Dear Maggie, I have a 3-year old Paint mare that I have been riding since last spring (April). She is very quiet about things and very mellow. The only problem that I am really having with her is turning/bending. Some days she turns fairly well and other days she is very stiff. She turns most days at the walk and fairly well at the trot, the canter is getting better, but we just don't seem to be getting anywhere fast. I have tried a couple different bits (loose ring and full cheek snaffle) and now I have her in a Side Pull, which is better.

Story originally posted by: Maggie Flowers

I was just wondering if there are any activities that you would suggest. I have thought about cones or barrels, it might keep her paying attention.

Keri Stout

Hello Keri,
Those other training aids you’re thinking about using are good, but keep in mind that this young horse’s problem is not necessarily that she doesn’t pay attention. She may have been short changed in the ‘giving to pressure’ session as part of her original training. Unfortunately, this phase is always rushed and is seldom taken through the full program bynon-professionals. When this happens valuable benefits are missed. You are presently experiencing one of them.

Turning suppleness and flexion is only obtained when the horse has fullylearned to give to bit pressure along with a relaxed, low and stretched out neck.Then later this reinforcement must continue each and everytime you work with the horse. One good way to teach the horse to give to pressure, at the same time setting the horse’s head, is by training sessions that have incorporated the ‘driving phase’. A good driving session uses a well fitted headstall with a ‘O’ ring snaffle, a surcingle and a pair of long driving reins. Thedriving can be done in an enclosed area or out in open pasture with even footing.

After you have reintroduced your horse to this refresher course, you will soon see the supplenessof the neck which will be an essential ‘must have’ when you begin cantering. Cantering requires the horse to be in full rhythm with himself, well balanced in overall movement for proper collection, therefore delivering a nice smooth confident canterfor the rider.

Maggie Flowers