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Horse Training Tips and Techniques, Helpful Hints for Health Care;
Plus Business Advice on Making Your Career With Horses a Financial Success

By Don Blazer

          Nothing softens a horse faster than making him bend his neck so his head is both "down" and "in" while he moves in a straight line.

          For western riders, it's just called "bending" and for English riders it's called a shoulder-in.  The western rider usually bends the neck to a greater degree while not asking the shoulder to move much.  The English rider doesn't bend the neck quite so much, but wants the shoulder to move to the inside enough that the horse establishes a "three-track" path.

         No matter how much bend you ask for, the key is not to apply a constant rein pressure.  Bend the neck and ask the horse to continue is gait in a straight line.  For example if you are moving to the right, the head and neck will be bent to the right while the rider's right leg applies pressure to hold the horse from moving to the right.  The rider's left leg drives the horse forward.  The rider keeps the horse's neck bent by making a series of tugs and releases on the right rein.  The release is essential.  A steady pull on the rein will only result in the horse leaning on the bit.

         Practice the "down" and "in" at all three gaits and in both directions.

         The English horse will flex at the poll and improve his suppleness.

         The Western horse will bend at the withers, keeping his neck and head low, while improving his suppleness.

        Done with consistency, every horse will become softer and more responsive.

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