One of the most exciting parts of a reining pattern, both in performing and for spectators is the running and stopping. But it is also one of the parts of the pattern where you see horses start to anticipate the maneuver and not be true or correct for the rider. You will see horses accelerate too much too early running down the arena, start slowing down or stopping too early, not stay straight while running or stopping
or generally not stay under the full guide of the rider. In order to help minimize these and keep our horses more honest there are exercises we can do.
As part of our training program we lope and run a lot of rectangles along the lines we would normally run and stop on. Rundowns up the side of the arena should be between and quarter and third of the way across the arena. Doing the rectangles is to keep the horse connected to us and make sure he is listening to us as the rider and not just on autopilot. You can see from diagram 1 the basic rectangle with arrows showing loping in a right direction. It will work the same in the left direction. The dotted lines show alternative travel paths. By mixing it up your horse does not know where you are going to go and will learn to wait for you. Changes in path should not be done in a jerky fashion but you should pick up slowly and get control of your horses body and move it onto the new path. This is done both slow and at speed.
In deciding as to which path to take you need to listen to you horse. If he is pushing left, go right and vica versa. You can bring in variety to the exercise by counter cantering the rectangle. If you are going to go on a circle off the line of the rectangle in the direction opposite to the lead you are on, you do so on the counter lead. You pick up on your horse, soften his face, slow down by controlling his body and then redirect with control over the body. This is about being inside your horses head and having him wait for you while running down the arena rather than running you down the arena.
When you are following the rectangle around the corners at the ends, you should make these corners square by controlling the shoulders. This gets the horse straight when facing down the arena. If you make this a curve, your horses body will be arced when facing down the arena. If you speed him up in this position he will push to the outside. Your horses body needs to be straight before speeding up going down the arena.
Sometimes when running down the arena, rather than going right or left at the fence, you can just go straight into the fence and stop. This exercise is about the horse being relaxed when going slow and at speed and totally listening to you as the rider. These exercises hopefully help keep your horse honest in his run downs to the stops. I introduce them to horses when they are young before they are ever shown to hopefully minimize development of these issues. I hope these exercises help your horses rundowns. Until next month, ride, slide, run rectangles and have fun.