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Alpha Natural Horsemanship

"Patience, Understanding, Confidence and Knowledge goes a long way"

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TRAINING - Foundations
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During Ground Training; in addition to Desensitizing and Sensitizing we used a triad of exercises designed specifically for Ground Control.  Ground Control exercises that paralleled riding manouvres.  Now that the horse as a solid foundation on the ground we start establishing a solid Foundation in the saddle using exercises designed specifically for Body Control.  Body Control manouvres in the saddle develop independent control over the horse's - his head, neck, shoulders, rib cage, and haunches.  These are all separate body parts that must learn to work individually or in unison during riding maneouvres.  The focus is on the displacement, flexibility and control of these separate and is the mainstay of creating a horse that is willing and capable of moving his body in any direction at any time.  Once established the results is a solid mounted foundation and these exercises help the horse to excel in any discipline.

Riding Manouvres

Some riders and/or horses may only need the basic riding skills and some will require a lot more perhaps all. This depends on the owners goals and the discipline.   Lateral manoeuvres are the cornerstone of establishing a solid foundation of mounted training  it improves the rider and the horse as follows:

·         Confidence Builder for the rider and the horse

·         Establish Body Control of the horse’s five body parts in the saddle; Head, Neck, Shoulder, Rib Cage & Hindquarters

·         Observe your horse from the ground in all exercises and in all gaits and Identify which body part exercise is the weakest before saddle work

·         Identify behaviour issues in the saddle then you can fix the holes on the ground

·         Agility and manoeuvrability.

·         Attentiveness, focus and responsiveness to the aids and cues.

·         Suppleness, softness and calmness. 

·         Riding straightness & Balance

·         Balance the horses’ mind.

·         Allow the rider to engage and bend each hind leg individually.

·         Unlock the horse’s hips due to the crossing and engaging of either the inside or the outside hind leg.

·         Unlock the horse’s abdominal muscles due to the required lateral bend of the horse’s spine.

·         Strengthen the muscles on the inside and outside of the hind legs and front legs.Increase the horse’s shoulder freedom as a result of the increased engagement and flexion of the haunches (i.e. collection).

Where do you begin?

We demo and coach you from the ground in hand; explaining the reasons for doing the exercises prior working in the saddle.  The goal of work in hand is to supple up the horse to both sides, to teach the horse the training exercises and to prepare the horse for riding. The exercises are progressive and in logical sequence.  Examples of some of the movements covered are:

Step 1 - In Hand on the Ground



Move over

We accept ANY positive response to give way to pressure.

Turn on the forehand

Staying safely near the horses head, we ask the back end to move over a bit.  One step is good enough and reason to praise the horse.  In fact, one step is much better than the horse running away from us, trotting his hind end around in an attempt to escape!   We want a calm response to the request.   Just move over one step.

On the Circle

In hand & lunging - the horse learns to bend to both sides, in a forward-down position with a hind leg that steps under the weight.

Turn on the haunches

Staying near the neck, we ask the horse to move to the side, finding his sweet spot to which he best responds, asking him to step away with his front legs.   This is simply "yielding the shoulder" away from our pressure.   Again, one step at a time is good progress.

Roll Backs

We teach this during ground work exercises and lunging.


When the horse feels supple on the inside rein, the outside rein can be used to ask the horse to bring its shoulders inwards.  In the exercise shoulder-in, the weight of the horse is placed in front of the direction of movement of the inside hind leg, thus making it carry more weight.

Side Pass

In addition to increasing respect and control, teaching your horse to side pass on the ground will make teaching him side passing under saddle a lot easier. Start facing the fence and when the horse improves move to an open area.

Step 2 From the SaddleFor Starting, re education, Re-habilitating horses always review the exercises in hand on the Ground first before mounting and then begin at the walk!



Move Over

At the stop and collected; we accept  ANY positive response to yield  to leg pressure and move to the right and to the left sideways

Turn on the forehand

One step is all that is needed.   However, it is not so easy as that, as the rider is no longer able to hold the horse by the halter while asking for the movement.   So, one has to really take their time here.   The horse has to learn to not run forward when we ask for one step of "move over".

