Episode 77: Add planning and refinement to your riding: circles, straight & cues

Ep 77: How does planning help set your horse up for success? How do the layers of training build into a more refined cue system? These topics and more come up as I answer the two following questions.

Question 1: I loved the pattern you shared on Episode 70, Riding Circles within Circles. I felt a huge difference in my horses and myself within 10 minutes…Are there any other patterns you can share with us and what you would use them to accomplish? Second, with a high school level horse, do you still ride these patterns? And if so, how much of your ride time is spent on patterns or versus concentrating training vs. trail riding?

Question 2: I’d like to know more about the hug cue. My horse has improved but is smart and is anticipating. He is slowing down too much… I’m wondering if I could use it as also to go forward a bit faster.

Click to see show notes

[00:00:03] Podcasting from a little cabin on a hill. This is the Stacy Westfall podcast. Stacy’s goal is simple to teach you to understand why horses do what they do, as well as the action steps for creating clear, confident communication with your horses.

[00:00:22] Hi, I’m Stacy Westfall, and I’m here to teach you how to understand, enjoy and successfully train your own horses during this season of the podcast. I’m answering questions that have been called in on my voicemail line over on my Web site.

[00:00:39] If you’re new to the podcast, this is season seven. And the theme for this season is Q&A. Past seasons have included topics such as the rider’s mind, the rider’s body, the horses mind, the horses body, equipment and more, just like great horse training. Many of these podcast layer ideas on top of other ideas. So please consider searching the back episodes for topics that you’re interested in. Today, I’m answering two questions that both refer back to Episode 70 of this podcast. In that podcast, I referenced a video on my YouTube channel called Circles Inside of Circles, where I demonstrated riding for 10 meter circles inside of one large 20 meter circle. And I’ll link to that at the end of this episode over on my Web site. Or you can find it on my YouTube channel, which is Stacy, Westfall. Let’s listen to the first question from Shelby.

[00:01:40] Stacy. My name is Shelby. I just got done riding a few of my horses and I wanted to call you up and tell you how much I loved the pattern you shared on Episode 70, Riding Circles within Circles. I felt a huge difference in my horses and myself within 10 minutes that allowed me to slow myself down, relax and ride more quietly. Every other minute I would notice that my back was tense or my arms were tight and I was able to correct it. I typically have trouble getting my horses to maintain a slow, relaxed cadence, but with this pattern. Not once did I have to ask my horse to slow down. Instead, I actually got to push them with a little more leg to keep them in the gate. I would consider the horses I ride to be in high school. However, I know we have some holes in our program. I have two questions for you today. First, are there any other patterns you can share with us and what you would use them to accomplish? Second, with a high school level horse, do you still ride these patterns? And if so, how much of your ride time is spent on patterns or versus concentrating training vs. trail riding? I’d also like to say thank you so much for all the information you shared and the inspiration you give me. Listening to your podcast helped me show up to my ride with positivity, a clear head and a realistic goal. Thanks again. Happy trails.

[00:03:04] Shelby, you are very welcome. And thank you so much for the feedback. It means a lot to me to know that you’ve benefited from both the podcast and the YouTube video, but really, you’re the one that’s going out and doing the work. So kudos to you for putting in the effort. And thank you for the feedback because I can bounce you some more information. So let’s go to one of your questions. First one, any other patterns? This was kind of funny because, yes, on the surface, I was like tons of other patterns. And then that got me thinking about how I ride. And I went out and I’m riding my horses and I’m thinking everything is circles and straight lines.

[00:03:47] Always so many combinations of this. But in my mind, everywhere I go, it’s an arc of some version of a circle. So there’s an arc and a straight line. And that is all of my riding, which is sort of obvious and yet sort of like overwhelmingly complicated at the same time. At least that’s how it strikes me. So I really do at this point. Every time I ride, that is how it feels. So let me just give you one other pattern here.

[00:04:21] And it’s very similar to the circles inside circles, except now we’re going to add. Wait for it. Straight lines. So this since everything I do is a circle or a straight line, the arena that I ride in regularly is about the same size as a standard dressage arena. So my indoor, the big part that I ride in most of the time, is 70 feet wide and 200 feet long. And so when I’m doing this next pattern, it takes a little more space than the circles inside circles. But you can obviously modify it depending on where you are. So what I’ll do is because that’s about it’s about 20 meters wide.

