View Full Version : suggestions for a curler?

Mar. 23, 2012, 02:54 PM
Just looking for a few suggestions. Doing a rehab with a 9 year old OTTB, and he gets VERY behind the bit. I've been doing a ton of flat work, and his trot work has improved, however, he still gets very curl-ey at the canter (and hangs out his tongue, but different topic for a different day :D).

Serpentine's/circles, along with lunging in very loose side reins has really helped his acceptance at the trot, but that all goes out the window at the canter. He's quiet, more QH then anything, and also tends to suck back behind your leg.

Just looking for a few suggestions and exercises that would make him be just a BIT more accepting.

I've tried "lifting" him (OMG my ab's are still feeling THAT!) and dropping contact completely, both really don't seem to affect his position. He's REALLY curled too, think chin touching chest :/

His teeth have been done (and were horrible, hence his bad weight) and he's doing nicely in a french link snaffle. Figure 8 for the tongue didn't really help much, and made him rather fussy until he could get his tongue out, so I'm ignoring that for now. He's not flipping it over the bit, just hanging it out the corner of his mouth. (http://a1.sphotos.ak.fbcdn.net/hphotos-ak-ash4/325396_589477831035_149402250_31066229_467719203_o .jpg) He also does it on the lunge, and while lunging in a halter, it seems to be his "stress" response.

Mar. 23, 2012, 03:08 PM
Sounds like to me that you are on the right track... sometimes developing a good quality canter with an OTTB can take TIME. I am not a trainer, so with me it takes longer than it prob. would for a professional, but I have been working with my horse for 2 years and he is just now getting a nice, balanced, adjustable and forward into the contact canter. Just have patience!

My horse was a curler at first too, but I spent a loooong time fixing it at the trot first. I would say we didn't really start actually working on a GOOD canter until last spring. By then he had pretty much dropped the curling habit completely because he had been so retrained at the trot.

Mar. 23, 2012, 03:15 PM
Number one teach him the stretchy circle at the trot.
To do this:
First teach him to take smaller steps and then normal steps again. You should be able to keep your "pinkies on the pommel" (ie, hands quiet) and use your seat to shorten the stride, and then allow it forward again, while keeping his feel in the bridle the same.
(If he is not seat-responsive enough dumb it down for him with trot walk trot until he is doing the transitions well between the gaits, and then work on influencing the stridelength for transitions within the gaits. Your trot-walks should be "pinkies on the pommel" passive too. Just seat.)

Once you can easily get a shortened stride from seat, emphasize the "out". Put him on a circle and really send him toward the outside rein and pop the stride a little longer. When he seeks the bit even a smidge pat him with your inside hand (which is also a reward-release).

When he is doing this well and stretching down all around the circle, his level of contact is ready to try to improve the canter.

Then when he is cantering, try the same exercise.
DON'T LET GO WHEN HE CURLS. Keep the same pressure, do your slight stride shortening, then add leg to lengthen again and if he increases his pressure on the bit even slightly allow your hand forward to accomodate him. He doesn't have to do a lot at first, even going from "one inch away from his chest" to "two inches away from his chest" is good. Then try for three inches, four inches, etc. He will learn that reaching for the bit gets release.

If you just give him your hand straight off the bat and hope, he learns, "Oh, when I tuck my head in the bridle goes away. Yay!"

Good luck!

Mar. 23, 2012, 03:23 PM
My mare is a tricky curler. She likes to hide behind the bit, and she's very good at sneaking into that position. If I fall back into old habits and use a little bit too much hand, she eveades and goes right BTV. I have made very good progress however.

First switched from a myler dee to a mullen happy mouth. I think she prefers the feel of plastic over metal and actually seeks contact in it. It is a more forgiving bit than anything metal, and has no harsh actions that offend her little face.

Second, I had a lightbulb riding moment for myself. I basically promised myself that under no circumstance will I pull. I've added about 25% more leg than I was using before, and focus on pushing my hands (thinking like a shopping cart, but not really). I am asking for more foward motion, and pushing her into the space I've created with my hands. If my mare isn't going forward, she is probably behind the bit. I wasn't a horrible "pull-er" before, but just being conscious of how often my hands actually made a backward movement when they didn't need to has made such a positive influence on my ride.

