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View Full Version : Eliminating a terrible instinct? So frustrated -- long.



Rel6
Apr. 5, 2012, 09:48 PM
So I've been riding with my current coach for almost three years now. She's great and she's really helped me fine tune a lot of my riding and helped me shift my thinking away from being a little bit of a handsy rider to using my leg to achieve what I want.

The one place where I can't seem to break this habit is approaching a jump. On an horse who knows how to jump I can ride a soft straight line to a jump and find a good spot -- I have a pretty good natural eye plus a good, consistent canter makes that not even necessary.

But on green horses I've always had a lot of trouble. I can get the horse straight to a fence, but the second they start to wiggle a little a few strides out I make a desperate grab for my rein to straighten them, which of course doesn't help at all.

For example: I was riding a greenie yesterday. We're tracking left and the jump is a single x-rail set right off the rail. We approached the jump, and coming off the rail we're straight. About four strides out I felt her start to veer right a little so I grab at my left rein and try to steer her head straight. She pops her right shoulder out even more, and then I basically just pull on my left rein in an attempt to drag her over the fence. She goes around it to the right.

I don't know how to fix this. Let me say that I know exactly what I am doing wrong. I KNOW I can't steer her head over the fence. I know if her right shoulder is popping out I need right rein and right leg to tuck it back under her. I know grabbing at her face desperately doesn't help me at all. I know all of this...but I cannot stop doing it! I keep it in my head approaching the jump but the second things go wrong I revert to OMG MUST GET HER OVER THE JUMP.

Both my coach and I are so frustrated. Its not the horse...I rode two greenies yesterday who are both easy and have been going super well over fences with more beginner riders with no problem. Yet with me they both did the exact thing. I can imagine what should happen, and my Coach has explained it to me time and time again. I just cannot stop myself from instinctively grabbing at my rein when things start to go wrong. I've been able to eradicate this in other areas -- supporting a fast horse with leg and not pulling on their bridle, turning with leg, getting a horse off their forehand through leg, framing through leg and not bridle...basically just riding off my leg first in every regard. I'm a somewhat experienced rider (I think?) but I'm realizing I had these instincts to go to the bridle first when things aren't going right.

Sorry for the novel but I am so incredibly frustrated. I don't want to teach my green ottb to run around fences and with this happening on other green horses I don't want to start jumping and have it happen with him (which it has once, so now I'm worried to jump him again.)

CBoylen
Apr. 5, 2012, 09:54 PM
Grab your mane out of the turn so that you have to ride off your leg.

kashmere
Apr. 5, 2012, 10:18 PM
Longe line, no reins :)

Right on Target
Apr. 5, 2012, 10:38 PM
You could use a neck strap or a martingale strap and adjust it so that you can steer a little but not too much when you are holding it. Then a few strides out grab it with both hands to limit what you can do. That might force you to use more leg and less hands.

Rel6
Apr. 5, 2012, 10:39 PM
Grab your mane out of the turn so that you have to ride off your leg.

Good idea...that and bridging my reins so my one hand can't go WHEEE is on my list to try next. Today we tried halting on a straight line a couple of strides out and then legging forward and over the jump. That worked if the horse went straight and over, but the second they wiggled I started to clutch.



Longe line, no reins :)

I'm not sure how this will help, since I don't have this problem on the flat or approaching fences on a less green horse. I've really worked hard the past few years to eliminate these bad instincts, but this is the one I can't see to shake.

Rel6
Apr. 5, 2012, 10:40 PM
You could use a neck strap or a martingale strap and adjust it so that you can steer a little but not too much when you are holding it. Then a few strides out grab it with both hands to limit what you can do. That might force you to use more leg and less hands.

Ooh yea that could work as well! Thanks guys...keep the suggestions coming!

Lyric
Apr. 6, 2012, 12:14 AM
Definitely try bridging your reins. My horse likes to over bend to the left and I am prone to over use of the left rein. Put us together and we really struggle with straightness jumping out of left turns. Riding with bridged reins has helped more than anything else because when it's physically impossible to do what my brain instinctually wants, it forces a quick mental "reset" which gives the neglected logical portion of my brain a chance to take over and apply some outside leg instead.

cleozowner
Apr. 6, 2012, 12:25 AM
Grab your mane out of the turn so that you have to ride off your leg.

