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Alpha Natural Horsemanship

‘Ask with lightness, encourage without forcing, correct with softness’

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LATERAL FLEXION

for more info please read;  Flexion Proper Training and  Flexion Vertical



Developing Good Communication With Your Horse


Regardless of whether I am teaching a clinic, giving a demonstration, working with private students, or gentling a colt, the one thing you will always hear me preach about is lateral flexion.  Now I can already hear some of you saying, “Oh yeah, the one rein stop thing. We already know how to do that.”  Well, the one-rein stop isn’t just lateral flexion, but lateral flexion is an important step in the one-rein stop.  Saying that a one-rein stop is just lateral flexion is like saying vertical flexion is true collection…nope, it’s just vertical flexion.  Lateral flexion is important early on in a horse and rider’s training. A horse can never get too good at lateral flexion. Nor can the horse be too old to learn and work at achieving good flexion…honestly, no horseman is too good to learn and perfect lateral flexion. It is a good tool to have.  Everyone wants their horse to be soft and collected from their mind, through their body and all the way down to their feet.

Some riders erroneously believe that all they need to do is buy the right bit, or lunge a horse in a bit with a tie down and surcingle to get the horse to carry his head and be soft. While this may be true to some extent, they are still only working (through mechanical means) the outer manifestation and not focusing on the proper preparation needed to achieve their goal. Others want their horse to stop light and collected so they get a shanked bit to increase leverage, which in all reality creates more of a brace in the horse by increasing the amount of pressure/pain in the horse’s mouth. A few riders would like to take their horses on trail rides but they are afraid that their horse will run off with them. I have even seen a few riders give their horse a quick slap between the ears with the end of the reins to get the horse’s attention. They complain that the horse’s mind wanders and this will bring their attention back on to the rider.  In each of these examples each person lacked one basic element in their own training. The common denominator, which they all shared in lacking, is good lateral flexion.


What is lateral flexion and why is it so important to so many other aspects of horsemanship?

Lateral flexion is more than just pulling on a rein and getting your horse to turn its head. Good flexion should be taught early on and encouraged throughout a horse’s life. It is:


·         like Pilates Yoga for your horse. It helps to create a supple and soft body and a willing mind in your horse.

·         a great way to get your horse to mentally check in & focus on you while you are on their back particularly when it becomes fearful or excited.  It only takes a quick few seconds too quietly, and gently, get your horse’s attention when they begin to wander mentally, get frustrated, or turn emotional.

·         absolute key to get to the horse mind in order to control your horse....mentally, emotionally a well as physically.

·         where you build communication from rider to horse and horse to rider...this is where you help your horse switch from his reactive right brain to his logical thinking left brain.

·         A method that offers you an opportunity to develop softness and lightness in your hands and while developing suppleness, softness and lightness in your horse.


Let’s say that you are on a trail and your horse spooks, or begins to get very busy with his feet changing gaits sporadically, instead of yelling at him or smacking him with the reins (which we NEVER recommend), quietly and politely begin to ask him for hindquarter disengagement and lateral flexion. Once you regain control of the feet, then just sit quietly and ask for lateral flexion two or three times on each side [praise the horse by rubbing [first mounting on a Rescued/Abused mare]

between the eyes and on the neck]. You will notice his/her eyes start to blink, soften a bit and your horse will relax somewhat. By the time you are on your last flexion, the horse will almost anticipate it and begin the flexion with almost no cue from you. At this point, you can let her/him have its head straight and then just sit and rub her/his neck in a reassuring way.  So, whether you are working on suppleness, collection, an emergency brake or a way to get your horse’s attention, lateral flexion is your key.  Let’s face it, the bottom line is we all want a better all around control of our horses and lateral flexion offers us a way to achieve that control physically, and mentally, without the use of mechanical means. So once again, lateral flexion is your master key.   “The first thing I’ll go to once I’m up riding him is asking him to get some flexion left and right. That’s my doorway in to everything I want to do: getting him to bend his nose left and right.”



Lateral flexion begins ON THE GROUND during the early stages of the horses’ Foundation Training.  When beginning lateral flexion on the ground, remember you are not looking for the complete flexion but rather the slightest try and the smallest change. (training principle # 3) You want to find that ‘try’ where the horse yields his head and is not heavy in your hand. In the beginning, it does not matter how little he flexes as long as he

does flex and is willing to try.  We begin by standing next to the front shoulder. For this exercise, We are on the left side of the horse. We place our right hand on the horse’s withers. This will help keep us in position should the horse feel the need to move his feet. With our left hand we reach over the nose and place our fingertips into the soft area on the opposite side. We begin to pull toward us gently increasing the pressure until we get a response.

Lateral flexing should be introduced to all horses on the Ground First; especially to horses with poor lateral mouths which is most of them and practiced slowly/often during mounted training.