Trail

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When it comes to cantering, riders seem to divide in two camps. In one camp are those who favour it above all else, while the other camp includes those who find it scary or unpleasant. I would like to add a third camp: riders who understand the unparalleled physiological benefits of cantering their horses. Beyond the obvious cardiovascular conditioning, cantering can improve muscle tone, symmetry, and flexibility more than other gaits. Let me explain this further, in addition to offering some tips and guidelines.

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We’ve all had a horse that was hesitant to go forward with ease and willingness. I want to share the story of one such colt I started recently, and some of the strategies I employed to help him “free up.” These techniques work well for horses of all ages. This article is ultimately about rider self-awareness, timing, and avoiding the overuse of pressure, which unintentionally dulls the horse. Take special note of the tips for success, and the pitfalls many riders face when their horse is dull to their aids.

My favourite aspects of a riding vacation anywhere in the world are experiencing the spectacular scenery of a new country from the back of a native horse, and glimpsing the true culture and everyday life of the local people. The Wild Andes Expedition Ride with host Gabriel Espinosa of Hacienda La Alegria, which I found through Unicorn Trails, offered a close-up view of life in the mountains at all elevations in the Ecuadorian Andes.

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Due to its effectiveness in helping the horse carry his body with good form, the longe cavesson is arguably one of the most useful pieces of equipment to own. Yet, only a surprisingly small number of riders who know about it. While early depictions from the 16th century refer mostly to its value in lateral poll flexion, its benefits for groundwork extend to a horse’s entire body. For anyone who performs groundwork it is an indispensable tool, as I will explain. Common misalignments of horses during groundwork include a twisted poll that comes from a handler using a line attached under the chin, or one-sided pressure on the bit when using a bridle. The alignment and state of positive — or negative — tension in the poll directly affects the rest of the body.

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Dragging a Log - Helping horses build their confidence in unique ways can prepare them for the unexpected. At any age or with any discipline, I encourage riders to find ways to challenge themselves and their horses by trying new things and teaching them that they can trust you when they feel worried. I see so many horses that are incredibly sheltered by their owners and, as a result, become so fragile that any little thing causes them too much anxiety.

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Click. Nothing. I pressed the button on top of my headlamp again. Click. Still nothing. Oh crap. My headlamp batteries had just died, and on the worst morning possible. Today was the day I would be riding Chocolate through 912-metre long Bulldog Tunnel as part of our 550 kilometre solo journey along the Trans Canada Trail (TCT).

Many classical dressage masters from the past often praised the merits of long schooling sessions at only the walk. This kind of training refines muscle recruitment, releases tension stored in poor postural habits, and stimulates the slow-twitch fibers used for stabilizing the skeleton. In other words, there is big value in workouts at the walk. And note how I have used the term workouts, since that is how you should think of them. These are purposeful sessions, not strolls.

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