I have the same stupid instinct, and this is what my trainer had me do. It really helped.

peachy
Apr. 6, 2012, 02:49 AM
Another suggestion along the same lines is to keep your hands so close together they are touching. It's an over-exaggerated correction for steering with your hands instead of your legs, raising one hand higher than the other, and several other faults, which if practiced over time can help build new muscle memory and break those pesky old habits.

peachy
Apr. 6, 2012, 02:51 AM
Forgot to add that one advantage to keeping your hands touching vs. grabbing mane or a neck strap is that it doesn't change your contact with your horses mouth as you're approaching the jump.

Hauwse
Apr. 6, 2012, 06:15 AM
I am thinking that your hand issue is perhaps secondary. The catalyst to the hand issue is the horse getting off center, perhaps the main issue is your balance in front of the fence. IE: you get out of balance and inadvertently ask the horse to move to one side or the other in front of the fence and then the correction or recovery with the hand becomes an issue.

If I were your trainer I would have you ride with no hands to try to determine the root of the issue; is it a balance issue with your body, your leg, or with you using your hands for balance in front of the fence, then try to correct the initial problem.

I would also work on getting you to learn to funnel the horse with the leg and to learn to "support" that leg with balanced hands. The hands are a guide that balances through further communication what it is that you are asking with the leg.

Grabbing mane etc. is a good idea, but if it is a hand balance issue that is the cause of the problem to begin with you are still going to have a horse that gets off center in front of the fence. Try opening the direct rein and supporting with the indirect rein as a temporary fix or until you can determine that it is indeed only a hand issue, not a balance issue.

leahandpie
Apr. 6, 2012, 07:26 AM
This isn't addressing the hands issue- but if the shoulder is going right and you pull the left rein, you are allowing the horse to go right. The horse follows his shoulders, not his nose.

Practice circles and turns from your outside rein and leg ONLY. All the inside rein is good for is opening to ask for inside flexion. Really, your legs and a supporting outside rein should do most of the work :)

And the reason I know this......my young horse literally will BOLT through his right shoulder when he gets a chance. I had to learn the hard way to keep my outside leg ON and not overbend him with the inside rein. He still tries to do this sometimes, but I counter act it with strong outside aids. (He actually does it after the fence- lands and then throws himself to the right)

ETA: One thing to try would be to drop the fence down to just a pole, and practice first at the walk keeping the horse straight. Then move to an xrail when she is going straight over the pole, etc. This will help with muscle memory. Forward is the key to straight also, so if the horse is getting behind your leg and wiggly, fix it with some flatwork for a few minutes and then re-approach the fence.

Good luck, I have some of the same issues jumping so I feel ya!

GingerJumper
Apr. 6, 2012, 08:48 AM
I tended to get a little "handsy" with my young jumper, and the best thing I found to correct the problem was to use my hands as a "funnel." By that I mean funneling the horse between my legs, through to my hands, and over the fence. I normally spread my hands a bit so the funnel affect was emphasized. I really had to become a "thinking" rider to break the habit... no more just "going with it;" I had to think through every part of every motion I made.

Addison
Apr. 6, 2012, 08:56 AM
I like "the funnel" approach too. I had a clinic with Rob Bielefeld and he told me told me to separate my hands slightly once I see my distance. Concentrating on separating my hands helps me to avoid getting to busy with them just before the jump. It really helped.

meupatdoes
Apr. 6, 2012, 09:26 AM
Try doing the turn out of the shortside in counterbend.

Maintain barely visible counter bend feeling all the way to the base.

If she pops the one shoulder more than the other, approach from the turn that she would want to bulge out, so your counterbend will counteract it. So if she bulges right, do your approach off the left lead in counterbend.

Also you can try setting up a line of trot or canter poles and legyielding away from her bulge down them. Enter on the right side of the first pole and exit on the left side of the last one.

BoldChance
Apr. 6, 2012, 10:32 AM
This isn't addressing the hands issue- but if the shoulder is going right and you pull the left rein, you are allowing the horse to go right. The horse follows his shoulders, not his nose.

Practice circles and turns from your outside rein and leg ONLY. All the inside rein is good for is opening to ask for inside flexion. Really, your legs and a supporting outside rein should do most of the work :)

And the reason I know this......my young horse literally will BOLT through his right shoulder when he gets a chance. I had to learn the hard way to keep my outside leg ON and not overbend him with the inside rein. He still tries to do this sometimes, but I counter act it with strong outside aids. (He actually does it after the fence- lands and then throws himself to the right)

I was thinking the same thing. If the horse is pushing out right, then right rein should block the shoulder, right leg push horse back, and soft, opening left rein to give horse somewhere to go back to the left.

