Good Horsemanship

Three-Flip-Three (3-Flip-3) Horse Training Exercise

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This exercise can be done with your Icelandic Horse / Pony for added flexibility and suppleness.

Description of 3-Flip-3 by Margaret:

The exercise 3-flip-3 consists of asking the horse to soften its jaw 3 times in a row, then yield its hip (step inside hip under), and then soften its jaw 3 more times. This is best practiced in a full cheek snaffle. Some of the ring bits might slide through the horse's mouth.

To do the exercise you have to be able to recognize when the horse is giving its jaw and you also have to release the rein/lead rope as soon as the horse responds in the fashion you want. Precision and timing are important. Click as you release the rein when you are first teaching the give of the jaw to the horse. After the horse is consistently responding the way you want, click at the end of the entire 3-flip-3 pattern.

When you ask for jaw softening, you slide down the rein (or lead rope) until you make contact with the horse's mouth with one hand. The other hand is on the buckle. You are raising your buckle hand as your left hand slides down the rein. Stop your lower hand just at the point where the slack goes out of the rope. Then, be a post. Simply maintain your contact until the horse makes some indication of yielding its jaw toward you. It is important that your lower hand does not move all around....it needs to stay in a single fixed point until the horse "finds" the direction of give. If working in the saddle, you can stabilize your hand on the front edge of your saddle.

When the horse moves its jaw closer to your hand, click at the exact same time you release the rein. Let the rein relax down to your horse's neck, making sure you lower BOTH hands. Treat.

John Lyons does far more justice than I can in describing how to deal with the horse in the early stages of learning the "baby give". He has tons of material....videos, audiotapes, newsletters and a web site that can help clarify this for you. Essentially, what I am describing as softening the jaw is his "baby give" exercise. Alex, in her clinics, spends huge amounts of time teaching the rein mechanics and it is impossible for me to give you every single detail which takes her hours to teach so what I am going to tell you is bare bones information. I am not being difficult (I hope)....I simply cannot communicate in one post every single detail. I do believe that Alex has on one of her videos (3 or 4?), a clip showing a horse learning to do the gives and how it leads to lateral work. Visual images can make this so much easier to learn.

Back to the give. As soon as the horse puts the slightest amount of slack in the rein, you release the rein all the way to the horse's neck. In the case of a lead rope you would let it drop so there is a big loop in the lead rope. The idea is introduce slight tension, get the response you want, release the tension. Click the response precisely as you release. Treat.

To do these gives well, it helps to have a rope rein so you can slidedown it easily. You do not simply grab the rein, or put your hand on the point where you think there will be contact. Sliding dow to a point of contact is a critical detail. Also, you are not pulling the horse's jaw around to you. You are putting a request in to the rein and waiting for the horse to answer. He may try to move in several differentdirections before he actually releases his jaw towards you.

The sliding down the rein is giving the horse information that you are coming. In time, he will start to soften the jaw earlier and earlier in the process. Your point of contact will come sooner in the slide down the rein. In time, he will be softening to your hand as you pick up the rein, listening for your request. Braided reins interfere with doing this well. I purchased the John Lyons rein kit simply because it made it so much easier to do the exercises. The weight of the rope rein amplifies both the pick up and the dropping of the rein. It amplifies and clarifies the communication, speeding up the learning process for the horse.

As you pick up the rein to ask for the "give", focus on a single spot on the horse's jaw. Alex actually has people put a piece of duct tape on the jaw in the early stages for them to focus on. John Lyons goes into great detail on the location of the point (s) where he focuses and then asks for that point to move. If you need more detail than I can givehere, I would refer you to John Lyon's work. He has spent years developing educational material to help people with this. Hopefully Alex's book on riding will be coming out soon and that should help as well.

Summarizing, you ask for 3 "gives" in a row. For the "flip" of 3-flip-3, you pick up the rein and ask for the horse to give its jaw. Once it softens its jaw, stay on the rein and slide your hand down to the new point of contact, waiting to release when the horse steps with his inside hind leg. Initially this feels like a turn or the beginning of a turn. Release immediately when the horse moves his inside hind leg. (The inside leg is the one on the same side as the rein you are picking up.)

The yielding of the hip or disengagement of the hip is the "flip" in the 3 flip 3 exercise. It might be easier to think of it as 3 jaw gives, one hip give and 3 jaw gives. Or some people like to think of it as 3-1-3. The last 3 consists of 3 more "gives" of the jaw after you have done the hip.

Once you have done 3 gives of jaw, one give of hip, 3 gives of jaw on one side of the horse you go through the same process on the other rein and the other side of the horse. One keeps switching sides after each completion of the pattern of 3-flip-3. In time, the horse becomes lighter and lighter toyour request. He learns the pattern and then you can use the pattern to move the horse where you want in the arena, around or between objects, on a circle, on the wall. The basic pattern is used to build both control of the horse's direction and its self carriage at the same time.

To simplify your learning, I would first teach the horse (and yourself), the give of the jaw. Get that element first. Then add in the hip. Practice switching from rein to rein by doing two ( or three) gives of the jaw followed by the hip on each side. Finally you can do the entire pattern. We all found it was a challenge to master the rein mechanics, recognize the give and also be able to count the pattern.

This exercise can be done both from the ground and the saddle. John Lyons teaches the give from the saddle but it can be done from the ground as well.

I hope this isn't so long as to be confusing. It really helps to get to a clinic (or have one in your area) as Alex has so many wonderful explanations and details. It is impossible to convey them all as it would take a book and probably several videos (all of which she is doing). It is a learned skill and it does help when there is someone who can give you feedback. Since I am not a "natural" athlete, I find the clinics immensely helpful as they provide lots of practice in mastering each detail as well as putting it all together into seamless motion.


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