The Waltz: calm, control and cooperation
The waltz is a powerful exercise to establish leadership. The horse’s feet are moved in all directions, and as we take control of the direction, speed and attitude of the feet, we also win the horse’s confidence and it becomes calmer and readier to cooperate.
The first step is the forehand yield – the “back and away” step. Move your hands rhythmically in the space above the horse’s eye until it steps diagonally back and away from you with both front feet. This mirrors the step horses take to indicate submission in conflicts between themselves.
The second element is to move off forwards. First, bring up your own energy, look in the direction you want to go and start moving your feet. If the horse doesn’t pick up on the energy, swing the rope overhand towards the hindquarters. As soon as the horse moves off – STOP SWINGING THE ROPE. Keep your own feet moving to indicate that the horse should follow your energy. This doesn’t need to be much movement, but enough that it can be increased or decreased when you want to stop or speed up.
The third step is yielding, or “disengaging”the hindquarters. It is important that the hindquarters step away without the forehand moving towards you. It’s a ‘push’ on the hindquarters, NOT a ‘pull’ on the forehand. Be careful not to “chase” the hindquarters. You feet must stop moving to indicate tha the horse’s feet should stop moving, but your personal space strenghtens to move the hindquarters away.
The horse should stop, facing you with its weight balanced over all 4 legs. This focuses the attention on you. Stroke the horse to reward it, and repeat the exercise in the other direction.
When this works well in walk, take it up to trot and then canter. Each time use your own feet as the first cue – so when you want trot, “trot” yourself, when you want canter, “canter” yourself. This teaches the horse to responding to your energy in the same way as it would with other horses.
In action: The Waltz in walk, trot and canter