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  1. #1
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    Default Help my neck reining, please!

    I've been riding a mare that neck reins (combo of leg pressures and indirect rein) really well, but the problem is the monkey on her back -- me!

    I've always ridden two-handed, but do use leg pressures and indirect-then-direct rein -- I use direct rein more for course corrections. I find it very easy to keep her straight and between my hands as long as I have both of them on the reins.

    Toss in attempting to ride one-handed to take advantage of her indirect reining talents and we look like both of us are drunk.

    I'm holding the reins left handed in the typical spit rein hold (thumb up, forefinger between the reins, fist curled around the rest). I've been holding my shirt at my belly button with my right hand to train it to stay out of the way (I end up with a flapping chicken wing arm if I let it drape at my side). I try to keep my hand with the reins low and directly over her spine.

    I try to make sure my shoulders are square to where I want her to go and I'm looking where I want her to go, but we'd seriously fail a sobriety test especially at anything faster than a walk.

    Does anyone have any tips to help me keep her straight? I'm a complete novice at riding one handed.



  2. #2
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    Try switching hands to see if you are more comfortable with the reins in your right hand. Sometimes holding your free hand up as if it was holding the reins can help with the transition, like someone riding a horsemanship pattern would. Remember to sit back, relax, and breathe. It does take time, especially if you have only ridden with both hands before. Practice everything at the walk, lots of circles, ect, before you move up into a jog or lope. Good luck!
    Proudly Owned By Sierra, 2003 APHA Mare
    In Loving Memory of Tally, April 15, 1983 - June 2, 2010



  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by mypaintwattie View Post
    Try switching hands to see if you are more comfortable with the reins in your right hand.
    Thanks -- I am right handed, so it might work out better that way.

    It's been beaten into my head that I have to ride left handed as according to the "rules," although I just checked the AQHA rulebook and the section under "Equipment" about non-romal rein holds just says "the hand", not a specific hand. I might have to print out that section for proof.



  4. #4
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    There is no required rein and non rein hand. Be sure you aren't pulling too much with your rein hand, inadvertently pulling her head in the wrong directly.

    ETA - I'm right handed, but ride with my left hand.
    Only two emotions belong in the saddle: One is a sense of humor. The other is patience.



  5. #5
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    Reading your post I noticed that you don't mention where you are looking. I think it is helpful to look where you want to go and straightness will follow. Use the hand that feels comfortable. A little "trick" I use is to hold something in my other hand to help keep it relaxed. You can use a short piece of leather just so your hand feels like it has a rein in it. You would have to wean yourself off of this eventually but it is a good way to make the change over.
    My mom didn't raise no jellybean salesman!


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  6. #6
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    I come from English world and only fake it Western. But made my English one neck rein.

    You guys are getting wiggly while walking in a straight line?

    What are you doing with your body? With both hands on the reins and you using direct reins, the problem doesn't occur? Does that mean that you are really and truly holding a wiggly horse straight with your hands?

    If so, just fix the training problem therein. Horse should go off your body. She should follow your hips (which are in line with your shoulders) and those go where your eyes go.

    If she's all over the place, another key could be that she's very, very tuned up to your leg. That's not a problem, but it means you need to know what you are doing with your leg. Try doing less, or slowing down your corrections.

    There are other things Westerners do in order to get the kind of "cruise control" that you need--- where the horse keeps doing the last thing you asked until you say to do something else. I won't bore you with this until I know if I have got your problem interpreted right.
    The armchair saddler
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  7. #7
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    Drop the reins on the horse and use your belly button to steer. Sounds like you may have a well trained horse, so maybe you can ride on cruise control.
    Charlie Piccione
    Natural Performance Hoof Care



  8. #8
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    I'm polishing up the neck reining on my pony right now, and what I do with him is get him to "dial in" and focus riding with two hands - but I steer mainly with my body and move both hands as one unit - until he is turning really lightly. Then I switch to one hand once he is paying attention and really listening to that light rein aid on his neck, but again, the steering comes mostly from seat and leg!
    Proud member of the "I'm In My 20's and Hope to Be a Good Rider Someday" clique

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  9. #9
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    Thanks for the replies, all!

    @mvp: straight lines are mostly OK. I guess with going along two-handed, it feels like I'm keeping a better box around her, or more in plane with her planes. My body is more square. When I try riding one handed, I end up twisting a bit to put the hand with the reins in the center, so I feel like I'm already I'm indicating a curve with my body.

