How to Understand Flexions

Ever noticed how a colt sticks to its mama when anxious? The two even gallop stuck together sometimes. A horse’s’ natural tendency is to move into pressure, at least some of the time. This becomes a problem when we undertake to try to control a horse with a bit in its mouth. If we pull, to apply pressure, like is not he will lean into the pull, and it becomes a tug-of-war. It is for this very reason that our friend Baucher stressed the flexion of the jaw so much.  What he wanted to accomplish was a conditioned reflex of yielding to pressure. He built in a yielding of the jaw so that when the rider’s hand closed on the reins the horse would surrender to the pressure and soften its mouth. This reflex is the key to lightness.

Grey Lusitano mare "Javalina" & roan Lusitano filly "Hera"
Javalina & Hera (Lusitanos)

Most of us initiate this reflex while dismounted. Using a snaffle or some such bit, standing next to the horse lift this novel upward into the corner of the horse’s mouth. Keep lifting until the horse opens its mouth, then you release the pressure, and the horse will lick and chew. Repeat this until you begin to get a near instant response with small pressure. Next, doing the “in the hand” work, walk along beside the horse, lifting the bit repeatedly, so that the horse yields the jaw with light pressure, and chews and swallows, as you walk along. Finally, mounted, ask for the jaw flexion with one rein whenever the horse resists, and ask for the chew. It will feel like a soft vibration, and will make a clinking sound, the music of the mouth. That music is the basis of lightness!

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