Controlled Cruising Exercise

Clinton Anderson from Downunder Horsemanship has a method for training horses. He believes that getting horses to behave is simple; it’s training people that’s the real trick. Join him as he tackles some of the most challenging situations with problem horses and problem owners. This week, we’ll watch as Clinton shows us how to perform an exercise called Controlled Cruising.

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The Controlled Cruising exercise is basically like the Cruising Lesson that Clinton has previously demonstrated in the arena, where you work to get the horse to maintain the gait and speed you set him at. In that exercise, you do not steer the horse. You focus only on getting him to go the speed that you ask him to go. When you ask him to trot, he trots. When it’s time to lope, you lope, and the horse is responsible for maintaining his own gait. With Controlled Cruising, Clinton tells us that we’re not going to just let the horse go randomly anywhere he wants to like in the Cruising Lesson.

Just as the name sounds, Controlled Cruising is about controlling where the horse goes. To show us this exercise, Clinton works on a dirt path. It’s about a five-acre tree area with a road around the outside. It’s built like a rectangle so that he can choose his direction and include a few crisscross-like diagonals. This involves doing the Diagonal Exercise that Clinton teaches in his Fundamentals class inside of the arena, except now it’s being done outside. The goal is to do this exercise at the trot and the canter.

Clinton goes ahead and does it so that he can show his viewers what they need to do. He assures us that we need to make sure the horse is in a nice cadence, that he’s loping and relaxed. If you have to push your horse to go forward a little bit more outside of the arena, that’s OK. You’d rather have a horse that’s a tad lazier when you want than a horse that’s wanting to speed up more than you’re comfortable with.

Work up a good speed then cut across and go diagonal, just like you would in the arena. Clinton’s horse Diez starts to speed up a little when Clinton turns him in the direction toward the barn. That’s normal for horses to do. After you do a couple of laps, your horse will give that up and stop being drawn to those types of “magnets.” It’s OK at first because they’ll naturally speed up slightly towards wherever the barn or their pasture bodies are. Clinton tells us not to worry about what lead the horse is on and instead just focus on making sure the horse is relaxed, has a good cadence to his feet, and is staying in a straight line.

People want their horses to lope slowly, but they don’t realize the only way to get a horse to lope slowly and have good cadence in his feet is to put steady miles under his feet. Keep practicing until you notice your horse relaxing and developing a rhythm and then practice some more. Your training should be ongoing and consistent if you want to see a difference.

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