. They’ll resist changes of direction or refuse to change directions all together to avoid being exposed on the weak side. All of theses little things add up later when you ride. A horse that doesn’t have pretty equal sides, will tend to have issues when ridden. They may not seem to be related but basically every little bit of resistance you leave in there, will add up as you go. When a horse can easily and smoothly change directions, you have sorted out those little bits of resistance that won’t be back to bite you later.
Step #4 is where you start to get the horse to follow you around at liberty. This is key to better leading… Ideally, a horse should lead behind you without pushing on top of you or dragging behind, this is the start to that. By spiraling around, you continue to cause the horse to look at you and at some point they have to move their feet in order to continue to look at you, this creates the draw. Horses that lead too eagerly or push over you are horses that you’re going to want to work more on sending them away. The goal is a balance of draw and drive. You should be able to drive them around and draw them in equally without resistance or invasion of personal space.