Leg yield back to the rail

Once training has begun, we can use the horse's desire to stay on the rail, wall, or track.   Coming away from a corner onto the long side, we turn one step early, walk forward a few steps, say "Move over", and give a nudge with the inside leg right where we were giving it when we did this from the ground.   A step of leg yield is all we want at first.   As confidence in this grows, we start our turns earlier, making it a another step or two to the wall.

Leg yield facing the rails

As the horse progresses in his understanding of the training, we will ask for a leg yield along the rail, facing it so that he is less likely to run off.   The angle to the wall will be shallow enough to keep the work from causing physical or mental stress.

Leg yield facing into the arena

Once the horse is confidently marching forward in walk with facing the wall, we will train leg yield with his haunches to the wall.   This is much more difficult for the horse, as the arena center is like a magnet to the horse.   He will want to walk forward toward the center.   So, this movement is really a good test to see how well he understands leg yielding requests.

Shoulder in

The transition from leg yield to shoulder in is a subtle one.   In the leg yield, we are not worried about bend.   In fact, in leg yield, the horse is fairly straight throught the body.   However, in shoulder in we need to get a proper bend through the body, from poll to tail.   Also, the angle is quite clearly defined, whereas in leg yield, the angle can vary.   In shoulder in, the horse travels on 3 tracks.   This means that as you approach a mirror in shoulder in, you should see "3 legs" of your horse.   2 legs means you are straight.   4 legs means you have too much angle.   Shoulder-fore is a slight shoulder in often used to help balance a horse in preparation for other movements.

Haunches in   (Travers)

This is the first lateral movement where the horse actually looks in the direction of travel.   He moves his hind end off the track of travel of the front legs and bends through the ribs.

Haunches out   (Renvers)

This is the same as travers, but the haunches are pointing towards the wall of the arena.   Like the leg yield facing into the arena, this can be a challenging movement for horses still new to lateral work.

Half pass

When the travers is well confirmed, it is time to progress to the half pass.   This movement is often described as travers on the diagonal, and in the walk, that's good enough.   Again, the horse should be looking directly at where you are going.

Turn on the haunches & Pirouettes

The aids for turn on the haunches and pirouettes are simple enough, but require a high level of understanding and response from our horses.   So, to avoid messing up what will later become a fabulously fun movement, many trainers will hold off on the turn on the haunches until the aids for the other lateral movements are well understood.


Walk first...   Then trot !   All lateral work is trained in the walk first.  This gives the horse (and the novice rider) a chance to work things through without speed.   Also, by going in walk, we give the horse a chance to build up muscles without over taxing them.   Each of these movements can successfully be done in walk and then later in trot.   Half pass and pirouettes are also done in canter.

Don't lean out !   When riding lateral movements, it is critical that the rider never sit to the outside of the movement.   Yet, this is one of the most common faults seen both in training and in competition.   For example, when riding down the quarterline and leg yielding to the wall, leaning towards the wall is not going to help the horse at all.   In fact, it will unbalance him, making the movement more difficult.   Always sit straight or slightly to the inside.   Never lean or sit to the outside.

Be successful every time !   If the lateral work you are asking for is not happening, go back to an easier lateral exercise, or get out of the saddle and return to the ground work.   Aim for one step of success, even if it's via an older lesson.

Advanced Lateral Movements:

Once your lateral work is coming along nicely, there are lots of new things to try with your horse.   Think outside of the box and see what fun you can invent.



Side pass

Moving 100% sideways is called for in many Western Riding competition classes.   It is also useful for when trying to open and close gates from the back of your horse.   To train side pass, we use squared off jump poles that don't roll easily.   We teach the horse to stop over the pole and stand.   When he's comfortable with that, we ask him to stop over one end, then step sideways just one step, enough to not have the pole under him.   As he gets confident in this, we stop with more of the pole under us, adding more steps to move sideways.   Eventually, we get to the point where we can do the full side pass movement, starting next to the jump pole, side passing over the whole length of the pole, and coming out the other end.

Leg yielding into a jump

Set up 2 small cross jumps, side by side with an 8 foot gap in between them.   Riding towards the gap at the trot, decide which jump to take and leg yield smoothly towards it.   Give your horse a lot of room for this exercise, allowing the leg yield to be shallow while also giving him room to be straight for a least the last 20 feet before the jump.   And, to keep him thinking and waiting, you can sometimes trot through the gap as well.