Many of us by habit, and or instruction are used to spending the huge majority of our time on the rail. Well that’s ok if you have a really well broke horse and only plan on showing in classes on the rail such as western pleasure and hunter under saddle… but there is a whole big world of showing out there that is done off the rail! Especially these days when we want the most versatile horse we can get for the money, we have to work towards other things like lead changes, horsemanship, trail and many more events. If your horse is only good on the rail there is little chance he will be good at the other events… however, if your horse is really good off the rail, there’s a pretty good chance you will have success on the rail as well.
The only way to get your horse more broke is to test them, and trust me you will hear me say that a lot, because it takes practice. Put them on a lose rein (if you ride western) and loosen your contact if you ride English, and see how well they listen. Look for little things such as are they pulling you towards the barn or are they bulging out on your leg if you are not helping them? Those little indications will make a huge difference in your riding and your communication skills with your horse.
Instead of loping and jogging circles around and around, make it interesting for you and your horse. Your horse needs a challenge so do some serpentines, pivots, turn on the forehands, and plenty of upward and downward transitions. Try to make small patterns in your head such as make a square out of cones and change the pattern continuously. For example: trot from A to B then stop, do a 270 degree turn and lope, etc. Things like this will keep your horse thinking and paying attention to you. If you let your horse continue to lope circles around the arena for laps and laps they are just going to get faster and sloppier because they don’t have to think.
When you go out to ride your horse, don’t have a “plan;” work on whatever needs work on that day, and work on the hard stuff! None of us love to work on our horses weak spots, but we can’t excel past a certain level if we don’t have the foundations solid. Those weak spots are not going to get better by themselves, but with work and patience you know they will get better. So get out there and work your horse off the rail for a few days and come back to this blog and comment to us on how they are doing! We would love to hear about it!