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doccer
Jun. 21, 2011, 11:27 PM
The horse i rode prior was laid back and could mentally focus on our job when riding... (submissive and relaxed). The horse im riding now is exactly the opposite, she is attentive and alert to everything... which makes it hard to get a nice relaxed schooling session...

any tips to help get a more relaxed, submissive horse under me?

pluvinel
Jun. 21, 2011, 11:50 PM
The horse i rode prior was laid back and could mentally focus on our job when riding... (submissive and relaxed). The horse im riding now is exactly the opposite, she is attentive and alert to everything... which makes it hard to get a nice relaxed schooling session...

any tips to help get a more relaxed, submissive horse under me?
You have a "sharp" horse. Why not turn it around and learn to ride a sharp, hot, sensitive horse? Once you've ridden one of those, you won't go back.

You say "she's attentive to everything". Is she ignoring you or just very sensitive?

If she's just sensitive, then consider this an opportunity to improve your horsemanship....guarantee, you won't go back....it is addictive to ride a hot, sensitive horse.

Carol O
Jun. 22, 2011, 12:01 AM
These sensitive horses are the ones we learn how to ride with. The easy ones make us think we are good, but they teach us nothing.

Now, look at the training scale. Rhythm first.

atlatl
Jun. 22, 2011, 12:16 AM
My current horse is my first truly sensitive one. When I am 100% focussed and RIDING he's awesome. When I'm distracted, he's everywhere else.

Bugs-n-Frodo
Jun. 22, 2011, 12:54 AM
Ride forward and confident. Lots of transitions, use the "attentiveness" to add expression. Do not do the same thing over and over. If she gets it, move on and keep her busy. This is how my horse is. Since he started working 2nd level, he has gotten much more focused on me, because he is constantly doing something that requires him to pay attention to me rather than everything else going on. I think these kinds of horses are the ones who ultimately like to work.

netg
Jun. 22, 2011, 02:17 AM
What everyone else said.

I tried Jane Savoie's "valium exercise" linked in the relaxation thread this morning and it worked quite well. I refer to my horse as ADHD. He has many of the same tendencies as an ADHD kid - has trouble concentrating, but if he does there is brilliance there. A whole lot of bending and leg yields in and out which I insist on being how *I* ask for them gets his attention, and once he has his attention on me instead of surroundings, up comes the back and the engine kicks on. A sensitive, energetic horse who is fully tuned in to the rider is the kind of riding experience everyone should be lucky enough to have. And those of us who have horses who give us that daily are extremely lucky.

To me, my horse is very, very easy to ride because of his energy. Yes, I have to get his attention. But he then goes out and practices what we do on his own. I can't bore him or I'll have trouble - but if he is kept interested, it's worth doing without me, too! After an 8 week layup, we are working on getting his back end back in work as well as conditioning him to be able to do that. So he has spent the last two days collected trotting around his acre, making me wish I got as much sit while riding him!

oldernewbie
Jun. 22, 2011, 09:40 AM
Learn to go with it and not fight it. Do what you have to do to satisfy their curiousity. I decided to let Mr Alert walk around the show grounds with his head up in the air for about 15 minutes at the last two shows before I started warming him up. Once he's had a chance to check everything out to his satisfaction, he's ready to go to work. Much easier than struggling with him to pay attention right away. I realized he's smart and he wants to know what's going on - so I let him.

I also try to ride outside whenever possible so that we are both used to dealing with multiple distractions. He is totally desensitized to the indoor, so he goes around pretty well. Go outside and it can be dicey. So again - 10-15 minutes of checking out the waving weeds, kids on the playset next door, etc etc and he's ready to go.

If he does get wanky about something, contrary to what people often mention, I do make him repeat whatever he was doing until he can go by whatever was bothering him without a twitch. So we made about 15 passes by the waving weeds last night until he was completely bored with it. Then we can move on. Otherwise I'm afraid I'll teach him that if he acts up, he'll get out of it.

I know he sounds like a prima donna, but he is a blast to ride and his attention span is constantly improving. So we work around his quirks.

AllWeatherGal
Jun. 22, 2011, 09:50 AM
These sensitive horses are the ones we learn how to ride with. The easy ones make us think we are good, but they teach us nothing.

Now, look at the training scale. Rhythm first.

I've seen you say this before, recently in response to a post I made suggesting "forward first" to address behind-the-bit-issues.

I got the impression that you were saying that my suggestion was incorrect. If so, could you give more details?

My experience has been that with alert horses like my (very big moving) mare, we may cause all kinds of problems in contact by not riding forward. An unskilled rider without in-person help may establish what she thinks is a "rhythm" because it keeps a regular beat, but is not the horse's rhythm.

