View Full Version : Does your horse have awkward phases then progress?

Jan. 18, 2011, 05:53 PM
My horse and I have gone through 4 phases in the last 10 1/2 months where he suddenly starts moving his head around and acting very awkward. Sometimes they also include leaning one way or another, too. They never last over 2 weeks (it's usually more like 4 days), and in the end he ends up showing me something new. The first time it happened his massage therapist had been out in the middle of the weirdness, and he had no sore areas, and I couldn't find anything physically wrong, but it was just strange. I had a lesson and asked my trainer if she could get on first... and when she asked him to trot he went from his sucked-back previous self to giving her this trot about twice the previous length, no argument, just went. And once again his head was steady.

Each time, the head weirdness has been a sign that he's working on something, figuring it out for himself, and that if I'm just patient, keep asking him to work as I have, don't crank his head in and try to force it still but let him be, he's going to suddenly have a significant improvement in something.

We're in the middle of our 5th weird phase right now, so I'm reminding myself every time he's done it, it has been something he was figuring out. Last time I knew his canter was about to improve. I have a hunch right now he's figuring out a more consistent sit and the head is moving as he tries to figure out how to evenly support himself with both hind legs, up and down as he is trying to figure out where it balances him best, etc. I think I'm more frustrated this time because our contact was starting to get really solid and consistent (this is the reformed curler) but right now he's in and out of contact with me as he acts odd.

Before anyone thinks it - I'm positive he has no pain or discomfort causing this. I previously posted with concern about failure to recognize problems due to his willingness, but as we've gotten to know each other he has become VERY expressive about as little as a small bug bite.

Jan. 18, 2011, 09:04 PM
Always. You know you're getting somewhere when they're protesting and it's hard for them. You have to let them work through it, and like you said, they just figure it out. When you're asking them to do and harder things, of course it's going to be weird, hard, awkward. They have to work on it awhile until they find balance and strength, and then you see those moments of "ah ha!"

I would be worried if you didn't have the weirdness/awkwardness because then you wouldn't be making progress, just staying the same in the safe, easy area.

Jan. 18, 2011, 11:03 PM
I would be worried if you didn't have the weirdness/awkwardness because then you wouldn't be making progress, just staying the same in the safe, easy area.

Funny enough... before my last lesson I told my trainer I needed to know where I had to ask for more, as my horse had been a perfect angel for over a week, behaving as if everything were totally easy for him! I guess that means the lesson and things I've been doing since are working?

Jan. 18, 2011, 11:48 PM
Yep. If you think about it, it makes sense. If you're training to do something new, say dance, you feel awkward and like you can't control yourself, and are probably doing some weird things. Once you get stronger and rhythm, all of that balances out and it starts looking good. But, you want to keep pushing yourself past that level of comfort to keep progressing, or you aren't getting better.

So, he's probably gaining strength and getting it now, so he's relaxing into it.

My mare now is a difficult case, was super weak and knew nothing when I got her, but is very talented. We constantly go through phases of not seeming to being able to handle anything, and then getting it. When I first got her, she couldn't do anything without her head flying every which way. When that settled, I had to start pushing her up to carry more from behind, which led to all kinds of wonderful new things, like swinging haunches. We've been working hard on getting strong enough to keep the relaxation and forward and steadiness. For a long time I had to be very careful not to push her or she'd lose it. But all of that strengthening and working through it has now brought us to a new level, so she's able to stay steady and through in the tempi changes and extensions. I got this through teaching her piaffe/passage, where she would bounce and jump and do all kinds of fun stuff, but eventual found her rhythm and got strength. She was stiff and flying sideways in the pirouettes, but that's what she needed to do to figure it out and gain the strength to do them. Now she's really figuring it out and can carry herself, so not only can I ask and get them, I can ask for more control and have smaller steps, more jump, or whatever.

So, enjoy the goodness for awhile, let him settle in and get strong, then find where else you can move forward in training. I usually work on pushing forward in the fall and winter so by the time I start showing springish, she's relaxed and learned it, and then I can back off and enjoy the easy stuff during show season (usually.)