View Full Version : Heavier and heavier

Feb. 22, 2011, 09:36 PM
My horse keeps getting heavier and heavier in my hands. He gives to the bit, its not like he is fighting me. Its like he wants me to hold him up.

I have been working on circles, shoulder ins, transitions, haults, and transitions within the gait from slow to fast and fast to slow.

I ride in a smooth snaffle bit. If I ride him in a stronger bit he is much better but I dont want that to be the answer to the problem because eventually the stronger bit will not be "stronger" I dont believe in just going to a stronger bit to fix the problem.

His teeth have been done. He is sound. He gets turned out (weather permitting) His trot is great, esp when i let him stretch out long and low.

Feb. 22, 2011, 10:01 PM
is he doing the "i'm going to hold form but feel like i'm nodding off to snoozie land" in your hands?
do you find it's worse on straight lines or curves?
how old is the horse and what level work are you schooling at home? show?

Feb. 22, 2011, 10:44 PM
What kind of bit? Some horses lean on a single jointed bit to keep the joint off their palate.

If the issue is new, you may also want to look into a possible soundness issue that could affect his spine or pelvis (which results in him wanted to stretch his spine into your contact).

Feb. 22, 2011, 11:56 PM
In addition to what has already been said, what about work over trot poles, hills, and more lateral work such as leg yields?

Usually if a horse relies on my hands too much, regularly, and does not respond sufficiently well to my hands closing and a simultaneous push with my legs, I make them hold themselves up for awhile (and "awhile" might be a few sessions or it might be several months) :winkgrin: I take away all contact (ie, give him nothing to lean on) and put them through exercises such as what you're already doing (serpentines, circles, trot poles, hills, etc) - progressive school exercises where he is naturally encouraged to work from behind because he has to step further beneath himself to balance. I might take up the slack for guidance but if the horse tries to pick up the bit and lug, I drop contact even more. If he roots down, he meets my sharply closed hand. Allow him to carry himself, then when he does do so (which might take a couple sessions, or weeks or months), I pick up sufficient contact and allow them to pick up the bit. The key is, barring a physical or bit issue, having him work from behind. If he's working from behind, he will not be on his forehand and any heaviness in your hand after that can be easily corrected with a closing of your hands and bump with your legs and/or lateral work.

Feb. 23, 2011, 09:12 AM
Make sure there is NO stiffness in your shoulders, elbows, wrists, and hands. Any stiffness in these areas can create that "dead" feeling on the reins. Also put some reinback into your workouts. Correct reinback though, one step at a time and not diving down onto the forehand. Go from trot to a prompt halt, then reinback four steps, then immediately trot on. If your horse walks before he trots on, then the problem is the horse is behind your leg. He must trot on immediately.

Also be sure you are giving frequent stretchy walk breaks to the horse. Sometimes the heaviness comes when the horse is getting tired. Be sure to give his muscles frequent breaks, but keep him marching forward in the stretchy walk or you will lose the engine and basically have to start the whole ride over again from the warm-up. And as others have posted, leg-yielding is a great way to soften the contact. Just make sure the horse is really crossing the legs in the leg-yield or they will simply run through your outside rein.

Feb. 23, 2011, 09:42 AM
Is he leaning on the bit, or are you pulling more on the bit? He can only lean if you let him. It's chicken-egg, and I know *I* tend to be less self-aware in that type of situation than I wish I were, and have to trust the eyes of others, and maybe some video or photographs. Even so, outsiders can't necessarily see it either. I would definitely look at myself first in this situation.

The answer for every horse I've ever had who wanted to lean on my hands was MORE LEG. Even my hardworking, reformed curler who is excessively light in contact most of the time can get heavier on the bit when he doesn't want to work hard and really use himself. In our case, that mostly happens in leg yields or bending left, as he wants to drop the left shoulder. I'm guessing your horse has something going on in his body that's a similar situation - the leaning is actually a tell of some sort of lack of straightness in him, unevenness in his body, etc.

