I have a wonderful mare that I love so much. She has great movement and temperment. The issue that I am having is that she is stiff to left. She is young and this is only her first year under saddle. I am on the High School Equestrian Team and I need advice on how to get her soft. She will not bend at all. I have had a chiropractor out, her teeth are done, etc. I don't want to push my mare at all. I am working with a trainer, she isn't a dressage trainer, but she seems to help a little. Does any one have any advice or tips on how to get her supple? Any stretches I can do? The closests english trainer to me is two hours and two snowy passes away. Thanks!
You seem to have already ruled out the teeth issue. Did the chiropractor find anything significant?
If I were you, I will start by doing carrot stretches, especially to the left. If your mare can do that easily, then it is less a physical issue. I will then cotinue with more carrot stretches both sides
Also, when you say she is stiff, does that mean she will not bend with her body, or that she will not flex her neck?
Carrot stretches are good - plus - where is your mare "holding"? If she's holding in the shoulders, use your thigh to move her shoulders (outside thigh on a straight line, inside thigh in circles, OR in my mare's case I push her shoulders left with my right thigh 95% of the time since she resists (braces) with her right shoulder.
Once you break up her shoulders (be sure you are NOT holding with the reins - steady contact with outside rein, give/take with inside rein as needed) she'll start to bend and give in the rest of her body.
Last edited by Valentina_32926; Jan. 3, 2008 at 11:46 AM.
She does her carrot stretches really well on the ground and in the saddle. The chiropractor said that there was nothing wrong with her. Its not just her shoulders its her whole body that won't bend, on the right she is light and loose and carries herself perfectly. I could be the problem, I broke my left collarbone and rib cage about 2.5 years ago, but my other horse is fine on the left. Idk if it is that she just carries herself naturally stiff to the left or if she has been stiff for awhile so now her muscles are strengthened that way . I just don't know what to do, she is great and gives a 110%, it feels like she is trying and she just can't do it so she gets frustrated and throws a fit.
It is very unusual to find a horse who is not to be stiff on one side. That is why straightness is on the training scale. They have a hollow side and a stiff side. Usually the stiff side is the more developed side (and usually the mane will fall to the hollow side). If she's stiff to the left the problem is the right side. Some horses sulk more than others when asked to do something uncomfortable and unless your horse has a vision problem on that side, it's probably just a matter of stretching and straightening exercises. Lateral work and work on a circle (figure 8's, surpentines, etc.) are usually helpful.
Make sure she is strait FIRST and that her neck is in line with the shoulders. THEN worry about bending. She needs to start with proper alignment to use her body to the full advantage. Just flex a tiny bit on circles so you see the inside eye. Don't be overly dramatic with the inside rein since you are just going to have her pop her shoulder the other way and that is not true suppleness. Always remember to keep the outside rein to support her in the turns and circles. Spiraling in and out with the change of bend in the center is excellent, also consider turn on the haunches and legyields. Both these exercises will help her coordination.So you really have to work on the total package since they all relate. It would be worth getting longed by a dressage trainer to ID any weaknesses in yourself that contribute. Not taking a certain rein has really nothing to do with that side and it really is a symptom of the other side of the neck being stiff. For me it is a case of not drilling on the issue but the issue takes care of itself with better riding and activating the inside hind and aligning the shoulders. Another thing to try is riding the long side with small circles periodically to really supple her then go back to riding really forward trying to keep that softness you create in the circle (and the active inside hind).
Her carrot stretches are good on the ground. When I am on her though it is a different story. My saddle was fitted for her..so that isn't the problem. Her right side I have no issues with she does carrot stretches in the saddle on that side. Should I just push her through it and keep asking her to bend until it finally clicks?
I had the same problem with my guy. We just started dressage about 1 1/2 months ago and he was so stiff to the left and would not bend in the corners. Amazingly though with my trainers help and help from the wonderful people on this board we have worked thru it and he BENDS!!!! Its amazing and such an accomplishment after just 1 1/2 monts. We did a lot of circles (20M) and walked smaller ones (10M) using a lot of outside rein and inside leg. We also did alot of work in the corners of the arena by posting across the diaganol and sitting the trot in the corners for the turn and gradually he started to bend more and more. Shoulder In (only took one lesson for him to learn that, he is really smart even though he doesn't act that way) is a great excersise to if your horse can do that. Also when we are walking and trotting we work on seeing his inside eye just a little and making him carry himself on the bad side. Also if you give treats u/s then use that as an oppurtunity to get her to stretch her neck on the bad side. It does take time though.
If you are already stiff on one side, this won't help you to work on your mare. I just can tell it takes time with a young horsee and he has to bend in the body, while you keep your horse on forward movement.
A sothers mentionned, a lot of circles, serpentines along with transitions w-t-c will eventually help to get through this.
be careful that your left leg is soft. A while back, when I was working with a green, sensitive, stiff -to -the- right mare, I figured out that in an exasperated effort to get her to bend in that direction, my right leg would lock up, therefore blocking her ability to be able to be soft and bend on that side.
I also discovered that the more forward she was, the straighter she was. And the straighter and more forward she was, the easier it was for me to allow that energy to flow through gentle curves in either direction.
Forward! Make sure the mare is going nice and forward. This is very important especially with a young horse. I don't know if she is on the forehand or not, but for the sake of argument, it is very difficult to steer a horse that is traveling on the forehand because their shoulders are carrying all the weight. when they are going forward with a good push from behind their hind legs carry the weight and the shoulders become freer. you should be able to get to a point when you can steer her with your seat and legs.
to work on her flexibility, first get her going forward really well on the long side. then do some shallow leg yields from quarter line to the wall while maintaining the same energy. once that goes well do serpentines and changes of direction on 20 meter circles.
dont do circles i dont know how many times i have said what ia m going to say but if you look i have posted serveral times of how to bring youngers forwards and have explained how to do half halt stride
stop riding how you write and give as in you give horse wont advade you or be stiff
start riding using the full lenght of school and width of school
get the horse going striaght and forwards work the horse in trot using shortening and lenthening your stries with added half halts for every transition from walk to trot and trot to rising trot-- getting the horse balanced and using his hinds underneath him so he even on both sides-- check your position and your stirrups are at the correct lenght and push your weight evenly into your ankles and learn to ride from an independant seat-- work the horse beteeween light legs and soft hands
go large for any movements-- dont do circle work till the horse is balanced and straight going forwards-- and go large as inlarge otherwise it puts extra strains and stresses on mussles that arnt
fully developed yet
dont jab nor pull -- keep you legs light- and soft in the hand and even
then the horse ownt advade you as stiff is more likely to be you -- if you strong on the right rein horse with be stiff -- its commonsense to give as in you give and loosen up horse will then think arrrrrrrrh at last--
its a common problem and there heaps on the same thing on this forum
Last edited by goeslikestink; Jan. 13, 2008 at 08:27 AM.