View Full Version : How / what exercises would you use to get horse to un-curl and go to your hand?

May. 20, 2010, 05:49 PM
I'm hoping some may have some experience in horses that want to curl and bounce instead of go forward into the contact.
I have tried all kinds of bits and so far have found full cheek snaffel to work best and when he doe go into the contact he does so nicely.
However he had this great evasion and I was wondering how some of you handle it and if there is particular exercise you use that help.
I am not inexperienced and my hands are pretty darn good. So I need help at schooling my horse out of this..

May. 20, 2010, 06:28 PM
My guess would be that there are a great many riders that have ridden through something like this at one time or another so hopefully you will get lots of good suggestions. Medical/dental issues aside here are few things that have helped me in the past:
1) going back to the "gentlest" possible bit (e.g. what your horse accepts contact from the best), whether that be a mullen mouth, a zero leverage hackamore, whatever.
2) Give, give, give... Educated/gentle hands do not always equal hands that "push" forward, a concept I remind myself of often throughout a ride. 3)Transitions -sometimes contact is more readily established in a forward long and low walk, once you have it, leg up into the trot pushing hands a bit forward to encourage a stretch, after a bit settle with your seat (not hands) back into a walk using leg through the transition. Repeat, etc. On a big round circle if necessary. As you progress eventually go from trot to canter, etc.

May the leg into hand gods be with you:-)

May. 20, 2010, 06:51 PM
Have you tried shallow walk, then trot serpentines? I find that the horse will accept contact more readily when I ask for it one side at a time. I need to remind myself to give with the outside - at this point I'm not asking the horse to go onto the outside rein, just to stretch into the inside rein. If I keep gently asking forward with my legs and give and take with my inside hand, I find that it works pretty well. I'm sure there are lots of other ways; this just happens to work for me.

May. 20, 2010, 07:45 PM
Sometimes it has very little to do with hands! I find that the ones that curl to evade the bit are the extra smart ones, and usually extremely athletic and able to bounce on a short step with ease. One of my hunters has evaded by curling since he came over over the pond, and I have never been able to break him of the habit. It may seem counter intuitive, but I find that schooling on the flat with a happy mouth two ring with two reins can help. Also, I will make fine trot very forward with my hands high and his head up, then when I lower my hands and relax he tends to take the bit more. Good Luck :)

May. 20, 2010, 08:41 PM
Yes I have finally come to the conclusion it is not my hands, (that's good and bad) now I have to try and fix this. He is very light on his feet and I think would make a great jumper but I can't seem to get our work solid enough to move forward and I'm not sure how to get there to the next step. So far the only thing I have figgured out is to ride very forward and He stops but then I try to "school" more and bring our rythm to a natural pace and he starts his little game!! Not always though It seems to come when I introduce somthing new and then it slams us back to baby work again trying to get hime to take the connection. Our walk work is excellent for the most part and only a week ago our trot work was truely connected and Iwas getting excited to think we've made it over the hurtl so then I added in the canter and bam! back words we went.

May. 20, 2010, 08:58 PM
I am currently working with a 4 year old that does the same thing. RanchoAdobe explains this little mare to a T. Thinks she knows everything and doesn't need me to tell her what to do. The magic maker for me was the Herm Springer 'Nathe' bit. Every time she would even begin to touch my hand and take contact a big rub on her neck to reward her and let her know that was what I was asking. In only a month of using this bit she has come so so far!

Good luck!

May. 20, 2010, 08:59 PM
Find the fattest, softest bit you can. My personal favorite for the horses that hate contact and suck back is the Herm Sprenger French Link 20-something mm.

You have to play with things to see what works. This is a tricky situation and different horses respond to different techniques. Some respond from dropping the contact and reins altogether and just ask them to go forward forward forward. Some do well being lunged in side reins so they can learn to go forward into the contact on their own (side reins placed long and lower). Some do well if you ride them very low and deep (actually asking them to bring their neck behind the vertical like they want) and then soften your arms with a bit of leg and ask them to come out to the contact. Some do well with spiral circles really driving into a lifted contact. Some do well with a lot of inside leg to outside hand...In any case I'd recommend getting your horse to go forward first, before you start worrying about his neckset.

Do check though with a vet to make sure he's not evading something painful. Chances are it's just a bad habit, but you don't want to feel like an a** when you find out later that he just couldn't do what you wanted.

