ARTICLES AND TIPS
Humor / Fiction
Equine Welfare Watchdog
ADVERTISE with us!
Maine Horse Properties
Western Sky Saddlery
Fringe Custom Chaps
Serpentines, new and improved
Amy Skinner is a regular guest columnist and a horse gal since age six. She
, rides and teaches English and Western. Skinner has studied at the Royal Andalusian School of Equestrian Art in Spain, with Buck Brannaman, and many others.
Read more about Amy
Read more Journals & Journeys here
By Amy Skinner
There are many benefits to perfecting the serpentine, and many different kinds of
serpentines for many different purposes. You can hardly get too good at it, and many disciplines espouse some variation of it.
The concept is a simple one: a straight line followed by a half circle, followed by another straight line and a half circle in the opposite direction. The benefits: improved bend, relaxation, straightness, suppleness, improved transitions, evenness through the body and improved lead changes, etc. Many of the masters will agree that this exercise, when done correctly, is very valuable.
The discussion of which aids to use is a little more confusing, though. Dressage riders learn to keep an inside leg at the girth for forward impulsion and an outside leg back to guard the haunches when turning. Riders of the traditional vaquero style often signal a turn with an outside leg forward, prompting the horse to turn away from the leg.
For many riders, the question of which aid is correct gets to be quite a debate. But for me, I think the most important part of this discussion is often missing: the seat aids. Over time, I've found with correctly timed seat aids, the whole “leg aid” question often falls away and
many times becomes redundant.
I had been practicing serpentines for a long time, and some of my horses felt lighter and more balanced because of it, but there were a few who I could not straighten.
[Photo at right, a left turn]
My mare, Dee, especially, was crooked at the poll, tipping her nose in but outside ear down, so her ears were no longer level. I could “hold” her straight with my reins but always felt a brace in my inside rein.
My gelding, Geronimo, left his haunches in around a turn and he found my leg moving them over to be very offensive. Some of the best help I ever had on this subject was in a clinic with
, where he had me move my tail bone over in time with Geronimo's inside
hind. It worked like a charm, and my gelding's body and mind both softened as he gained better balance. I found the better and more even my seat was, and the better my timing, the less I used any leg aid at all.
[Photo at right, start of a right turn]
As for Dee, she straightened her poll when I stopped collapsing my inside ribcage and kept my shoulders level. It turned out with both horses not to be their problem at all, but mine.
Amy gets technical about improved serpentines.
(No Reader Comments Yet - Be the First!)
If you liked this article, you may also enjoy:
Amy Skinner on Engaging the Core, Part I
For Happier, Healthier Horses, Drop those Rotten, Rutted Routines
The Pitfalls of Training
Amy Skinner on Micro-Managing versus Guiding
Amy Skinner interviews Jec Ballou, Part II
Amy Skinner interviews Jec Ballou
Amy Skinner’s Ah-Helmet Moment
When Education gets in the way of Education
Brent Graef, Young Horse Handling, Part IV
"If the horse does not enjoy his work, his rider will have no joy." - H.H. Isenbart
Articles & Tips
| Established 2008 in Brunswick, Maine |
all rights reserved.