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  1. #1
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    Default can't make good heel contact with my round barreled horse

    I'd love to hear some thoughts if anyone has any to share.

    My 14.3h horse is very round barreled, and loves to dog my leg and stay behind it if I'm not assertive enough.

    I am not bow-legged, he just barely takes up my leg as is, but to actually make heel contact with his sides, I have to hike my leg up and hunt a bit. This causes me all sorts of issues and I throw everything out of whack when I go searching for hide with my heel, and by the time I find it, it generally too late anyhow.

    I am loving the length of stirrup I am using right now, it enables me to unlock my hips and lower back and start feeling the use of my core, my irons are right there and I don't fight them, etc. When I raise my stirrups, my heel easily finds hide, but my legs feel hiked up, my knee out over the knee pad, and I start jamming my heels down and pump when rising.

    I do not, and have never, employed the use of spurs. I am not anti-spur, I just have never felt the need for them, and quite possibly am not responsible enough with my legs to have earned them.

    Anyone have any thoughts? Should i learn to ride with a shorter stirrup? school in a forward flap vss?

    Or, should I entertain the idea of possibly incorporating spurs for "reach"? I really am not keen on the idea, but am wondering if I'm cutting my nose despite my face.

    Really appreciate any thoughts, this has had me troubled for quite some time now. Thanks.



  2. #2
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    Jul. 26, 2007
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    795

    Default Leg back?

    I have a round-barreled horse, and also have had trouble giving clear heel aids because I can't find a good spot on which to give the aid.

    Unfortunately, my trainer says I cannot blame it on my horse; in my case, the blame is on my lower leg, which is not back enough. When I keep my lower leg calf-on back where it's supposed to be, I have no trouble giving clear, easy aids with just a minor motion of my heel, without searching around to make contact.

    Damn trainer. :-)

    Does your arena have mirrors? They can be helpful. Damn mirrors. :-)



  3. #3
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    Nov. 1, 2001
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    Default

    You should be using your calf, not your heel.
    See those flying monkeys? They work for me.



  4. #4
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    Sep. 14, 2000
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    Chandler, AZ, USA
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    Default

    You are not supposed to use your heel, use your leg. If the horse does not respond, use a whip to reinforce your aid. Jane Savoie has some good videos on the subject of "getting a horse in front of your leg." You need to find a good instructor to help you use your legs correctly.
    Theresa



  5. #5
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    Jun. 12, 2007
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    Westchester County, NY
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    Default

    If your horse loves to stay behind our leg, make a big correction and then let your leg be passive until he needs another correction. Lots of pony riders at my barn use swan neck spurs so as to not disrupt their leg position to use the spur- but not for the type of problem you describe. I think the spur is better reserved as a separate aid for upper level movements. If I ask my horse once to move forward off my leg (with a small squeeze) and don't get a response- he is acting incorrectly and needs a correction. For that, I will either give him a kick or tap him with the whip. Assuming he listens, my leg remains passive until I need to ask him to do something different. If he slows down without being asked, I correct that as well. If I am constantly using my leg to keep him going, I'm just making him more dull to the aid, and have no aids left if I need to ask for more. So, long story short, I would tune him more accurately to small squeezes of the calf.



  6. #6
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    Jul. 26, 2007
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    Default

    Sorry, but horse was originally trained to cue off heel and we ask enough new stuff of her, at her 19 years, that I'm okay sticking with a small heel cue for upward transitions. I do use calf and seatbones for lateral work and otherwise directing where she puts her barrel. If I don't use my heel to cue upward transitions, she gets confused and annoyed.

    I will tell horse you disagree and I'm sure she'll do better in her next life.



  7. #7
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    Jul. 27, 2007
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by AZ TD View Post
    You are not supposed to use your heel, use your leg. If the horse does not respond, use a whip to reinforce your aid. Jane Savoie has some good videos on the subject of "getting a horse in front of your leg." You need to find a good instructor to help you use your legs correctly.
    Theresa
    "kick kick kick!"