    When I attempt a 90 degree turn (to the right, let's say) and do the cue in the order of look right, shoulders right, rein to left side of neck, left leg at girth (mostly same I do when I use two hands). She'll do a smooth turn, but will continue to arc right regardless of me having snapped back to neutral to go straight. I've tried dialing down on the "strength" of the signals and still she wants to go more than 90 degrees. I've had minimal success with giving her a "go left" signal just a bit before completing the right hand turn -- come to think of it, this probably reflects what I'm doing when riding two handed even though I'm not conscious of it.

    She is very much in front of my leg (well probably not overly so, but a heck of a lot more than the other horses I've been riding lately), so what you say about me "shouting" over corrections might be true. It's been a bit of experiment to figure out how to signal my intent without jumping her out of her tracks.

    Perhaps she was trained to do the "continue until otherwise directed" thing. She gets locked into that "whatever we did last" mind set -- it is glaringly obvious when I do large figure eights with her. She's not horribly keen to go the opposite turn, however gradual it is. Direct reining sort of forces the correct answer.

    Despite the above, I'm still putting 98% of this problem on me since I'm the clueless one-handed rider.



  10. #10
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    Re: your right turn.

    That was a very helpful explanation of the whole problem!

    I think your horse was taught the Western Cruise Control--- keep going until I ask for something different. Sometimes what this looks like is the person asks and then nails the horse if the response isn't prompt. Then the person does nothing, waits for the horse to stop doing the task and then nails it again. If your horse can take this kind of training, it makes 'em broke.

    How to change you to undo this? Get a juicebox; it's going to be long.

    0. You need to square up your body all the time, no matter what you are doing with your hands. "Take inventory" of how everything feels while you are riding successfully two-handed and then recreate those feelings in your shoulders, core, butt where ever you could fell 'em, while riding one handed.

    .5 IMO, your chronological order of aids needs some sprucing up. Look right, shoulders right... then add hips right (really, letting your hips follow your shoulders. Feel for a bit of inside sitting bone, but otherwise stay relaxed and as you were).... and then *you need to reverse the order of your hand and leg. Leg comes before hand. Hand is always very last.

    Here's the philosophy behind this chronological order. The point is to have the horse "answer" the first aid he can perceive (and takes seriously). So you start with the one you want in your very, very broke horse and add others---layering them on-- as back up.

    If you want a horse who goes "no hands"-- you use your hands last, but you had many aids to choose before your finally had to pick up the reins.

    Now you have a horse that you want to turn from your butt and not your leg? Ride from your body and consider leg (or leg and hand) a back up-- the way you'd use a whip as opposed to a "natural aid."

    1. Finally, onto your right turn. I don't think your problem is that your aids are too strong, but that they come to the horse too fast. You have to ask a horse a question at the speed he can answer. How to turn just 90 degrees and not more? Stop asking for the right turn earlier, before you get to 90 degrees. Then at the end of your turn, stop, take a breath and pet your horse.

    These "trained to say yessir, how high sir" are fun to ride at first because they are so responsive. But we actually make them dull (or just reactive and wiggly) if we give an aid... then it's correction... then the correction to the correction. The horse doesn't get a chance to "answer" anything and tell you that you use a softer aid next time, because he's too busy worrying about the next aid he has to answer. In short, the whole conversation went to o fast for the horse and never gave him a chance to participate. If the horse isn't participating-- thinking that he can train you to give him a softer and softer ride-- he won't improve.

    In your horse's case, the answer to "stop turning right" is not "start turning left." The answer comes from you. Your goal should be to ask how little and for how brief a time you can do something to get your horse to just turn right exactly 90 degrees. You might find that "looking to the right for two steps and then relaxing your gaze and looking nowhere" is your aid.
    The armchair saddler
    Politically Pro-Cat


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  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by mvp View Post
    How to change you to undo this? Get a juicebox; it's going to be long.
    Does coffee count?

    You need to square up your body all the time, no matter what you are doing with your hands.
    Another reason why I'd love to ride with a centered riding or biomechanics instructor sometime -- being an adult learner puts me at an "old body with ingrained bad posture" disadvantage. I do try my best to square as far as I can observe, but I'm not sure how close it is to reality.

    and then *you need to reverse the order of your hand and leg. Leg comes before hand. Hand is always very last.
    Thank you. I had been taking a top-down approach, but your explanation of a) determining what aid I really want her to to turn off of and b) using that as the first aid with the others as back up/the enforcement really makes sense.