May. 20, 2010, 09:01 PM
I have to say that this thread brought a smile to my face, because I too have a "curler". I agree with RanchoAdobe: Mine is smart, athletic and easily canters in a ball. I have my best success with him by riding with a loop in the reins, especially at the trot, and never allowing the adrenalin to kick in. Strong leg pressure is his friend, gives him confidence. When he was more green, I slowed/balanced him by circles or by a pull/release. And after trying many, many bits, he does best in something mild. Take your time... be patient... good luck!:yes:

May. 20, 2010, 09:50 PM
Don't try to fix both reins at once.

Fix one at a time.

Leg yield him into one outside rein, then go the other way and legyield him into the other.

Ride for a "lengthening" feeling in the neck, from the base of the neck forwards. So you are legyielding over and lengthening the neck forwards, into the outside rein. Thus, do not make the angle of the legyield too dramatic; start QL to longside and use the length of the arena. As he takes more contact and lengthens his neck more you can make the angle steeper.

May. 20, 2010, 10:26 PM
This is too funny, I came on trying to find some tips for my 'curler'. I find my mare tends to curl when she doesnt understand what I am asking and then it seems to go downhill from here. I have not found anything that seems to help thus far...

May. 20, 2010, 10:47 PM
dumping the contact and lots of upward transitions have been slowly helping mine. But this is a much harder fix than getting one to come down. It's a forever battle too :-(

May. 20, 2010, 11:07 PM
I have a world champion curler who is pretty good at jump almost anything from the worst of canters, because lets be honest, they they are curling they aren't coming through and if they aren't coming through, it's not a good canter.

Thoughts on curling after any possible medical conditions are ruled out:
1. the walk is the hardest gait to work in as it is the easiest one to ruin, get short, etc. I wouldn't worry TOO much about walk work, unless your working on lateral exercises (leg yield, shoulder in, etc.) that focuses on getting him to step under and across Lateral work, in general, is your friend.
2. Make sure he has a good respect for your leg aids. It took for ever to get my horse to move forward from my leg rather than ball up more when I put it on him. Do NOT accept him threatening you, getting behind the leg, etc. You cannot have him step into contact if he will not step forward from your leg.
3. Don't fuss with your hands. Have them there, ready, consistent, and when you do get a good contact, keep them steady, soft through the elbow, to keep that contact. When you finally get him moving into the contact, do not forget to give when you ask him to soften. Its really easily, in my experience, to undo reaching for the bit by fussing with it too much.
4. Longe your horse in side reins so that he learns to move from behind into contact without any unsteadiness a rider provides.
5. When you do start picking up contact, after he is moving forward off your leg, do not let his ears disappear (yup, you get to look at your horse occasionally). Forward and down will not result in disappear ears, down and in will.

It is really important to focus on the idea of forward and relaxed (not running and strung out) when you are dealing with curling, in my experience. If you find and hold contact before a horse that curls is moving through his back and really stepping up while starting to lift his shoulders, you'll end up holding him in the curl. Curling is, as the PC manual so nicely informed me when I read it, the hardest problem to correct.

May. 21, 2010, 12:06 AM
Thank you everyone for such good info and to know I'm not alone!!
I get that you have to keep your contact quiet but it seems to just use your rein aids is enough to send my horse into curling! And yes I think I've gotten him going nicely but then he goes so low and heavy I lift my hands to get him UP NOt collected just not so low and heavy and boom back to curling. When Iride all most all from leg alone will be our best rides but I guess I thought he had to learn to accept me using the connection we would establish but it undoes everything. If I ride with a steady even connection and yes focuss on soft elbows but ride from legs alone with thinking of my turns through my upper body which is then so suttle of a rein aid he could handle that but do not use any pressure or what not via hand.

May. 21, 2010, 12:19 AM
Mine is smart, athletic and easily canters in a ball.

Same here for mine!

I also raise my hands. I find whenever I'm riding with them too low (where I think his head should be) he gets too low and is more prone to curling. If I keep them up where his head actually is, I get a much nicer ride with a softer frame. I also warm up with my hands a little further apart then I normally hold them, like I did when he was green(er).

Like you, I also find riding off my leg is most helpful and using my body to regulate speed (like slowing my posting so he matches it) is better then rein aids. We also do a lot of slight lateral work like starting on a quarter line, leg yeilding out and into the corner so he's really in the outside rein at the corner. Same idea for shoulder in and spiral circles.

