This guide is intended to be read in conjunction with Lateral Flexion 101 in the Resources Section, which explains the importance of this key skill in your training programme. For work in a halter, any well fitted halter will work but you may find the best results in a rope halter. We recommend that you always use a lead at least 12 ft long. Here are two basic exercises to start with.
In a halter: exercise 1
Standing by the side of your horse, facing his head, hold the lead about 12 inches from the halter.
Slowly close your hand around the lead until you have taken any slack out of the lead and apply a light pressure to your horse’s head.
Match, pound for pound or ounce for ounce, the resistance your horse gives you – do NOT try to pull the head towards you.
Concentrate on the feel down the lead rope.
The moment you think your horse has moved his head towards you IMMEDIATELY let go of the lead, open your hand and drop the rope.
Repeat this several times.
You'll notice that your horse bends a bit more each time and gets quicker in responding to the pressure from your hand.
It will only take a few tries (maybe between three and six) before your horse starts to understand.
Now go to the other side and repeat the process.
At the early stages of training, practise this every day.
This is illustrated below with pictures of Judith and Skooter.
Use a long soft rope....note that Skooter's in a pretty relaxed state, which is great for learning!
... hold the lead about 12" from the halter and take out the slack...
... match any resistance ounce for ounce, and the instant you get the required response...
... release and drop the rope.
In a halter: exercise 2
If your horse is comfortable with having ropes around it's body, you could also try this additional exercise.
Throw or pass the rope over your horse’s head, letting it rest over his withers.
Move the rope along the horse's back, allowing it to drop over his quarters – just above his hocks.
Apply some pressure - matching any resistance from your horse.
As your horse turns his head and starts to move around let him put slack into the lead rope.
Once there is slack in the rope start to back yourself away, drawing your horse to you.
Your horse will now be face onto you, let him step right to you and rub him.
This is illustrated below, again with Skooter.
Pass the rope over your horse's head...
... let it rest on the withers...
Move the rope along the horse's back and allow it to drop over the hocks...
Apply pressure and as the horse responds allow her to put slack into the rope...
... back away, drawing your horse to you...
... allow her to step towards you and when she gets to you reward her with a rub.
With your finger tips
You can also just use your finger tips on your horse’s nose bone to ask for flexion.
Just use pressure and release.
Experiment with different touches to different areas of your horse to get responses. How light can the touch be and how quickly can your horse respond?
This is illustrated below.
In a Snaffle
Fit your horse with a snaffle bridle with a chin strap and reins.
Use the same process as exercise 1 above.
However, don’t presume that because your horse responds well in a halter he will automatically know what to do in a bridle. There are different nerves involved.
Again repeat both sides and gradually build up the degree of flexion and suppleness.
It is possible to stand on the left side of the horse and reach across to flex your horse to the right – as long as he is not very tall and you are very short!