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  1. #1
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    Default Halt help

    I'm working with a 7 year old Morgan gelding who is somewhat tramatized by a previous saddleseat trainer. When I first began working with him, he chewed the bit nonstop, charged around with his head in the air and was extremely tense and argumentative. He also had no stop.

    He has made some good progress since then. He no longer gnashes on the bit nonstop, and he (for the first time!!) actually took out the rein, and offered to stretch ever-so-slightly down at the trot. His trot is also going from a tense, rapid jakhammer to a softer, longer, more conistent stride.

    The problem is his halt/downward is not at all solid. I've had a few different dressage instructors that taught me different ways to halt (tighten shoulder, move feet forward, or push the horse to the bit, or close the thighs...) and most horses I've worked with have had, if nothing else, a good halt. My TB dressage horse would stop from a stopping of my movement in the saddle.

    So I am looking for approaches. One of my big questions/concerns is how do I back up a halt aid when he ignores me? Unlike an upward aid, where one can tap with a whip, a downward aid that is ignored seems to call for sharp pull on the reins. At the same time, I am hesitant about doing that because he had been abusively ridden and has had a fear of bit contact. On the other hand, he likes the mild loose ring I'm using now, and he can truly be a bully--on the ground and when being ridden. My goal is to teach him to halt entirely off the body--but I need advice about how to both ask for the halt and how to make it clear if he doesn't get it or blasts through it.

    My goal with the horse (who isn't mine) is to make him marketable as a dressage horse and get his brain back. He has great things working for him--nice walk, very supple/powerful, and bright and fiery. A stop is a big part of his success, because we need to have a strong down transition as we begin to work on his canter.

    Thoughts?



  2. #2
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    He is probably unbalanced on the forehand, so you need to rebalance him toward his haunches before you ask for the halt. That means to use your leg to get him to move his hindquarters under you, then half halt a few times. Then when you feel his withers lifting in front of you, ask him to halt.

    You may think that because he is above the bit that he is not on the forehand. That is misleading. Horses with a high neck set and head carriage stay on the forehand by hollowing their backs and trailing their hind legs out behind them.

    So move him very forward off your leg into a receiving hand,then half halt- more leg... half halt /leg... half halt /leg then halt.

    If he is on the forehand the momentum will keep him moving downhill and he will dive into your hand and pull. Get him off his forehand first and put his hind legs underneath his body and then his hind legs will be ready and able to bend and accept his weight.

    Good luck.
    "Against stupidity the gods themselves contend in vain" ~Friedrich Schiller



  3. #3
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    Very well said, Eclectic.



  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dixon View Post
    Very well said, Eclectic.
    Thanks, it is just coincidental that I am working with a Morgan at the moment whose owner was misunderstanding being on the forehand. So it was a timely question.
    "Against stupidity the gods themselves contend in vain" ~Friedrich Schiller



  5. #5
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    Thanks for the advice, Eclectic. This horse is very green and definitely on the forehand often. And he is overweight and cresty with an out of shape back, making him pretty inverted (no, he's not my horse. If he was he wouldn't have gotten this way in the first place)

    And I agree he certainly needs to be moving off his hind end, like any dressage horse should. But since he is soo tense and so green, the "getting the hind end under him" has been a secondary priority after simply getting him to relax at the walk in general. (I.e. walking on a long rein without jigging has been as issue)

    I think your method is a good one, Eclectic, but I wonder if its sublty will work with such an uneducated horse. Is there any way you would adjust it for a very green horse? Also, what happens if he still ignores the final cue to stop--how do you back up the aid and encourage the horse to listen to your more subtle actions?

    I really appreciate it. And any insight into the Morgan mind would be of help, too!



  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by SisterToSoreFoot View Post
    Thanks for the advice, Eclectic. This horse is very green and definitely on the forehand often. And he is overweight and cresty with an out of shape back, making him pretty inverted (no, he's not my horse. If he was he wouldn't have gotten this way in the first place)

    And I agree he certainly needs to be moving off his hind end, like any dressage horse should. But since he is soo tense and so green, the "getting the hind end under him" has been a secondary priority after simply getting him to relax at the walk in general. (I.e. walking on a long rein without jigging has been as issue)

    I think your method is a good one, Eclectic, but I wonder if its sublty will work with such an uneducated horse. Is there any way you would adjust it for a very green horse? Also, what happens if he still ignores the final cue to stop--how do you back up the aid and encourage the horse to listen to your more subtle actions?

    I really appreciate it. And any insight into the Morgan mind would be of help, too!
    I have found that Morgans are really smart and willing to please but they have some anxiety issues. They like routines--they want to know what is going to happen next--if they don't they can get fizzy. So you have to be really careful with your aids so that the horse knows what to expect, without allowing him to anticipate and go on autopilot.

