View Full Version : Need a little help with my youngster

Jan. 11, 2008, 11:11 AM
Hoping you guys can offer some suggestions.
I have a 3.5 year old youngster who has been in training undersaddle for the past 2 months. He's just a total sweetheart, and sometime last week was my first ride on him.

Yesterday, I had my first lesson on him, and consequently, our first canter :P and he was a doll. I'm finding though that he has a tendency to what to go BTV. I feel that he's still going forward though, so I don't think I can push him much more in that regards. Part of it, I know, is that I do tend to get a bit clingy with my hands, and perhaps not as driving with my seat and legs as I should be. I think some of it is also him (is that possible?) and his own natural carriage.

I'll attach pictures
Here he is lunging: http://www.hidden-identity.net/arion/actc/ArionNatural.JPG (you can see that the bungees are just tied around his neck)


You can critique if you want. I know I'm too big for him :( He's only 15.3hh and, let me tell you, what a shock that was after riding my 17.2hh guy! I'm hoping that if I lose 20lbs, it'll make a noticeable difference.

Jan. 11, 2008, 11:19 AM
My young guy had this tendency too, WAZ had me keep really light contact and send him forward, I mean really forward at the trot, get the hind end working and send him!

Auventera Two
Jan. 11, 2008, 11:20 AM
You are not even remotely close to be too big for this horse!

What kind of bit are you using? I found the KK Ultra snaffle was always well accepted by our youngsters. Maybe he's wanting to suck back if he's not sure of the bit.

On a 3.5 year old I'm not too sure that I'd worry about "driving with my seat and legs." He's only a baby. He's still growing and mentally maturing. I'd let him find his balance and put his head where it's comfortable for him without worrying about it right now. I wouldn't let him get into the habit of getting behind the leg and sucking back, but I'd also be careful about over riding him. But that's just me. I've found with my current youngster that a big posting trot helps when she's sucking back. I don't necessarily drive, but I get her on the flat, stay out of her mouth, and cluck my tongue and say "trot trot trot!" a few times. Some leg aids, and then let her stretch out. I don't like sitting on babies, or "driving" with the seat at all. The muscles in the back and loins are just too weak and the skeleton is still developing.

I started my mother's young TB mare who was extremely sensitive and would tend to get lost behind the bit. Switching to the KK really helped, but also I kept my aids very quiet and allowed her to get accustomed to the feel of the rider. After a handfull of rides, she started to soften and relax and come back to the bit. I also rode her some in a hackamore just to get rid of her preoccupation with the bit and trying to suck behind it. That also helped but some people may not be comfortable with that approach.

Does he have any caps (teeth) that are loose? Wolf teeth? If the bit touches them, he may try to avoid it.

Good luck, he's lovely.

Jan. 11, 2008, 11:29 AM
What does your coach/trainer say? It's really hard to say how to fix it w/out knowing the root cause.

My own young horse is extraordinarily sensitive w/ a long back and a tendency to get quick... He also drops behind the vertical and drops contact all because his rear end is 2 miles behind me. But, if you add leg, he simply quickens and tightens his back... So, my coach has me slow his rhythm down, bump him up in front, and do transitions so I can finally find his hind end to ride him up to the contact.

Your horse is much greener than mine is. When mine was just a couple months under saddle we let him find his own rhythm, without running, bump his nose gently up and out and try to let him simply find his swing...

I guess my point is that forward isn't always the answer in that forward sometimes equates to running and being quick... which isn't right either...

Helpful as mud, I know...

Elegante E
Jan. 11, 2008, 11:30 AM
You don't look too big for him. Don't worry over that.

Do worry about contact and your balance. Keep your contact light so he can stick his nose out and balance himself. Also a steady leg, not driving leg or seat, is important. I think of it as having padded walls on either side of my young ones - no clamping or heavy contact - but protecting their sides to help them balance off my legs, not my hands.

Be super aware of your own balance. If you lean just a little, you will throw him out of balance and he will use the reins to help himself.

Jan. 11, 2008, 11:41 AM
I wouldn't lose sleep over it :lol:

It's common and happens for many reasons, the main one being a loss of balance. Work on getting him more balanced in his body and working thru his back, don't worry about his head. I certainly would not bump his head up - you could cause a further loss of balance and a justified paranoia about your hands. An arret should be saved for the horse who is working thru his back but refusing to come up in the half halt, not a baby.