Impulsion does come farther along in the training scale, but requirements for "loose and supple" imply a free flow of energy to me. My "forward" is not a rushing, haste-filled activity, but one that allows the horse to reach and relax through the body in the direction of movement.

Is there something I'm misunderstanding here?

quietann
Jun. 22, 2011, 09:56 AM
I have one of these; she's much less hot than she used to be, but still very looky. I think a lot of mares, especially the more alpha types, are like this; in a herd situation they'd be the ones keeping an eye out for trouble, so it makes sense.

Reiterating points made by others:

-- ride outside! Ride out of the arena if possible, to get lots of exposure to stuff that "pops up out of nowhere." To the degree that I can, I do both warm-up and cool down walks out of the arena. I ride on the road if I have a safe road to ride on.
-- Don't do the same thing over and over. If a horse like this gets bored, it will be looking for distractions.
-- Shoulder-fore is your friend. Shoulder-fore or even a tiny touch on the inside rein when you know a "looky target" is coming up will often stop the lookiness before it happens.
-- Depending on the horse, expect some time at the start of the ride to be not "perfect." Mine needs some time to settle into the idea that she is listening to me and working, not looking. During this time, what I really want from her is *forward*. The focus part comes gradually.

HappyTalk
Jun. 22, 2011, 10:37 AM
I have one of those. He pokes his head up like a giraffe if something catches his attention.He is also a major spooker. All of the the suggestions previously listed help.

The thing that helped me the most was taking more contact. My instructor had me shorten my reins more while riding this one. It was such a change and at first I felt like I was strangling him. I do not ride my other horses with this much contact, but with this one it seems to give him focus.

Jeito
Jun. 22, 2011, 11:05 AM
I think it depends. Having ridden an "alert" alpha mare for years, I find I need a somewhat different approach with my "alert" beta mare. With my older mare, I was softer and learned to compromise. My younger mare needs stronger leadership and stronger aids - this means riding foward and in more contact (legs, seat, not just reins) - not choking her, but letting her know I'm there and in control 100% of the time. The other day my trainer and I were half-joking that the stronger aids work like a thundershirt - she relaxes :yes:

I was reading somewhere (I can't remember where) that lots of exposure to spooky things is not necessarily the way to fix spookiness. You are never going to be able to eliminate the unexpected. The only constant is the rider, so what you do is let the horse know that their one constant - you - never changes no matter what happens. It's so obvious it's kind of "duh," but it helped me to think of it this way.

Dressage.For.Life.
Jun. 22, 2011, 11:25 AM
Ditto Carol O and Bugs-n-Frodo.

My Thoroughbred is an alert guy, easily distracted when he's not one hundred percent focused on the task at hand. With him, you have to keep him busy--you have to keep him thinking. Once you achieve that he will become completely tuned in to the ride and what you ask of him.

Our warm up generally consists of walking a lap each way on a looser rein before adding in 10 to 15 meter circles at each letter (often times throwing in 20 meter circles at B and E to change things up and so he must keep listening) while keeping a looser rein, focusing on forward. Then, after about half a lap each way or so we begin to throw in walk-halt transitions between circles. After that, we trot a lap each way (while keeping that looser rein, asking him to stretch down and really use his back) before gradually shortening the reins (while making sure he stays moving in a forward manner and is really engaging his hindquarters). We'll do some 10 to 15 meter circles at each letter at the trot, too, as well as adding in transitions between circles.

Doing spirals, shoulder-in, leg yielding, as well as lots of circles, transitions, and changing of direction are great in always keeping these guys engaged and thinking.

quietann
Jun. 22, 2011, 11:40 AM
I was reading somewhere (I can't remember where) that lots of exposure to spooky things is not necessarily the way to fix spookiness. You are never going to be able to eliminate the unexpected. The only constant is the rider, so what you do is let the horse know that their one constant - you - never changes no matter what happens. It's so obvious it's kind of "duh," but it helped me to think of it this way.

I should have clarified that the "ride outside!" is for me as much as for the horse. I can be a timid rider and had to train myself to deal with the great outdoors as much as the horse.

Jeito
Jun. 22, 2011, 12:20 PM
I like that, quietann. I should also clarify that I think riding outside and getting out to shows, etc., is important. I was just sharing something I read that made go "of course!"

Petstorejunkie
Jun. 22, 2011, 12:21 PM
You have a "sharp" horse. Why not turn it around and learn to ride a sharp, hot, sensitive horse? Once you've ridden one of those, you won't go back.

You say "she's attentive to everything". Is she ignoring you or just very sensitive?

