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WilfredLeblanc
Mar. 5, 2011, 03:28 PM
I realize people have varied opinions about the use of draw reins. Leaving aside the question of whether they should be used at all, how often, etc., I could use input about this training situation:

My 8 yo, unraced TB mare, who basically was not started until last summer, when I got her, goes beautifully in draw reins and a snaffle bit. In a snaffle bit alone, she will drop her head, but getting her to bend at the poll and accept reasonably firm contact is another story. Maybe bitting is irrelevant--I'm not experienced enough to know--but either way, it seems like some kind of approach to bridge the difference in demands made by draw reins with snaffle and by snaffle alone might be possible. My trainer has this idea that a hackamore would be the right next move, but I suspect that having nothing at all in her mouth for a while would ultimately cause her to regress. Maybe I should add, too, that I ride her in an old Stuebben Wotan AP saddle. In any case, I realize that there may be no solution anywhere except my hands, my seat, and my legs, but the fact that she gives the hoped-for "answers" to my "questions" when we're using the draw reins suggests that equipment might be part of the equation. Her mouth is clean. She had her teeth done in August, has no sores, etc.

Anyway, I would appreciate any pragmatic suggestions.

The goal, by the way, is not to turn her into a seriously competitive dressage horse, but simply to get her to ride in a nice frame with minimal hardware and minimal effort on my part.

Thanks.

dalpal
Mar. 5, 2011, 05:15 PM
I Have a friend who has a horse in training/accepting the bit issues.

I can tell you what they are doing and it seems to be successful (he is not an OTTB, but was a German auction horse).

He does alot of lunging work in the Pessoa balance system (You can find it in the Dover catalog). The trainer spent about 4 or 5 weeks just lunging him in this equipment.

She also took his noseband off for the time being, her philosophy is that the noseband can make a horse worry/clostrophobic.

I haven't seen him since she moved him to this trainer's barn...but she said he has made huge improvements...basically he isn't a confident horse/worries...the Pessoa lunging has been teaching him that he can come over his back.

Now, I have one who is much happier in a hunter frame than a dressage frame...so she's a hunter now. No sense in fighting it....she never accepted the contact that we use in dressage....but floats like a butterfly in the hunter ring.

Petstorejunkie
Mar. 5, 2011, 06:21 PM
I hate to say it, but I think what may be the problem is your perception of "correct"

I've spent the past two months correcting a horse that was ridden in draw reins. He traveled hollow, with his nose tucked in the second you took contact.
What helped him was TONS, and I mean TONS of transitions.... like 20-30 minutes a ride of transitions every 3-5-7-10 strides; transitions within strides, transitions while in lateral work (the best, btw) Leg yielding from the quarter line to the wall where he met mr outside rein, to 20m circle, to 10m to shoulder in, repeat.
He works now off more of the french level of contact (VERY light, but very consistent... takes good hands). Not all horses can handle the firm grip of a german (which is more like holding a child's hand while crossing the road)
so anyway, look back on this in a few months if you continue with the draw reins, so you know how to correct the incorrect travel they will inevitably create.

My project before the curler was an abused OTTB with no poll flexion, no hock flexion, no ribcage flexion, and oh he didn't turn left either. Now he tracks around lesson kids in a lower huntery frame on contact.
Things that helped him were
transitions, spirals, loopy serpentines, lunging in side reins, jumping crossrail gymnastics, and HILLS. Every pattern imaginable on a hill. We also did some standing flexions from the ground for cookies, but he's VERY food motivated.

netg
Mar. 6, 2011, 10:36 AM
I agree with psj - you don't sound as if you're looking for correct. If you just want a "frame" then the dressage board isn't the place to look... Your horse isn't currently correct in dressage terms, if the head is moving in response to draw reins but isn't soft through the body.

You have to start with rhythm and relaxation. Do transitions, lateral work, etc. You have to actually get contact and get lateral flexibility before you get *correct* flexibility and giving in the poll. I would guess your horse is more correct without the draw reins, yet stiff because the softness hasn't developed yet.

My OTTB was a curler when I bought him, and we had to backtrack to get him pushing with his back end and lifting his back. We had a stage of what you would have called regressing when he was going around with nose poking out and neck straight with no bend, but that was a necessary phase before we could work back into an arched neck coming from proper use of the topline muscles rather than using the wrong muscles to crank his nose in to his chest.

