Before you get out there and saddle up your horse and take off to the nearest open field and settle into a nice canter so you can feel the wind through your hair, and the sound of hooves hitting the ground in a steady pace that seems to align perfectly with your breathing, and allow that exhilarating feeling of freedom to take over your soul in the way that only your 1,000 pound friend can do, you might want to consider implementing some good practices that will get you and your furry friend off to a great focused start with each ride you go on. There are a few practices that will get your horses mind on you, and take it off of every thing else.
To start, you should do a soundness check. Check for wolf teeth if you haven't done so. Check to see if they are full or gant, and if they have a bright or dull eye to see if they are feeling well.
Next, you can do these quick exercises before you hop on your horse.
1. Back: Ask the horse to back up for several steps. This will get their attention
2. Disengage hip:bring head towards stirrup to limber the neck and lock the inside leg. apply pressure at the hip until he steps his foot in front of his back foot. If he isn't listening, put some life in your body. Do a few circles to each side.
3. Disengage the Shoulder:come at him at the shoulder, and apply pressure if needed. Add life to your body, lift your arms. Do a few circles on each side.
4. Lower the head:swivel his head down until he responds to the pressure.
5. Bring head to cinch: Bring his head around to his cinch, and ask him to leave it for a second. This makes him focus. If he gives to pressure, that is one thing, but leaving it for a second is them demonstrating focus.
6. Lunge them in a few circles on a long rein:You might need something in your other hand. Be sure their head is in the circle toward you. Add life to your body, be active if you want them to be active. When you become inactive, so will the horse.
Ground Limbering exercises:
Tie head to rear D-ring with rein or a bungee. Ask the horse to move around until they start to follow their nose. Be sure to switch sides.
"Bit up the horse"This is a term used when you tie the reins back on the horse, teaching him to give to vertical pressure and break at the poll. For this Exercise, you can run your reins through the D on the cinch, over the saddle and tie them at the seat. This is a little harsh for the mouth, so I prefer to use bungee cords and a tie down or a bucket hanger or something to make it long enough. Run the strap/bungee concoction to the front D ring on the saddle. Be sure they are the same length, and that it brings the horses head perpendicular to the ground. You will want to do this in the round pen so the horse can move out both ways safely. If this is the first time you are doing this, let the horse stand there for a few minutes and get used to the idea. After the horse looks comfortable, ask him to move forward by driving from the hip.
Mounted Collection Exercises:
Once you mount the horse, check your hand and leg positions. Be sure you are level, your foot is level, you are up on your seat bone and then ask for the following:
Bend his head to the cinchfor lateral flex, and tip his nose down for some vertical flex.
Asking for lateral flex:Pull his head toward the cinch, and add a little pressure with the inside leg.
Asking for lateral and vertical flex:pull with your inside hand, and give a little pressure with your inside foot, and use your outside rein, held a little lower to ask him to tuck his nose. If he backs up, that is ok. He will stop eventually. Now try to move the head from side to side keeping the nose tucked. When his head is in the middle, you should have pressure on both reins. Remember pressure and release. If he gives his head, give some back. If you need to, do a back and forth with the reins. If he started backing, give him some pressure with your legs.