California 5 year old RMHxPP, just started saddle work, ridden in a PP Bozal - 2' wide round and a in a arena sized corral, round pen coming... by a  med. experienced rider, but new at training.

 Question: My mare was started (round pen trained & about 9 rides) at four and then left alone to have a foal.  Since both joined our life this summer, I have been doing basic
ground work.  But she is bored with this alone, so we have started under saddle again--4 rides so far in the arena sized corral. 

She starts and stops better each time. And she is really flexible and responsive.  My problem is when I ask her to turn, she keeps on turning.  Or once she stops turning she
continues meanders on whatever path she likes.  She just doesn't understand to stop turning and then go straight until asked to do something else. 

I am new at training and I don't want to confuse her by pulling one side then the other to get her to go straight.  Exactly what cues can I use to show her what I mean?  (So
far I have not been able to find a good natural trainer locally (Sacramento/Ione area) to help train both of us.) 

From Panelist Laura

Since you are both fairly new to this - you will have to work on giving your 
horse very clear messages.  She doesn't know to straighten out once you are 
done turning.  You will have to use your reins to straighten her out and keep 
her from meandering from side to side.  You are probably over-turning her 
without realizing it.  Use very light pulls with your fingertips on the reins 
and keep doing small, gentle pulls from side to side as she first goes one 
way and then the other.  It is not some type of failure to have to keep 
correcting her.  Much of training is constant, gentle correction until the 
horse figures out what she is supposed to do (such as walking forward in a 
straight line).  When she is walking in a straight line, praise her and be 
sure you are not pulling on either rein (don't use your reins for balance). 
Her reward is getting out of her mouth (not pulling on her) and the praise 
for a job well done.

Keep a positive outlook - training is fun - and realize that you have to 
teach her to walk straight, she won't just do it on her own. 


From Panelist Lee

It sounds as if you are using only your reins to turn her?  Learning right,
left, go straight, stop are some of the more important lessons of a horse's
life.  To teach these things, you have to be very simple and direct in your
cues, and use both your legs and your reins (as well as your seat).  Ask her
to turn right by pressing with your left leg against her side, just where it
hangs in the stirrup, and lightly "leading" her to the right by pulling out
and to the side with your right rein, while very slightly weighting your
right seatbone.  Slack off the pull on the rein the instant she starts the
turn.  (don't keep telling her to turn with the rein unless you want a
circle), and stop using the weight and leg cues as you begin to ask her to
straighten out.  If she wants to keep turning,  press with your right leg
against her side, again, just where it hangs in the stirrup, sit straight in
the saddle (weight not to either side) and if necessary, take a little light
contact with the left rein to ask her to go straight.  Release any leg
pressure as soon as she goes straight.

Most green horses take a while to learn to go in a straight line -- they
need help to "aim" them with reins, seat and legs.  You won't be confusing
the horse if you tell her to stop turning by a light use of the opposite
rein to keep her from continuing on a curve.  After a few more lessons, she
will feel less like "pushing a cooked noodle" and will understand that your
legs and hands (reins) are a guide for where she is to go.

Good luck with your horse.  You may need to send her to a trainer to get a
little more of the "green" worn off before you do much riding with her, if
she is as unsure as she sounds.

Lee Ziegler

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