View Full Version : Any excersises/Ideas for this horse?

Dec. 20, 2007, 08:36 AM
Ok, This is the same mare I posted about eariler asking about her canter. The problem this time is her trot. I'm pretty sure I know what to do and how to handle it. But any extra advice would be appreciated.

Alright. At walk she is ok. She is relaxed and loose and reaches for the bit. (I'm keeping her in a long-low frame for now) She tracks up well etc. But as soon as I pick up a trot she scrunches her back up so tightly it makes ME hurt. She takes tiny little trot steps and becomes very backwards. Any leg makes her go faster or take tinyer littler steps quicker. any rein other than basic contact and she either tucks in her head in a super-arched, super-fake frame. Or she throws her head in the air.

I belive the person who rode this mare before me put her in this "fake frame" because she thought she was "on the bit". The girl said that she likes it when this horse does the tiny trot because it is comfortable to ride (It has no power from behind in any form so it is very flat and feels like riding a gaited horse if you sit.)

This is a smart horse who will be quite lovley when she releases her back and is FORWARD. But in the meantime (with no arena to work in) I am struggling along trying to get her to relax her back.

I have done alot of long-low. And when she streches I add a bit more leg to ask her to use her hindquarters, not drop on her forehand and strech out a bit. But she immediatly throws her head up and tightens again. So I have been repeating this alot. I would LOOOVEEEEE to be able to do circles and bending and serpentines and spirals and some-such with this mare, but yet again, I do not have an arena to work in so it is muddy trails or the road at the moment.

I do not have any super high-level dressage goals for her. I just want her to be confident and happy in her job and be able to use herself correctly and have dressage-basics down.

Any help/ideas?

Dec. 20, 2007, 08:40 AM
Do you have an area to lunge? Doing so in a vienna rein would be quite helpful... has totally changed my horse's trot, from tight, fast, short and hollow to huge, soft, slow and suspended.

Dec. 20, 2007, 09:59 AM
Sorry, no where to lunge either. I (and the horses) are in the woods. When it is dry I have a clearing-area to ride in, but it has trees in it in such a way to make lunging impossible. As the moment however, the clearing is completely underwater.

I do trailer to my trainers barn 1-2X a week but I have 2 horses on much more riged schedules who NEED the arena work..and I only have a 2 horse trailer. SO..this girl gets to be stuck at home.

Dec. 20, 2007, 10:28 AM
Imho the horse is telling you she is out of balance, too lowered perhaps. Chewing the reins from the hand (aka f/d/o or L&L) is a temporary exercise to check the ability of the horse to follow the hand, it is not meant for a steady diet. However, remember that lateral flexability (aka positioning) allows for longitudinal flexion/bit acceptance. Yes, this is best done on circles/curved lines (you are correct). Make sure you are pulsing the aids, not holding rigidly.

Dec. 20, 2007, 11:25 AM
"it is not meant for a steady diet"

It may very well NEED to be! if the horse is really that screwed up, that stretching may be breakfast, lunch and dinner for a very long while.

The mistake most people make with stretching is not doing it with a connection with the reins - just getting the horse to put his head down, like a trick, with no contact. It's just as bad as teaching them the 'trick' of the false on the bit posture.

At first a horse IS on the forehand if he's stretching. So what? It doesn't matter. It's like saying oh my goodness, my socks don't match, while I'm falling off a cliff. It's a WEE bit more important that one is falling off a cliff! The horse has to accept the contact and stretch, nothing else matters until that happens.

Dec. 20, 2007, 11:56 AM
i don't think my horse would have a huge lovely relaxed trot if he was on a muddy trail or an asphalt road either. make sure you have realistic expectations for the footing. it's a whole lot easier to relax and balance in the mud at the walk when they have 3 feet on the ground to stabilize them. one thing that might sound silly but might give you and her a better idea of what is possible is to run with her in hand. as if you were at an in-hand show, take large leaping strides and see if she follows suit. now, if you cannot take large leaping strides without bracing your own body (because of the mud or the asphalt) then it may not be possible for her to do either.

Dec. 20, 2007, 12:03 PM
Do you have a hill where you can work? Walk down the hill and trot up. This way she has to do the work herself and won't get tense or scared from anything you do. Don't try trotting down at first because she will automatically try to run down the hill because she's out of balance but if you try to help her you may trigger bad memories. Just an idea.

