Lateral flexion for your horse is an exercise that has many benefits for any equine owner. Flexing creates softness in your horse as well as helps your horse gain balance and gives muscles a chance to relax. This exercise is easy to perform and benefits your horse at any age. Chiropractors believe flexing will keep your horse flexible and soft as well as giving you something to do with your horse at any age.
Here at Rafter M Training Stables it is the most important teaching element that we perform. This creates a horse that is calmer, safer and gives you a one rein stop in any situation that becomes dangerous when riding. The one rein stop can shut down any behavior that is unacceptable to the handler. Even when you are riding and your horse spooks, or if you drop a rein, your horse decides to rear, buck or tries to run off you have your emergence brake in the one rein stop. As well as if your horses gait is hard to regulate in term of speed this one rein stop is effective in helping you control the unwanted behavior.
When first teaching the lateral flexion you will start on the ground. You will bring the horses head to its side starting with just a small amount of flex and moving to larger and larger flex until you have your horses head touching its side. Then you will go to the other side and begin again. This exercise helps the horse focus on you and bringing its mind to focus on what you want to do. In most cases this might cause just a bit of resistance the first time you ask for him to flex. Stay with it until you have a smooth flex with just a small amount of pressure on your lead rope. The next step after mastering the flex each time before you mount your horse flex him. Each time you mount your horse you will again flex your horse. Flexing supposed to be accomplished without the horse moving his feet. After mounting and before your horse takes a step you will want your horse to willingly lateral flex his neck in both directions.
Being able to laterally flex at any given time will keep a horse from stiff necking and taking the bit from you and running away with you. A horse cannot rear or buck in the flex position giving you control of the horses feet. Should you only do one thing that we suggest this is the most important exercise to incorporate into your training techniques.
We also laterally flex with forward motion, this is not a complete touch the side flex. Flexing a partial flex which still allows the horse to move the feet in a forward motion. This gives your horse softness in his neck and rounds the back to give you softness in your horse. Flexing also a good exercise to practice with your horse. Being able to move in this position gives you a better handle on your horse as well as teaching balance to your horse. The next step after mastering the flex first riding your horse you have to allow him to find his feet so to speak. The horse has to learn how to travel and hold your weight. This takes a horse a few rides to get used to your weight on him and learn to travel without hollowing out his back causing stiffness in your ride.
The horse uses his neck and tail to balance, creating a softness in the horse by lateral flexion creates a rounded back that will allow a softer foot fall on the ground. Thus, giving you a smoother ride as well as a better balanced horse. Keeping the head and neck with a slight curve in the neck brings his face in a more vertical position giving the horse a rounder back and a better position for you to move your horse in the direction that you are asking. Horses that are stiff are an unwilling horse. Your horse is not in a position to learn until it is soft. Horses that are stiff horse is telling you he is uncomfortable and he is not ready to go on to the next step. A soft horse is focusing on you and is willing to do what you are asking of him. Flexing the goal of lateral flexion. Master the lateral flex and you will be one step closer to the horse you want to create! Simply put you will not have the agility you want if you are not putting in the hours of flexing your horse. Flexing not a one time exercise it is part of your every day, every ride routine. Before you exercise would you want to start out without stretching? Of course not, and neither does your horse. Flexing is stretching for your horse, a warm up and it is gaining control before you have ever gotten on your horse. There are many advanced exercises with lateral flexion that will come with time like laterally flexing with forward motion and flexion while backing. These are things that will enhance your horse as well as giving you more and more control over the horses feet. Which is the goal of any rider, controlling the feet thus controlling each part of the horses movements.
Feel free to leave comments or to give other flexion exercises that you do with your more advanced horses. People enjoy reading how to help their horse become a better partner.