View Full Version : What is your toughest training challenge?

Mar. 3, 2011, 02:08 PM
I have a subscription to the Dressage Today magazine and they've introduced a re-occurring article called "My toughest training challenge" - each month it's a different BNT telling their challenge and solution. I really like reading this article, because I can find I can relate and get ideas about solutions to my own challenges.

So my question to you is what was/is your toughest training challenge? And how do you solve or deal with it?

Mar. 3, 2011, 03:48 PM

My horse is by far the easiest, most natural horse I've ever worked with. As a dressage (as a show discipline, at least) newbie, with a horse who didn't have correct dressage basics, it was supposed to be HARD. Yet he tries so dang hard, and it all comes to him so naturally, that we're progressing very well despite my ridiculously many flaws.

However, once he figures out something, my horse tries to do whatever that is as hard as he can. Trying to get him to relax and let his back legs bend without practically sitting on the ground, lift his back but let it rise and fall instead of just holding it up stiffly, unbend after he's bent around my inside leg, etc. - he never returns to a "neutral" state if he can try harder, and it's a challenge for me to get him to do so in order to help him gradually build to where I want him and not injure himself.

Mar. 4, 2011, 01:23 AM
What a great topic! I'm enjoying reading those articles in DT as well, but hadn't really sat down and thought about my own challenges until this thread.

On my one horse, I would say the hardest part has been keeping him over his back. It took me a long time to even realize that this was the problem, and no one mentioned it during many, many lessons. He stretches into contact and I guess fakes it really well. But as we moved up, I started becoming really aware of the moments when he *really* connected, which made me aware of the rest of the time when he was NOT connected! Now that I'm aware of it, I am still working at keeping him connected all the time, and he's such a bugger! He's really quick to drop his back if I give him any opportunity. I'm hoping that now that I'm aware of it and consciously working at fixing it that it will get easier, but maybe it's just him.

On other horses I've had other challenges. With one mare, keeping her focused on me was really hard. She could do all sorts of great work, but she didn't like to be told when and how to do it, she sorta had her own agenda. I never did figure out how to get her to consistently give me mental access to all she was physically capable of... it would just sorta happen when the stars aligned the right way. On my baby horse, I like him too much and I don't want to ruin him. He finds the work easy, and I know I don't ask enough of him. I think he gets bored with me, but I'm always just in awe of how easy everything is with him. I'm going to have to learn how to challenge him mentally without pushing him beyond what he can do physically.

This is a great thread and it's really helpful to think about this stuff! I can't wait to read others :)

Mar. 4, 2011, 01:25 AM
Changes over time. Coming from jumpers, my biggest issue for a long time was seat/leg position. Finally got that to a comfortable spot (after a year +) then tackled the hands/elbows. I use a barette in my horses mane that I know means a specific thing. Every time I see it I remind myself to check and fix the particular issue. Its a memory trigger that works really well.
My consistant big problem training challenge was to find the right trainer for me and my horse.

Mar. 4, 2011, 08:48 AM
My biggest training challenge is to have 100% control over the tempo at all times. My horse is a very, very forward thinker which I love, but at times he lulls me into being the passenger and he is the pilot. He will very politely just take over in a subtle way and before I know it I have lost my flight controls, LOL! :lol: I need to really keep my position solid at all times and stay in charge and be sure my half halts are really going through.

Mar. 4, 2011, 08:56 AM
The title says it all. :lol:

Mar. 4, 2011, 09:41 AM
I have an appendix mare that was a cutting horse for 10 years before I started teaching her dressage (she now events). She is a perfectionist, and over tries to do everything that I ask her once she understands. The biggest issue we have, and will probably always have is that anytime you touch the reins, in cutting it means stop. She has gotten MUCH better (no more sliding stops when asking for down transitions thank God), but if I'm not thinking and forget to add leg anytime I use my rein, I will get an abrupt down transition, or a break. :D:D

Mar. 4, 2011, 10:15 AM
Finding time (and the enthusiasm)to get my butt in the saddle.
I love that series, the last one was especially helpful when they talked about the frustration of having a very talented horse that just didn't want to show up and play. Oh yeah, I know that feeling well.

Mar. 4, 2011, 10:24 AM
My mare likes to trot and has a nice amount of impulsion at this gait. But cantering is not her favorite and she doesn't listen to my leg when I ask for canter. On the trails, she canters easily and when jumping she picks up canter willingly (most days).

