How to get your horse focused and relaxed before sitting in the saddle

Click on the video to see how to use bending at the walk for increased focus and relaxation.

How many times have you tacked up and then hopped onto your horse? No hand walking. No groundwork. No taking the time to get your horse’s attention.

It’s easy to do. You’re in a hurry to get down to work… or fun.

But, you’re missing out on setting the two of you up for success and potentially making the entire ride more enjoyable.

Bending on a circle: a simple groundwork exercise that makes your horse feel like Jello but tuned into your every move.

I asked my friend and dressage trainer, Becky Seizert, to show you a groundwork exercise that she uses routinely to help her horses focus and relax.

Why is bending on a circle from the ground so important?

When you do this exercise you’ll find that you’re able to:

#1: Get your horse to focus on you instead of everything else in the arena

Both Becky and I are huge fans of doing groundwork with horses before riding. The biggest reason has to do with the fact that if the horse isn’t listening to you on the ground the odds of him listening to you under saddle are worse. Taking the time to get your horse’s attention by asking him to do something – move away from you, bend while walking – while on the ground sets a positive precedent.

#2: Find potential problems without troubleshooting in the saddle

The simple act of having your horse bend and walk around you gives you the opportunity to see how he’s moving in each direction. If you’re noticing any reluctance to go forward, stiffness, or shortness of stride, your horse may have some muscle tightness or soreness that will affect your ride.

#3: Help your horse relieve tension

As you continue to ask your horse to bend and push his inner hind leg under his body, he will start to relax along his topline. You’ll know the exercise is working once your horse drops his head and moves forward easily on his own.

All you need is a halter, lead rope, and a little bit of patience.

How long do you need to spend working your horse on a circle? That depends on how your horse feels physically and mentally that day. You may find that a couple of minutes is all it takes to get your horse listening and moving easily. Or, you may need to stay on that circle for longer to help your horse’s muscles relax and get his head in the game.

Make sure to watch the video. Then let us know what you think.

Let me know if you found the video and post helpful. And, make sure to follow Drassal Equine Bodywork on…