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Use the Forest .........Naturally

When I was studying at the center in Florida there was one pattern that was the "Pattern of All Patterns". It was the one pattern that you needed to do and to be able to teach others. It was called "Follow The Rail".  If you couldn’t ask your horse to follow the rail in an arena or out on a trail, you just couldn't get anything else done. In other words, Following The Rail was a neutral position for the horse so that you could start to integrate that pattern with other conversations with your horse like bends, turns, halts, and transitions, without having to correct him back to the line.

If your horse is able to ride along the rail without veering out of this path by his own accord and equally ride along a well-defined trail without taking on his own direction, then you actually can use both of these situations to teach so much more.  


Many of the trails at Dream Feather do a lot of switchbacks, so I had this great idea as I was winding around the trails that when I came to a bend in the trail I would make sure I would have my body in the correct position that would mirror the direction of that bend.


If done correctly, it doesn’t take your horse long to associate where your body is and where the pressure is felt naturally by a proper body position and because horses learn by association, the cues for asking for a bend in their body happens almost coincidentally. The more you do this the more that association is embedded into the learning without even using the reins to correct.


Here is the catch though. You need to have the theory and the muscle memory of what you should be doing in your body before you do this. If you don’t understand how you should be while on top of your horse you may be teaching him the wrong thing, creating confusion and making your horse feel out of balance. 


You can also use the end of arena walls to teach the cue for a bend (after all your horse is not going to go through the wall). So here is what you need to know before you start.


  • your horse can follow the rail or the trail with straightness and with little correction 

  • after watching the video you are starting to understand what you need to be doing in your body, (if not ask a professional)

  • try this first in an arena (either outside or inside where there are not as many opportunities for a bend as would be out in a forest trail

  • use pylons in a weave formation in a controlled environment (arena etc)

  • when out on the trails use the reins to redirect the nose only if your body has not been understood

  • little by little test your communication by holding the rein in the mane and then by actually dropping the reins altogether and using your body (seat and legs) only


Above everything trust yourself and trust your horse and if you are not yet ready for this, take the time and break it down, but make sure you get help with the proper body position for a bend. “Do in your body what you want your horse to do in his.” After watching the video, try dropping the reins once in a while to see how you both are doing with the conversation. It is more like you are guiding your horse instead of just riding him.

Watch the short video below to better see how the natural bends of the trail can add to the natural body cues and "Use the Forest......... Naturally".

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