If she's just sensitive, then consider this an opportunity to improve your horsemanship....guarantee, you won't go back....it is addictive to ride a hot, sensitive horse.
Yep yep yep!
Time to step up your game and learn to really ride ;):cool:
Think of being more interesting than everything else. constantly change things up

mp
Jun. 22, 2011, 02:49 PM
Lots of good stuff here. But, like pluvinel, I wonder what you mean by "alert."

My horse is "alert" in that he notices EVERYTHING new. But he is not what I'd call spooky. He makes a big production and a lot of noise when he's got his eye on something. But once he's over it, he's over it. Depending on what it is, I either let him check it out or we work (SI, LY, spiral in/out, a lot of the stuff already mentioned) by the booger until he's OK.

The bigger challenge is to get him to focus on his rider -- not because he's worried about something, but because he thinks he should be in charge, not his rider. And he is "sharp" in every sense of the word -- very smart and very sensitive. So he's quite good at taking control of the ride.

To get past this has been a long effort. Partly because my riding skills needed a lot of improvement (still do!). But also because he is just a hard nut to crack. But we’ve made a lot of progress. It used to take 30 minutes or more of riding for him to really let go of his back and come through. Now it’s more like 5 minutes, and maybe 10 on a particularly tough day.

The bottom line is you can’t MAKE a horse like this relax or release. You present the opportunity by doing the exercises everyone has mentioned -- and keep presenting it until she takes you up on it. If she gets distracted, stay on YOUR agenda and ignore hers. It's more like "DO this" instead of "DON'T do that."

Just keep at it and understand that, at first, it might take ¾ or even ALL of your ride to get there. But she will become more consistent with time. And it is worth it.

As my cowboy friend says, a horse like this is harder to get with you. But once you do, you've really got something.

quietann
Jun. 22, 2011, 02:55 PM
The thing that helped me the most was taking more contact. My instructor had me shorten my reins more while riding this one. It was such a change and at first I felt like I was strangling him. I do not ride my other horses with this much contact, but with this one it seems to give him focus.

I do this with the mare. She'd love it if I never touched her mouth, but she's fine with more contact than I might choose, because it's *steady* contact. She can trick me by "assuming the position" and feeling very light, when she's actually curled up behind the bit... which is not a good place to have her if she gets distracted by something!

I agree with everyone who says a horse like this requires more refinement and skill. I'm far from a great rider but the maresy forces me to ride better.

Vesper Sparrow
Jun. 22, 2011, 04:51 PM
My first TB mare was quite looky (but not what I'd call really spooky) and the one I am riding now is similar. Both tend to be this way (and are constantly blowing) during the first few minutes of the ride. They are forward, sensitive types, on the hot side. I wonder, like the poster above, if it is a mare thing.

My gelding, on the other hand, is lazy and is only looky when he thinks it will get him out of work or when something is attractive or interesting (i.e. nearby food or an interesting horse). He basically is just lollygagging.

With the mares, I try to consciously relax my body. And I put her to work, of a difficulty and "tightness" (in terms of the size of the figure and contact) appropriate to the point we are in the schooling session and how I sense her mood that day. Sometimes, it is going really forward in big circles at a trot, other times it is walking briskly forward on a loose rein, sometimes it is asking them to bend, etc., etc..

With my gelding, he goes to work immediately, no questions asked and no special tact needed.

Give and Take
Jun. 22, 2011, 05:28 PM
Consistency in your response is important too. If you ask for something and they go flying across the arena because a dog came out to the arena, have a consistent reponse - like turn on the haunches - and then go back to what you were asking.

Be careful not to change your question is the horse interrupts the conversation...

pluvinel
Jun. 22, 2011, 10:10 PM
Lots of good stuff here. But, like pluvinel, I wonder what you mean by "alert."

My horse is "alert" in that he notices EVERYTHING new. But he is not what I'd call spooky. He makes a big production and a lot of noise when he's got his eye on something. But once he's over it, he's over it. Depending on what it is, I either let him check it out or we work (SI, LY, spiral in/out, a lot of the stuff already mentioned) by the booger until he's OK.

The bigger challenge is to get him to focus on his rider -- not because he's worried about something, but because he thinks he should be in charge, not his rider. And he is "sharp" in every sense of the word -- very smart and very sensitive. So he's quite good at taking control of the ride.

To get past this has been a long effort. Partly because my riding skills needed a lot of improvement (still do!). But also because he is just a hard nut to crack. But we’ve made a lot of progress. It used to take 30 minutes or more of riding for him to really let go of his back and come through. Now it’s more like 5 minutes, and maybe 10 on a particularly tough day.

The bottom line is you can’t MAKE a horse like this relax or release. You present the opportunity by doing the exercises everyone has mentioned -- and keep presenting it until she takes you up on it. If she gets distracted, stay on YOUR agenda and ignore hers. It's more like "DO this" instead of "DON'T do that."