[00:05:03] So that means that I can do 10 to 10 meter circles side by side. That would be in the center line of my arena. So what I will do is I will ride around the outside of the arena. So I’m essentially riding around that outside rectangle. But every time I come to one of the dressage letters, I do a 10 meter circle. So I get to do lots of 10 meter circles. But they are connected by these straight lines that go down the wall. Now, when I say down the wall, I should also mention that I never truly follow exactly the wall. I want to stay, you know, six inches a foot. I want to stay off the wall just enough to know that I’m actually training the horse vs. the horse, just leaning against the wall. Obviously not physically leaning against the wall. But if you just ride along the wall, it can become a hindrance, meaning that let’s say you’re going counterclockwise around. So your left side as to the inside of the circle or the arena, if you’re constantly just pushing the horse out along the wall, something that you can get into the habit of doing is your inside leg could be holding that horse out. But the thing that’s holding the horse in is the wall, as opposed to any of your outside aides in. You’re going to know that a lot. You’ll notice that a lot more when you come away from the wall. But realistically, the wall could be contributing to this problem.

[00:06:33] So I’m in the habit of staying a little bit off the wall so that I don’t have that habit of keeping the horse right up against the wall. Just keep that in mind. So basically what I’m doing is I’m going down the wall, staying, you know, let’s just say where I’m staying a foot in from the wall straight line. So I get to use all of my aides inside, Rein,, outside Rein,, inside leg, outside leg and seat and everything else is involved. But we’re just gonna talk about this for and I’m going to go straight. And then when I get to that next letter, I’m going to make a 10 meter circle. So the reason that I really love any pattern, first of all, is because I need a plan if I’m going to ride Really. Precisely. And since my goal is to keep advancing myself and my horses, then what I’m looking for is I want to have a finely tuned horse. You know, I want one that just feels like an extension of my body that is so cool when it happens. And I’m feeling that happen on Willow so much now, it’s just really fun to be able to get that finely tuned horse I need to ride precisely. I’m only going to ride precisely if I have a plan. And so that precision starts with geometry and some of this when you’re beginning in the early stages of riding. I remember not understanding that the way I steered my horse could throw a horse off balance.

[00:08:03] So if you’re just going along, let’s just say you’re riding straight down the middle of the arena and you want to take a turn to the left. You can turn a horse so quickly that it loses its balance. Now, it’s not going to lose its balance and fall down, which I think is when I say lose its balance. The the very rough version of that, the very crude illustration in somebodies mind who didn’t know horses very well would probably be like, oh, they’re going to trip, lose their balance or fall down, lose their balance. But the higher level you ride, the more you can understand that losing their balance can just mean something simply like they can’t collect enough to make that turn. So they do maybe shorten up. And it has instead of a true stumble, it has an inconsistency. It breaks the rhythm. So that’s a great way to look at it, is that when you’re trotting along or any gate, really but trot just happens. Have a really nice, clear one, two, one, two. If you make a turn too quickly, then that horse has to shuffle one, two, and they have to do something really quickly to catch their balance. And so. There is this knowledge that as you understand more about how the horses can physically use their body because of their strength and level of training, the geometry starts to match up with what the horse is capable of.

[00:09:25] So, for example, on Willow, I can be loping or cantering and I can bring her down to a very collected Canter and I can make a very tight turn because I’d like to start working on, you know, Canter pirouettes, half, you know, pirouettes and different things like that leading up to the full Canter pirouette. But she’s much stronger than a horse like Presto, who at this point loping presto around a 10 meter circle is asking a lot like with my experience, I can feel that that 10 meter circle is just about his maximum turning capability without really losing his balance. It’s a big stretch for him where Willow can turn in like probably. I mean, easily a five meter circle like and she doesn’t lose the rhythm. So as my knowledge of what their physical limitations are has gone up, I am able to ride. And I do have that geometry in my mind and everything really is some version of a turn. And that turn is dictated by how much I think they can handle. That will be the maximum that would be like the stretching the bounds. So with with presto, that would mean turning like a 10 meter circle at a Canter where with Willow that could be more. But I can do a 20 meter with any of them. So there’s always this geometry. And so when you’re doing the circles inside of circles, we can look at that one and we can say you could go even deeper inside of that one with a horse that is high school.