    I don't know how much basic work you have done with this horse on the longe line, but if you can get him working in a relaxed lower level outline on the longe and teach him his voice commands, that is the best way to start. Heck, you can teach the halt by voice command on the lead line first. Once he will halt on voice command, then it is really easy to add your mounted aids with the voice, and then stop using voice when it is no longer needed. I would definitely do halt/walk/halt transitions on the 20 meter circle, keeping the horse bent correctly which will help to rebalance him. When he is relaxed enough to progress to the trot/halt transitions, then you can work on doing them correctly with half halts from a better balanced trot.
    "Against stupidity the gods themselves contend in vain" ~Friedrich Schiller



  7. #7
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    Thanks, Eclectic!

    One of his former trainers had taught him to blast around on the lunge and then to do that stupid whip around his hind end and face you stuff any time you asked him to halt. He now knows walk, trot, canter, and halt on the lunge although I have not made him go from halt back to work--it was hard enough to keep him out on the lunge when he stopped! I work him without sidereins and though he does not offer to stretch on the lunge he does move with more relaxation.

    I definitely need to make the halt voice command more clear, and make him do halt walks on the lunge as a next step. I'll add that to my plan. Don't know why I didn't think of that--I am usually just so glad he stopped on the end of the line that I always quit there--but I think he's ready to move on from that! Thanks!

    I agree about his personality. He is very particular about consistency--of routine, aids, etc. Being bounced from trainer to trainer was bad for him. And he is a bold, assertive horse that can make egomaniac trainers defensive and break out the needlethin bits and tie downs. BUT, his sharp mind and love of precision should be a boon once he "gets" dressage. I really feel he will be an awesome partner to a intermediate dressage rider, and I want to get him good enough to be attractive to that audience. His current life as a backyard pleasure horse doesn't really suit him.



  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Eclectic Horseman View Post
    I have found that Morgans are really smart and willing to please but they have some anxiety issues. They like routines--they want to know what is going to happen next--if they don't they can get fizzy. So you have to be really careful with your aids so that the horse knows what to expect, without allowing him to anticipate and go on autopilot.
    Routine has done wonders for my Morgan mare! She is *much* more relaxed since I put her into regular training in a fairly quiet barn. Also, telling her when she's done the right thing really helps. She gets a lot of "good girl!" right now.

    Downward transitions are tough for her -- even with a good rider -- so we are working on using a voice command with very gentle aids, and gradually will reduce the voice command.

    Bit choice can be difficult for Morgans because they tend to have small mouths, thick tongues, and low palates. For my girl, a thinner bit keeps her happier than a thick bit, and we are currently rotating amongst three different bits: a regular French link loose ring, a Stubben EZControl french link loose ring, and a HermSprenger KK shaped single-joint bradoon. She likes the Stubben the best, but will lean on it after a few rides, so that's when to switch her to one of the others.

    BTW there is a morgandressage list on yahoogroups that's pretty friendly and helpful.



  9. #9
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    I have a morgan X that wasn't abused but was just never taught anything. He would go around frantic and his head sky high, the halt was crooked to say the least and he would have his head to the sky and really pull the bit in the halt. The thing I did with him is worked on trot to walk transitions alot!!! Then I started the walk to halt and when I asked for the halt I kept steady contact and held him together with my legs and half halted pretty hard and sat back. If he didn't listen to my cue then I would make him back up and halt from the back up. This worked great for him and he is a nervous type horse and was out of shape and a tubby when we started dressage. Good luck.
    Horses aren't our whole life, but makes our life whole



  10. #10
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    I'm working with a 7 year old Morgan gelding who is somewhat tramatized by a previous saddleseat trainer. When I first began working with him, he chewed the bit nonstop, charged around with his head in the air and was extremely tense and argumentative. He also had no stop.

    -- It happens alot

    He has made some good progress since then. He no longer gnashes on the bit nonstop, and he (for the first time!!) actually took out the rein, and offered to stretch ever-so-slightly down at the trot. His trot is also going from a tense, rapid jakhammer to a softer, longer, more conistent stride.

    --Chewing the bit is not as bad as not chewing on the bit. Yeah, it would be better if it was not snapping the bit so quickly, but that will improve over time as he relaxes.

    The problem is his halt/downward is not at all solid. I've had a few different dressage instructors that taught me different ways to halt (tighten shoulder, move feet forward, or push the horse to the bit, or close the thighs...) and most horses I've worked with have had, if nothing else, a good halt. My TB dressage horse would stop from a stopping of my movement in the saddle.