Lost_at_C
Mar. 6, 2011, 10:55 AM
I agree with Petstorejunkie and Netg. Draw reins have their place in educated hands, but not for the sort of situation you've described. If you just want a nice polite showing-type head set then opt for a pelham or maybe a hanging cheek snaffle... but what she does with her head alone really has very little to do with the extent to which she is "on the aids" - and I suspect that's really what you're looking for.

meupatdoes
Mar. 6, 2011, 11:09 AM
One transitionary tool might be a german martingale.

It is in-between draw reins and using nothing because, unlike drawreins, it remains on a fixed length relative to the rein. When the horse comes within the frame prescribed by the martingale it automatically releases, and the horse is immediately back on just the regular rein. When the horse comes above the rein again the martingale goes back into play. Using it might help you teach yourself the transition between drawreins and rein and get a better feel.

With drawreins on the other hand the rider runs the risk of way overdoing the drawrein because they can keep making the drawrein shorter and shorter and shorter relative to the snaffle rein.

Honestly, I believe that learning to ride a horse "Correctly" with a capital C into the contact is very difficult. People work on this for YEARS. I have often said on this forum that IMO it is as difficult to go from 0 to TL or First as it is to go from First the rest of the way to GP.

So you'll get no begrudging from me if you just want to ride your horse as a pleasure horse and don't want to sign up for the whole cruise. The horse doesn't care as long as it is well fed and kindly treated and it really ought not make a whit of difference to anyone else either.

Hony
Mar. 6, 2011, 11:22 AM
You probably find she's better in draw reins because it gives you a bit more control of what's happening up front. What you really want is for her to come from behind into your hand. When she does that she's going to suddenly feel really soft in your hand and at first will probably chew the bit a lot.
This is a hard thing to achieve if you haven't done it before because it's a bit of a balance between hand and leg that's hard to feel if you're not experienced with that feel. Believe me, once you've trained one horse it become a lot easier because you will have developed that feel and will be able to apply it to future horses.
I would suggest getting a trainer who can help you make that happen. A trainer who can ride the horse from back to front will help install those "buttons" in your horse. The trainer can then teach you and it will be easier because your horse will already have some of the basic buttons installed.

I think you're absolutely right about the hackamore. I'm sure your horse will be fine in a snaffle with the right trainer to help you. You might need a bit more bit while you and your horse are finding your new balance but your trainer should be fine in some sort of snaffle.

Hope this helps!

Nojacketrequired
Mar. 6, 2011, 08:07 PM
So you'll get no begrudging from me if you just want to ride your horse as a pleasure horse and don't want to sign up for the whole cruise. The horse doesn't care as long as it is well fed and kindly treated and it really ought not make a whit of difference to anyone else either.

Agree.

Another "tool" can be a German neckstretcher. When horse lowers head, pressure is released by the horse and it gives the rider a better chance of establishing a proper contact when the horse figures out that if he's not slewing his head around, things are quite comfy. A good, interim tool, IMO but not something to be used long term.

Let the "flames" begin.

NJR

Bluey
Mar. 6, 2011, 08:25 PM
This may help you understand what you need to be looking for when you are trying to achieve some proper contact:

http://www.classicaldressage.co.uk/contact.html

Some of those gadgets can be a useful tool if you know what you are doing, or lead you down the wrong path in a hurry.
Here is one such discussion:

http://www.chronofhorse.com/forum/showthread.php?t=269539

I would only use any such, drawreins included, when under the direction of a good instructor.
Drawreins were said to be "like a razor in a monkey's hands", because they may cause more problems than you ever help with them.

I agree, you may want to consider that you may not have there what you think you have and are trying to correct.

WilfredLeblanc
Mar. 7, 2011, 12:04 AM
Thanks for all the feedback. To clarify about my goals, what I would like my mare to be able to do is BN (and perhaps N, later) eventing, which obviously has an elementary dressage component.

I do have a trainer, by the way, and the draw (and side--we use them that way, too) reins have been her idea. And a good idea, I think, because the word everyone uses to describe my mare when we're using them is "gorgeous," and she feels better to me--more attentive, more comfortable. It's like we're always in the sweet spot with the draw reins.

Anyway, I don't use draw reins when I'm riding alone, but I do ride alone twice a week--and have one lesson a week.

In terms of a good frame for say, hunters, my mare is getting that. I have to remind her a lot, but she'll ride long and low for a pretty good spell before she starts her giraffe imitation, and then we do small circles, etc., to get back on track.

