Liberty – Change of direction
Change of direction at liberty is a fun way to keep things interesting for your horse and also a strategy to help your horse to learn to maintain gait if they keep breaking it.
Make sure that your change of direction on line is really good before trying it at liberty – Remember from April’s savvy tip on starting liberty, that you should have as a mantra “teach on line, test at liberty, fix on line”.
Trot is the best gait to start with. Another tip from last months post, was to hold a ‘pretend” line. This would be a good thing to do in this
exercise until you have it in your muscle memory! A common thing I see when teaching is that the human gets a bit impulsive and asks for the draw a bit too soon. Wait until the horse has passed in front of you and his nose is at your shoulder. Then turn in the direction he is moving, catch his eye and run straight backwards – don’t turn or spiral. As your horse turns and changes direction, keep your eyes on X, go straight back there and go back to neutral – this will take the pressure off him and let him know he did the right thing. Then remember to allow him to continue on the circle as a “neutral” to reward him. The harder it was to get the change of direction. the longer you should leave him alone and allow afterwards.
Another common mistake I observe, is that the human disengages the horses to get the draw. Disengaging will cause a break of gait so the horse cannot maintain the trot or
canter ( so flying leads will be tricky!) and also you are “lying” to your horse who has been taught that a disengage means “game over, come in”.
Worth remembering too, that the horse may not change direction due to unconfidence. They can’t look at you with two eyes or they are defensive about the other side of their body. It’s not always a misunderstanding or “naughty” issue.