Winter Training: Freework

After the nice, slushy snow started to destroy the footing in the outdoor arena, we had to do some indoor arena stuff yesterday. As I was not that motivated (I only realized when starting to work with him, that Hafl wasn't either), I decided not to ride but to do some freework.

In freework, I try to make him move without me saying anything or using the whip but with my body language solely.

We start with some "free time", where the horse can freely move around, get rid of some extra energy, get used to the surrounding. During that time, simply sit and wait until the horse approaches you. Then you can start. Get into the middle of the arena or circle or field. The shape of the area where you practice does not matter, it should not be too big such that you can easily walk with the horse.

I am at his side,  close to the area for the girth, somewhere near the middle of the training area. My inner shoulder allows the horse to move (thus, open, means turned backwards), in general, I keep both shoulders low, the whip in the outer hand but low as well. With some firmer steps and more energy, I make him go faster, with breathing out I slow him down. Aim is to work the horse around you in all gaits and changing reins by lifting the whip when they are on the long side (so that they can turn in the corner). At it's best, they trot on during changing reins or do a flying lead change in canter. All these things are worth to work on during freework. Halts and half halts as well as stride lengthening can be done as well - and keep you warm in winter! Gosh! Was I running yesterday! Always keep in mind that the horse starts to imitate you, meaning that when asking for lengthening, you have to do the same - perfect training for you and your horse ;)

After you are finished, put the whip upwards to your side signalizing the horse that he is allowed to approach you. When he does, caress him and make him feel that the lesson is over. When the horse follows you freely afterwards, you have done a great job! Licking is also a typical sign in that stage!

Hafl was offering a completely new (I mean we tried it before but had no command yet) circus trick: he started to bow! Obviously, it was a very cute way of fishing for treats :D Good boy!

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