Octagon this time he came out hexagonal. But the principle is the same.
A lot of times we try and perfect out circles, our lines and overall horse performance, and many times we do not leave the discipline and style we are used to.
Being fixated on one style, discipline, riding principles and more- won't get us as far as being versatile. As far as I'm concerned, good riding and good training are not connected to the saddle we use or shows we enter, it is about our basic horsemanship and versatility/ flexibility of training. If you have a good base, you can build anything on it- whether it is a house, a stable or a sky-scraper. I try and apply the same approach in my training and teaching.
Today, we will talk a bit about the Octagon, an exercise I have learned throughout my passion for Cowboy Dressage.
My student was riding, and she is an amazing rider, the horse she was riding is a well-trained reining horse and we were trying to help her balance her movement.
The Octagon helps us build a different kind of circle; instead of creating a situation where we flex the horse around the center / keep aligned with the perimeter - the goal is to encourage and produce movement uniformity, maintaining balance between the forward motion, extending the front and shifting the weight to the inside hind leg.
Why is it important and beneficial?
Because we also want to create a state of self-carrying without having to hold on to horse, help and apply several "manipulations" to create better movement, a situation where we release the horse, and he remains "centered". There is no reeling of the weight forward and backwards
How to perform that exercise?
Poles are excellent, and today was a great demonstration of it; horses are aware of the poles, and it helps them gain an understanding of what's asked of them. Whether the elements we use are place on the ground, eye level or higher- the horse is aware of it. After many years showing All-Around classes I have learned that the more we try to do to prevent our horse from hitting a pole- the chances of it happening are higher.
Allowing the horse to be aware and responsive (to his surrounding) is important, we do not want to ride a numb and passive horse.
This awareness allowed us to ride with a loose contact and use tons of body language and not high pressure. The Horse was a full partner for the exercise and understood the required.
We performed the turns by staying parallel to the poles at all times, once we hit a corner we want to turn "around the middle"- once the ribs pass the corners, in difference to turning around the hind quarters / through the hip, we have created a turn that originated in creating a complete balance from both horse and rider.
Just the horse?
No. This is a great exercise for riders at all levels.
Teaching riders how to balance their body, how to build and perform a circle, planning and more than anything posture and body language.
We continued and worked inside the Octagon gradually progressing to a pivot- by creating a smaller sharper turns each time- we ended up with perfect pivots, all on the correct hind leg, stress free, loose reins and great flow of both horse and rider. This exercise helped to release the movement of the shoulders and legs and create more balanced, fluid motion- forward and lateral.
We did most of the work in a Walk, often times we hurry and move on to a trot and lope before getting it right in the most basic and important gait.
I am honored to say that you can find another English version at Eitan Beth-Halachmy's Facebook page- he is the Cowboy Dressage master.