  8. #8
    Join Date
    Aug. 11, 2000
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    Chantilly,va.
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    Thumbs up spurs

    I would find a mild spur and learn to use it'; as you said everything else is disturbed by your your lack of an effective leg; your aids will become lighter m and the response quicker
    breeder of Mercury!

    remember to enjoy the moment, and take a moment to enjoy and give God the glory for these wonderful horses in our lives.BECAUSE: LIFE is What Happens While Making Other Plans



  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jan. 19, 2009
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    690

    Default

    I've had similar issues to work through with my very wide-backed Arab. The best advice I got (to echo several previous posters) was to use my leg, rather than try to get the heel into the right location. The way it was described (this would be the version that finally made sense to me ) was to think of using my ANKLE to kick his side. If he didn't respond to a light tap, kick harder, if he still didn't respond, reinforce with the whip right behind my leg.

    By the way, my Arab is 23, and I had been using my heel on him all his life - I've had him since he was three and started him myself. He figured out pretty quickly that this was the new cue (after a few reminders from my instructor to be consistent and backing up the leg cue QUICKLY with the whip when needed) and he's been fine with it ever since.

    So, I have faith that at the young age of 19, your mare can learn new tricks!



  10. #10
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    Jan. 31, 2003
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    Default

    Stop pulling your leg up to use your heel. When you do this, you disable your seat and then your message is GO and NO REGULATION so you get a negative response from the horse. Your leg makes energy, your seat modulates it. Anything that pops your seat up is a no-no.

    Get a whip. Slap your horse w/both calves and if he/she does not move off, tap. Rinse, repeat as necessary. STOP PULLING YOUR LEGS UP. And if you feel you need to compromise, best to take up hunt seat, where the spur is used as a driving aid. In dressage, it's a lateral aid, not something you send the horse forward with. In regards to the 19 year old horse, it sounds like she has you very well trained
    "Kindness is free" ~ Eurofoal
    ---
    The CoTH CYA - please consult w/your veterinarian under any and all circumstances.



  11. #11
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    Jan. 4, 2000
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    Default

    No, not kick kick kick.

    Put your stirrups where they are comfortable. Use the side of your calf to encourage the horse to go forward, and when he does not respond, correct him immediately with the whip.



  12. #12
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by slc2 View Post
    No, not kick kick kick.
    Sorry, that was for the Jane Savoie fans. "Kick kick kick" is a *correction* when they don't move off the leg, for those of us who don't use a whip. It is not the cue



  13. #13
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    Jun. 23, 2006
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by EqTrainer View Post
    Stop pulling your leg up to use your heel. When you do this, you disable your seat and then your message is GO and NO REGULATION so you get a negative response from the horse. Your leg makes energy, your seat modulates it. Anything that pops your seat up is a no-no.

    Get a whip. Slap your horse w/both calves and if he/she does not move off, tap. Rinse, repeat as necessary. STOP PULLING YOUR LEGS UP. And if you feel you need to compromise, best to take up hunt seat, where the spur is used as a driving aid. In dressage, it's a lateral aid, not something you send the horse forward with. In regards to the 19 year old horse, it sounds like she has you very well trained


    They can learn this *very* quickly and with minimal confusion. Honest.



  14. #14
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    Feb. 28, 2008
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    Default

    wow, lovely and fascinating feedback everyone, I really appreciate it!

    I do use my calf 99.9% of the time, just every once in a while I need to make an assertive point. This is a green, spoilt, bargy and balky project I'm riding (think evil pony bad)... light, tactful, persistent and sympathetic riding is best with him, but once in a while a point must be made that my aids cannot be blown through.

    Yes, he will fall behind my leg if allowed, but I wasn't looking for heel contact for a gas pedal, more for strong reminder for hip control. I'm sorry I wasn't clearer on that. I would never consider spurs for a gas pedal.

    I completely agree that hiking up my leg is terrible, it throws my seat bones off, collapses my shoulder and hip, my arms go wonky, my head turns, and I just ruin everything by this. This is why I'm so upset.

    Use of the whip to back up my leg is a good, appropriate suggestion. Its not as if I don't believe the animal can be trained. I guess I have just never run into this situation before ... I've always had my heel available to me as strong nudge to move hips.

    I'll admit, used to use a whip years ago, then when I became interested in dressage I read a book (I *think* it was Jean Froissard's "A Guide to Basic Dressage") where I read a quote early on (paraphrase) "Whips are for the handicapped, legs are for the horseman" and I guess I became foolishly haughty.

