View Full Version : Sore legs...and not the horses

Arrows Endure
Aug. 7, 2011, 09:54 PM
Ok, my first horse was a purebred Paso Fino who had a very baroque conformation, and a HUGE engine. Collection for him was super easy. I sit tall, give a little bit of steadiness in the reins, support with my legs, and he was rocked back over his hips, back up, and on the bit. Easy peasy.

My current horse is half arab/half paso fino. He's been unbalanced his whole life, butt high and gangly. He's now coming six, and is finally leveling up his topline and gaining a lot strength. He does not have the best engine ever. Actually, I'm beginning to think instead of an engine, he might have a hampster in a wheel, but that's a different topic. *grin*

We have started working on getting him to use his hind end and back at the trot, and work in a not-inverted frame. So, we worked on about a thirty meter circle, inside leg, outside rein, all that noise. And we were able to gain some progress. To his good side, he was able to balance himself, come off his forehand, and bring his head and neck carriage down for about three turns of the circle. The trot was completely different in a good way. Yay! To his bad side, it wasn't quite as good, but he was trying hard and there was improvement. Yay!

Problem is, I never imagined the amount of leg it would take from ME to get that out of him. Good Lord! It's a good thing he can't handle much of that right now, becuase I surely can't! Must start doing squats, and sit ups, and other strengthening exercises if I'm going to be doing much more of that!

I can ride for three hours at a fast trot on the trail and not be sore. I am sore for 20 minutes of ring work this morning. I feel like a total wimp.

Of course, after that long whining rant over the state of my legs, you probabaly all know exactly how long it's been since I've had a proper dressage lesson....

Aug. 8, 2011, 09:07 AM
Oh, I hear you. I have a new horse that I'm working on conditioning, and at the same time, I'm rebuilding all my riding muscles and balance and timing and all that good stuff that I managed to essentially lose when I was logging infrequent saddle time between horses. Oh, and the horse tends to be more behind my leg, so we're working on forward too.

I *finally* got to the point last week where the horse and I started to really do some real work. And by real work I simply mean getting and maintaining a decent working trot, with good hind-end engagement. My trainer ratcheted things up and wow, I felt it! I work out daily in addition to riding - but I was sore last week - abs, legs - and really worn out. My trainer has no sympathy - she just grins and says "Good, you're doing it right!"

I'm taking it as a sign of progress. The horse is moving better and I'm definitely getting my act together. So I hope this suffering is temporary. :)

Aug. 8, 2011, 09:48 AM
AE, maybe work on getting your horse more sensitive to a lighter aid so you're not having to work so hard and HE'S listening more? Just a thought. Do you use a dressage whip to reinforce your leg aids? Jane Savoie has good advice about awakening a horse to the leg. Riding a not-forward off-the-leg horse is a PITA!

To help him achieve bend and activity behind, have you tried German Leg Yields? This is a LY, head to wall, then asking the horse to change direction in a turn on the forehand, change bend and go back the other way. This exercise can be done in either walk or trot, though (obviously) you transition back to walk for the TOF. I usually do one more rep to the "bad' side, whichever it is. I go back & forth a time or two, then give the horse a break in a stretchy trot.

Spirals might help, too. And lots of transitions, walk/trot/walk and trot/canter/trot, if he's ready for it.

And you're right about making these improvements in small doses. If he's weak, just a few minutes of really correct work is plenty until his strength increases.

Aug. 8, 2011, 10:13 AM
AE, maybe work on getting your horse more sensitive to a lighter aid so you're not having to work so hard and HE'S listening more? Just a thought. Do you use a dressage whip to reinforce your leg aids? Jane Savoie has good advice about awakening a horse to the leg. Riding a not-forward off-the-leg horse is a PITA!


Aug. 8, 2011, 10:21 AM


The horse can feel a fly land.

If he requires more leg than that to respond to an aid, it is a training issue.

Arrows Endure
Aug. 8, 2011, 10:45 AM
We are working on better response to the aids! Really, we are!

He's half arab, half paso fino. His build works against him, as he's got a natural ewe neck, and he's been butt high most of his life. He moves himself at liberty and with a rider in a VERY inverted, front end heavy fashion. I am trying to change that as much as I can.

He also is very much not a naturally forward kind of guy. Now that I am INSISTING on forward (actually ala Jane Savoie...Love her!), he is very much not relaxed. He's getting better about relaxing into the forward, but that's taking a lot of time.