[00:11:02] And so, presto is not high school. He’s elementary thinking about moving up into high school. He’s getting ready to graduate, hopefully soon, but he’s not there yet. So then you look at another horse and I can say, like with Willow, when I’m riding circles inside of circles, there is the geometry of the pattern. So there’s a 10 meter circle inside of a 20 meter circle. But on top of that, there is where her shoulders and where her hips are lined up on that circle. So in your mind right now, if you’re picturing a 10 meter circle inside of a 20 meter circle, just like you drew it on a piece of paper, if you’re picturing that, I want you to visualize that, you know, your horse has four legs. So you could take that horse. You could represent it with your fingers if you wanted to, and you could set it down on top of that circle. And you could say, let’s say that the horse stays perfectly square and doesn’t bend in its body. What’s gonna be on the circle? What’s gonna be off the circle and how does that relate? Like when you’re riding your horse, does it feel like when you’re turning to the left, does it feel like you’re able to keep the circle that’s imaginary on the ground right between your horses, front legs, but the hip kicks to the outside or the hip kicks to the inside.

[00:12:23] So you start visualizing more detail about where the horse’s body is shaped. So one of the reasons that presto can’t turn that tighter turn and one of the reasons it’s a little bit like cheating for Willow, aside from the fact that her training level, he’s huge. He’s like over 16 hands. So putting the arc in his body is feels different than putting the arc in Willow, who’s 14 hands. So we’ve got different things that go into it. But the awareness is mostly what I’m trying to call up in you, that there’s a lot going on. So when I’m riding these different patterns, these are the things I’m aware of. So if you start riding this new pattern where you’re doing a 10 meter circle and then you’re going straight for, let’s just say, you know, ten or twelve meters or something, it depends on what size arena you’re in and what you’re doing. But let’s just say you go. Let’s say that you’re going to circle a 10 meter circle and you’re going to ride forward 12 meters and then circle another 10 meter circle. So when you’re doing that, that actually brings up different issues than just the circles inside of circles, because on circles, inside of circles, everything’s a circle. So the horse is going from bending the arc of a 10 meter circle and then opening that up a little bit more to the arc of a 20 meter circle. But now when we start doing a 10 meter circle and then 12 meters of straight, this brings up new issues because you’re more likely to feel on a straight line, especially if you’re not leaning, letting the horse lean against the wall, you know, as that bubble could have there magnetic that that it literally not leaning.

[00:14:00] But you know what I mean? Like, if you’re using that outside wall, you might not feel this, but if you ride a foot off from that wall, you’re going to feel. Shoulder one to drift out that shoulder, want to drift in. So that next pattern actually is fairly complicated. And I know this because with presto circles inside of circles was easier, is easier with an elementary level horse than circles and straight lines, because straight lines actually take more control than circles do, which is just interesting to know. So you’re gonna be doing these transitions from straight to circle and then from circle the street. And that is an amazing thing to become aware of, especially if you ride with precision of being exactly like you could put a cone out there to represent where you want your each of your circles to be. And can you actually bring the shoulder away from the wall right at that. So the step at the cone is the step that starts to step you away from the wall. How accurate can you ride this? And the great news is, if you’re doing something like that and you want to test it, set up a video camera because you know exactly where you’re gonna be making that transition.

[00:15:15] So it’s totally easy to use a tripod and find out. And that’s something I highly recommend all the time. But just setting that tripod up in one place, you’d be able to see the transition from the straight line onto the circle and then the transition from the circle onto the next straight line. And that’s a bigger deal than what it sounds like when I say it, that simply. So hours and hours and hours go into this kind of stuff with detail, because if you add the transitions of steering, which is like steer to the left, your straight steer to the left, steer straight. If you add that on top of transitions like walk, lope, trot, lope, lope, walk. You start to get pretty complicated patterns here. And so another question you had was, you know, with a high school level horse, how much of what I do is a pattern? And I would say. On one level, I would say all of it when it’s in the arena, and I know that sounds borderline obsessive. But here’s the what I think is true is that truly random is very hard. That would be worth a Google search because random is very challenging. It makes me think of when I was in my previous house and I found this paint, I wanted to paint the wall in the living room. And I found this paint at Lowe’s called Swade, and it had a texture to it.