    I'm just coming off a lesson yesterday (my first ever on this horse) that went awfully. We sort of rushed a bit, trying different things as a getting to know you. I made my horse fractious by not being able to focus on both him, I and the instructor. And then, as he got more and more pissed with me, and blowing through my aids, I found the trainer saying "leg leg leg leg" and I'm saying back "this is all I've got".

    When the trainer rode another persons horse with a similar bargy 'tude, she wore spurs and did not spare them, and the horse eventually did comply. I'm surrounded by people who wear and suggest the use of spurs... some times it gets me wondering if I'm missing out on something.

    I guess I'm down in the mouth for the whole experience, and I've never not had my heel available to me before.

    Am I mis using my heel? Should a heel nudge not be used to back up a calf request thats gone ignored? before application of the whip?

    Thanks, this board is tremendous. I love all the responses. And I don't want to imply that I'm anti-spur or look down my nose or anything. I've just not gotten to the point in my riding where it felt appropriate.



  15. #15
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    Jan. 4, 2000
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    24,408

    Default Failure to Launch

    "Whips are for the handicapped, legs are for the horseman"

    Whips are a training aid, ie, for training horses and for riders who are still learning. I daresay you and I are still learning? Perhaps others here are not and can weigh in their opinions.

    I would replace this statement with: "The ideal is for the training to progress so that lighter and less obvious aids are effective; ideally, at the end of training, the horse responds to light aids, and can work with little reinforcement or correction for periods of time. Between now and the absolutely perfect Grand Prix performance (ie, in the afterlife), use your leg, and if the horse doesn't move his arse immediately, ESCALATE. BIG TIME."

    Spurs are NOT for getting a horse to move off your leg when he does not. Spurs (at least in dressage) are for when your horse is going so perfectly in response to the lightest leg aids, that you can touch him, just TOUCH him, with this tiny little nob on the end of your boot and he goes forward in response. Spurs await for the moment when you can control the bouncing, swinging leg so well, from such a good, deep, supple, seat, that your leg NEVER bumps into the side of the horse or moves even one eighth of an inch, unless you actually want it to.

    Occasionally, oh, just say once in a while, a horse needs spurs, just to move. If he does, he does, and in the riding lesson situation, it is not always the perfect horse that is available. The horse is what he is, the instructor knows the horse and what to do and tells you what to do - so do it.

    This doesn't mean it is your GOAL to put spurs on when a horse doesn't move forward, it is just for this situation, so that you can actually get this horse to move and learn something. Initially, people just need hours in the saddle practicing position. If you have to put spurs on a spoiled horse to learn something, that's life for the moment. It isn't how you would set out to do things, but that's how it is for the time being. Roll with it.


    Jean Froissard's statements are often bordering on the wee bit impractical for the remainder of the world (ie, not Jean Froissard) but they do have a lot of value for producing people with unrealistic ideas that prevent them from progressing, ie, they get up on the horse, and are so confused by all that trollop that they are paralyzed and can't ride out of the simplest disobedience or issue.

    Jean Froissard is speaking of the completely trained horse, when at the peak of the art, the whip is no longer needed (though I seriously doubt that - horses are not robots, and unless they are made absolutely and permanently terrified of the aids, even the perfectly schooled horse needs a little tap here and there once in a while to keep his responses good). Most of us are not exactly knocking on the door of the peak of the art, and Grand Prix Special is a 'fully trained horse', not training or third or fourth level.


    I'm just coming off a lesson yesterday (my first ever on this horse) that went awfully. We sort of rushed a bit, trying different things as a getting to know you.

    Rushed as in it felt like the horse was going fast, rushed as in not walking for 20 min to start, or as in you felt confused because you were getting a lot of concentrated instructions coming at you all at once.

    I made my horse fractious by not being able to focus on both him, I and the instructor.

    When you say 'fractious', exactly what did the horse do?

    And then, as he got more and more pissed with me,

    The horse, the instructor, or both?

    and blowing through my aids, I found the trainer saying "leg leg leg leg" and I'm saying back "this is all I've got".

    When you are in a riding lesson, you have all you got, and then you do more. That's what a riding lesson is about. You think that's all you got, and then you learn you have more. And more, and more. You don't make judgements about 'oooh...I can't do any more than this', you find out how to do more. During the riding lesson.

    Blowing through my aids usually means when you pull on the reins, the horse pulls back. If you mean something else please hold up your hand.