    --Every time you want him to stop, make a noise 'brrp!', 'HOE', or whatever you want, first (any word for stopping is given with a low tone or a dropping tone, all the forward urging is with a high or raising tone). Then do what you have to do to get him to stop. When he stops, give him a treat. Do it on the ground first,, walking by his side holding the reins. Say 'brrp!' and then make him stop and give him a treat. Teach him there IS A COMMAND THAT MEANS STOP. It always means stop, it never means anything else, even slow down....

    --DO THAT FIRST, before you try to do anything else under saddle. Have a word he understands that means he's supposed to stop. Use it when you handle him, when yiou lead him.

    So I am looking for approaches. One of my big questions/concerns is how do I back up a halt aid when he ignores me?

    --Bend him with one rein and turn toward the wall of the arena or the rail. Sit very still otherwise, and lift your leg from the knee down off his side a little bit so there can be no mistake about you giving him a leg aid to go forward of any type, sit firmly in the saddle, without leaning forward, use the reins, definitely, but keep your arms loose and flexible, without 'locking' your elbows or shoulder. You shouldn't be riding outside of an enclosure now if you can't stop, so you always have a wall or a rail.

    --Give your whoa command, turn into the wall, and have him stand there for however long he will tolerate, but not long in any case. Do it from a walk.

    --If you are longeing, position yourself so he goes toward the wall, bring him on a tiny circle if you have to, pull on the longe line and make it happen, whether it's ugly and you don't like it much OR NOT. MAKE HIM STOP. as immediately as possible. The first few times may be ugly, it will get better.

    Unlike an upward aid, where one can tap with a whip, a downward aid that is ignored seems to call for sharp pull on the reins.

    --NO. No sharp pull on the reins. Bend your horse. Bend his neck right around. Let the other rein out enough to follow his neck around, by moving your whole arm, not chiefly by slipping the rein thru your fingers. Stand and reward him.

    --At first, allow him to go straight forward after just a very short time, right when you turn his neck back straight forward.

    At the same time, I am hesitant about doing that because he had been abusively ridden and has had a fear of bit contact. On the other hand, he likes the mild loose ring I'm using now, and he can truly be a bully

    --He's taking advantage of you. I think your thinking is clouded by how sorry you feel for him.

    --But we don't fix this by jerking both reins or being abusive, but by being clever, very very clever.

    on the ground and when being ridden. My goal is to teach him to halt entirely off the body--but I need advice about how to both ask for the halt and how to make it clear if he doesn't get it or blasts through it.

    --Forget that for now. You can't start there. That is a long, long way off.

    -- Don't do it so much with both reins, which is what he can grab ahold of and be a bully about. Do it with one rein, and turn him into the wall, don't do it near the gate or where he leaves the ring, or facing anything he wants usually to run away from, put his head around to your knee a few times if you have to. Stand and pat him an say good boy, and stand there for as long as he can stand it (one second? fine, we don't care how long right now).

    -- It's going to sound a little nasty, and it is really, but as a great trainer once told me, 'G** D*** it, he has to STOP when you tell him to!'. the horse has to stop. That's all there is to it. There is a bottom line and that is just it.

    --It doesn't really matter if he was abused or not. Fact is, he has to stop when he's told, and you and he won't make ANY real big progress in training until he understands that and he starts listening to you. And ah...being 'fussy' and 'afraid' of the contact is often kind of a psychological gambit of a hot, pushy horse, 'oh you can't possibly have me face the bit and work my back and hind legs, i'm terribly sensitive, don't you know'. Bend him, kick him, don't let him talk you into believing he's a china doll or you'll never get anywhere.

    --The answer isn't to be meaner than the abuser! It's to be very, very clever what you do. Don't wrestle him, bend his neck. What do they say? 'Bending makes a lady's horse out of a man's horse'.

    --The thing is, you have to be able to ride the horse, have him face the bit, bend his neck around both ways, and have him stop.

    My goal with the horse (who isn't mine) is to make him marketable as a dressage horse and get his brain back. He has great things working for him--nice walk, very supple/powerful, and bright and fiery. A stop is a big part of his success, because we need to have a strong down transition as we begin to work on his canter



  11. #11
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    Thumbs up

    slc2:
    That was beautiful advise! I loved the way you explained it.



  12. #12
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    the check is in the mail
    Last edited by slc2; Oct. 10, 2008 at 10:49 PM.



  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by Eclectic Horseman View Post
    He is probably unbalanced on the forehand, so you need to rebalance him toward his haunches before you ask for the halt. That means to use your leg to get him to move his hindquarters under you, then half halt a few times. Then when you feel his withers lifting in front of you, ask him to halt.

    You may think that because he is above the bit that he is not on the forehand. That is misleading. Horses with a high neck set and head carriage stay on the forehand by hollowing their backs and trailing their hind legs out behind them.