[00:16:48] And the way that you put it on the wall was you were supposed to do random X’s that were about a foot each, you know, so you’re making this these brush strokes, you know, six inches to a foot. You’re making these random X’s all over the wall so that you can have this brushed suede. Look, random is ridiculously hard. Like you just naturally start lining things up and doing stuff. And so the only way I managed to pull it off was my mom and I were both painting. And we both we would try to do random and then we’d switch places, because if you actually involve a couple different people, you can get a little more true, random. But I’m telling you, you should try random some time on a piece of paper. It’s not easy because most of the time when people say random, when they’re riding their horse, what they mean is unplanned. And when it’s unplanned, what that tends to mean is they take a quick zig and a quick zag, unplanned, and then what they do is throw the horse out of balance. Back to what I was referring to earlier. And that’s not a good plan, because then you get a horse that’s like uptight because they’re like, woo, guys going to ask me to do more than I can handle. She’s going going to pull me over the left, pull me over the right. This is like not going to go well.

[00:17:57] So random is not the same thing as unplanned, but it’s challenging for people to ride truly random.

[00:18:08] The closest I come to it is that I will go down through and I’ll I’ll do you know, I’ll do circles inside of circles and then I’ll do like Olympic rings is what I’ll call it in my mind. So I’ll do like a 20 meter circle, move down to a 20 meters circle, move down to a 20 meter circle, and then I’ll go deep into a corner and I’ll make a diagonal line and go to a different spot. And then maybe I’ll do some different. But it’s literally all circles and straight lines and it’s all planned. So even though I wouldn’t be able to write it down for you and say the only thing I’m going to do today is circles inside circles. I’m basically moving between several different patterns or ways of changing direction that are relatively easy for me to access because I do them frequently enough. So it would line out more into looking kind of planned. I think if somebody was was interviewing me, it’s not just a sudden turn. So now and the last one you asked me is concentrated training vs. the patterns. And I’m going to take yes at this. And if I missed the mark, please call back in or email me if I don’t cover it. But I think when you say concentrated training versus writing a pattern, I think what you mean by that is the idea of introducing a concept.

[00:19:38] So I’m gonna call that a trigger. So, for example, let’s say I’m going to teach a horse to move its hip. So I might stand beside that horse on the ground and I might take my thumb and press where my heel of my boot would be if I were riding or where the spur would be like that area press with the thumb horse steps away from it, I release. I would almost let’s just for this conversation, we’re gonna call that a trigger. So teaching a trigger like that, like something where it’s just literally a new concept to the horse and the horse is like, oh. So there’s kind of that pressure release let go. Pressure release. That comprises a very tiny amount of my time. Because basically, I look at it like this, we’ve got trigger versus flow. And I moved to flowing as soon as possible. So let’s take that thumb example and move it up to a lead change. So I might start moving the horse’s hip and I’ll do that from the ground and I’ll do that with my thumb and I’ll teach the horse to step sideways in a way for me. And I would call that like a trigger like, hey, horse, when I press right here, you’re supposed to step that hip away. Good job. But if I stay in that area for a super long time, I’m actually rewarding more than just the horse stepping away.

[00:20:57] Because if if I’m standing there on the ground and I press my thumb into the horse’s side in the horse steps the hip away. I’m also rewarding wherever the head was bent. I’m also rewarding wherever the shoulders stepped, or I’m also rewarding the fact that the shoulders did not step. So because I’m actually probably rewarding anywhere from, let’s just say, three to six things that are all happening at one time. It becomes very important to me to make sure that I don’t weld together triggers that are super strong, that have a contradiction inside of them. So let’s again. If I stand there and I make this horse really, really perfect at like I press here and you plant your front end and step your hindquarters, then when I get on that horse’s back and I’m and I’m asking them to walk and step their hindquarters, a lot of times what they’ll do is they’ll be walking, I’ll press and they’ll stop their front end and move their hindquarters. Then you have to be like, no, no, no, no, no. I didn’t really want all of those things I just rewarded you for. I only wanted the hip thing. And that’s a constant thing that’s happening where you’re introducing something like move your hip away from this. But there could be three other things I’m asking you to do with your front end so I could want you to move your hip away and keep your front.

