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View Full Version : Question for advanced level riders re: gallop



sunhawk
Dec. 24, 2009, 01:07 PM
I have watched some horses that gallop as if they were born travelling uphill and balanced. I've ridden a lot of horses, galloped racehorses early in my life, started a lot of young horses under saddle, never competed above training level, but operate as a professional re: coaching, starting young horses, buying and selling etc.
I find for the most part, that horses reach a point in their gallop where they will flatten out and start to pound, and it takes a bit of riding to keep a leg on and keep them up in front and in the bridle. That's a lot of work on a training level horse at only 450, so what do upper level riders do to school a great balanced gallop between the jumps, so they can rest and let the horse go a bit between the jumps on those long tough courses?

goeslikestink
Dec. 24, 2009, 03:34 PM
I have watched some horses that gallop as if they were born travelling uphill and balanced. I've ridden a lot of horses, galloped racehorses early in my life, started a lot of young horses under saddle, never competed above training level, but operate as a professional re: coaching, starting young horses, buying and selling etc.
I find for the most part, that horses reach a point in their gallop where they will flatten out and start to pound, and it takes a bit of riding to keep a leg on and keep them up in front and in the bridle. That's a lot of work on a training level horse at only 450, so what do upper level riders do to school a great balanced gallop between the jumps, so they can rest and let the horse go a bit between the jumps on those long tough courses?

then sounds like the ones you been riding at gallop are unfit and dont do it enough

we have breeze out every time i ride out, i keep my horses fit and supple by doing all paces as and when i chose to , my horses have never flattened out
and will work all day long to include jumping etc

its how you train your horse and also what you feed it look after it how fit it will be am surprize as you say you a coach/ horse trianer can bring horses on yet dont know how to fit a horse up for a gallop or for a displine which includes jumps

kookicat
Dec. 24, 2009, 05:47 PM
Strength and balance play a big part. The stronger the horse is, the better they can balance themselves at speed.

eventrider
Dec. 24, 2009, 06:07 PM
I disagree that the OP doesnt know how to get a horse fit, based on her post/question! To answer the question, it depends on the horse. My first advanced horse galloped downhill and pulled like a freight train. He was always properly fit, but built downhill. I ran him in a 3-ring bit and let him gallop on as he wanted between fences, but worked on being able to balance him back up in front of the fences. The higher we got in the levels, the better trained and stronger he got, and the closer to the fence I could get before asking him to rebalance up (he would respond quicker and more light/uphill balanced). With my current horses, I tend to pick horses that are a bit more naturally uphill, and when they are at Novice and training I will sacrifice some time penalties on xc to teach them to stay light and not pull downhill. Most of the time this means that when they try to lean downhill, I will slow them, rebalance and ask them to carry themselves again before going faster. I keep doing this until they can carry themselves for longer and longer distances. By the time I am going upper levels they are strong enough to carry themselves around the whole course.
And of course there are some, like Teddy, that I ran to advanced in a big fat eggbutt snaffle and he never leaned downhill......

FLeckenAwesome
Dec. 24, 2009, 06:13 PM
Oooh great post!! I feel like I'm at a crossrounds with my gallop too! Fleck either feels "churny" and not really foward but like his legs are pedaling away, or.... fast but heavy and leany. I can't quite find the happy medium, but.... maybe it's a strength thing more than anything...

So.. you guys are saying to ride them light and uphill first and foremost and gradually increase the speed as they get stronger and stronger?

I also think my body position has some to do with it... I lean even 2 mm forward and I dump him on the forehand, but if I sit what feels very upright... he stays lighter. So I guess I'll practice that too!

Great post OP!

kookicat
Dec. 24, 2009, 06:30 PM
Oooh great post!! I feel like I'm at a crossrounds with my gallop too! Fleck either feels "churny" and not really foward but like his legs are pedaling away, or.... fast but heavy and leany. I can't quite find the happy medium, but.... maybe it's a strength thing more than anything...

So.. you guys are saying to ride them light and uphill first and foremost and gradually increase the speed as they get stronger and stronger?

I also think my body position has some to do with it... I lean even 2 mm forward and I dump him on the forehand, but if I sit what feels very upright... he stays lighter. So I guess I'll practice that too!

Great post OP!

Yep! You have to teach them to be light and uphill at a slower pace before you can up the speed. Bit like teaching them to jump- you start low and slow, then up the difficulty.