Just keep at it and understand that, at first, it might take ¾ or even ALL of your ride to get there. But she will become more consistent with time. And it is worth it.

As my cowboy friend says, a horse like this is harder to get with you. But once you do, you've really got something.
This.....my bolds above are key.

You cannot "make" a horse do anything. The idea of "de-spooking" is not to de-sensitise the horse into an oblivious blob, but to get the horse to look to its rider/handler for guidance regardless of the situation it finds itself in.

This puts the burden on the rider to improve his/her horsemanship. One needs to understand if the horse is truly afraid, or if the horse is confused, or if the horse is not physically able to do what is asked, or....if the horse is flat out saying NO. The corrections or ways to address the horse are different depending on the question the horse is presenting.

It is the sorting of these questions that improve one's abilities as a horseman.....and I'm in the camp that believes that a good rider is the product of good horsemanship.

This requires consistency, finesse, sometimes strong corrections, and above all a rider who is mentally centered.

Excerpted from "The Rider," in Horsemanship, by Waldemar Seunig (circa 1939)


As for the rider, horsemen endeavored to combat an estrangement from animals, that is, to awaken an understanding of the horse's inner life, because they grew more and more convinced that psychological contact between rider and horse can simplify and shorten training considerably by mitigating many hardships, awakening ready obedience in the horse and increasing its dependability in critical situations.

Another consequence of this friendly relationship, which by no means excludes respect, but which must grow out of confidence, is the fact that horses remain useful and fresh for a longer time if they are not worn out battling against demands that would produce no resistance at all if approached correctly.

To be in psychological equilibrium as a rider, one must have a sure understanding of what and how much can be asked of a horse in any period of time and when it can be asked, based upon one's own conscious feelings. Furthermore, the rider must have a sure understanding of the natural limits to what a horse can do, since it can achieve no more than the degree of perfection that is attainable for it even under the best rider.The mental freedom, objectivity, and general superiority that are a result of this mental attitude will tell the rider that a breach of the contact between the two souls produced by disappointed confidence is harder to restore that in is to maintain.

The Above&Beyond website is no longer active, but I found sections in the web archive that address some of these questions:
http://web.archive.org/web/20050217181110/http://aboveandbeyond-eac.com/kozmic3.htm

Behind the 8 Ball
Jun. 22, 2011, 10:31 PM
My favorite horses are there kinds. My current favorite ( alright, I would leave my husband for him if he were a man ) is highly alert and I have used many of the techniques here. Interestingly enough, I ride him cross country at least 1x a week. We can go from forward, on the bit, ears pricked to dead stop, reverse because he sees the skunk/deer/new branch down/moved garbage can 1/4 mile away. My response, LAUGH!! If you get sucked into getting nervous when they are ADHD and nervy themselves, they feed off of it and start looking for more things to be wary of. Just pat on neck, keep doing what you were doing and laugh.

Also - my goofy boy is more afraid of what he can hear but not see than new stuff that should wack him out. A kid on a skate board outside the indoor had him practically imploding. Calmly watches from under saddle on the driveway 10 feet away

mp
Jun. 23, 2011, 12:25 PM
You cannot "make" a horse do anything.

You are so right. But a horse can be ridden and shown and do all sorts of things physically and never really submit/relax/whatever with his rider. So a lot of riders don't realize they're missing that one thing that can make all the difference. It's a subtle thing, especially outside dressage and I find myself struggling to explain to the riders at my barn, most of whom are working western riders.

But since my horse has finally made the choice to follow my lead, things have started to really fall into place. And he was a damned nice ride before that. He was physically there, doing what I asked (most of the time), but he just didn't give it his all. Now he does -- most of the time. ;)



The idea of "de-spooking" is not to de-sensitise the horse into an oblivious blob, but to get the horse to look to its rider/handler for guidance regardless of the situation it finds itself in.

Another thing I have a hard time explaining to my barn friends. They ride ranch trained horses (very nice ones) and some can't figure out why these horses that are so well trained get spooky with them or "don't like" something very mundane. Well, dear, he may have done a lot of things, but he hasn't done them with YOU.


And what a lovely quote. It says more eloquently what I've learned -- you ride the horse's mind as much as you do his body. If you don't, you're either a passenger or a dictator. But not a horseman.

Lambie Boat
Jun. 23, 2011, 02:11 PM
I have a mare like this. And personally, I have a "hot seat" and I'm more than a little twitchy myself. I've tried, but don't think it will ever work. I am the way I am, she is the way she is. She's too much horse for me and I'm too neurotic for her. Bad match. She's now for sale.

CFFarm
Jun. 24, 2011, 12:40 PM
As I posted in another thread "ride him like he's gonna do everything right" and let me add "with confidence".