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by Downunder Horsemanship

Training Tip: Take Bending at the Walk to the Next Level

If you’re working toward getting your horse soft and supple throughout his body with the goal of achieving collection at all three gaits, the Intermediate exercise Bending With Vertical is an important stepping stone in your training program.

I introduce this exercise toward the end of the Intermediate Series because it’s important that your horse is soft laterally before beginning it. Each of the exercises that lead up to it prepare the horse to understand what you’re asking him to do and to execute the maneuver.

Up until this point in the Method, you’ll only have worked on vertical flexion while the horse was completely straight from his nose to his tail. You’ll have done this in exercises such as Vertical Flexion at the Standstill and Vertical Flexion at the Walk and Trot. Bending With Vertical will start to teach the horse how to tuck his nose in and soften while his head and neck are bent, which will help you get a lot more control of his poll.

What You’re Looking For
The goal of this exercise is to get the horse to walk forward and around in a small circle while bending around your inside leg and keeping his nose tipped in laterally as well as vertically. Ideally, his nose should be softening toward the point of his shoulder. The horse should be very soft and supple through his whole body from his nose to his tail with his hind end stepping up underneath him and his shoulders following his nose on the circle.

Why It’s Important to Take This Next Step
Practicing this exercise will help when you start doing circles and spins and asking the horse to collect because he’s going to have to tuck his nose in and shape his body laterally at the same time. If there’s any stiffness in the horse, it is going to show up dramatically when you start doing more advanced maneuvers.

Get step-by-step directions to teach your horse the exercise, as well as troubleshooting advice and mistakes to avoid, in the Intermediate Series.