    Stop asking for the right turn earlier, before you get to 90 degrees. Then at the end of your turn, stop, take a breath and pet your horse.
    .
    .
    .
    In short, the whole conversation went to o fast for the horse and never gave him a chance to participate.
    So I've been actually over riding her, which ends up with me needing to over ride her again on the correction, and off to the wiggles we go. I'm the obnoxious coworker that never lets you get a word in edgewise at a staff meeting and just rattles on and on about stupid and irrelevant stuff. Got it.

    Your goal should be to ask how little and for how brief a time you can do something to get your horse to just turn right exactly 90 degrees. You might find that "looking to the right for two steps and then relaxing your gaze and looking nowhere" is your aid.
    Gotcha (I think). So in this example, I should not be controlling the entire turn throughout the 90 degrees, I'm just make the initial suggestion that we go that way, then lay off and let her do it once she gets the idea that we're heading to the right?

    Wow, thank you so much, mvp! For most of my riding career it's been instruction along the lines of "ride a circle around that cone," but very seldom do I get "how to ride a circle around that cone." I'm left on my own to fill in all the holes in the swiss cheese. Tips like these makes up the "how".



  12. #12
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    mvp, just gotta say that was AWESOME.
    Proud member of the "I'm In My 20's and Hope to Be a Good Rider Someday" clique

    PONY'TUDE



  13. #13
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    I can't cut up quotes, so you are in bold, I'm in plaint font, all interspersed.

    [QUOTE=VaqueroToro;6876835]
    Another reason why I'd love to ride with a centered riding or biomechanics instructor sometime -- being an adult learner puts me at an "old body with ingrained bad posture" disadvantage. I do try my best to square as far as I can observe, but I'm not sure how close it is to reality.

    Choose whatever instructor has the language you can understand. It ain't philosophy or physics that will help you. Most of the time, it's learning body awareness. So whoever says the magic words that let your find your shoulder or sitting bone or heel or whatever is the right person. IME, the most talented, athletic, young *rider* is not that person. He/she naturally has the body awareness and skill that we are trying to learn. He/she might not have a whole lot of words that can help us because he/she was never forced to find them.

    Your well-broke horse is a huge teacher as well. In between lessons, we get biofeedback from our horses as we ride. How they go tells us how we are riding. Riding "slower" as I have described (waiting longer between corrections and for the particular answer you horse gives you to some aid) will do a lot to increase your body awareness. I think we have the same problems with the "fast ride" as the horse does: We can't feel a lot about what we did physically because we have moved on to the next thing, so we can't learn to repeat it.


    a) determining what aid I really want her to to turn off of and b) using that as the first aid with the others as back up/the enforcement really makes sense.

    IME, this is all that horse training amounts to at the very, very bottom of things.


    So I've been actually over riding her, which ends up with me needing to over ride her again on the correction, and off to the wiggles we go. I'm the obnoxious coworker that never lets you get a word in edgewise at a staff meeting and just rattles on and on about stupid and irrelevant stuff.

    Yes, you are over-riding her but it has more to do with the speed of your interaction with her than the "topics" of conversation.

    A conversation with a horse is like a tennis game-- players alternate. So you have to go at a speed that allows the horse to "say something." You can give more than one aid at once-- say, you turn your shoulders and pick up you hand in order to bend the horse. But if that doesn't work out, you stop and get "harder" with the part of the aid that the horse didn't hear until he answers it. Remember to hesitate to make the mouth your go-to fix.

    So in this example, I should not be controlling the entire turn throughout the 90 degrees, I'm just make the initial suggestion that we go that way, then lay off and let her do it once she gets the idea that we're heading to the right?

    Yes! It's a very kind way to ride a horse. You stop asking when it's clear that they know what you mean and are executing it. The rest, like finishing the turn, is the horse negotiating with physics. No need for you to keep yelling at him with your hand after he said "I heard you, and I'm getting it done ASAP."

    For most of my riding career it's been instruction along the lines of "ride a circle around that cone," but very seldom do I get "how to ride a circle around that cone." I'm left on my own to fill in all the holes in the swiss cheese. Tips like these makes up the "how".

    Yeah, the "how" and "what did I feel this time vs. last time" or "what happens if I add this aid or take away that aid"-- those are the things that should come with the "go do this or that."

