Constants and Variables
by Fran Devereux Smith
"Sometimes when I ask a horse to roll up and into his shoulders and soften his back into a framed position, people think I'm asking the horse to back, but that's not the case," explains clinician Kerry Kuhn, whose Practical Horsemanship program is headquartered at the JJ Ranch near Coats, Kansas. When Kuhn asks his horse to find a soft frame, he might be standing still or at a walk, trot or lope. He might be going forward or backward, or making a change in speed.
The constant is Kuhn's hand position and, as a result, the horse's body position. Kuhn holds contact consistently enough that his horse has learned to find a release from the rein pressure by rounding his back, rolling his shoulders forward and flexing at the poll.
The difference in what his horse does, once he's properly rounded into position, lies with Kuhn's seat, feet and legs. How much energy he sends through them and even his foot position can determine the speed or direction of travel, the transition he makes.
No matter the transition, Kuhn says, "The softness I want in my hands when my horse backs is the same feel I want when he speeds up, slows down or turns. Then my horse flows through a fluid transition no matter what we do."
Read Kerry Kuhn's tips for making smooth transitions in the September issue of Western Horseman magazine. Contact KerryKuhn.com; 620-213-0939.