    Usually the solution is to pull on one rein, and then the other, instead of both at the same time. Sorry to be crude, but that is not so far from the truth. Riders need to use their reins and get a response, but they need to be able to use one rein or the other, not both. When the rider takes on both reins, his balance suddenly is shifted to the reins, and he cannot use the different parts of his body independently, instead he becomes 'all of one piece' and can't sit on his seat bones and use his legs and arms in a say, 'discretionary' way, in other words he can't control his arms, legs, seat.


    When the trainer rode another persons horse with a similar bargy 'tude, she wore spurs and did not spare them, and the horse eventually did comply. I'm surrounded by people who wear and suggest the use of spurs... some times it gets me wondering if I'm missing out on something.

    It doesn't really sound like this is about dressage training, but about basic obedience. The instructor has to get up on the horses and get after them, because they are getting spoiled. This happens with most horses that are used to teach.

    If students are riding horses, the horses get spoiled and obnoxious, and don't respond to such delicate, refined aids. Some horses need exactly two nanoseconds to 'figure the rider out' and 'respond accordingly'.

    I once watched my sister go around and around in a tiny circle in the center of the ring on a horse like this. She did EXACTLY what the instructor told her to do, to the letter, and the horse's reaction was 'YOU are a beginner, you can't make me do anything, and I'm going to do exactly as I please'. Even the dumbest horse eventually learns that 'if I can, I shall'. The instructor had to get up on the horse, insist very firmly with whip and spur that the horse listen, and within a few minutes after my sister got back on, 'Darling' was just as naughty as he was before the instructor got on!


    I guess I'm down in the mouth for the whole experience, and I've never not had my heel available to me before.

    If you cannot get your heel on the horse, use your calf, and tout de suite, give the horse one with the shelaighleigh if he doesn't listen.

    At any given moment in your riding lesson, only one thing matters, one basic, simple thing. Do that, and that's all you gotta do.


    Am I mis using my heel? Should a heel nudge not be used to back up a calf request thats gone ignored? before application of the whip?

    You may be over complicating things. In fact, I am sure you are. Forget about your horses sensitive, easily bruised nature, forget Jean Froissard, forget the delicacies of dressage in the future, and get the horse to bend when you pull on one rein, and go forward when you use your leg.

    If I was training my own horse, I'd remind myself that I am riding livestock in circles, forget the heel to back up the calf - use my lower leg, whatever part of it I can use - ANY PART OF IT, ONCE, and if the horse doesn't shoot forward like he was launched out of a big cannon, hit him with my whip good and sharp and keep hitting him til he DOES launch it, and make darn sure I am not pulling back on the reins when he does launch it! And if he shoots forward, say 'Good Boy!' and pat him on the neck - no matter HOW he shoots forward. It does no good to have a Come to Jesus moment and then say to horse when he leaps forward, 'that wasn't quite the response I wanted, you cantered instead of trotted' or whatever. You went FORWARD. GOOD BOY.

    And if it is in a riding lesson, I do what the instructor tells me to do. If he says leg leg leg or put on spur, I do so. And one thing I would never EVER suggest saying to an instructor during a riding lesson is 'I can't' or 'but this is all I got'.
    Last edited by slc2; Jun. 28, 2009 at 10:06 AM.



  16. #16
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    Aug. 28, 2007
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    Triangle Area, NC
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by buck22 View Post
    1. Use of the whip to back up my leg is a good, appropriate suggestion. Its not as if I don't believe the animal can be trained. I guess I have just never run into this situation before ... I've always had my heel available to me as strong nudge to move hips.

    2. I'll admit, used to use a whip years ago, then when I became interested in dressage I read a book (I *think* it was Jean Froissard's "A Guide to Basic Dressage") where I read a quote early on (paraphrase) "Whips are for the handicapped, legs are for the horseman" and I guess I became foolishly haughty.

    3. I'm just coming off a lesson yesterday (my first ever on this horse) that went awfully. We sort of rushed a bit, trying different things as a getting to know you. I made my horse fractious by not being able to focus on both him, I and the instructor. And then, as he got more and more pissed with me, and blowing through my aids, I found the trainer saying "leg leg leg leg" and I'm saying back "this is all I've got".

    4. Am I mis using my heel? Should a heel nudge not be used to back up a calf request thats gone ignored? before application of the whip?

