What does flexing your horse mean to you?
There are lots of ways people apply this idea of flexing to their personal style of riding. I’m going to talk specifically about doing an exercise after you mount your horse and before you take your first step.
This exercise is best for a horse that has some time on him (i.e. I am not talking about when you first start a horse).
I like to do a side-to-side flexion exercise right when I get on. This exercise is done at a stand still.
Here are the steps … and as in all things, I like to keep it simple. By the way, I am not suggesting that this is the only way to do a flexion exercise … but I am saying it works great for me when I first get on my horse.
1. Keep the vision of what you ultimately want to achieve in the forefront of your mind before you begin. This is essential every time you do this exercise.
2. I like to have “targets” so I do things the same each time. In this case the targets are the horse’s chin and the point of the horse’s shoulder. I want to “point” my horse’s chin to my horse’s shoulder at the same place each time so my flexion requests are consistent.
3. Use two hands and a smooth ring snaffle to teach your horse this flexion exercise.
4. Keep your hands low and your elbows loose. Your hands should have a “thumbs up” position.
5. If you’re flexing to the right, keep your left hand on the left side of the midline.
6. In an easy manner tighten the right rein more than the left with the intention to connect the ball of the chin to the shoulder point.
7. It is your job to know what your horse understands about this exercise prior to asking him each time. Know and “feel” when your horse has made a move toward the target that is a baby step for him and release the pressure on the reins! Always know what your horse has done in the past so you do not ask for a step that is too big.
8. When asking for a flexion, hold your hands steady and soft … no pulling and tugging … just steady. Wait as long as it takes for your horse to “give.” You can add some easy calf pressure with your legs if needed and wait for your horse to give slightly. Again, release the reins and reward him for even a try.
9. Be patient, clear and consistent in your requests.
10. Repeat on the other side.
11. Allow your horse to stand still and relax when you are finished.
12. Repeat this exercise every time you get on. It will be relaxing for your horse and for you. It will also gain his attention in a systematic way before you take your first step. And he will be more flexible.