Easier said than done. Welcome to my world (minus the fences). :D

dags
Apr. 6, 2012, 11:04 AM
Try doing the turn out of the shortside in counterbend.

Maintain barely visible counter bend feeling all the way to the base.



This is what also came to my mind. It's less about fixing the wiggle and more about preventing it from ever happening. If she's coming out of the corner and drifting through her outside shoulder you're either a) not supporting her outside and therefore she has no choice but to fall out when she seeks that support and finds it's not there (that's what greenies do, beg you to hold them up until they develop the muscle to hold themselves up), or b) have too much inside rein leftover from the preceding turn and are actually causing the wiggle.

Could be both too :) Spiraling in and out of circles at the canter while maintaining a straight horse is a good exercise when you're not jumping.

Gil's Girl
Apr. 6, 2012, 12:09 PM
Another vote for bridging your reins - I ride all my babies like this so bc it stops me getting too busy with my hands - you can press the bridge into your horses neck and have enough contact to guide, but have to steer more off your leg....

IndysMom
Apr. 6, 2012, 12:22 PM
Although I don't jump anymore, here's what helped me with the oversteer problem-even on the flat.

Where do you want the horse to be? In the center.

So, when he goes off center, think of bringing him back to the center. Close both legs, lift (or whatever you want to call it) BOTH hands because center is where you want to be-not the opposite side of where you're going.

alto
Apr. 6, 2012, 12:28 PM
I don't want to teach my green ottb to run around fences and with this happening on other green horses I don't want to start jumping and have it happen with him (which it has once, so now I'm worried to jump him again.)

I was going to suggest having your own green horse (that you're crazy for) as a motivator :winkgrin:

Find a clinician in your area that is good with the green horses & give a clinic a try (with your horse).
Sometimes you just need to have a different coach to work on those subconscious issues (at the very least, you will not have your usual comfort zone).

Also rather than having green horses to "practise" with, you need an older experienced horse that will take advantage of any & all rider lapses (eg, trainer has one that evented with former owner, can jump very nicely but will always try to stop or run out if the rider is not paying attention)

Rel6
Apr. 6, 2012, 12:47 PM
Thank you everyone for chiming in! I want to address what a lot of people have said.

Peachy, your idea makes a lot of sense but my instincts are very very strongly routed. I'v tried to make sure they are always touching but inevitably I just grab without thinking. So physically grabbing the main or a martingale might really help, and then eventually progressing to this.

Hauwse, I do know one problem is that my base of support is sometimes too forward when I approach a jump. I tend to follow instead of sitting up and riding their hindquarters. This has gotten much much better though. In general I have pretty good balance on the horse and have ridden without hands with no problem. I don't think its my balance throwing the horse off, I think I just make a drastic correction when a greenie wiggles towards a jump a little. I've actually been riding some greenies similar to how you described and its been fine...the problem only happens to a jump which is frustrating because we can't recreate it with teaching a young horse bad habits.

Leahandpie, I do know that (see original post) and on the flat I can ride off my leg with only a supporting hand no problem. Its just approaching the jump.

GingerJumper and Addison, I like the funnel idea. I'm just worried that with my hands apart it will be even easier for my brain to go into panic-clutching mode. I definitely want to try this though. And Gingerjump, I completely get what you're saying about being a thinking rider. Thats been what my trainer and I have spent three years on. And almost everything is finally there -- on the flat and around a course of jumps I can really think through and ride technically. Its this last circumstance of greenie wiggling a few strides out that I just *cannot* get!

Meupatdoes, its funny you mention the counterbend since that was what first helped me to really understand what I was doing wrong. I approached the jump in a counter bend, felt us get really straight, and felt the second I started to lose his shoulder a few strides out. Of course then I panicked and reverted (bad bad bad) but it really clicked for me what I was doing wrong, and how much better it could be if I could do it right. Bleh. Its not that I'm scared -- I just have this switch in my brain that makes me think pulling will get this horse over the jump. I really like the counter leg-yield over poles idea too though. Hmm adding that to the list...

Dags, I wouldn't be surprised if it was either of those. Another hard lesson for me was pushing my horse into my outside rein. I can reproduce it on a more experienced horse but I struggle to support a greenie with my outside rein coming to a jump.

IndysMom, again I *know* this and I know intellectually what I need to do and why I need to do it, its overcoming my initial instinct that is impeding me. Its so frustrating because because I do GET it, I just can't DO it.