Good luck - it can be challenging to fix problems, whether they're your doing or the horse's natural tendency, so I hope you are able to fix it quickly!

Feb. 23, 2011, 10:52 AM
If this is a young horse, it could be a balance issue. Very common and will go away as he gets stronger and learns to work more from behind!

Feb. 23, 2011, 11:03 AM
The only things I saw missing were haunches-in and renvers. Renvers especially works wonders on getting them to re-balance themselves. Careful with the long and low too- watch out for him dropping down in front. Depending at the point you are at in the training and overall conformation of the horse, I have found that sometimes long a low can sometimes be confused in the horses mind with stretched out behind and pulling down. I have a very long mare, and she went through a phase of just that. The renvers helped her sort things out.

Eclectic Horseman
Feb. 23, 2011, 11:11 AM
If you want to water ski, he'll be the motor boat. :winkgrin:

There are two approaches:

1. Suddenly give rein by pushing your hands forward and "drop him." If he is an older horse who is just takin' a nap, this will get his attention.

2. If he is being a bully and trying to pull the rein and pull you out of position to evade the work, then use the opposite approach. Take the rein back and slow him way down to halt or walk, then ask him to go forward again. Keep doing this the minute that he hangs on the bit. It is harder for him to make the transitions than it is to carry himself, so if you are consistent, he should stop hanging.

Good luck.

Feb. 23, 2011, 02:15 PM
When he start getting heavy take the inside rein straight up in a bump - tug followed by an immediate release. He will bring his head up as a reaction then, since the aide stopped, start putting his head back down and leaning.

Idea is outside rein stays where it's supposed to be... by using the inside rein in this manner he gets "corrected" when he gets heavy, yet you're not holding.

Just learned this technique and am applying it to my 21 yo mare who did the same thing. She now carries herself much more - for longer and longer periods of time as she develops more and more topline.

Just be carful to give LOTS of long and low/lengthening breaks to allow him to stretch his topline because it will be hard for him until he builds the correct muscles to hold himself up.

Can be done on ALL lengths of rein - and how "BIG" the bump is depends - if he's just starting to lean then small bumps, if he is leaning heavily on the hands then a "harder" bump.

It really helps to someone show you but hopefully this will help - I could feel the difference the first day I tried it - but to be honest until I rode her this way 3 days in a row she kept thinking she could go back "to the way things were"..... and she still tests me at time to see if I'm paying attention or if I'm asking more of the movement then I ever have before (like greater angle on the shoulder in).

Feb. 23, 2011, 08:12 PM
It may be because he is falling more and more onto his forehand as you go along. I would use transitions to lighten him up; walk-trot-etc, and canter-trot-walk, etc.

Feb. 24, 2011, 09:28 AM
I second the use of lots and lots of transitions. I had a horse like this and I incorporated lots and lots of walk/ trot/ halt transitions as well as transitions from working to collected to medium trot on a large circle.
The rein back is another very useful tool and turn on the haunches can also be used. Trot to halt, sustain halt for a second, then turn on the haunches and trot on again.
Shoulder in is another great tool for getting the hindlegs underneath to take more of the weight.
I am not a huge fan of leg yielding unless it is done on a circle. Leg yielding from e.g. 3/4 line out to wall is IMO not a great exercise to engage the hind end to step under.

Feb. 24, 2011, 10:48 AM
Lots of change in direction across the diagnol in the trot or walk. While moving accross it I do in the center a transition within the gait to a very slow trot back to a larger more lengthened trot and back again at the corner with a obviously a bend.

Once I have this right with a straight light horse through the center, it makes things much easier.

My trainer doesnt like using the shoulder in, or the leg yeilds either. She said what happens is then Im relying more and more on my bends to get a horse light, eventually he/she is overbent and still heavy out of the bend and my hands get used to making the corrections rather than my seat.

Straight on the diagnol it helps you to straighten get even weight in the reins and use your seat to half halt more so.

We also do figure eights :)