Western Dressage Exercise – Random Rails

To create better, smoother movement with our horses, we need to change their natural proprioception (DEFINE). Like us, horses move their bodies and limbs by utilizing a well-worn circuitry of nerves signaling muscles to fire. In order to create different movement—a more uphill lope, for example, or a smoother jog—we need to alter this ingrained pattern. Doing this frequently enough enables the horse’s movement to evolve by developing new circuitry in his nervous system and musculature.

A good way to do this is with an exercise I call Random Rails. This exercise works by shaking the horse out of his rut. It mixes up his usual patterns of footfalls and interrupts his muscle memory. I find this exercise to work especially well with horses that travel heavily on the forehand or like to get crooked and lean on one shoulder. It keeps these horses using their bodies more fully than just slogging around the arena using the same speed, length, and animation of stride as usual.

This exercise also allows us to school the horse with a gymnastic challenge that does not require repetitively drilling a certain pattern. The result is a more dynamic, constantly changing use of the horse’s body. Once you have motor neurons firing in a new way like this, you have opened the door to re-inventing your horse’s way of going.

There is no right or wrong way to ride Random Rails. The most important part is to be creative and keep your eyes up.

Random Rails

  1. Place 8-10 ground poles at random places around your arena facing in any direction whatsoever. They should look like a big gust of wind scattered them around.
  2. Maintaining a light contact with the horse’s mouth, begin in a working jog around the arena.
  3.  Ride over the poles in any order and from any direction using all combinations of turns, loops, circles, straight lines. Be creative. The only rule is to keep jogging.
  4. Rate your horse’s speed as needed. The goal is to keep a steady, unchanging rhythm.
  5. Ride for approximately five minutes over your rails. You may then wish to re-assemble them and ride for another five minutes.

 

 

Western Dressage Weekly Exercise – authored by Jec Ballou | Copyright © 2012

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