    So move him very forward off your leg into a receiving hand,then half halt- more leg... half halt /leg... half halt /leg then halt.

    If he is on the forehand the momentum will keep him moving downhill and he will dive into your hand and pull. Get him off his forehand first and put his hind legs underneath his body and then his hind legs will be ready and able to bend and accept his weight.

    Good luck.
    Great advice but I'd add maybe try working on the lunge with him and use "WHOA" for halt. Then under saddle while you're following above advice start with WHOA as you ask for the halt. That's what I do with babies and once they get the idea then you reverse to actions first then WHOA,.. then eventually it's just the closing of the leg/forward driving seat into closed elbows/fingers for a nice square halt (no WHOA). It'll take a while since he's nervous but stay calm and reward even a hesitant slow down with a good boy at first til you get the halt.
    Sandy in Fla.



  14. #14
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    I'm working with a young Morgan mare that has a similar problem. You ask for the halt and the head and neck go out and the hind goes off in la-la land. In every other respect, she is working very correctly (from back to front) and accepts contact and the bit.

    I tried a neck rope. One of the nice resined ones because you need the stiffness. The base of the neck is extremely sensitive so you have to be VERY careful with it. But I held the reins and the neck rope and asked for a halt; being very conscious of my body and the aids that I was giving her. As I asked for the halt with my body, I lifted up slightly with the neck rope so that it came in contact with the base of her neck. NO PULLING BACK. As she was able to concentrate on what my body was doing, rather than the bit and the response that she was used to giving, we gradually moved her over to using the neck rope less and less and now she halts perfectly every time, no neck rope needed.

    The neck rope works because it helps the horse lift the base of the neck and shift weight back to the hindquarters. You use it with a slight upward lift of your forearms which sinks weight back into your seatbones which helps the halt balance. And it gets the horses mind off of the conditioned response that it had been giving. Also - if you try this method, you can use a lead rope around the neck - but I find that the resined ropes work much better because they have a degree of stiffness to them and work with minimal movement from the rider.
    Last edited by Reddfox; Oct. 13, 2008 at 10:52 AM. Reason: not enough coffee.



  15. #15
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    Reddfox do you mean back to front?
    Horses aren't our whole life, but makes our life whole



  16. #16
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    Yes, back to front!
    Monday's are a bit difficult for me
    need...more...coffee...



  17. #17
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    This is a great thread for me! Carrying this issue one step further, if I may, I recently acquired a Morgan cross that will stop but will not stand for more than a second or two at best. I feel getting him to relax is the key and I have ridden many repetitions of asking for short periods of standing before praising him and letting him walk off. I would love to hear any suggestions for increasing the duration of his standing.



  18. #18
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    The Morgans that I work with tend to be overachievers and they all seem to be very forward thinking. (sidenote - I'm working with sport morgans, mostly the Statesman line - not saddleseat type)

    We did lots of ground work before expecting them to stand under saddle. However, when we lead we walk a touch closer to the head and then when we ask for the halt on the ground - rather than pull back, we lift the lead up towards the eye and at the same time turn to face the horse and tap the shoulder with the whip. Again, it's a rebalancing act - not wrenching the halter or bit up to the eye in force. The idea is to have the horse halt before you do. The tap on the shoulder reinforces the stop aid. And then we ask the horse to lower the head by applying subtle pressure at the poll. When a horse's head is up - it's fight or flight, head down - endorphins are released. When the horse was comfortable standing and just being with us on the ground it moved to saddle. I feel that some of the moving off issues tend to be that the horse has stopped in an unbalanced manner, as well as anticipating a move off. Morgans are notorious for unbalanced downward transitions and bracing in the neck because they are built a bit thick and up in the neck which makes it VERY easy to hollow and leave the hind out behind them.

    Again, we used the neck rope when we went under saddle. A bit unconventional, but it makes the horse think about something different and when you are expecting a horse to move off when you halt it - you tend to have a certain tenseness when you are holding the reins in anticipation of having to halt the horse again. Also, since it acts on the base of the neck, the horse has to lift with the base of the neck and shift to the hindquarters - therefore, a more balanced halt. I just increase the amount of time we stand, making sure that I am completely relaxed and breathing so that the horse relaxes. It takes time, but what's worked for me is changing the horse's response, balance and being able to be absolutely relaxed yourself.



  19. #19
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    THANKS Reddfox! Re-visiting groundwork for standing it is! I've only used a neck rope for trailering and ponying, but I like your rational for using it in further training. My guy is very athletic and naturally balanced, but I could easily be unbalancing him as I try to slow/halt his forward motion, which would logically affect his relaxation and willingness to stand.

    P.S. Where do I send the check?



  20. #20
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    you have already paid for all internet advice, LOL.



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