    This is a PITA to read. It only makes sense of you have already thought a lot about training and riding. (But adult "theory heads" like me are good students of talk.) All this is to say that if you and I and your very broke mare were in the ring together, you'd have this figured out on 20 minutes.
    Last edited by mvp; Mar. 8, 2013 at 06:37 PM. Reason: Can't do fonts...or quotes or nothin.
    The armchair saddler
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  14. #14
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    Checking back in.....

    Quote Originally Posted by mvp View Post
    All this is to say that if you and I and your very broke mare were in the ring together, you'd have this figured out on 20 minutes.
    Do you live in central NY by any chance?

    I've been giving it a whirl in doing "give aid you want horse to move on (leg and head/eyes) and reinforce with others if needed (torso then neck rein), give her time to respond and repeat if necessary." It's still been spotty at best. Granted, I've only had a couple of practice sessions with it and one of them has been during a lesson....

    I'm also starting to think my internal idea of body neutral is anything but -- in my brief riding career, I've been on 6 or so horses with any regularity. I can't believe that all of them are particularly clumsy going counter clockwise and feel it necessary to drift inward off of the rail constantly....



  15. #15
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    Damn, where were you 4 years ago? I was in Ithaca, NY then. I could have got us coffees and come over.

    You might in fact be sitting on your mare crooked. Don't despair! There are a couple of ways to fix this.

    1. Ride figure 8s or several changes of direction and take inventory of your body in the good direction, then try to create the same feeling in the bad direction. Note any part of your body (and the horse's body) that you can feel in the good direction-- more sitting bone, skin on your thigh, shoulder, forearm, whatever. It doesn't matter so long as you have something you can recreate in the opposite direction.

    When you are going in the bad direction, don't settle for bad performance from you mare. Fix in you what you can feel might be wrong. Exaggerate it if you have to. See what she changes in response. If you really can't fix it, go back to the good direction and try to feel again.

    2. Know, too, that you can train a horse to accept whatever POS aid or bad riding you want (within reason). If you aren't *just perfect*, too bad for the horse. Follow up that aid with a harder one so that she knows that, however imperfect your are, she still has to do the same thing that a straight rider has asked for.

    This is a "within reason" thing. And it is harder with a horse who was broke to be sensitive to your weight. After all, someone previously asked with their weight and then kicked her a$$ if she didn't notice. So when you ride her crooked, you are telling her to do something.

    Since you feel clumsy riding to the left, slow that down for yourself. Get as even in your sitting bones as you can. Try to square up your shoulders (you may be dropping the left one). When you have your version of straight, get after her with your inside leg if she drifts in. She needs to know that whatever you are going with your butt and body, you do mean for her to stay out.

    This does work better if you have some eyes on the ground. It can be anyone who can see your posture, not a horse person. And a couple of other things (just trouble-shooting some common, hard to feel riding mistakes):

    When you try to find a sitting bone, you might want to scrunch up on that side. Instead, think about lengthening the distance between your hip bone and the bottom of your ribs on that side. Like reaching down for where your sitting bone meets the saddle, not trying to find it by putting more weight there. Same as if you were reaching for something on the ground off a tall bed--- except with your butt.

    Also, it can be hard to use your leg in all this. If we scrunch down to the inside, we get tight in that hip and lean over there. Horses find it hard to lift up that shoulder when we do that. So timing your aids matters here. Stay straight and if the evil horse drifts in, use your leg or even a whip.... *but do it briefly* so that you can go back to relaxed and neutral. If you start grinding on her with your leg, you'll screw up your body while doing it... and then you won't teach you or her to go from your seat.

    Let me know if this makes sense and hits or missed your problem.
    The armchair saddler
    Politically Pro-Cat


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  16. #16
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    Bah, I'd be about 40 min north of you if you were still in Ithaca. And to heck with coffee, Purity ice cream all the way!

    I think you hit the nail on the head about me sitting squirrelly in the saddle 'cause I feel it constantly, I just don't know how to fix it.

    Here's what my seat bones feel like even when people visualize me sitting square and even on a horse from multiple angles: imagine yourself sitting evenly on a bar stool with your legs on the rungs. Now scoot a bit to the right -- your right leg will hang a little longer than your left. Reaching the rungs with your left is a bit harder because the seat is further over into the meat (femur) of your leg instead of just under your seat bone.

    That above is what I feel 100% of the time which in turn makes my left leg nigh useless as an aid. Whenever I lose a stirrup if I ride with them long, it's on the left side and I have a bad habit of really toeing out on that side too. Attempting to correct that by scooting to the left to not feel so "short" on that side actually makes it feel like I'm going to completely fall off the horse to the left. It's not the saddle -- I've ridden in two saddles for a decent extent of time and I got this sensation in both.

