Back to the subject of “two tracking”, or lateral movement of a horse. I’ve discovered that people and horses both tend to avoid performing lateral movements of the horse’s hindquarters. The horses don’t like it because it’s hard to do, and they would rather do things easily and efficiently, rather than elegantly and athletically. People have a similar problem, because using the legs to signal a horse is difficult, but also because we seem to have a penchant for using our hands (even though most of us don’t spend a lot of time hanging from limbs anymore).
Watch a youngster or beginner try to open and close a gate horseback and you’ll see what I mean. First the horse won’t “parallel park” next to the gate to allow the person to reach the latch. Then, the horse wants to push the gate open with its nose.
Moving the hindquarters starts from the ground. When you are working with the horse at halter, stand near his shoulder, and with a stick or light dressage whip, softly tickle his ribs near where your leg would be if you slid it back from its normal resting position. If he doesn’t step over, get a little more insistent with the stick until he takes a step away from you. At that point stop asking him immediately, and stroke his neck with your hand. Now go around to the other side and repeat the procedure. Do this on both sides until he moves away from the touch of the whip as light as a fly landing on his hair. Every day when working with the colt do the exercise until it is so routine that all you have to do is touch his rib cage to move his hindquarters over as much or as little as you need. This is the flexion of the haunch, and is an important building block for collection, either in a cow horse or a dressage or dancing horse.