Hip Disengagements aka Bad Horse Circles
Sometimes the cool weather can cause our horses to feel a little fresh or spooky. There is no substitute for good consistent training and groundwork lessons but sometimes things do happen.
If you are riding your horse and he is mildly spooking, yelling for his friends or barely bucking then it is best to push through. Look up and go if you can. Keep his mind and feet busy. But if you don't feel comfortable enough to do that, then the next step is disengage your horse's hip.
First let's look at the easy one. Say your horse is looking at the kitty and going sideways. The best thing to do is ignore the kitty and keep telling your horse whatever it was he was suppose to be doing. It will probably go something like this-look forward, use the inside leg and both reins to keep his body straight. Look up and go. I think if you take your horse over to see the kitty it will just acknowledge the fact that it is something to be concerned about. Horses that spook are simply not listening. Focus on what he is suppose to be doing, be proactive.
But, suppose your horse jumps sideways and tries to run from the kitty. You lose your balance, can't breathe, feel out of control and you want this behavior to stop immediately. Then you want to slide your hand down the rein, bring your horse's head towards your knee and turn your horse into a small circle. It is important that the front feet continue forward as the inside back foot is stepping under the horse. Sometimes you have to go around a few times, 6 is a magic number.
Then immediately go back to whatever you were doing, look up and go. It is very important to keep the horse's front feet moving forward while the back feet are crossing over. This is not a one rein stop or a spin on the forehand. The horse should keep moving forward and around in a little circle. Some say that the crossing over in the back takes the horse's power away and gives it to the rider. Some say that 6 little circles will hypnotize the horse. Dr. Gerd Heuschman says when the horse brings his hind leg up under his belly, it triggers a chain reaction response that release endorphins or happy chemicals to his brain.
On the ground and in the saddle if you do these disengagements properly, your horse will lick and chew, lower his head and sincerely appreciate the leadership and boundaries you have given him. Remember hip disengagements are first taught on the ground and then in the saddle during calm quiet times when the horse is listening and learning. Practice, practice, practice !!!
"Bad horse circles" are a great tool for your bag of tricks when you need it or just when you want to soften and relax the horse. You and your horse will be happier.