I want to piggy back off my last blog post, Why Are You Playing On Line? by expanding on the third reason, to prepare for something. For this blog, that is to prepare your horse to be soft and responsive to the reins when riding.
First, let me ask you a question. Which of the Seven Games are you using when you pick up your reins or put your leg on your horse to ask him to do something? Hint: It's the game that is all about yielding to a feel, steady pressure... The Porcupine Game! Without it you have no brakes, no steering, and no control or communication. Even if you took the bridle off, you would still expect your horse to respond to your seat and legs to go and whoa, turn left and right. Therefore, you need to have a solid Porcupine Game.
The last couple weeks I've noticed a lot of disconnect in students when it comes to preparing their horses On Line to be more responsive to the reins in the saddle. So, for this blog I want to focus specifically on improving your Porcupine Game in Zone 1 using the Circling Game. There are lots of different exercises you can do to get your horse light to the reins, this is just one idea.
We know that there are 3 parts to the Circling Game; the Send, the Allow, and the Bring Back. When done with the Porcupine Game the Send is a Direct Rein, the Allow is neutral, and the Bring Back is an Indirect Rein. You might be thinking, "I want to be able to play the Circling Game with slack in the rope and/or at Liberty!" I would say, you can and you should! However, the way to improve your horse's yield to the reins is by doing the Send and the Bring Back as a Porcupine Game. Your horse needs to be able to respond appropriately to pressure and this will help him translate what you're doing on the ground to the saddle. Ultimately, your horse should be able to yield both ways—with slack in the line/at Liberty using the Driving Game and with a steady feel using the Porcupine Game.
The Send talks to the front end of the horse by asking the nose and neck (Zones 1 and 2) to go onto the circle and the front feet to follow. A Direct Rein also speaks to the front of the horse by directly asking the front leg on the same side as the active rein to step over, following his Zone 1 and 2. Your hand position in the Send is the same during the Direct Rein when you're in the saddle.
In the Bring Back you're talking to the hind end of the horse, asking the hindquarters (Zone 4) to step over and yield. You bring the line across your body, fingernails up, just as you would from the saddle with an Indirect Rein, talking to the outside hind leg. This is why it's called an Indirect Rein because you're indirectly talking to the outside hind with the inside rein.
If your horse can't make sense of pressure from the ground it usually doesn't get any easier from the saddle. As you can see, by practicing these rein positions from the ground you can help your horse understand how to appropriately respond to pressure from the halter, preparing you both for a more successful ride under saddle.
Rather than walk you through a "how-to", I simply want to give you a little food for thought on one way you can incorporate exercises On Line that purposefully prepare you for riding.
If you're interested in learning more about using your rein positions in the Circling Game to prepare for riding, you can watch a video with Pat Parelli, read a detailed lesson with Directions, Tips, Troubleshooting, Pitfalls, and get a list of Objectives to complete to show your understanding of the task in the Savvy Club!
If you're already a member, log in to the Savvy Club and go to the Level 2 On Line Circling Game: Rein Positions in the Circling Game lesson.
If you're not a Savvy Club member and would like to be, sign up with my link!
What other games, patterns, or exercises can you think of that would allow you to practice your Direct and Indirect Reins On Line in preparation for riding? Comment below!