[00:22:20] And still, I could want you to move your hip away and keep your front end moving in a straight line. I could want you to move your hip away and move your shoulder away. Can you see how this gets layered? Well, I want to keep flow in to the conversation with the horse so I don’t try to get one of those things. That’s what I’m gonna call the trigger super, super strong. So I don’t do if you’re defining concentrated training the same way I am. I do that minimally to introduce an idea. And then I move it into some kind of a pattern, something that flows relatively quickly, because that way there’s a little less of a hard wired feeling to the horse and a little less frustration. And I can go deeper into that if anybody wants to call in and ask a question going deeper into that. But I still want to answer your trail riding question because you asked how much do I trail ride? Well, I’ve got, like, little hearts all over my screen where I was writing this down. I love trail riding, but the amount of trail writing that I do depends on the specific horse and the goals. So two years ago with Willow, my main goal was fitness and basic training.

[00:23:38] So we did a lot of trail riding. I should go back and add up the miles cause I just kind of took my own notes on which loops I was riding. But I wrote a lot of miles, but I didn’t have any show goals. Then you can contrast that with last year where I had a lot of specific horse show goals with Willow. So I didn’t do nearly as much trail riding because I have a limit to the amount of time in a day, and she has a limit to the amount of energy in a day that we can access. And so I spent most of my time on horse show specific things. And this year I already know that my main goal with Presta will be a lot of trail riding. Now it gets a little more complicated with horses that I’m training like. So Gabby’s in high school. I try to find a balance. I live in Ohio. The weather helps me figure this balance out some because I have to ride inside all winter. Well, if I’m going to ride, so outside’s not really an option. So I get limited by that. So like, right now, pretty much I trail ride every time the weather will allow. But as I’m working on certain things, I will go back and forth and and it’s going to also depend on what kind of trails you have to ride on.

[00:24:54] So, for example, I actually can work on lead changes, which is one thing that Gabby’s working on a lot right now. I can actually do that out on the trail because of the trails I have. If you had rocky trails or, you know, slippery or dangerous to be at a Canter or slope. If you had trails, you could only walk on. That’s not going to work. But I have sections of trail where I can work on lead changes. So it’s really easy for me to justify going out there more than if I were in a different situation. So I do that a lot with her. But if I feel that I need to do some concentrated riding or if there are things like sliding stops or spins or other refinement that I want to work on, I come back inside and a lot of times, depending on the trails. Rhythm can be really I can get great rhythm at the walk. And the walk is a great thing to use for a training tool and for conditioning the horse. But a lot of the other gates, meaning the trot or the Canter. A lot of those. I come back into the arena to do specific things in there because I’ve just got such consistency in the footing. But one last thought before I wrap up answering this question, and that is a comment that you made about, you know, thinking that your horses were in high school, but, you know, you have holes.

[00:26:12] Now, here’s the deal. Horses in high school should have holes and realistically, in a way, they always all have holes. It’s a little bit like the way I view people. Now, you can get to a point where it doesn’t feel like. Like I like I get stronger and stronger every year. And so this means that my training as a human being and living life, I feel like I’m always learning more and more. But it’s fascinating to me how going back and re learning and I think that’s why, you know, the posters used to be really popular about all the things you have learned in kindergarten and different things like that. So, you know, everything I need to know about life I learned in kindergarten. Well, with horses, it’s like especially high school. It’s such a big, big for me when I illustrate it, it’s like a rainbow, but it’s kind of got this flat spot across that top that’s like a very long arch to that middle of that rainbow. And we actually fill up the holes that are below by moving up. And so it’s totally normal. It’s layers on top of layers, because if you even look at it like even if you build a house, how many times have you had to go back in and you’ve heard of somebody or watched a renovation show where they had to go back in and check the foundation? They had to go back in and check the sub flooring underneath the carpet.