May. 21, 2010, 02:31 AM
What about trot poles (http://sphotos.ak.fbcdn.net/hphotos-ak-ash1/hs479.ash1/26241_350183054381_52119554381_3414512_5388486_n.j pg) and raised trot cavalettis (http://sphotos.ak.fbcdn.net/hphotos-ak-ash1/hs479.ash1/26241_350183064381_52119554381_3414513_5524945_n.j pg) to encourage them to stretch through their top and into the contact? You could adjust the striding in between to further encourage them to stretch and open up their gait. This seems to have worked well for our horses that tend to get "stuck" in one frame and not very elastic in their contact.

May. 21, 2010, 08:22 AM
I agree that these horses are often athletic and naturally balanced and that the assumption that it comes from a heavy.handed rider is incorrect. I also agree that running them forward does nothing but put them off balance and in the end just creates a new problem to fix.

My world class curler was fixed by two things - a THIN myler mullein mouth D ring, he hates the bit to move in his mouth at all - and riding him on very uneven terrain that challenged his natural balance point. The icing on the cake was learning to keep my sternum elevated without losing my core strength. If you are sitting up and pulling your upper body away from your lower these horses just slip right thru the crack, so to speak.

Mine is base narrow in the front with really wide hips. Bending him more than I bend my horses with a more balanced conformation helped later on, too... But not in the beginning.

May. 21, 2010, 09:05 AM
add me to the "I Ride a Curler" club!

mine is also wicked smart and athletic, whose default "getting out of work" evasion is flinging his head up and/or going fast, and then curling when i ask for roundness. super fun!

what i've found works best for him is warming up with a stretchy nose-on-the-ground walk at first. it helps unlock the back and get him into the mode of stretching down and out with his neck. i use just a small touch on the reins and then a BIIIIIIG release when he starts to go down, and in a few minutes i can get him happily going along on the buckle.

however, asking for a higher frame than that, and work at the trot and canter, is a whole 'nother ball game! but usually i have better luck if i've gotten the stretchy walk first. the trick with my particular curler is FORWARD FORWARD FORWARD and then add a little more hand. if at any point he starts to 'fake it' and get scrunchy i throw the reins away and kick him up until his neck relaxes, then try again with light contact, IMMEDIATE softening when he accepts contact, etc. acheiving a round trot is much easier than canter for him, though i did get BEAUTIFUL canter work a couple weeks ago, which made my life complete lol. it's been touch and go since then.

i can maintain what true roundness i do get much easier if i remember to ride 90% leg and seat, 10% hand (what a concept! who woulda thunk!)

May. 21, 2010, 09:35 AM
I found that this bit works really well for my curler http://s7d5.scene7.com/is/image/PetsUnited/TSLT900273_104354 I also put him in a 2-ring elevator with a curb rein on the second ring (same mouthpiece) for that time period when the curling stopped and the dragging started lol. My horse's issue actually wasn't (entirely) in his previous training- it was a physical issue. Turns out the angle of his right front foot was off, which caused the right side of his neck/shoulder to be tight/sore, which caused his back to be extremely tight/sore. He was curling to protect himself. We ended up getting shockwave/acupuncture/chiropractic work done and the curling has stopped. Now I ride him in the full cheek with draw reins (a few times per week) to encourage him to stretch and use his back correctly.

May. 21, 2010, 09:36 AM
I spent many years over on the Western side and these things are a dime a dozen. Which prepared me for aquiring the "world's largest Pony mare", 16 hands of attitude and an IQ that would pass the state high school exit exams in a devious but adorable package.

Drive you nuts. Plus if you try to go forward and soften, they love that...but the second you pick up more contact? Dive time. Ironically, the lightest ones in your hands are those curlers when you get them right-so too much is never the way to go.

What I found usually works is:

#1 you need to avoid anything like side reins or draw reins like the plague-curlers loooove those.

#2 it's not the bit, it's the mind evading it so don't put too much faith in hardware. BUT I found a 3 ring with 2 reins or a gag switched the pressure points up to new ones and keeps them guessing a little more.

#3 switch your bits around frequently. Don't give them the opportunity to learn to evade, borrow them for a day if needed. You will find some work better then others BUT you cannot let them spend too much time in them or they will learn to evade in it.

#3 a leading clinician taught me a move he calls a "nip". It's a split second snatch UP (straight up, no indirect or direct or opening, just UP) on the outside rein mostly with your wrist and an immediate return to light contact. Same guy had me learn to avoid burying my hands in her neck or the pommel, always ride a little higher-or a lot higher with the hands if needed, and nip as needed.

#5 Leg. Make sure you are clear and strong with leg. Do not be afraid to wear spurs and I luuuv a longer or even Dressage whip on these. You can get to the backside to back your leg up without moving your hand or dropping contact-and add the nip. That removes anything they can hang on or drop behind.