Valentina_32926
Mar. 7, 2011, 09:19 AM
I ... could use input about this training situation:

My ...goes beautifully in draw reins and a snaffle bit. ... but getting her to bend at the poll and accept reasonably firm contact is another story. ...She had her teeth done in August, has no sores, etc.

Anyway, I would appreciate any pragmatic suggestions.

The goal,... is ...to get her to ride in a nice frame with minimal hardware and minimal effort on my part.

Thanks.

To get what you're looking for you need to work on her lateral flexability. Take off draw reins, keep snaffle.

When you get on, from the first moment, you must make certain (in THIS order):
1.) She is "in front of your leg". This means that when you ask for trot from halt/walk you get it immediately. Walk steps before trot means either too green to understand or behind the leg. Goal is that you want her VERY reactive to your legs/seat without nagging.
2.) Next you have to determine what type of horse she is. Does she travel on her forehand, preferring to keep her head low and lean on your hands? Or does she act like a giraffe, hollowing her back and putting her head in the air?

Both types use similar aides to correct the issues, yet there IS a difference.

My SWB huntery mare likes to travel on her forehand, behind the leg, head and neck low - yet since I've started riding her again she's brought her head/neck up, is no longer on her forehand (all the time), abd is actively carrying herself using her butt. ;)

My dressage mare, on the other hand, is the opposite. Loves to giraffe, hollow, and can look great (to the relatively uninformed) but feels like crap. With her she "holds" in her neck while not actively using her back.

Both horses started with forward then using the back. So whether or not horse is running (which does NOT mean they are in front of the leg) the initial work is getting, and keeping, the horse in front of the leg. So rider needs to be able to feel when they are not. Harder with rushing horse, easier with slightly slower horse.

After horse is in front of the leg you need to make certain they are using their back. So for giraffe I started with long and low. That doesn't mean drop the connection, rather it means continual rein contact at ALL gaits with neck arched and back engaged. For giraffe I had to bend inside/outside with the reins, "rubbing" the bit against her gums. When I did that she would lower her head (a bit). I would quiet the reins, she would raise the head and I'd repeat. Eventually she would sustain the neck height - so I started asking for a lower head carriage. The emphasis here is keeping the riders legs on - I really like rising trot since rider sets the tempo and rhythm. Rider needs to post straight up and down (NOT forward) so horse doesn't fall on it's nose.

Once you can get and keep the long & low on he giraffe thru Walk/trot and canter on a longer rein then you can use the half halt (HH) to slowly raise the head and neck up to the height desired. I can tell you the L&L phase for my giraffe took around 6 months before I could get on and consistently get what I wanted. Not only do you have to break a habit for the horse but you also have to start building the proper muscle, and that takes time.

If you have a curler/on the forehand horse (my huntery mare) let me know and I can suggest work for that issue.

naturalequus
Mar. 8, 2011, 01:50 PM
In terms of a good frame for say, hunters, my mare is getting that. I have to remind her a lot, but she'll ride long and low for a pretty good spell before she starts her giraffe imitation, and then we do small circles, etc., to get back on track.

It's not about frame. It is possible (likely) she does her giraffe imitation after the long and low because her muscles are sore from the work (lactic acid build-up) and she needs a break... which is why she cannot be held in a frame.

Bitting is also very relevant to all this - you say she is in a snaffle, but what type of mouthpiece? A double-joint or ported mouthpiece (low enough port - under 2" at least will not interfere with her upper palate) will exert a little more bar pressure but will offer some tongue relief. A single-jointed will exert a nutcracker effect on the tongue and will dig into her palate. Play around with bits because that will have an effect on the giraffe-like position she holds her neck in as well.

The solution: not to worry about her head. Yes, the giraffe neck hurts the eyes but if you work with her in a classical way it will come down, and relatively quickly. The neck however will NOT come down (obviously) without relaxation, which is the foundation of the TS. So you need to work your way up from the bottom of the Training Scale (regardless of where she is at otherwise, you need to fill in those gaps). Relaxation and suppleness. Progressive (circular - circular because they increase engagement from the horse) patterns and lateral work (Progressive Schooling Exercises for Dressage & Jumping by Islay Auty is one of my favourites, as is 101 Dressage Exercises) that engage her hind end. As her hind end engages, her back will round and her neck will lift from the withers, dropping her head. At that point SHE will start to seek contact. Your job in the mean time is just to offer subtle guidance - just maintain feather-light contact and she will be the one to actually pick up the bit as she engages. You can also start asking for inside leg to outside rein very lightly.