Dec. 20, 2007, 12:32 PM
"it is not meant for a steady diet"

It may very well NEED to be! if the horse is really that screwed up, that stretching may be breakfast, lunch and dinner for a very long while.

The mistake most people make with stretching is not doing it with a connection with the reins.

At first a horse IS on the forehand if he's stretching. So what? It doesn't matter. ..The horse has to accept the contact and stretch, nothing else matters until that happens.

I agree - at this point you are correct :) - she needs to learn to stretch long & low (L&L) and start accepting contact (which she'll do better in that frame since L&L encourages them to use their back).

I'm sure you know to correct the speeding up by NOT changing your posting rate. Biggest mistake is using the reins to try to slow her - instead focus on using your seat and I use a squeeze/release with your knees as a half halt to get her to slow.

Plus a BNT told me - only do that "work" when you have it correct - in this case that would mean to only trot a couple of steps - as soon as the trotting gets fast (after you're asking her to go forward for bigger steps) then transition back to the walk.

Means you'll be doing a LOT of transitions at first :eek: but hopefully (given your limitations) this will work.

I also like QHDQ's idea of hill work.

Dec. 20, 2007, 12:36 PM
I would have a hard time getting past the footing, too. Unfortunately, what your horse probably really needs is 1-2x a week in the arena and some longeing.You can say you don't have it for her, but that's still what she needs.

If she picks up her head when you ask her to engage her hind end, there may be more than just 'exercises' to this. ask her to engage her hind end, and use your seat, and push into your hands. Seems to me she's not really on the bit when she's 'stretched out' either. She might not be balanced and on the bit much at all. I think you need arena time with her, and eyes on the ground when you ride, and some longeing.

Dec. 20, 2007, 12:43 PM
How does she trot if you hack her like a hunter. When my gelding was really really bad I just two pointed and hacked around until he worked down a bit and then slowly I sat down and asked for swing. My horse has a very very short back and it can get very tight and uncomfortable. Sometime getting off of his back while just getting him into shape worked great. I no longer have to do hardly ever unless he sits because of weather. Just an Idea.

Dec. 20, 2007, 01:18 PM
"At first a horse IS on the forehand if he's stretching. So what? It doesn't matter. It's like saying oh my goodness, my socks don't match, while I'm falling off a cliff. It's a WEE bit more important that one is falling off a cliff!

:lol: I love it, I wish my trainers would come up with stuff like this during my lessons. Because...I too kinda have that problem of seeing the big picture sometimes ;) I'll think about this next time that comes up, lol!

Dec. 20, 2007, 03:16 PM
A horse which is chewing the reins from the hand properly is lifting the chest. It might be marginally on the forehand as a green(er) horse. A steady diet of it will put the horse onto the forehand. It is key that the horse sustain contact, opening the throatlatch, etc. But there is a reason it is only shown for a circle in a show. It is a test that things are in order. Can the rider do it repeatedly? Certainly, but not steadily (except perhaps in walk, which is a grounded gait where there is less likelihood of loss of balance). Lateral flexabillity is a much better manner of putting the horse between the seat/leg and hand imho.

Dec. 24, 2007, 06:53 AM
Disagree - completely. If a horse is going along correctly in its training and everything is fine, this logic may make some sense - but only if the horse really has the back muscle and is at a point in its training where that makes sense - and only for a PART of the ride - at any level.

But with a horse that is all tensed up and has no connection or rhythm, there is just NO WAY one can go on and try to establish ANYTHING until this is fixed. I've ridden Grand Prix horses that were in the process of being 'fixed' after years of 'up and open' without real gymnasticization - and that means sufficient stretching and gait development in a longer, softer posture.

I just watched Hubertus Schmidt riding Furst Fabio and guess what? He spent about 50 percent - FIFTY PERCENT of the ride in a long, soft, low posture, and this is a grand prix horse. NO ONE is going to come on this bb and convince me that Hubertus Schmidt doesn't know how to stretch a horse - or how much to stretch a horse, or when.

I think what you're describing - doing one little circle as a stretch, doing proportionately as little stretching in training as in the tests, is a mistake. A huge mistake.

And I would argue VEHEMENTLY that the tests writers NEVER EVER suggested that since there's one circle in the test, that's how much you should stretch in training!

