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Staying on the Rail in Lessons

By: Galadriel Billington

10:30AM Apr 8, 2004

Many times beginner riders will have difficulty keeping their horse on the rail, in lessons. The horse may drift inward or cut corners. I have noticed a tendency in many beginners to want to pull a horse back to the rail by using the outside rein. This doesn't work :) and I'll tell you why:

arena track left Say you're going around the arena to the left;

When you get to a corner, you use your left rein and left leg to make the turn. Keep contact with outside rein and outside leg, but these are not "active." For more about why your legs should be "on" the horse, even when you're not using them, see Point your Toes In.
horse skewed right If your horse begins to drift off the rail, you may try to pull him back on with your right rein (outside rein). What you've just done is to counter-flex the horse; that is, you've bent him the wrong way.
Now even though you're using your left (inside) leg to ask the horse to move to the right, he's still not going to be able to do so. He's bent the wrong way, and he can't circle into the rail.
spiral out left circle spiral in left circle Let's look at circling, briefly. When you circle, to move out on the circle, you use inside rein & inside leg; to spiral in, you use outside rein & outside leg.
horse skewed left When you're travelling along the rail, you're just making a very large, rather squared circle. If you want to open that circle--move toward the rail--you need to flex in the proper direction (to the inside), and use inside leg.

So when you have flexed the horse in the wrong direction, you have not made it easier for him to stay on the rail. In fact, all he *can* do, flexed in that direction, is to "open" the circle or move "out" towards his shoulder--but his shoulder is toward the inside of the arena! By bending the horse in the wrong direction, you have actually made it easier for him to drift off the rail.

Use you inside rein and inside leg, "open" the circle, and it will be easier to stay on the rail.

Do be sure you don't lose contact on the other rein. If you don't have contact on both reins, your horse can just pop his shoulder in and go wherever he wants to anyway :) But the rein you're using should be "active" while you maintain contact with the other.
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2004 Galadriel Billington. All rights reserved.