Jan. 11, 2008, 11:53 AM
I guess I used bump in the wrong way. In no way was I meaning to say arret- at least as I understand an arret (which, admittedly, could be wrong). I meant a baby half halt to say whoa, back up the freight train, slow down and rebalance please- a brief gentle hold and letting go, so he/she doesn't learn to lean or continue running forward and down. Nothing extreme, nothing getting an over-reaction response... My main point was that forward isn't always the answer - it depends on the baby...

arena run
Jan. 11, 2008, 11:56 AM
Just my two cents here. You don't look too big. ;) He might FEEL small but you are a nice size together.

Also, it does seem that you're riding him w/a bit too much accent on -- where his head is. (??) Your hands look light it's just that... well, he IS btv. And honestly, at 3 and a half, a month of riding... he should just be finding himself. Let him find what's happy for him. There's plenty of time to help him fine tune that 'happy spot' but you don't want to establish .... I don't know.... evasion? an overall mentality of "I can't get to where I'm comfortable so I'll just give up"?

He's a really cute guy. :) Ya'll look nice as a pair.

I'm remembering an incident w/a neighbor and a hard spook/pull-back w/a youngster. Was that you? Is this the youngster? Just curious. sylvia

Jan. 11, 2008, 12:03 PM
He's darling.

But I agree with Elegant E -- I would very much worry about his inclination to go BTV at this stage. He's BTV in every picture, and I would worry about what he's being taught.

What are the bungees for? Lungeing I presume?

I know some people use bungees sometimes on some horses and have some success... but my gut tells me that they're not right for your horse. (If its not the bungees, my instinct is still that he's being lunged in a way that the pressure on his mouth is TOO much, and its teaching him to shorten his neck and go BTV to escape it).

I'd worry about this, because acceptance of the bit is the key first step. Even though he's a doll, it looks like he's being taught that "accepting the bit" means not touching it (thus the BTV).

That's a lot of opinion based on only a few pictures, but that's what my gut tells me. This is such a nice horse, don't mess up this basic point so early in his training.

Jan. 11, 2008, 12:11 PM
Thanks for the comments about the size. At 5'8, I personally feel ridiculous on him and really self conscious, but hopefully as I ride him more and get my weight under control, I won't feel that it's so noticeable.

Thanks for the suggestions.
Trainer isn't worried. Like a few of you, she agrees that its a "baby" thing and he's trying to find his balance. She tells me that I should just really work on stretching him forward and downward and praise him when he does so and the rest'll come as he builds up muscle.

As for the bit, I believe its a rubber happy mouth. he was such a problem case for bitting, that we went through 4 before he was content to even start softly chewing it. still not sure if its the right choice though. He did have his teeth done about 4 months ago, so I'm not overly concerned with that, but he's having them checked again in 2 months to make sure they are still decent

Elegante E -maybe that leaning thing is causing it? I know in some of the pictures, I'm leaning. since I gained weight about a year ago, I find that my overall balance has changed, so maybe that's one of the reasonings?

rileyt - the bungees are for lunging. We switched between those and side reins, and found that he seeme to go better in the bungees, as he liked to stretch more up and down with them.

Jan. 11, 2008, 12:26 PM
I agree, you're not too big for him. But his size will challenge you to find your own balance!

I think the problem is two-fold. One problem is that you are working to find your balance on a smaller horse. It would be easy if you could just let that leg relax and bring your seat under you. But that's not so easy on a smaller, green, sensitive horse, is it? :winkgrin: They hippity hop off in another direction when you put your leg on, hollow out when you sit, and so on. I think you'll need to work to quietly and softly bring your hips under your shoulders, drop your knee a little lower and bring that lower leg a tiny bit back. This should require a strong lower back (to support yourself) and some rotation from your hips and knees!

The second problem I envision is that he is just MOVING forward-ly and is not so much doing it off your leg aids. I say that because he is only 2 months under saddle and I don't think is at the place where he will understand being packaged between your leg and hand. I usually work through this with good old fashioned transitions and figures.

He is a VERY cute guy! Looks beautiful for having so little work!

Side note to the OP - I dealt with these same issues with one of my resells. A 16h but THIN and responsive OTTB. I've ridden many greenies and am typically pretty efficient, but this particular one really challenged my balance and timing. As evidenced here
If you scroll to the right, you can see the same guy a few months later. Not perfect, but quiet and happy! (I also used those elastic rein inserts with this guy. He seemed to like the contact but soft connection)

Auventera Two
Jan. 11, 2008, 01:14 PM
Thanks for the comments about the size. At 5'8, I personally feel ridiculous on him and really self conscious, but hopefully as I ride him more and get my weight under control, I won't feel that it's so noticeable. .