Good point about rider position- that can make a huge difference. You have to be able to hold yourself and not interfere with the horse.

snoopy
Dec. 25, 2009, 07:29 AM
I disagree that the OP doesnt know how to get a horse fit, based on her post/question! To answer the question, it depends on the horse. My first advanced horse galloped downhill and pulled like a freight train. He was always properly fit, but built downhill. I ran him in a 3-ring bit and let him gallop on as he wanted between fences, but worked on being able to balance him back up in front of the fences. The higher we got in the levels, the better trained and stronger he got, and the closer to the fence I could get before asking him to rebalance up (he would respond quicker and more light/uphill balanced). With my current horses


I agree with this! Back in the day when there were more galloping stretches on the older courses, you would see a lot of horses lower themselves between fences. I liked them to do this. They would find their place with in that stride and it would take far less out of them then holding them in some sort of frame which was not nessecary as long as the horse could find and maintain his own balance at speed. Of course you would change the outline somewhat if needed before your fence.
Galloping horses are somewhat on the forehand...speed comes from the forehand....impulsion/engagement from the hind end. Having said that one should still have a horse that is "on" the bridle and not flat.
Have a look at race horses and notice that they have these incredibly bulging shoulders and less hind end.

EventerAJ
Dec. 25, 2009, 09:11 AM
On a big, long course, you want the horse to move as efficiently as possible between fences. You want them pushing with their hind end, but it's ok to be on the forehand cruising along "nose-and-toes" in the middle of nowhere. Flattening out, skimming across the ground is a good thing. (I'm seeing Molokai in my mind right now.) Then you make your move and rebalance as you approach the fence; amount of balancing depends on what balance you start with, the type of fence, and how your horse responds.


However, there is a difference between a horse leveling out moving with ease (during which the rider sits relatively still, reins bridged, out of the horse's way)...and a horse flat and laboring, pulling his way with his front end. To me, that's a sign of a tired horse and you need to keep your leg on and "pulled together" however you can. And a sign that you didn't do enough fitness work at home. ;)

As far as "schooling" a gallop at home? Haven't really, nor for any of the horses I managed at an UL event barn. Most of them were TBs though and had a good natural gallop. One of them was an IDx with a short choppy stride; I did squeeze my legs in rhythm with the gallop to encourage longer steps, but for the most part he went how he went. One WB needed to "learn" how to gallop and lower his body: lots of leg-leg-leg into the hand, pushing forward.

But most were just "allowed to gallop." Some of them went down strongly into your hand, some were more light and up, we didn't do much to change their natural tendency. They learned to use themselves on hills in their weekly gallop, and that also helped create pushing power and taught them to balance themselves in cruise mode.

I do agree you seem to work more at novice/training level between fences. Often, horses at these levels are green, weaker, and less balanced; they don't know how to hold themselves together as well (especially in changes of terrain). They don't transition as quickly from gallop to "jump mode", so you spend more time and work harder to regain their jumping balance. The jumps are also much closer together (compared to an UL course), so you don't get much time to "cruise" before you have to start adjusting again.

I try to let my lower level horses "cruise" as much as possible between fences; sit still and let them relax into a gallop (even if it's a tick faster than 350/450mpm). I want them to learn to get in a relaxed, comfortable rhythm. Constantly fighting with them to "go slower go slower!" wears them out (and you!) and won't help their balance much either, as you both fight with each other. (Of course, if a horse is running off with me, I'll half-halt nicely to get him back, or if that doesn't work slam him to a halt. We practice this at home, if necessary..) You may only get about 4 strides in a good rhythm in the beginning, before you have to downshift for a jump...but allowing the young horse to develop that rhythm whenever possible will encourage him to seek it on his own.

cindywilson
Dec. 25, 2009, 02:16 PM
If you want to see this done to perfection, dig up a video copy of XC at the '84 LA Olympics. On the Fairbanks Ranch golf course, the undulating terrain wasn't conducive to making the speed, but watch Lucinda Green. As she approaches a jump, she just opens her hip angle and the entire balance of her horse rocks to the rear end, losing no time, but perfectly balanced. She doesn't even have to touch the horse's mouth.

Tazzie
Dec. 25, 2009, 02:44 PM
Great topic, I'm enjoying reading the responses.

