Flight Checks are what I do after playing with my horse and before I ride off from the mounting block. I make sure I have brakes and can move all four feet in all four directions (forward, back, left and right). It also lets me assess whether I have a good Connection and to help the horse get balanced and flexible before riding off. If anything needs working on I will either stay with it until softer and lighter or I’ll get off and work on it from the ground.
Here is a short film of the Flight Checks I do and how they can progress. I hope it helps to remind you to offer and find the ‘light feel’ on the reins, where our weight should be and to use our focus, seat and leg aids before using the reins.
Once you and your horse can do these with lightness and no brace you will find you will need them less and less. I use them before riding off and practice them now and then but because our ‘muscle memories’ in our bodies and brains have the techniques and actions stored we can use them when necessary (ie. an emergency halt w/relaxation) but can now refine them so that my breathing out and a lift of the rein is suffice to halt. I want the muscle memories there for if and when I need them…this one rein halt will not work well if the memories aren’t there, we would both be so far removed from relaxation that it would actually cause more tension and braciness….if we can avoid that and teach ourselves and our horses to have a ‘trigger’ of relaxation when the rein is lifted then we will all be safer in an emergency situation that hopefully never happens.
One of the most useful techniques I use and it can be so much fun to play with. I even use this to groom our big horse as he’s 18.2hh and standing on a barrel or mounting block to clean him whilst he moves around for me is a great example of using the techniques for a purpose and a great connection.
This first video is of me and Solly who has not been played with for about 3 months over Winter. He’s got sticky feet and is a bit mouthy so I thought it would be interesting for you to see how to sidle to the mounting block with a slightly uncooperative horse first. The second video, done the next day, is of Solly, Tara and then Stormy all sidling to a large stone as a mounting block, just to show how good training is not about tricks but about communicating with the horses mind to his feet.
If you’re starting to try this out remember a few things:
1) Always have a good drive away before trying to ask horse to come towards you
2) Always reward (with a rest, a rub and a good boy/girl) for the SLIGHTEST try. I ask for more with mine as they have already been trained and they know what I’m asking but can be sluggish or dis-connected.
3) If horse goes INTO the pressure they are either not understanding or being polite and not wanting to come into you (which hopefully you’ve already taught them) SO don’t get frustrated just keep gently asking for the slightest try and reward immediately they try, even if it’s just a shift in weight.
4) Progress on one side to start with (which ever side you and horse find easier) and then ask for the other side so that when you’ve progressed enough the horse should be able to go from sidling to the right and to the left equally.
5) Try sidling up to many other things as it’s not about the block it’s about the techniques and communication of moving your horses feet about. Try from a large stone, a gate, put horse into ditch, a block in a different place.
6) If your horse is not understanding your ask to come to you and goes around and around the block then place the block against the fence so that he can only go so far, hold the lead rope underneath the chin and that arm straight and strong (like he’s tied up) so that he can only move his hindquarters out or towards, this will help stop forward movement or circling.