My arena rides tend to consist of this:
Mount, walk, stretch, work on some leg yeilding to get him listening, circles, serpentines, step over poles, spiral, etc. Walk work is relaxed, head down, and he is developing a lovely swing to his back when he walks. Once we are warmed up, I ask for a trot very softly. He swishes his tail and MAY pick up a slow trot, or he may not. I INSIST on forward trot, usually by judicious application of dressage whip behind leg, and we get about three minutes of racing around with his head in the air and his ears pinned. I ignore his crankiness, and work on relaxing him while maintaining forward. In other words, we circle and serpentine and change directions. After a couple of minutes, he'll relax into a nice trot. Then I start doing transistions, changes in speed of the gait, whatever I happen to be working on today. After the first trot, he generally transistions with a very soft aid, but it's rushy and inverted. If I ask for a lengthened trot, I get pinned ears, but he does it. If I ask for a canter, I have to repeat the insistance. He doesn't generally slow down within a gait unless I ask him too, so that is good.

I just now added working in the large circle, really working on getting him to put his body together, and that's what killed me. He wasn't slowing down, but he seemed to need the support, and the constant reminder to keep trying. I think it will get better. Here is to hoping my legs get better faster than his. :)

No, he is not in pain. Really. He's been vet checked, blood worked, lameness checked, chiropracted, massaged, and prodded half to death. He's just cranky about forward, unless it's fun. He likes jumping. I've been working on games of all things, just to switch some stuff up. That's fun too. I think I just need to keep ignoring the attitude and making him work anyway. Then, hopefully, it will gradually go away.

Oh, and if he gives me forward, relaxed, and no 'tude, I immediatly pet him, get off, loosen the girth, and we are done. I've only been able to do that once in about 2 months, but it was last week, so hopefully I can do it more often and get my point across. He's super smart, shouldn't take much.

Aug. 8, 2011, 12:58 PM
Sounds like you've got a good plan going for a less-than-perfect horse. He sounds less-than-happy as well. Hopefully with correct work and improved muscling his attitude will change, too.

Have you tried lungeing him in Vienna Reins or Lauffer Reins? These reins encourage and reward a forward/down/out posture. The horse figures it out on hiw own without the burden of a rider. With all his confo issues, lungeing might be a better way to build the muscles you want first, THEN add riding. Some horses do well double-lungeing. One of my clients found that her aged Arab (who LOVED going around inverted at 900 MPH) responded very well to double-lungeing.

A word of caution: do NOT ride while using Viennas or Lauffers. Save them for unmounted work only.

Just had another couple of thoughts: how's the saddle fit? Do YOU have a tendency to grip with your upper thighs? This puts some horses in a "straight jacket". Are your hands soft as you give up transition cues? (Some folks don't even know they're doing that...)

And do you take him on trail rides? That helped my lazy gelding.

Aug. 8, 2011, 02:12 PM
Ok, but are you sure this is the right horse for what you want to do? You are a dressage rider, but he does not seem to enjoy dressage?? The 2 pictures don't really jive.

If he likes to jump and trail ride, then maybe that's what he should be doing.

If you take a grumpy horse into the dressage ring, the judge will mark you down, considerably, because the horse is not pleasant, light, and happy in the bridle which is the hallmark of dressage training. If he's pinned, angry, swishing, it's kinda the opposite look to what you're trying to present in the arena. Yes?

Aug. 8, 2011, 02:29 PM
Rodawn has a good point...

Arrows Endure
Aug. 8, 2011, 06:51 PM
You all have very good points. Thankfully for both of us, I'm not doing dressage in order to compete. I'm doing dressage in order to improve my horses natural way of going. That way, as we rack up the miles in endurance and competitive trail, he'll be more likely to stay sound and happy.

He is NOT happy in the arena unless we are jumping. He is happy as a clam out on the trail. Yes we trail ride, generally two or three days a week. I do work on dressage principles on the trail and out in the field, but sometimes he's just going to have to live with being in the arena. Sometimes it's just not practical to head out to ride.

His saddle fits fine. I ride in a treeless that is set up correctly. He shows no sign of back soreness, even after rides of many miles at speed. He is a smidge on the long backed side, and I'm not lightweight rider, so I'm paranoid about that back. I'd notice if he showed any signs of soreness. So would his massage lady and his chiropractor.

We have considered doing a little eventing, just for giggles, but I'm a wimp about jumping and galloping, and someone else is going to have to be the rider. He'd be pretty good at most of it, as when he's out in the field, he's forward, quiet, and safe. Again, he needs a LITTLE bit of dressage training to do that too.

It's a good thing I'm a fairly patient rider, with Mr. Cranky. *grin*