Rel6
Apr. 6, 2012, 12:52 PM
I was going to suggest having your own green horse (that you're crazy for) as a motivator :winkgrin:

Also rather than having green horses to "practise" with, you need an older experienced horse that will take advantage of any & all rider lapses (eg, trainer has one that evented with former owner, can jump very nicely but will always try to stop or run out if the rider is not paying attention)

Yea he's definitely serving as a motivator here. Partly too because I know him and know he's very bold to a fence and super easy to jump. So there is no way I can kind of tell myself maybe its not me. Nope, its all me. I'm also thinking about having my coach put some other girls on him to jump so I can watch them and compare with my own approach (I have videos of my issues and can see my hands doing bad things.)

Haha my trainer was actually telling me yesterday that she had a horse like that and that was how she taught her daughter this very same lesson. I'll have to ask her about current horses that might do that.

leahandpie
Apr. 6, 2012, 01:05 PM
Leahandpie, I do know that (see original post) and on the flat I can ride off my leg with only a supporting hand no problem. Its just approaching the jump.

Another hard lesson for me was pushing my horse into my outside rein. I can reproduce it on a more experienced horse but I struggle to support a greenie with my outside rein coming to a jump.

IndysMom, again I *know* this and I know intellectually what I need to do and why I need to do it, its overcoming my initial instinct that is impeding me. Its so frustrating because because I do GET it, I just can't DO it.

What about having a small jump on a circle. Trot around the outside of the jump until you get the horse into your outside rein. Practice switching from bend to counter bend and back, until the horse is moving nicely off of both legs. Then spiral in slightly, pushing the horse in off the outside aids, and approach the fence. (In trot) This might help convince your body to keep the same feeling.

Another thing that helps me with timing and not getting ahead is counting the trot rhythm out loud. I look like a complete fool, of course yelling ONE TWO ONE TWO ONE TWO, but it takes the jump out of the equation for me, and as a result I continue riding up to and over the fence, instead of pitching myself forward at it.

Rel6
Apr. 6, 2012, 01:14 PM
What about having a small jump on a circle. Trot around the outside of the jump until you get the horse into your outside rein. Practice switching from bend to counter bend and back, until the horse is moving nicely off of both legs. Then spiral in slightly, pushing the horse in off the outside aids, and approach the fence. (In trot) This might help convince your body to keep the same feeling.

We actually have done a very similar exercise! I'm totally fine to a short approach. We have an end jump we circled around and then jumped and that was fine (on both horses.) Same thing with a shorter approach to a diagonal...totally fine. Maybe its because the longer approach gives me more time to mess it up?

snaffle635
Apr. 6, 2012, 03:35 PM
I know all of this...but I cannot stop doing it!

And THIS, people, is why riding is so hard! :)

Have you tried holding your reins in a driving style...like you were driving a stagecoach? One of our trainers uses it a lot. It's great for people who are relying too much on their reins. Everytime I do it, I realize how overly dependent I am on my hands.

RodeoHunter
Apr. 6, 2012, 04:16 PM
I have this exact same problem and like you, I am fine on the flat but as soon as I approach a jump and my horse gets out of alignment, I go to my hands rather than using leg to correct. Last night my horse was noodling all over the place so I tried focusing on using a much tigher leg than usual - almost like a constant "squish" with my calves. I found that it was a lot easier to correct straightness down the lines because my leg was already very tight, and my instinct went from trying to flail with my hands to just adding a bit more squish on one side. I do think this is ideally how one is supposed to ride :lol: but sometimes it's hard to ride properly.........

I said to my coach "wow, my horse goes so much better when I actually use my leg".............."ummmmmm, YEP. Kinda what I've been saying all along."

Instinct sucks sometimes though. Well, when it's incorrect. :)

GingerJumper
Apr. 6, 2012, 04:17 PM
GingerJumper and Addison, I like the funnel idea. I'm just worried that with my hands apart it will be even easier for my brain to go into panic-clutching mode. I definitely want to try this though. And Gingerjump, I completely get what you're saying about being a thinking rider. Thats been what my trainer and I have spent three years on. And almost everything is finally there -- on the flat and around a course of jumps I can really think through and ride technically. Its this last circumstance of greenie wiggling a few strides out that I just *cannot* get!



It will come! Bad habits take a long time to break. What helped me with the funneling was that I needed to keep my hands there for Moose to go into... any grabbing of just one rein would send all that energy from my leg into a 360 turn :lol:

I'd also try the driving rein that a previous poster suggested. I use one when I need to remind myself to be softer with my body... and so I don't have ANY excuse not to use an auto release. ;)

Rel6
Apr. 6, 2012, 06:13 PM
So there may be hope for me yet...