[00:27:35] So there’s always different reasons because everything is moving. So those holes or something, I’m always going back in and double checking anyway, especially because I like to layer so many things. So my horses are learning. I call it multiple languages because they’re learning dressage and they’re learning reining and they’re learning all these different things. And so I am constantly going back there and checking all of that. So in a way, those holes that you’re feeling are a normal part of the process. When I get my horses up into upper college or I consider Roxy to have like a masters degree, I was still going back and redoing some of those things. It just didn’t it just had a real solid feeling to it. But it was still necessary to go back and double check that stuff. So thanks again for your question. And if I didn’t nail it with the answer or if anybody wants me to go deeper in one of those areas, call in and leave your message. You can find out how. Over at my Web site, Stacy, Westfall dot com. Let’s listen to the next question.

[00:28:36] Hi, Stacy. My name’s Roz. I’m from Queensland in Australia. I absolutely love your podcasts. I’ve met you at Equitana in Sydney and in Melbourne. And I’ve got your poster a ride with faith and hope and lots of things I’d love. What I’d like is, doing the circles within the circles, 20 meters and tens. And I’ve realized exactly how. No unfocussed. Oh, no, it’s no unfocussed.

[00:29:06] It’s just how quite tricky it is to do. And I just wanted to say I enjoy doing that. I mean, there’s lots of variations on it, and that’s great. But I’d also like with the hug. I’d just like a little bit more information on that because I used to hug and slows down and you hold on for a while.

[00:29:29] But sometimes that is a very smart and is anticipating. Oh, when you do that. That means I just slow. So I’m wondering if I could use it as also to go forward a bit faster. I have noticed since doing these exercises how the backup is a lot better, seems to be a bit more energy and promptness and going backwards. So that’s great. But if you’ve got any tips and I’d love the question and answer things because I think we’re all going through different stuff and having your podcasts and having all access to your, you know, website and things like that, it just is such a good thing to have in this time of this pandemic, which is, you know, affecting everybody worldwide.

[00:30:16] So thank you. It’s great Stacy. And hopefully he may answer my question. Okay, bye.

[00:30:23] Thanks so much for coming out to see me when I was in Australia. And thank you for the question. And I’m super happy to know that I’ve been helpful. I am really excited about telling you about the next stage of the hug because I haven’t talked about it and I keep getting quite a few questions about the hug.

[00:30:43] I love that you’re describing it the way you are because to me, these are signs that your horse is catching on. It might also be a sign that he’s a little bit on the lazy side. So we’re gonna keep an eye on that because horses that are a little bit on the lazier side or the duller side, everybody, they all have their pros and cons, horses on the harder side, horses on the duller side. They all have pros and they all have cons. And so he’s catching onto it, which is good. But also it can become something that he could abuse. And it’s starting to sound like he’s like, I’ve got some ideas. So he’s not abusing it, but he’s starting to contemplate some other things. So the question that you have about can you use it for go forward, too? It’s a great question. Here’s how I want to present it to you. I want you to think about the training as having layers. And so let’s talk about three different layers today, although I’m pretty sure I could come up with quite a few more. But we’re going to stick to three. And so we’re gonna call layer one, layer two, layer three. And layer one of basic horse training. We’re going to put it in one of those crude phrases because it’s not refined and it’s it’s gonna be layer one is kick to go. Pull to. Whoa, I didn’t make that up like you’re going does. That’s just kind of out there floating around the world.

[00:32:08] The idea that, you know, you’d kick a horse to go and you’d pull a horse to whoa and you pull in the right rein, to go right in, you pull on the left and go left. And I want to leave it phrased in that kind of crude way, because to me it represents the lack of refinement that layer one has. And there’s some truth to that lack of refinement. When you first see a colt being ridden, even though it might not be kick and pull, would not be my favorite terms. But there is that lack of refinement there because the horse wouldn’t understand more refinement. So it looks less refined in the early stages. And then just for the sake of letting go of layer one will move up to layer two in layer two. This is where the hug that I’ve talked about in previous podcasts would come in. So all the way back, if you go back and listen to the season with the horses mind and the horse’s body, actually even the riders mind and the riders body, because I remember talking about the riders body, about the Hug and this idea back then when we introduced the idea of layer two that hug, another way to look at it is the horse accepting contact. Now let’s use Presto as the example. So when I’m first starting out with Presto, super common and layer one that when I want to go forward, I’m going to almost fully release the range.