Bogie
Mar. 8, 2011, 02:08 PM
I have used draw reins on occasion. I had a mare who did a great impersonation of a giraffe and it helped her understand what I wanted more quickly.

However, once she "got it" with draw reins, I took them off. The trick to getting a horse to accept contact without the draw reins is to focus on the hind end, keep your hands steady and soft, and push the horse into an accepting contact.

Much easier said than done!

But, if you forget about the head position and ride the horse back to front it will come.

In the short term, you could also try a running martingale. Just remember that the rings exert a small but constant pressure on the reins.

alterhorse
Mar. 8, 2011, 06:22 PM
I think many riders need to understand the horses perception of their hands before any such hand related training aids may improve upon the communication with the horse through those hands.

I think essentially draw reins may be thought of as an operator assisted telephone call.

The operator may be able get the other party on the line for you, and connect you both so you may talk, but if you don't speak the same language as the individual to whom you are calling, or if you speak their language incompletely or poorly, the conversation may not go well and the person who you are calling may become frustrated and hang up.

In essence the draw rein operator may get your horse on the line for you, but you better be prepared to speak with the horse clearly in a language that he can understand, or he may just hang up on you.

Then one just might have the operator forcefully maintain an open line for you to shout gibberish out the other end, and the listener may have an appearance that they are listening, but this is not real communication.

Bogie
Mar. 8, 2011, 06:51 PM
Great analogy!

goeslikestink
Mar. 9, 2011, 04:10 PM
It's not about frame. It is possible (likely) she does her giraffe imitation after the long and low because her muscles are sore from the work (lactic acid build-up) and she needs a break... which is why she cannot be held in a frame.

Bitting is also very relevant to all this - you say she is in a snaffle, but what type of mouthpiece? A double-joint or ported mouthpiece (low enough port - under 2" at least will not interfere with her upper palate) will exert a little more bar pressure but will offer some tongue relief. A single-jointed will exert a nutcracker effect on the tongue and will dig into her palate. Play around with bits because that will have an effect on the giraffe-like position she holds her neck in as well.

The solution: not to worry about her head. Yes, the giraffe neck hurts the eyes but if you work with her in a classical way it will come down, and relatively quickly. The neck however will NOT come down (obviously) without relaxation, which is the foundation of the TS. So you need to work your way up from the bottom of the Training Scale (regardless of where she is at otherwise, you need to fill in those gaps). Relaxation and suppleness. Progressive (circular - circular because they increase engagement from the horse) patterns and lateral work (Progressive Schooling Exercises for Dressage & Jumping by Islay Auty is one of my favourites, as is 101 Dressage Exercises) that engage her hind end. As her hind end engages, her back will round and her neck will lift from the withers, dropping her head. At that point SHE will start to seek contact. Your job in the mean time is just to offer subtle guidance - just maintain feather-light contact and she will be the one to actually pick up the bit as she engages. You can also start asking for inside leg to outside rein very lightly.


echo- op if i was you i would change the trianer as draw reins are not a quick fix get it right thing and should only be used in expereinced hands

you want a trianer that can see and explain the half halt stride and what it does if they cant dont bother with them and you want a trinaer that more into your horse and you that seek relaxtion and rythem / balance etc as if you havent got that you wont get anything but trouble from your horse

a forced frame isnt a relaxed frame and like other have saud your horse is more than probably sore

Ibex
Mar. 9, 2011, 06:07 PM
I think many riders need to understand the horses perception of their hands before any such hand related training aids may improve upon the communication with the horse through those hands.

I think essentially draw reins may be thought of as an operator assisted telephone call.

The operator may be able get the other party on the line for you, and connect you both so you may talk, but if you don't speak the same language as the individual to whom you are calling, or if you speak their language incompletely or poorly, the conversation may not go well and the person who you are calling may become frustrated and hang up.

In essence the draw rein operator may get your horse on the line for you, but you better be prepared to speak with the horse clearly in a language that he can understand, or he may just hang up on you.

Then one just might have the operator forcefully maintain an open line for you to shout gibberish out the other end, and the listener may have an appearance that they are listening, but this is not real communication.

Agreed. My mare likes to invert and brace as an evasion to the leg... we too used draws (and they come out once and a while still) to shut down the evasion. What helped me to get rid of them was to use them less and less, even when they're on. It came down to ensuring we were in fact speaking the same language, and when they were removed, ensuring I was riding exactly the same way.