Little Valkyrie
Dec. 25, 2009, 09:24 PM
I agree with this! Back in the day when there were more galloping stretches on the older courses, you would see a lot of horses lower themselves between fences. I liked them to do this. They would find their place with in that stride and it would take far less out of them then holding them in some sort of frame which was not nessecary as long as the horse could find and maintain his own balance at speed. Of course you would change the outline somewhat if needed before your fence.
Galloping horses are somewhat on the forehand...speed comes from the forehand....impulsion/engagement from the hind end. Having said that one should still have a horse that is "on" the bridle and not flat.
Have a look at race horses and notice that they have these incredibly bulging shoulders and less hind end.

I think this is a very good explanation. I don't ride advanced by any stretch of the imagination, but I whip-in for my local hunt and have quite a bit of experience with galloping. If I'm galloping through the woods or up to a jump I will ask my horse to be balanced to prep for a jump, rough terrain, a quick turn etc. In this time period, my horse is traveling uphill, my body is slightly more upright (shoulders open etc, but NOT sitting). However, say we meet a field where I really have to make up time, I give my horse his head let him stretch out and go. I close my angles and make it easier for him to use his head and neck. (Another problem I see with eventers is the lack of a proper galloping position, but that's a rant for another day.) Everything about the horse becomes longer but they are not really going downhill. As my huntsman once told me, if the head goes lower than the withers you're screwed (from that point you are vulnerable to bucking- and horses can buck at the gallop :D, stumbling, etc.)

sunhawk
Dec. 29, 2009, 12:41 PM
Thank you for some really good posts, have read over a couple of times.
I galloped horses for racing back in the late '70's early '80's and that was just a matter of crossing your reins, staying on thru the bucks, rears and plunges until they hit their stride, and getting the right speed for whatever distance the trainer wanted. No leg on horse, knees on withers, great for balance, developed awesome upper body strength. Found from that when I dropped my stirrups down to jumping length, had great balance over fences. Wasn't anywhere near cross-country courses in those days, but the local riding club grounds had a few little cross country jumps in the bush.
Did my first event near the time I was testing for my level 1 coaching. Horse was a nut case, but could jump anything but ditches and water. Went pre-training on him once, then training level. Was an exercise in finding out that I didn't know a lot, but was gutsy. That was '89. Had a long break from any showing after I got my coaching certificate, but had a young daughter coming up, and focused on getting her out and showing. Next time I evented was on a little welsh/qh, with short legs and a big heart, went green and pre-training on him. Then I got a leggy tb off the racetrack, went 6 years on that horse at pre-training while I worked on his issues, many and complicated, tempermental and dominant. He would pull with his head close to the ground, so ran him cross-country by throwing the reins away, and getting control before and to the jumps, so cross was a little wild and wooly, basically a run away between the jumps, and major spooks at jump judges. He was a hairy ride. Rode a young tb mare, that was bred for sport, she had a lovely uphill gallop, naturally, but was a loser when it came to jumping. Rode a lovely little pony morgan, he had a great natural gallop, really balanced and easy, point and shoot, the most fun horse I ever rode cross on, but only did green and sold him. He is now doing well for his junior rider at the pretraining level. Had a very hot, emotional and tempermental tb gelding, rode green, and sold last year, he was either smoking hot or suckinig up behind my leg, tricky horse and not much fun, but could really jump when he had a mind to, and very balanced gallop when he wasn't cooking up some excuse. Started a little guy, welsh qh, was the most natural gallop and jump, sold when he was green just started under saddle, and his current owner rides intermediate. Don't think he ever got over 14'1. Currently riding a morgan/appy cross, great natural balanced gallop, awesome little jumper, great fun to ride, no issues other than wanting to star gaze.
I think there is a lot to getting the back and hindquarters strong in their dressage so they can carry, if they can't carry at a trot and canter then they can't at a gallop.
I've done a bit of endurance, and I'm no stranger to fitting up and conditioning horses, I think I am seeing a big difference in what young green horses, or what horses that don't have a good mind over horses that have had time to develop and are built correctly instead of the value-priced models I tend to be able to afford can do.
Being able to event well is not a condition of the level 1 Equine Canada coaching.
Most of my instruction has come from clinics, we don't have access to quality coaching in this area. I have to haul at least 3 hours to get to any kind of coach.