I've been told I should try to hobby horse my OTTB who is slightly off. I should cross my reins, fairly short, anchor them to the pommel and let my horse lean on them then go at a "slow a$$ canter". What I'm not sure about is how ask for the dern canter! If he were in real work, we'd do balance work, and lunge work and then I'd ask from a nicely balanced sitting trot. How would an exercise rider ask the horse to do this? When give my canter cue he just trots very fast. Just wondering if there's like a super secret track trick. Thanks!
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Posting trot, shorten up your reins pretty good, sit a couple strides and give him the canter cue(or a 2 legged kick since he probably doesn't know what a canter cue is), then go into two point. Excercise riders don't sit the trot unless they are changing gaits, and they generally aren't sitting in the saddle at a canter unless, again, they are changing gaits, so it's not for more than a few strides. I'd also suggest asking him on the straightaway in an arena. You're probably going to want to stay in a two point position while doing this, otherwise you're more or less asking for a collected canter which may be hard for him at this point. If your horse is used to leg, make sure you use alot of it while hobbyhorsing, just let your lower leg brush along his sides with the motion of the canter, to keep him going forward. Good luck! Let us know how it goes!!
In addition to the aforementioned two-point, I *kiss* at my OTTBs to canter, particularly when they are fairly new to being off track.
'Thought it might be worth mentioning, regarding the leaning-on-your-cross canters: what feels like "slow a$$ canter" to an exercise rider could be considered "haul a$$" compared to a western pleasure lope. "Slow" is a relative term, and response to taking up a cross can vary. I'm fairly certain that even now, after over a year off the track, if I took up a cross with Rasor and said "go" we would end up in the next county before we eased to a gait resembling "slow a$$". So consider yourself forewarned.
So was this suggested to you with the theory being that hobby-horsing would offer your slightly off horse some support? (I'm not being critical, I'm genuinely curious.)
Some horses do it really naturally. Some make you get to the end of the rubbers to get it doen or take a cross behind their ears and press it down to the withers. It makes them use themselves, but can make them really really tough. Use your *ss like an anchor and easy as you can
It was suggested for Winston because he is more comfortable cantering on that LF; going slowly with his butt under him would probably be less high-impact on that ankle joint (then a fast, fairly strung out trot), which we still struggle with. Also, even on his bad days, he'll canter at liberty in the pasture, so it seems he's just more comfortable with that joint at a canter. Ironically we "trail ride" on an old railway track, no ties or spikes. It rolls a bit (which of course makes me nervous for his ankle), but is fairly smooth and not a lot of rocks. It's a real straightaway and, when we're on it, he remembers his job, even a year and a half off the track. So thanks for the heads up! As for riding at all, I've found that even with his unsoundness, he does better slightly in work. Mentally, of course, but also because it keeps his good legs strong enough to handle the days when his ankle just isn't going to support any weight. He's not maintained on any medications, and the vet is always surprised that he goes as sound as he does. But he figures Winston to have only a few more years before I won't be able to maintain him pasture sound. Even as manically diligent as I've become. So, we're working on having the time of our lives while we can!
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I agree with Chiniko... getting a racehorse to hobby horse is basically slowing down their canter, and having them pull against you, and it does make some horses really tough...
I'm not quite understanding the theory though... if your horse has an ankle, trying to hobby horse him will be throwing more weight on his front end... has the horse had xrays? What exactly is the problem? And if he is slightly off, then a gram of bute a day would probably benefit him and keep him happy.
Add me to the list of thinking this idea makes absolutely no sense. A hobby horse is a slow gallop otherwise known as a canter. What you do with your body is irrelevant as long as the horse is going the desired speed.
Ok, physical problems with the horse. He came off the track late Oct 06 (he was a long 3) with a basal fracture of his LF sesamoid. X-rays showed minimal displacement. Later digital pics showed lots of fraying (I don't remember if the vet referred to it as such or that's how I remember what the issue was). Prescribed: stall rest, prognosis not too bad for flat work. Jan 07 sweenied LF shoulder. Prescribed: stall rest which we were already on and prognosis: unsure/I could never get a prognosis. April/May 07 strained top and then middle of suspensory of LF. His ankle healed poorly, with a lot of thickening and loss of flexibility in the joint and there is a rough spot on the calcification of his sesamoid right where the suspensory rubs. So the lower suspensory is scarred. His shoulder came back maybe 75%. You can still see muscle atrophy around his biceps and deltoids. But mostly around the humerus/scapula joint. On a normal day he's maybe a grade 1 off at the walk, 2 at the trot and largely sound at the canter. On a bad day he can move up to a grade 4 or more. He has had and is very prone to ulcers. Though scopes clear at the moment (the reason for no maintenance bute). He is difficult to keep weight on which is to be expected. He is maintained on no medication. On bad days I do wrap with DMSO/tightener as given by a vet. I don't wrap otherwise because it increases the heat to the area and makes him more prone to lameness. On normal days, he is off, but not necessarily in pain. The ankle joint does have a good bit of loss of flexibility. Bute does not improve nor extend his good vs. bad days.