In an effort to make her more responsive, I have been using my whip to back up my leg very consistently. This really was not helping - she would slow down when I tapped with the whip and if I persisted, buck. My trainer advised me to ditch the whip and figure out something else - kick, whatever ... Then, she had a brainwave. I hold my dressage whip like a driving whip with the end over my mare's ears. If she doesn't move forward when I ask, I swish the whip and make it whistle and she scoots forward.

To experiment, I took it one step further and ditched the spurs. The last few rides, she has been moving beautifully off my leg with me holding the whip like a driving whip. Once we are warmed up, I flip the whip back to its regular position. I don't want to overuse my magic trick!

Mar. 4, 2011, 07:09 PM
The last few rides, she has been moving beautifully off my leg with me holding the whip like a driving whip. Once we are warmed up, I flip the whip back to its regular position.

I love this!! :D:D

Mar. 4, 2011, 07:21 PM
For one of my horses it is real, honest to goodness straightness and connection into the bridle. He has mastered every possible evasion-shape on the planet, and is constantly coming up with new ones to keep me on my toes. Every other horse is a piece of cake compared to him.

My other horse is always working on increasing his strength for better throughness and engagement. I try to find ways to keep doing strengthening work without the work getting too redundant or repetitive.

Honestly it is always the basics that are the biggest challenge for me. When the basics are good everything is easy, but getting all the little T's crossed and I's dotted is the hard part. Then you go up another level and find another little hole in the basics and start all over again.

Sandy M
Mar. 4, 2011, 07:43 PM
Staying on? LOL I sometimes wonder what became of the (semi) fearless person who went Preliminary Level Eventing and did Jumpers to 4'6". On the other hand, I'm generally not NERVOUS about dressage, as some of my contemporaries are (i'm oooooold) - just concerned about my youngster's "moves".

Still, baby has been good over the past year, but I still have trust issues with him due to his earlier rodeo-type high-jinks. Of late, however, I have put on my big girl panties and decided that (hopefully) if I ride him sufficiently forward and confidently, he will behave, and so far....he has!

Mar. 4, 2011, 07:48 PM
Absolute consistency with my expectations, aids and rewards.. I am planning to work on this for the rest of my riding life!

Mar. 4, 2011, 08:02 PM
My horse's soundness. Hard to improve when you can never ride him. :(

Sorry, more bad news from the vet today.

For me personally, on many horses, it's affecting the hind end in half halts. I can improve tempo, and basic balance with the half halts, but I struggle to to achieve true collection from them. But this is also my horse's (long and lanky) weak point. And that goes back to not getting to ride him and practice this.

Jan. 20, 2013, 10:22 PM
I know this is an older thread, but showed my project horse today and was looking up stuff related to training challenges. I rode for 19 years before buying my first horse. She is wonderful and easy peasy. My second horse was an experiment. I didn't go looking for a tricolor paint x Andy cross, but he was interesting and needed a home.

He was so messed up! His previous owner imitated NH, badly. So this horse was "desensitized.". Um, no, he was DEAD to the leg and every other aid. I know flapping arms and a pumping seat don't make a horse move, but I sometimes looked like a cartoon trying to get him to move. I don't mean move better, but literally move at all! He started to take one step, then he thought, as he'd been taught, "no, I can't do that.". I couldn't be mad - he wasn't tuning me out; he thought the right answer was to stop! I looked like a teen learning to drive a stick shift!

I used a whip with a popper, and went outside the arena. I always asked with a quiet aid, praised any response, but he took aids all the time, and I was terrified I'd never get him to trot when I just think trot - my preferred ride.

It took over a year to nail forward in all three gaits, all still long and low. He finally, after 3+ years total, goes AND bends. Today, he finally did it all, in public! I will never be in the WEG, but to have gotten this guy to this point, I couldn't be more proud! I am learning the fundamentals better than ever because of this horse. I rode over 300 horses in my time, a lot at sales barns. This one isn't mean - buck/rear, etc, not the issue. If he did those "bad" things, it'd be easier. But because of his training, his good try was completely wrong!

Just curious if anyone else had to undo bad training, of any type, not just NH. And to be clear, I'm not anti-NH. I don't like certain ones, but not naming names to avoid train wreck. I've undone bad dressage (BTV), bad jumping (rushing), and so on. This one was just really confused! But he tries, and it's so rewarding to have days like today with him! The tough training projects are so wonderful when they do good!