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Exploring In-hand Horsemanship

scottie showing

With Scottie out of ridden action for this month’s EquiMind dressage entry, I have been browsing their in hand horsemanship classes instead. I chose this route over the inhand showing route for two reasons:

  1. I can choose to do a walk only test, so while Scottie is very almost sound in trot, I don’t want to be needlessly trotting him around, whereas light exercise in walk is good for him.
  2. We have a huge wound on his stifle which I can’t imagine will get marked very well!

However, after how my first attempt went at some of the movements yesterday, we might need to keep showing as our backup plan, as it would be a shame to waste our free entry this month!

The test is a bit more complicated than I expected, asking us to demonstrate shoulder in, leg yield, extended walk and backing up… things our current level of dressage doesn’t require us to do! However, Scottie is capable of leg yield and backing up and over the past year we have been building up to ask for the beginnings of shoulder in. So I know he is capable so showing something which resembles all these movements under saddle. But I am struggling to work out how I am going to ask him to do shoulder in and leg yield!

So far I can bend him around me to the left to resemble something along the lines of shoulder in and our leg yielding is more of leisurely drift. But it’s kind of what they are looking for! My biggest issue it the shoulder in away from me. I think I will have to swap sides at some point during the test… which I need to check is allowed or if I have to stay on the left.

The back up I am not too worried about, as it is something which I ask Scottie to do on a daily basis to move him out of the way. Whether he backs up straight or correctly is a different matter, but we will be able to show SOMETHING for that movement.

I have decided to practice these movements every afternoon for 10-20 mins in the school to try and get our heads around it before filming at the weekend and with Scottie deciding in our first practice yesterday that he didn’t want to stop without turning slightly towards me, we are going to need it to master the basics!

Highland Rain (38)

Although I am only entering the inhand class due to not being able to ride and having a entry going spare, I do believe that groundwork is very important in horse ownership. It can strengthen the relationship between you and your horse and build respect. If your horse doesn’t respect you on the ground, chances are they won’t respect you under saddle either. Working with horses on the ground, even on just basic manners, can improve how they go under saddle.

I don’t do a huge amount of in hand work with Scottie. But he is already pretty respectful to people on the ground. As long as he is calm he will move out of your space when asked to. And when he is upset/excited, he is in your space but not rude with it. However, because he is such a wuss, I do a lot of handy pony type activities with him in hand. It could just be some complex pole exercises where he has to really think about where he is putting each foot, or it could be asking him to do something scary, like walk between two fillers or over some tarpaulin.

In hand work can be fantastic for your horse and I am currently planning a follow up post about how it can improve your ridden work.


Last Updated on 05/06/2022

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