You are not too big. Tiny little peanuts riding 17 hand beasts looks ridiculous. Especially if they have well sprung ribs, they take up your leg nicely. And besides, he's not done growing - he's a BABY. :winkgrin: I'm tall also and ride ponies. My three are 14, 14.1 and 15. I don't think being over-horsed looks any better than being on a small one.

Also, incidentally, a rubber happy mouth caused my Arab to completely avoid the bit. She threw her head and chewed it incessantly. I thought it would be so "soft and gentle" but she hated it. I posted a message about it a couple years ago and surprisingly got quite a few comments that the happy mouth bits often don't work for horses. I'm not really sure why. I tried very hard to go bitless and she hated that too. She's now in a Myler comfort snaffle, but the KK Ultra is also very soft. I just couldn't get one small enough for her tiny mouth and low pallette. It might just be worth a shot to try something different for your guy.

Good idea on the dental re-check. There's a lot changing in their mouth as they're growing and losing teeth and sprouting the adult ones.

Jan. 11, 2008, 01:23 PM
Keep your contact light so he can stick his nose out and balance himself.

This was my thought. I would spend some time letting him move out, stretch, stretch his nose out, down, get him to feel and stretch his back. You will begin to feel the length of, and posibilities for length in, his stride.

spending a little bit of time getting him to listen to and respond comfortably to your hands, to your collection seat, is good, but also, getting him to move out and use his back well is good for him until he has alot of muscle and an older mind, too.

When you do work on him on contact, you can work on say moving out and collection at walk and trot, all from yo9ur seat. This might get him away frm the bit and your hands, and going behind the v.

Ideas to think about.

Jan. 13, 2008, 01:19 AM
Nice Horse, nice riding...You look fine...don't worry about yourself- if you want to loose weight - that's fine- but not the most important factor.

I think you need to take the advice of some here and allow him to stretch forward and downward.
Reason being - the horse is young and weak in the back- there are moments when he finds the work hard and he's trying to get out of it- so he goes a tad behind the bit (I didnt find it anything to worry about) .... in those moments- ride forward, try and get a tad off his back- sit lightly and trot another round and then let him have a walk break.

When you trot and you feel him get tired, ride a tad more forward with your leg and give the rein as if you'd give him a stretch. Hopefully he'll learn to stretch down and forward which feels rewarding for him and if you sit light- his back will come up and he'll swing more which is a great feeling- it might just be a tad scary to have nothing in front of you- but it works like a charm-intermixing those sequences will strengthen his back nicely and he'll be more able to carry you.

I have a 3 1/2 yr old as well- so I speak from very current experience.
Good Luck!

Jan. 13, 2008, 02:27 AM
Actually, I have a coming 5 year old and WE work on forward, stretch through the topline (down and forward) concentrating on straightness and rhythm; they have to build the muscles to carry themselves. He's young and will only gain strength from here on out. He looks nice, so do you, you guys fit just fine. ;)

Jan. 13, 2008, 09:12 PM
Thank you all so much.
I think what I will be doing to start with, is getting him to stretch a little at the walk (we haven't figured that out much yet! only when he is tired does he do this) and then progress to the trot and canter. I've got access to some trot poles on the ground...would it be too soon to start introducing these with a rider (he's been lunged over them)

Jan. 14, 2008, 04:58 PM
i have a just turned 4 TB... never raced...
he tends to do the same thing at the canter, although I'm not riding him on the bit... I ride with a light contact and ask for forward and relaxed gaits... My trainer said he just uses his neck to balance himself at the canter and that with more practice he will learn to balance himself better... I'm not trying to change his way of going, I want him to learn balance himself...
I do trot poles with him alllll the time! they are WONDERFUL...

Jan. 15, 2008, 09:30 PM
I had to work on this alot on a young friesian i used to ride. my trainer would have me go "up and out " with my hands for a moment. Just quickly move my hands forward and up the neck to encourage to horse to look for the bit. She would say "tell him it is out there ,he has to go get it" It wasn't an arret,as it did not invovle bumping his mouth.It was more like pushing my hands slightly up and forward where i wanted him to put his nose. It actually worked ,but i had to pay attention ,and be very quick too do it as soon as he dropped behind.

Jan. 16, 2008, 12:41 AM
Just for the record- you don't look too big on him in the least bit. When I switched to a smaller horse (and one that fits me better!) I concentrated on building my core strength. You gotta sit up straight on the little guys-specially the young ones, it helps them maintain their balance. My trainer really helped me realize that I was riding defensively on my young horse and it was not helping him.

I have a five year old that I have about three months of saddle time into. We pulled him out of a field this summer barely halter broke and he's been a lot of fun (and a bit challenging) so far.