Sagebrushes and collection

Do you know the sagebrush story Buck Brannaman often tells at his clinics? He lets his students ride small circles around the sagebrushes on his property and wants the brushes marked by neat trails of hoofprints at the end of the exercise. It helps the horse to find balance and collection - and the rider to work his way through a tiring yet useful exercise.

Well, I played around with it lately and I found that you as well can apply it as a groundwork exercise. Instead of sagebrushes (as I don't live in a climate where they grow) I used two cones and put them as wide apart as front- and backlegs of my horse. It‘s like a figure 8 pattern but closer together so the horse doesn‘t have to walk that much. Therefore it‘s helpful if he knows the figure 8 as with the cones closer together he needs to be quicker to sort his legs (and you too by the way as you steer him around the cones). My horse had trouble to actually circle the cones - he would rather sidepass over them to avoid the bend in his body. 

Photo courtesy"
A sagebrush or a training tool? Photo courtesy

But I could help him by changing where I stood so it became clear for him what he was supposed to do. 

What I really liked about this exercise: With the cones so close together in order to walk a smooth 8 the horse needs to plan ahead where to best put his feet. You additionally ask for a certain speed and a certain softness on the rope - I want him to follow the suggestion of the rope and walk along with it. I don‘t want to have to pull on the rope to make him come closer and I don‘t want to whirl the end of the rope to drive him away. 
As soon as he understood what I wanted, he started to become lighter on the rope (as he knew where I would direct him) plus he chose more carefully where he planted his feet

So with this simple figure 8 you engage both - the horse‘s mind and the horse‘s body. That is the prerequisite for collection - I could already tell that my horse was stepping further under his body with his hindlegs to gain better balance in the turns. He was slower to put his front feet down (I could actually tell him with the rope where and when to step) which means that he carries himself with the hind legs and does not fall on his shoulder.

So you can work on your collection with such a simple exercise that makes sense to your horse (as opposed to holding back on the reins and at the same time trying to run the hind legs under the body). 

1 comment:

  1. I forgot: Another great thing about this exercise is that you train both sides of your horse as he is supposed to bend around the brushes in each direction. You help him to become subtle through his body.