I did what my trainer calls "the crying lesson" where I took two ground poles and made a chute and then trotted him through the chute. We kept rolling them closer and closer.

I tried riding it and grabbing martingale but my reins were getting too long and I felt like I had no control, so I would abort and grab him when he wiggled. Then I tried bridging my reins.

It worked! I couldn't falter into one rein. My horse was perfect too...we kept rolling the rails in until it was physically impossible for his hooves to fit and he was super straight. The second he wiggled I put my leg on him and felt him straighten out.

In fact, he was so good I thought maybe he was doing all the work. So I picked up my reins normally and rode it...and he popped a shoulder and went around them. Bridged my reins again...he was perfect.

I tried it at a canter and he was totally fine. By the end I could get him through it at a canter without bridging my reins, which was very satisfying.

I'm going to ask my trainer to let me jump him with my reins bridged tomorrow if she's around and I'll let everyone know how it goes.

ETA: The driving rein is another great suggestions. I'll try that tomorrow as well.

Trevelyan96
Apr. 6, 2012, 06:34 PM
I am the worlds worst about fiddling with the reins when approaching a jump, as well as opening my fingers. I think the best advice is to use a martingale strap, neck strap, or to grab mane to keep your hands still.

DarkStarrx
Apr. 7, 2012, 10:22 AM
One thing that helped me to stop fiddling was putting a knot in the reins so they were super short. Around right in front of the martingale. This made it impossible to fiddle with them and a couple courses like that and I haven't fiddled since. I suppose it has a similar effect to bridging the reins.

findeight
Apr. 7, 2012, 11:30 AM
Grab your mane out of the turn so that you have to ride off your leg.

Note she says "out of the turn" not just in front of the fence. That means you get the canter, you stick with the canter. You keep that canter all the way out of the corner to the fence.

Any fiddling you do, you do BEFORE you get into the corner.

Greenies are wiggle worms. Sit still, keep going and LOOK where you are going, they'll get over it.

IMO most "drive bys" are rider caused. Even on Greenies. Riders get into their mouths trying to "fix" them and get too slow. Riders look down and the horse sort of gets lost and has no idea where to go-and being basically lazy, around is their choice.

Just look up and go. They actually can and will find their way to and over the fence all by themselves.

Ambitious Kate
Apr. 7, 2012, 12:19 PM
You could also learn to hold the shoulder with your knee instead of relying on your reins. You could practice this on the circle by learning to hold the outside of the circle with your outside leg and rein, even using your outside knee ahead just a bit to hold him from popping his shoulder out on the circle. Its called riding the outside of the circle - gives the horse a sens of support, much as the rail its self give a horse support. You need to get the feel of not needing the rail for support (on the outside) and you need to be able to ride a circle say to the left by having a steady and consistent right leg.

If on this circle to the left your inside leg is not supportive enough, and the horse is falling to the left, then you need to be able to hold his inside shoulder from falling with the inside knee and outside rein.

Its complicated but not. However, its a technique of riding the bend in a blanced and supportive way, which you haven't mastered. It takes the focus off the reins for "turning". You describe trying to turn the horse with reins, and you are making for a rubbery necked ride, and you aren't riding the rest of the horse. The rest of the horse is just following your hands/neck thing and you aren't riding the shoulders and hind quarters, so your flatwork needs to include using your legs and seat to ride the rest of the horse.

As you noticed, you aren't giving your horse the support it needs to hold it on a turn - not even to hold it on a straight line, which other riders have for him. Even a straight line has a 'bend' to it, depending on your lead, and you haven't learned to ride the bend and give the outside the correct support from your legs and seat.

Rel6
Apr. 7, 2012, 03:04 PM
Ambitious Kate, oh I definitely get this. My trainer is a huge proponent of getting riders to move their horses over into their outside rein and although it took me awhile I can successfully reproduce it on the flat and rounding a turn to a jump. I have gotten this technique down pretty well and its helped me tremendously. Its so frustrating because I do know and get it, and can even execute it on the flat or on a less green horse over fences. Its just not fidgeting when things go wrong that I cannot stop doing.

ETA: Although I'm not sure what you mean by holding it with my knee. I think of my leg as a solid wall supporting my horse...when you say knee do you mean leg or actually specifically pinching with me knee? Thats another habit I've eliminated that I am not planning on returning too!