As for the hobby horse suggestion: there are 2 things. 1. He's always been and always will be more lame at the trot then at any other gait. Why? It is an inherently more symmetrical gait. He is no longer symmetrical. Preliminary biomechanical analysis shows that he is able to put less stress on his ankle at the canter. (Common sense tells me that if he's always lamer at the trot then the canter, then when I ride he'd be more comfortable at the canter) 2. In all respects he must be considered green. After a year and a half he is only now able to do some light work. No ring work, as circling a ring put too much stress on the ankle. He does have some steering, a stop when it's convenient and a go. Our trot work is often strung out and on the forehand. Our canter is NOT strung out OR on the forehand, it's just really freakin' fast. Now, if we try this, and it doesn't work, that's fine. We won't continue on the path. However, if we try it and it does work, then we're both more comfortable and having a good time. Options are always good and I'm not opposed to exploring new ones. All that defensive explanation said, is the objection here to hobby horsing or riding at the canter vs. the trot? I think that the suggestion to hobby horse was made because I would be more comfortable if we didn't run like maniacs and if he were leaning on me, it could take some extra pressure off the front end? So, what is it exactly that is being objected to? Because I just got lost in my own long post.
To add a bit, yes, I am aware of all his issues, better than anyone here. The issues that caused his lameness are NOT the only health problems we've battled. He is a sweet, happy horse who loves to gallop around his field. And for all my questions, he still loves to go out on the trail. When he is no longer able to gallop around his field comfortably, I will put him down. I have no hopes that he will last for many years. I know that the most we have is 1 or 2 more years. I DO insist those years to be quality or what's the point?
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He might already be a pasture puff from the above post...
here is the thing with hobby horsing. If his lope is quite fast. Is he just a big strided horse that covers the ground really easy and actually is going easy for himor is he just galloping?
IF he is a used to a big open gallop taking a hold of him might just do exactly what I'd be concerned about, make him super tough. If you take a big hold of a horse that has been taught to run into the bit you might find yourself going a lot faster than you ever intended to. When we crank down on them it sometimes cranks them up. Gets them looking to do more.
We might hobby toward the pole or take a big hold heading to the pole. My advice is be careful. I guess.
it always takes 2 to pull and there are some when you take your cross, if its any kind of a pull, they'll pull right back.. and believe me.. they're alot stronger than you ever will be... one of the mares i ride now ( in a regular james bit) i have to keep the same feel i would when we were jogging, if i tried to tighten my cross, she'd grab the bit and try to take me for a ride, resulting in a ski-trip.
sounds like your boy has had lots of mishaps, hopefully rehab will be alright... have you ever tried DMSO/Cortisone?(when you do your DMSO cocktail).. used to have one that had some issues and we'd paint it daily... or even Surpass- I know trainers that swear by it ( and jocks that use it on themselves) however if you use it, wear gloves..
I think that the suggestion to hobby horse was made because I would be more comfortable if we didn't run like maniacs and if he were leaning on me, it could take some extra pressure off the front end? So, what is it exactly that is being objected to?
Well, first, good luck with your boy - I think he's lucky to have you.
The concerns about him pulling hard are justified, but in your case, why not try it in a small enough enclosure that you won't get in trouble if he gets too tough? You won't know how he is until you try it. I think you've gotten good advice on how to do it. Good luck and have fun!
I have always believed that horses look sounder at the canter/gallop because lameness are harder to see at that gait. I don't think they are sounder at that gait. It is true though that it is harder work for them to trot quite often and when they prefer to canter over the trot you have a major problem most of the time. When they want to canter only and want to do it quickly its almost like they are using their own perpetual motion to hold themselves up. Again, another very bad sign.
It doesn't sound like you are trying to get him fit hoping to eek out one more race. So then why ride a lame horse at all at any gait? I just don't see how there is any benefit to either of you. I do agree that he is lucky to have you but you are wasting your time at this point. Maybe throw him out in a field for a year and try again?
I have to agree with Laurie here. I cannot imagine him being on a left lead canter throwing all that weight on that LF which seems to have ALOT of problems.
It's like what is sometimes called "racing sound". The horse is lame jogging but when cantering or running, looks fine, so he is trains and races. The horse comes back limping and gimping. Why? Because he wasn't really sound to begin with.
If the horse is a grade 1 off at the walk and grade 2 at the trot, he is a LAME HORSE and should not be ridden. What are you going to do, get on him and canter around the arena for half an hour?
It seems like you have done alot to try and help him and I think your heart is definitely in the right place. I would suggest for his sake and yours, since he seems to like the trails and if you can make him comfortable enough to walk down them, then stick to that, or retire him now. You said yourself he may only hold up a couple more years. If you continue to ride him, you will do nothing but make him worse and will have no choice but put him out in a field, and by that time, he may be too crippled even to gallop around on his own.