Sep 042014

Every since I started working with horses I have been fascinated with the daily in-hand work as practiced by Dominique Barbier, Neuno Olivera and Philippe Karl. Over the years I have developed my own techniques and methods – a bit simplified but effective for my level of practice.  Your mileage may vary.

The following video is a demonstration of the way my horse and I do our daily dance – work-in-hand. It is important to note that the prerequisites of ground work (Parelli, Braniman and others) are the foundations that make it possible to progress with work-in-hand.

I usually begin working with Cruzado the moment I collect him from his stall in the morning.  I expect his cooperation as I put the halter on, then turn him out to stretch his legs while I clean the stall and fill water buckets.  Then while I am grooming him I ask him to move about, offer legs for the hoof pick and in general cooperate.  In order to save time I tack him up before starting work-in-hand – and I will begin our ride right after our five (or so) minutes of in-hand work.

SORRY, Youtube lost this one. The link is to many others.

A lot is going on in this video. Notice that I try to keep in-step with the horse (synchronously).  Maintaining step with the horse will lead the horse to eventually try to keep in step with you – which is useful even from the saddle.  The outside rein is being used primarily to establish the angle – three or four track (or other angles).  I hold the outside rein across the saddle and down at the side near where my foot will fall when riding.  I use my thumb to encourage the angle if the rein isn’t working well enough – it varies day to day.  You might notice that I carry a dressage whip in the hand that holds the outside rein.  I use the whip to encourage energetic movement and as another method to maintain the angle.

I watch the footfalls to observe the angle.  For three tracks the inside hind should step into the track left by the outside fore.  Going left that means the right hind will step into the footprint of the right fore.  The  inside rein is used to maintain flexion of the jaw.  Maintaining mobility of the jaw contributes to a relaxed horse.  We work on flexions left and right as well as keeping the TMJ moving freely.  At least once during a trip down the wall I ask the horse to halt, back three steps, then proceed.  It works best for us if I use verbal cues – so I say things like WHOA and WALK, etc.  If he doesn’t respond to the verbal cue I initiate the halt with the outside rein – it is just what works for us.

At the end of the wall I turn the horse around and do the same thing from the other side.  It is very important to do all exercises in both directions.  Once again I ask for cooperation during the turn around.  Notice that when asking the horse to turn around I ask the horse to move – I don’t walk around him.  It’s just a bit of reinforcement that when I ask and he does.

After we finish both directions I usually ask for a trick so I can reward him.  It makes the exercise something he looks forward to  –  or at least doesn’t resist.

Then I do the same exercise from the saddle.  The only difference is that at the corner I don’t ask him to turn around but to continue on with the same bend – but doing haunches in along the new side.  The corner helps establidh the direction and the bend.  I’ll try to develop a video of the saddle portion later.

Here is a slightly different bit of instruction – from someone else – of beginning work-in-hand.

Have fun – and stay safe….  —   Dave

P.S.  Feel free to comment – constructive criticism and/or observations.  I’m no expert so cut me a little slack.  Of course, if watching my efforts has helped or inspired you – please comment.

Dec 092013

Click on the picture above for the video.

Internet Explorer users – play from Vimeo, below

Nov 242013

From October 12, 2013;
JP Giacomini

The important part of CC with young horses (in fact all horses) is where you put the weight of rider. The weight should be on the stirrup on the side of lead, to keep that foot (of the horse) grounded and guaranteeing the lead. The horse needs to be bent with the turn and eh rider pushes outward with each stride (but keeps turning his/her hips with teh turn.) Any action on teh rein in the turn (either pulling on the inside rein of the turn, or using too much outside rein) will unbalance the horse and make him change.

This kind of CC with weight outside of turn is very beneficial to horse: it lenghtens the horse on the side of the lead and teaches him balance.

May 202013

As a goal and a fitness check – I signed up for the Richard Winters clinic at Anita’s on May 25 and 26.  We will be riding three hours in the morning and another three hours in the afternoon both days.  WHEW !!!

Apr 292013

Back in the saddle again.
Notice ALL the safety gear, western saddle, tapaderos, helmet and inflatable vest (it blows up as soon as I accidently leave the saddle). We rode under the shade of the cottonwood trees this morning – along the levee of the Mokelumne river. AHHH, Life is good!

Apr 152013


Its the middle April and I am looking forward to getting Cruzie back. He has been in training with Anita Dayton (KISS Horses) since my accident. Today I groomed him and worked him in the round pen for a few minutes. Tuesday I work to get the trailer ready (and his stall) and Wednesday I will bring him back to the ranch.

My vest is due to arrive Thursday and I should have a saddle on him by Friday – though I’m sure it will be into next week before we REALLY do any riding (limited to western saddle and the covered arena for a while while my ribs heal better).

Mar 262013

CruzieOn March 2, 2013 I fell off my horse and was injured.  I really don’t know what happened; one moment I was sitting in the saddle while Cruzie ate grass and the next I was flat on the ground – while Cruzie ate grass a few feet away.  Linda was right there and she took me to the hospital where I was admitted with four ribs broken in six places – and a collapsed lung.

ScanAfter two and half weeks I was sent home to recover and wait out the six or eight weeks for the rib breaks to heal.  I’m looking forward to being out and about by the middle of April.

Jan 212013

The benefits of trot poles and cavaletti are well documented, but I never used them until I signed up for some internet coaching from Jec Ballou.  Jec helped me establish the proper spacing for Cruzado – about 50 inches center to center.  I used the poles in the dressage arena for a while but grew tired of moving them to the side after each ride.  I located a good (semi) permanent location and placed them in half cinder blocks so they would stay where they were put.

I put them in a rather uneven field so we wouldn’t get dependent on good footing.  The system seems to work fine – though not many of the other “dressage” horses use them. The idea is to exercise the horse – getting a more lively leg action and clean strides as he passes over the poles.


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