Home Horsemanship Basics A Flagging Project

A Flagging Project

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With Mindy Bower

If you are creative, you can find ways to prepare you and your horse for demanding jobs, such as roping, where there are many variables to keep track of, by simulating complicated situations. If riding in one hand, and if roping or any other aspect of making a bridle horse is part of your goals, working another horse from horseback is a great exercise to build handiness and to learn to how to shift your attention back and forth between your saddle horse and the horse you’re working.

Shadow
Shadow

I had a great project this summer with these two horses. Randy, a very troubled four-year-old Warmblood gelding and Shadow, a nine-year-old Quarter Horse gelding who was very green-broke. Randy was extremely afraid of the flag and very out of balance left to right. Shadow was just heavy on his front-end and very hard to get into and keep at the canter, especially to the left.  So I set out to work on both problems at the same time in the round pen with the flag.

First I just wanted to get Randy going around evenly at the walk, trot and canter both ways, and to have Shadow move in a small circle in the middle of Randy’s big circle. I could use the flag to both move Randy out and to move Shadow in. In other words, to move Shadow’s front-end around more than his hind.

Once this was accomplished, I could trade places and ride Shadow out to the big circle and push Randy to the middle on the little circle. Depending on what I think needed to be done at the moment, I could ask Randy to move either his hind-end around or his front-end depending on whether I was drawing on the inside eye or pushing on the outside eye.

My goal was to be able to do both just to build more mental flexibility in him. He was so used to using one side and moving one way, it was obvious why he was in trouble. (His right side was hollow and his left side stiff.)

In the mean time, I had moved Shadow up to the canter  and worked on maintaining his gait. I could immediately take the pressure off Randy by just concentrating on Shadow and ignoring Randy. Then when things shaped up, I’d bring Shadow back to the center of the round pen and pushed Randy back out onto the big circle.

Randy
Randy

My next project was to Randy to do a figure eight in the round pen, by getting him to hook on enough to come across the pen. Then I could push on his eye and send him in the new direction.

At the same time I’m working on Shadow tracking Randy and making nice transitions. It made me very aware of whether Shadow was staying between my reins. If not, I could easily use the flag to push on his eye and get him centered.

My final objective was to be able to touch Randy with the flag. I had already tried to remedy this with me on foot, but he was too scared, and it wasn’t going to happen anytime soon. Horseback was a different story. If you find yourself in a situation like that, remember that you can use your saddle horse to build confidence in a horse that is very afraid.

Once I touched him with the flag and he accepted it, I took his halter rope off the horn and worked on building the feel that had been covered up by all that fear. Once again, you can use the flag to support movement in both horses.

I would suggest a project such as this to help improve your own skills. It’s a lot to keep track of, without the level of risk that there is in roping. So be creative, and set up jobs to prepare you and your horse for more challenging tasks.

Driving Randy around to the left and to the right. You can see that his body position is hollow on the right and stiff on the left as he travels off to the left.
Driving Randy around to the left and to the right. You can see that his body position is hollow on the right and stiff on the left as he travels off to the left.
You can see how I can use the flag to encourage Shadow to move and bring his front quarters across in order to stay in position on the smaller circle.
You can see how I can use the flag to encourage Shadow to move and bring his front quarters across in order to stay in position on the smaller circle.
Once Randy was traveling freely to the right and left, I would take Shadow out on the big circle and leave Randy in the center of the round pen. Here, I'm working on Shadow's canter to the right.
Once Randy was traveling freely to the right and left, I would take Shadow out on the big circle and leave Randy in the center of the round pen. Here, I’m working on Shadow’s canter to the right.
While Shadow and I are out on the big circle, I can work on drawing on Randy's inside eye to move his hind-quarters ...
While Shadow and I are out on the big circle, I can work on drawing on Randy’s inside eye to move his hind-quarters …
... Or push on his outside eye to move his front quarters. I needed him to be able to do both to help.
… Or push on his outside eye to move his front quarters. I needed him to be able to do both to help.
If at any time I feel Shadow not between my reins, I can use the flag to help keep him centered and on track.
If at any time I feel Shadow not between my reins, I can use the flag to help keep him centered and on track.
Here is a figure eight through the center of the round pen changing from left to right. I draw so that Randy hooks on enough to come across the center of the pen. Then I push on his eye, until he changes eyes and directions.
Here is a figure eight through the center of the round pen changing from left to right. I draw so that Randy hooks on enough to come across the center of the pen. Then I push on his eye, until he changes eyes and directions.

Randy-9

Randy
Randy
Here is a figure eight through the center of the round pen changing from right to left. I draw so that Randy hooks on enough to come across the center of the pen. Then push on his eye, until he changes eyes and directions. Shadow also is getting experience tracking Randy as he changes directions.
Here is a figure eight through the center of the round pen changing from right to left. I draw so that Randy hooks on enough to come across the center of the pen. Then push on his eye, until he changes eyes and directions. Shadow also is getting experience tracking Randy as he changes directions.

Randy-bRandy-c

My final goal was to be able to touch Randy with the flag. I had tried doing this afoot, but he was much too afraid. This way he can be supported by Shadow to help build his confidence.
My final goal was to be able to touch Randy with the flag. I had tried doing this afoot, but he was much too afraid. This way he can be supported by Shadow to help build his confidence.

Randy-13

Once Randy had accepted being touched with the flag while loose, I could take the lead rope off of the saddle horn and begin working in closer with the flag. He is getting lots of good exposure and still drawing support from Shadow while we work.
Once Randy had accepted being touched with the flag while loose, I could take the lead rope off of the saddle horn and begin working in closer with the flag. He is getting lots of good exposure and still drawing support from Shadow while we work.

Groundwork Book by Buck Brannaman



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Mindy Bower
Mindy has been working with horses her entire life. She starts colts and helps riders from her ranch in Kiowa, Colorado. She excels at helping horses and riders of all ages and levels be comfortable and safe. Mindy is a dedicated student of horsemanship herself, and is always looking to broaden her horizons of knowledge. Learn more: www.uhohranch.com