Also keep in mind most US riders use too much inside and not enough outside rein-that tips them in and down. Make absolutly sure you are strong with your outside aids-fixing that helped the heck out of me.

I also had better luck with thinner mouthpieces and rotate a corkscrew, a slow twist, a plain dee, a gag, a very thin loose ring made for Reiners and either a 2 or 3 ring with both reins. Please do not nail me to the tackroom wall but she has a tendency to really drop on her corners at a show, particularly after oxers, can step off the lead behind, after trying everything in the tack room? Believe it or not, she goes very well in a double twisted wire. That nip move is very quick and she responds and goes right back to work. Show only though.

May. 21, 2010, 09:55 AM
I'm retraining a horse that was broke western (badly) and have found it to be exactly like Findeight has stated. The slightest bit of proper bit/rein contact and a curling she would be! A gag has worked great by putting different pressure points and I've actually been able to lift her head and drive with my seat and legs into my hand.

As soon as she starts to figure the gag out back to a loose ring snaffle we go and so on. She's slowly starting to learn that leaning and curling doesn't help and bit contact is a good thing not a bad thing! We also do the #3, a quick lift up with the outside rein: not a grab and pull but a very quick "up". It's amazing how quickly they learn to lift their head off that!

My trainer is also a huge believer is lots and lots of outside leg and rein so that is also being constantly drilled into me. It's been a long, slow process and some days my mare reverts back to the loooooow curl but we are now having more better days than bad!

May. 21, 2010, 12:05 PM
I too am a member of the I Ride A Curler club.

I agree with lots posted (and, frankly, disagree with some..but horses are individuals...) and in particular I agree with melodiousaphony

I agree with the leg yielding..big time. Also spiralling in and out of the circle. If they are curling they aren't coming through and if they aren't coming through.....your canter is crap.

I also agree with trot poles.

I also think side reins if correctly used are helpful. The horse really needs to come from behind and be elastic though, otherwise he will happily sit just behind the bit until the cows come home. So, frequent transitions and spiralling in and out of the circle are important here too.

When you look at what all these things have in common they all address the same root problem..horse not coming through over back.

For the rider, my number one mantra is "your reins are sticks" and you are mentally pushing the head away but beginning at the base of the neck.

I have to say, I am skeptical of the "drop the contact" advice. I have never seen a curler truly fixed by that, but hey, I haven't ridden their horse so I'm not going to say they are wrong....

May. 21, 2010, 12:22 PM
I have to say, I am skeptical of the "drop the contact" advice. I have never seen a curler truly fixed by that, but hey, I haven't ridden their horse so I'm not going to say they are wrong....

Doesn't work. If they are evading by jamming themselves behind the vertical and below the bit? Dropping the contact just lets them win the round and continue to evade by sticking their noses out and refusing to accept contact.

Dropping contact is not to be confused with going forward-and some of these horses are confused in exactly that. They simply either go forward with no contact or drop behind with contact because they don't know how, don't want to or both.

Thing with the side reins is, unless you can really, really keep them coming back to front? They just bring the front to the back and teach that evasion.

Always remember the behind the vertical/curling is what you can easily see. What is really happening is no engagement behind-drive the back end, don't stop the front or let them do so.

Then go get a glass of chardonnay. These will keep you guessing and trying to outsmart them ad nauseum.

Release First
May. 21, 2010, 05:21 PM
I agree with most of what has been said about coming forward and engaging the haunches. I have always had success with this problem but widening my hands when the horse drops the bit. With the hands wide the horse can not successfully drop the bit. When the horse finally reaches, even a bit, the horse then gets rewarded. I do not like to keep the hands wide so when the horses accepts the bit the hands come together and soften forward. Once curling is not successful, the horses give it up at least under normal circumstances.

May. 21, 2010, 07:45 PM
But to further confuse things, not all horses who curl are actually dropping the bit. Mine did not drop it, but he would not take it out.

May. 22, 2010, 01:51 PM
But to further confuse things, not all horses who curl are actually dropping the bit. Mine did not drop it, but he would not take it out.

Some are even pretty good at making you feel like you have contact, because there is still weight, but they aren't actually through thus aren't on the bit. It is a tricky business, this curling. Some of them seem to trick you into HOLDING them in the curl, which gets kind of irksome.
Another thing that is somewhat helpful in fixing a curling horse is to occasionally ride a horse that doesn't curl. Curling starts feeling correct it its all you ever feel (like so many other things).