[00:33:47] You know, I’m going to put slack in the reins. So there’s nothing touching what could be considered the brakes. You know, it’s gonna be fairly like low there. And I’m going to step on the gas pedal. And then when I want to stop, presto, and I’m in layer one, that elementary school, then I’m going to I’m going to when I want to stop, I’m gonna put pressure on the reins and I’m going to not have any pressure on the legs. And that’s just going to make it more clear for him. Well, then in layer two, when I’m start when I’m moving up through and I’m going up and layer two, by the way, layer one and two are always underneath everything all the way up through the highest level of riding. Even up through me riding bareback and bridles, those layers didn’t go away. They just kept getting more refined. But if there’s some kind of a breakdown. So, like, you go out on the trail ride and something startles your horse and the horse starts running and then you’re about to go off over a ledge.

[00:34:46] You’re probably going to go back to pull to whoa, you’re probably going to go all the way back to layer one. And so it’s just important to acknowledge there underneath there, even though you don’t access them all the time. So layer two is all about the hog and accepting contact. Sometimes I think when people are describing half halts, they’re also describing some of what I’m calling the hug. Not exactly the same terms, but they’re related. So in layer three. So we’ve got the horse that’s understanding level one, layer one, understanding layer two, which is what you’ve just described very well. Then you move on to layer three, which was going to be more refinement. So there’s going to go further up. But so layer three with you and your horse, it’s gonna be more refinement. So rather than looking at it like, can you use this hug as a slow down and go forward, I want you to get a little more complex in your thinking and in your cue system. So for me, what that means and the reason I talk about the hug being there under all of this is that to me, when I was out riding Gabby today and I’m working on lead changes. That could mean that I’m going to do a lead change. It could also mean I’m going to do a walk to Canter, Canter to walk transition, and that’s all going to involve the hugging and accepting contact.

[00:36:19] So let’s say I’m walking on Gabby and I’m getting ready to do a walk to Canter departure. Now, let’s say that I’ve already done 10 of these. So this is not the first one out of the gate. So I’ve already done 10 of these. So I’m walking around the arena and I’ve done 10 of these where I hug her and I collect her. So her walk is no longer this big, loose, open walk on a loose rein. This is a hug that involves contact on the bridle reins. It’s like it’s polite, but it’s there. And there’s this hug with my legs. And what I get when I do that with Gabby is I get to go from a let’s call it a medium marker, a big walk to a collected walk. So when I hug, she comes back into that more collected frame and she goes, Huh? We’re getting ready to do something. And since we just did 10 Canter walk Canter walk transitions. She’s got a pretty good idea. That is probably gonna be Canter walk. Now, Gabby’s temperament tends to be a little bit on the lazier thinking side. So when I actually gather her up like that, when I hug everything and prepare her and shorten up those steps so she could step off, a lot of times she wants to shorten up more than what I’m asking for.

[00:37:46] So she goes even tinier and slower. Well, that’s not going to work for pushing her forward into that next lope cue because what’s gonna happen is if she gets really tiny, so let’s say that her walk steps normally cover just four numbers. We’re gonna say her walk steps normally cover two feet. And when I when I give this hug and bring her to a collective walk, now they’re covering one foot. And then but when I’m doing it, she’s actually shortening up to like six inches. Well, she’s getting this really, really stilted thing. So then. It’s not that I’m going to make the hug mean something different when she comes too far behind that, then what I’m going to do is I’m going to do some kind of forward. So a lot of times, let’s just say I’m going to she’s going to come back too much. I’m going to give my trot cue, which for me is like wave, wave, wave. There’s kind of a quickness to that wave, wave, wave. And I’m going to expect her to step off strongly into a trot. And then I’m going to do it again. I’m going to bring her back down through with the hugs. I’m going to hug and I’m going to use a little bit of my seat.

