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Guest Blog # 112: "Up Against the Wall" by Bill Woods
("The wall has a magnetic quality which pulls your horse towards it.")
Open spaces are a great advantage at times when you are schooling. No corners or turns coming up in a few strides to break the rhythm or cause anticipation. But at times solid boundaries can help.
We have all observed how some horses have an affinity for the track as though it has a magnetic quality pulling them to it. Take advantage of that tendency when you’re trying to teach your horse to leg yield, inviting him to move from the quarter line towards that inviting rail can give him the extra motivation to discover what you want. Later schooling to consciously avoid that attraction by leg yielding from the track towards the center line or simply riding down the inner track (a meter or two from the wall) provides an opportunity to check on his honest reaction to and respect for your leg.
You can use the wall other ways too. If you do leg yielding along the track nose-to-the-wall, you have a convenient reference point to keep the angle consistent and a built in limit to keep him from hanging or running through the hand. The wall (or the corner) can frame beginning pirouettes, teaching your horse to back off onto his hind quarters and lean less against you as you try to turn.
Another handy use of the wall is when you are first introducing tempi changes. Riding on the track a few strides before you head into the corner, switch to the outside lead. His propensity to return to the “correct” lead makes it easier for him to understand doing a pair of them without getting upset. As you add an additional change to the sequence, always contrive to make the last one back to the true lead.
The wall or the fence can be a useful tool. Just don’t become dependent on it.