    Perhaps I'm sitting with the right seatbone more forward and over instead of just over? Dropping both stirrups, stretching legs down (and back and forward), then taking them up again doesn't seem to solve it so it must be how my butt is in the saddle.



  17. #17
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    You aren't sitting with your hips fully "spread eagle." So your legs are coming out of your hip joints more like scissors, front to back. It's subtle and very common.

    You problem, then, isn't to scoot over to the left. It is to reorganize your left hip joint. Surest way to fix that is to lift your leg straight off the saddle, turn your toe forward, but do that by rotating your whole leg from the top. Imagine making your whole leg pigeon toed.

    When you lay it back down, your femur will come out of your hip in the right orientation. You might not feel the sitting bone at first. Think instead about having the inside of your thigh melt down around the horse. Try to feel for this only... then notice your sitting bones. You can also do this with your right leg (or both at once) so that you can compare the sides. At first, you will feel some stretch deep in your hip. Also, your hamstrings might get tired when you ride this way. Someone told me that a long time ago and it helped because I could feel that sign of sitting in the right, symmetrical position in my hips.

    When you start moving, or try to use that left leg, chance are that you will screw up the new hip configuration. You'll roll onto the back of your thigh, stick your toe out and grab with your heel. That's an exaggeration, but not with respect to the subtle new arrangement for that hip joint.

    It will take some time for this new position to become natural. Stop and reorganize often. Carry a whip on that side so that you don't have to use a lot of leg that will encourage you to fubar your hip to get the job done. Chances are, too, that you have made your mare a little dull to your leg on that side. Whether that's because the problem is between her ears, or because your leg said "life up your shoulder and go sideways" while your butt and body said "stiffen up and keep that shoulder low so that you don't fall over while I have my leg on," you need to reschool her to hear you when you are in that correct position.

    Yeah, Purity ice cream. Haven't thought about that stuff in a while.
    The armchair saddler
    Politically Pro-Cat


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  18. #18
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    *sigh*

    Thank you, mvp!

    The unfortunate thing is that this probably could have been fixed when I first started riding. Now it's become habit.

    I'll give it a go. I've only been riding her for a couple of weeks so I don't think I've warped her reality too much.



  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by VaqueroToro View Post
    *sigh*

    Thank you, mvp!

    The unfortunate thing is that this probably could have been fixed when I first started riding. Now it's become habit.

    I'll give it a go. I've only been riding her for a couple of weeks so I don't think I've warped her reality too much.
    If you have been riding this mare for a couple of weeks, AND if you have only been riding yourself for a couple of weeks, that's good news.

    1. The mare: She hasn't been conformed to your way of riding yet, so she can give you good biofeedback. If you listen, she'll tell you when you are more crooked or more straight.

    2. You: Getting unfit is great-- it's one of the few times you have the muscular blank slate you need. IME, it's hard to fix deep postural stuff because we use the same muscles all the time. Maybe you should take to your bed for a full two weeks, order room service and then start over. Someone should pay for this as it is necessary for your riding career.

    Don't despair about it being a bad habit. I know all about those. Now I look at it this way: If I'm going to go to the trouble of riding anyway, I might as well fix the broken stuff each time I'm on the horse. Otherwise, I'll get the same crap forever. And once you *do* fix this (which will involve getting much more body awareness), you never have to go back. You'll get this straightness for free, for the rest of your life. Totally worth it.
    The armchair saddler
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  20. #20
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    MVP, you have the gift of explanation - that was terrific!

    Vaquero - just a couple tidbits (and MVP might have mentioned them - haven't read complete thread):
    1. Regarding 'over-asking': think about driving your car. When you make a turn, do you hold the wheel in position until you have completed the turn? Or do you start the turn and then ease it into straight at about 45 degrees?
    2. Your head is directly connected to your seatbones. To test this absurd statement, find a wooden chair (hard flat seat) and sit up nice and tall, facing forward and looking forward. Feel the seat with your seatbones. Turn your head to 'look where you're going'. Feel the shift? I thought my dressage instructor was a nutjob when she told me that my turning my head EVER-SO-little (maybe 20 degrees (looking toward M from B-X quarterline) was causing a lead change. Until I went home and did the sit on hard chair thing. So try using just your eyes. They don't weigh as much. :-)
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