I think this winds up producing a horse that is 'upright' and 'open' - AND crooked and stuck in the bridle, uneven in its hind legs, jammed in its back, and unable to move naturally and in a healthy correct way. You gotta at some point say, ok, it's NICE to be 'up and open', lovely goal for a period of riding in a given day, but also have some sort of foundation in the training that produces a correct horse. 'Up and open' is like being en Pointe in ballet - it's a nice thing, but you don't do it constantly, and you SURE don't do it when the horse has no back, isn't straight, has no rhythm, and has no contact!!!!

Even under the best circumstances, you are looking at a horse that isn't going to have the freedom and correctness in his gaits that he should.

My friend just got a very well bred gelding that was ridden all jammed up, and he got the horse thinking it would make a nice pet and family horse. Three weeks of stretching and he's thinking in a VERY different way about this horse. I rode him 'before' and 'after' and I can't even BELIEVE the difference.

A horse can't be an athlete, can't do dressage, can't be improved, can't advance, if that basic connection is not there. When the basics of the training aren't there, when there's a fundamental problem with the connection, the contact, the rhythm, it ain't time to worry about being 'up and open'! Then one leaves the usual training program and it's physical therapy time.

Being a trainer is knowing when to take a step back and make those fundamentals right, and recognizing when the problem is actually an attempt is being made to move ahead without those fundamentals.

SURE people overdo stretching, I've gotten castigated like mad here for even SUGGESTING they stretch too much, but they DO - what I discussed specifically was people longeing horses in an appliance for 45 min to 'get them over their back' - I don't agree with longeing like that for such a long time. I also discussed the very stretched out, long horse with the very heavy forehand, that people can't learn to to half halt and adjust the rein length on, and get the horse in some sort of balance EVER in training - that's also a problem. So is the 'throw the reins at him!' approach to pulling. Of course.

But that doesn't mean that stretching, correct stretching, can be given short shrift, either!

Why do people 'stretch too much'? Well, technically, they don't stretch enough, because the stretching they are attempting is often so incorrect it does not create any good result - but that's true of every aspect of dressage, you can ALWAYS find SOMEONE doing a given thing wrong.

Sure. Stretching is something kind of obvious that people can grasp, and why do they not get past it - mostly because they have no idea what comes after that, or because they came up with hunters or western riding where they aren't actually stretcthing at all, they're riding on a long loose rein, which is not the same, but when they ride dressage, they ride with a loose long rein with the horse's head down, THINKING that is stretching.

Even so, despite ALL that, it doesn't mean one is supposed to do one little piddly circle as a GESTURE in training, just to get a score on a test, heck, I spent a very long time with a trainer like that and I'm here to tell ya - it don't work!!

Dec. 24, 2007, 09:05 AM
Well, Thankyou everyone for replying! I guess I plan to try much of what you are saying.

I can very easily incorporate alot of transitions and hills into my rides and streching as well. I think streching this mare alot may help her. She WILL be on her forehand, but, hell, she is on her forehand already and before I can do ANY sort of half halt or balancing or asking her to get off her forehand I need to have her coming happily into the contact and streching her neck out (She has the telescoping neck syndrome...when it is down it is 4 feet long, when it is up it is 1 foot long...And it simply does not work to try to half halt a horse who is avoiding the bit by making their neck a foot long)

Yet again, thankyou all so much for this. I will probobly update in a couple weeks and let you know how she is doing.

Dec. 24, 2007, 09:14 AM
Coming at this from a different angle, if this is the way the horse has been taught to go and has been going for a while, you can rest assured that the underlying musculature is not able to truly stretch more right now. I would strongly suggest that you incorporate into your work plan, for at least three-four months, every other week massages with a massage therapist that works actual stretching into the mix ...and one that does deep muscle, and there are few that do. I forget the actual "type" of massage work that truly goes deep ... I would then (just to be certain) make sure that the horse is in alignment ... you can schedule that for after a massage ... more than likely a good massage therapist will be able to tell you if the horse is out.

This will be a long, slow ... two steps forward, three steps back process because when you truly get the horse to understand working from behind, sometimes the horses are like .. nah, why bother, that is too much work ... but be patient, consistent and remember it takes far longer to unlearn something than it did to teach it.