by Paul Burdziakowski
On Nov. 11 the 54th annual Equine Affaire at the Eastern States Exposition in West Springfield, MA, was the setting for an informative horsemanship clinic which was held by Jonathan Field, a gifted teacher, presenter and horseman with a passion to give back to the world of horses by sharing what he has learned from them over the years.
Field’s knowledge of horses began early on in his youth but it really took off following a tragic injury that he suffered to his arm. The accident occurred when he was away from horses working with his family’s water well drilling company. During his recovery period Field went back to his first love of horses and rededicated himself to learn as much as he could about horsemanship. Field began reading books, watching horsemanship videos, attending clinics and studying the works of other accomplished horsemen. Over the next 10 years Field continued to study closely with a number of top instructors, learning their methods and listening to their ideas before gradually applying these methods with his own horses. Field and his training methods eventually became featured in major equestrian magazines throughout the U.S. as well as on national television. Today he coaches, mentors and shares his knowledge with thousands of people at clinics around the country.
During the clinic in West Springfield, Field provided tools and ideas on how to develop a great riding horse. According to Field the first thing that a rider should take notice about their horse during the ride is where the horse’s attention is. If the head goes up and the ears go out that is a cue that there is a disconnect between the horse and rider. When this happens it is up to the rider to get the horses’ attention back by being a leader.
Field said you should start by pulling on the reins or tapping the animal’s side with your foot. Have a strong intent and focus and push the horse a little. This can be as simple as making a figure eight or several small circles. You are looking for that subtle change when the horse comes back a bit and you have his ears on you and the head is more level with the body rather than upright. As soon as your horse drops the head a little and you sense that he has reconnected with you relax the reins and go back to neutral. The idea is that as the horse softens you soften in order to give it a feeling of comfort.
Another thing you can do to regain your horses attention is to press your leg against the animal and pull on the inside rein in order to cross the horses back legs over and back it up a bit. Pull on the rein until his ear comes back to you and you can see that the horse is looking back at you.
You can use the same concept when it comes to riding the actual path. The idea here is that when your horse seems anxious or headed in the wrong direction you should steer it where you want to go and push the animal like you are underway somewhere. You will be changing the pace from a walk to a trot until the horse is back to where you want it to be. Only then should you provide a little comfort by and relaxing the reins and going back to a walk. The rule here is to provide some discomfort to the horse when it is off the path and provide ease when the animal is back on the right path.
Field also explained the uses of a direct and indirect reign during a ride. According to Field both reining techniques are considered active reins because the rider is doing something active in their seat such as pushing their leg against the horse while turning it. A direct rein is the use of a rein in such a way that tension is placed on the bit and moves the horse’s head toward the direction that you want the animal to go in. An indirect rein is the use of a rein in such a way that it is pressed against a horse’s neck on the side opposite the direction in which it is required to move. Another big difference between the two is that a direct rein will move the horse’s front quarters while the indirect rein will move the horse’s hindquarters.
A direct rein can be used for horses at all stages of training and can be safely used at either a slow gait or a high rate of speed. This particular rein is considered to be the rider’s primary rein aid and is most commonly used for basic bending, turns and circles. It can even be used to give direction to a horse that is jumping an object in midair.
To perform a direct rein begin by holding a rein in each hand. Make sure you have enough contact so you can feel the weight of your horse’s mouth at the end of each rein. If you want to turn your horse to the left bring your left hand back toward your hip. Be sure not to raise your left hand or drop it down toward your thigh because it will disrupt the straight line from the bit to your elbow. In a direct rein the neck stays straight and so does the elbow. If you bend your elbow the horse will bend its neck. As your horse tips his nose to the left and begins to bend through its neck to the left, press with your outside (right) leg behind the girth or cinch. The added leg pressure will push your horse’s body around the turn and encourage his body to follow his nose.
An indirect rein is used for holding a horse out on a circle or into a turn. It is also used to position and balance the horse for more advanced lateral movements such as a half pass in which the horse moves forward and sideways at the same time.
To perform an indirect rein bring the rein into contact with the horse’s neck and inside corner of the mouth with one hand toward the desired direction of movement. The horse should bend slightly to the inside while the neck and shoulders move away from the rein pressure. The rider’s hand should not cross the horse’s mane while performing this technique because any unnecessary pressure to the mouth could cause the horse become unbalanced.
For more information on Jonathan Field including his upcoming events and additional horsemanship techniques visit his website at https://jonathanfieldhorsemanship.net .
The next steps to a great riding horse
by Paul Burdziakowski