As regular readers will know I am no fan of gadgets but a tool that I do use frequently in my work is the good old pole. Walk, trot and canter poles can help improve the lift of the legs. Poles placed in a mini-maze/labrynth format are great for working on flexibility and testing your stop/go/yield cues. My favourite is using parallel poles for reinback improvements.
I prefer a good solid pole that doesn’t move too easily or flick back when the horse treads on it. I start with the poles a good distance apart (at least 3m) so that the horse doesn’t panic by touching one in the first few attempts. It is essential that the reinback is absolutely on cue without any poles or frustration and confusion will spoil any goodwill and harmony.
Walk through the poles a couple of times in each direction before halting with the shoulders just inside the poles and reining back before walking on through the poles. Gradually build up to walking right through the poles and halting just as the shoulders are about to exit them and then reining back. Over time narrow the gap between the poles so that the horse is stepping back perfectly straight to stay within their confines. Don’t labour the sessions with poles, a few minutes is plenty and remember that the idea is to encourage both hind legs to flex and take weight in the same way. Take it very slowly and quietly, rushing the reinback is never good…the hind legs need to flex, the pelvis tilt and the reinback commence, not the fore feet pushing back and hollowing the topline.
So if you think you have a straight halt or reinback take the test…how straight are you?