Now I have a happy mare who seeks contact. We have acheived self-carriage, with a hint of the cute "nose poked out" hunter look.

Mar. 23, 2012, 03:40 PM
I suggest basic suppling work such as spiraling in and out on a big circle at the canter---just a few strides in and out. Move the shoulders over, not just the neck.

With btv horses its a symptom of something else going on, not just the head.

Do you have any half halts?

Generally for BTV horses (I own one also) I ride a lot (LOT) of forward/down and OUT.....The horse needs to stretch INTO the contact and relax his neck and shoulder. Don't allow rushing. Ride a lot of shallow loops, figure 8s, etc. Back should come up and hocks should step under nicely. The contact should be the same as if the horse was "in position" ("On the bit") the only difference is the reins are longer.

Also shoulder in is an EXCELLENT exercise for the horse that goes deep. It allows them to coordinate the body so the shoulders lift and the horse is more on the outside rein.

BTV can be a strength issue too and all these workouts here should help the horse become stronger so he can carry himself better and understand contact.

I wouldn't change bits at this point. GIVE GIVE GIVE is the name of the game. If you think you are giving enough and the horse is still BTV then you aren't giving enough LOL....Don't throw the reins away but the horse should have room to move out and follow the contact.

Mar. 23, 2012, 04:02 PM
thanks! Printing the suggestions for this weekend (as long as the weather holds out).

He belonged to a friend who was over horsed, and couldn't afford him anymore, so I agreed to take him. I originally wasn't going to do much with him, just the basics, but the curling has been a deal breaker now for 2 buyers, so I really need to concentrate on it and get him FIXED.

He's come SUCH a long way, he's actually giving a "real" trot, and is starting to poke his nose out...but his canter is still super iffy. He was starting to improve, then had a few weeks off due to some family issues and is now worse then ever "sigh".

Here's the best video I have to show, granted he was being FREAKISHLY good and this was his last "good" ride before the break, but you can catch glimpses. Especially at the flat work toward the end while cantering. His worst "curl" moments were his norm before, and are his norm now :/


Mar. 23, 2012, 04:18 PM
Also after watching your video I would suggest riding him from your seat, instead of half seating during the canter.

Mar. 23, 2012, 04:31 PM
Thanks! I've actually been sitting my canter with him on the suggestion of one of his non-buyers (lol, love that term). Good to know thought that continuing might help.

I'm really used to the over reactive head breaking nose with heavy contact type...while having the head DOWN is nice...its just as much of a PTIA *scowls*

Mar. 23, 2012, 04:32 PM
Thanks for sharing the video. There was honestly no REAL acceptance of the bit (consistently) and the neck/back seemed very stiff. Better work at the end when he settled down-the canter work had a lot of nice moments.

BTV is just another side of the same coin--same fix really.

I didn't see much BTV that would worry me, really. Its a phase a lot go through. Just ride with the giving rein and you should be fine. I expected a lot worse.....just don't encourage getting TOO deep and keep riding forward with a giving hand. Things should sort out as he gets stronger.

A lot of tense horses like this have phases of getting deep then they come back up. Its just part of figuring it out. (I HATE the BTV riding we see so much of but I also own a horse prone to this and I have to see reality is not always perfect!)

Good luck

Mar. 23, 2012, 04:49 PM
my computer was slow and i couldn't watch your whole video but my horse was the same way. I literally spent a year with very little cantering, teaching him HOW to trot, how to accept my hand and how to move laterally. When I did introduce working the canter (december 2011) it was 1,000 times better than ANY time i tried to canter during the previous year. He then had some ups and downs, (saddle fit, chiro issues) and is just now getting back into work after being in and out of work for the last 3 months. You know what? Canter is even BETTER than when we started in december. I strongly suggest taking your time to work the trot and make it good and supple. I second the "sit at the canter'.

What also worked with my horse was to really think about keeping a straight line from his mouth to my hands. If he lifted his head, i lifted my hands. It really helped him accept my hands. Also, if you do a search on the dressage thread, i got a lot of helpful advise on a similar topic. Meupatdoes gave me great advice there, as she did for you here