[00:38:51] So we’re trotting because we’re just went up to the top. So I’m going to hug and that’s going to take me from, let’s say, a medium trot down to a collected trot. Then I’m going to do something that shifts gears and you get to make this up or you can read a book or whatever makes you happy. But for me, I’m trotting along. I’ve collected her with kind of a hug. And what we’re trotting and I’ve now in a collective trot. Then I’m going to shift gears. A lot of times I do that with my seat. So I don’t change a lot about my hands or my legs, but I change that my seat. So that might mean that I sit just a little bit deeper. Or I stop the movement because when she’s trotting, there’s movement in my seat following her trot stride. I can actually, like, stop the following motion and that can be a downward gearshift down to a walk. Then depending on how I follow or don’t follow when she comes down to the walk would then be that if I follow with kind of a big swing with my seat in the walk, that would mean she should go from the collective trot down to the bigger walk, or I could bring her down from the collective trot to the collected walk if I didn’t follow much after that seat cue that was a downward shift.

[00:40:10] Is everyone still with me? So it starts to get refinement. It’s not exactly for me, it’s never that I’m using the same cue for two contradictory things. Exactly. But I will use two cues that are very similar, yet clearly different. And the combinations are virtually endless here, I believe. I don’t remember which episode it was. In a prior episode, I was talking about gaining speed with a horse and I was talking about clucking and expecting the horse to go a little bit faster. There are many things like there is my seat that can be telling the horse to go faster. There is my legs that can be telling the horse to go faster. There is my voice. They can be telling the horse to go faster. So those are three different layers. And I can use this all and going down through and slowing back down like I was just talking to you there. So what I want you to think of is what’s your next step? And some of that’s going to depend on what your goal is. It’s going to depend on, you know, there are subtle differences between the way that you want the horse to do upward transitions versus downward transitions, depending on what you’re refining towards.

[00:41:28] So if I’m refining towards the dressage things, then I might value and reward a little bit more of this. I’m going to call it bounce in the front, end this up and down, this lift, this elevation where let’s say that I was riding a horse that wanted to be used for Western pleasure and showmanship and some all round stuff for a youth, then I might not want that bounce because a lot of the AQHA or that kind of stuff, the they want of more flat movement, so they don’t want so much of that bounce. So as you start to hit layer three and you start working on refinement, it doesn’t take away layer one or layer two. And the hug is always still there. But this is where it starts to get so much more refinement. So I will hug Gabby and bring her back together, even inside of like when I’m loping, I have three different years and I look so I have I have a very collected loop. I have a medium lope and I have an extended lope. And so the hug is what brings her down through, but. The hug is a one piece of her coming down through, remember, my seat made those downward transitions and the hug was a piece of it.

[00:42:49] But the seat did that wall. The hug might be there in the upward transitions a little bit, too, as the horse starts to be required to hold its body in a fully functional frame where they are efficiently cycling that energy through their hind legs, up through over their back over down through their neck and down through and around through all those aids. Then what it feels like to me. So for that that lead change, I need to be able to hug and soften, hug and soften in every single stride. And depending on where I hug and where I soften and whether I step on the gas pedal and whether I shift my seat a little bit forward, whether I make a bigger, sweeping motion with my seat, whether I shrink the sweeping motion of my seat. So I don’t move as much and it blocks a little bit motion. All of those are different components of extending her stride and shrinking her stride. In the Canter, and that’s all going to play a piece in the lead change. So congratulations, because you have now opened up this next level where you get to make up what goes along with the hug. That means collected and forward or collected and slower. And so it doesn’t mean the hug means both, but the hug is one piece of both.

[00:44:25] I hope I nailed that answer for you. I hope I really got that clear. But if I didn’t or if somebody is listening and you want to ask more questions, then go ahead and call them in, because that’s what I have for you today.

[00:44:39] If you want to leave a message. You can go over to my Web site and click on the orange tab on the right hand side, and that’s where you’ll be able leave your voice mail. Thanks for listening and I’ll talk to you again in the next episode.

[00:44:56] If you enjoy listening to Stacy’s podcast, please visit Stacy Westfall dot com for articles, videos and tips to help you and your horse succeed.

Links mentioned in podcast:

YouTube video: Circles inside of Circles
Episode 70 of Stacy Westfall Podcast

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