    Thanks, this board is tremendous. I love all the responses. And I don't want to imply that I'm anti-spur or look down my nose or anything. I've just not gotten to the point in my riding where it felt appropriate.
    1. the whip in this case is to be used as a lightening aid. You ask politely twice with your leg used correctly (no heel!). the first ask use your leg lightly, as light as you would ever want to use it. the second ask (if no response to the first) is a louder leg signal, but one that still does not throw you out of position. The third is TELL where you use loud leg and as much of a tap, whack, slap, or whomp behind your leg that is needed to get the horse to move forward NOW, but nothing more. Meaning if a gentle tap is all it takes, dont go using your whip like your going to cut the mare in half! Keep in mind the result isnt going to be a happy relaxed beastie after a TELL.... that's ok you are focusing on one element (forward), the rest we'll regain once forward is restored.

    2. I lived by that same saying for a long time, and while it gave me lovely strong legs it also gave my horse dead sides. I was able to do the thigh master looking machine at the gym with 300# attached (the big dudes at the gym maxed at about 150#), and yet my horse would yawn when i insisted forward with my legs. Dont get stuck on any statement being absolute.

    3. Give this situation 3 lessons. If the "air" in the arena doesnt change to a more harmonious one, you need to find someone that better suits your particular pairing. I know many a fab instructor that can help me on other horses but it took me 7 years to find one that actually *got* my horse and was able to help us move forward.

    4. Unless you are riding above 4th level, ignore that your heel even exists as a tool While this is not the case, the rest of your body is not advanced enough yet to use it when needed. Eventually your body will progress to where you can actually raise your stirrup a hole and keep everything in line and unlocked.
    it's best to think of it as a far off distant possibility. Also make sure that you are positioning a spur much higher than you would on a different horse. If you have to hike that thing well above your ankle, so beit. you need to be able to use the spur without having to disturb your leg position much (and by much i mean at all) I have a 36" inseam and ride anything with 4 legs. I have been known to resort to vetwrapping a spur into a higher position when a traditional rigging didnt suffice.
    www.destinationconsensusequus.com
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  17. #17
    Join Date
    Dec. 25, 2000
    Location
    North East, USA
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    1,200

    Wink

    Here's my solution without giving unwanted and unnecessary riding advice. Wow, an unopinionated know-it-all Cother for a change!

    Owning a round barreled lazy fella myself I used the following solution. I only had to use them a few times for him to get the idea and if he needs reminding I will bring them out again. I got very very long round edged spurs that reach him without my having to turn my leg to find his side. Try these: http://www.dressageextensions.com/Pr...l.asp?KEY=1229 They also come in a one inch length if you feel you can use the shorter ones to reach his sides.



  18. #18
    Join Date
    Nov. 1, 2001
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    9,117

    Default

    The problem with using a spur is essentially the same as using your heel - when you turn your toe out your seat comes off the horse. Not what you want for a horse that is blowing through your aids.

    I would use a whip and work on the timing/coordination and intensity of my aids.
    See those flying monkeys? They work for me.



  19. #19
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    Feb. 28, 2008
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Petstorejunkie View Post
    1. the whip in this case is to be used as a lightening aid. You ask politely twice with your leg used correctly (no heel!). the first ask use your leg lightly, as light as you would ever want to use it. the second ask (if no response to the first) is a louder leg signal, but one that still does not throw you out of position. The third is TELL where you use loud leg and as much of a tap, whack, slap, or whomp behind your leg that is needed to get the horse to move forward NOW, but nothing more. Meaning if a gentle tap is all it takes, dont go using your whip like your going to cut the mare in half! Keep in mind the result isnt going to be a happy relaxed beastie after a TELL.... that's ok you are focusing on one element (forward), the rest we'll regain once forward is restored.

    2. I lived by that same saying for a long time, and while it gave me lovely strong legs it also gave my horse dead sides. I was able to do the thigh master looking machine at the gym with 300# attached (the big dudes at the gym maxed at about 150#), and yet my horse would yawn when i insisted forward with my legs. Dont get stuck on any statement being absolute.

    3. Give this situation 3 lessons. If the "air" in the arena doesnt change to a more harmonious one, you need to find someone that better suits your particular pairing. I know many a fab instructor that can help me on other horses but it took me 7 years to find one that actually *got* my horse and was able to help us move forward.

    4. Unless you are riding above 4th level, ignore that your heel even exists as a tool While this is not the case, the rest of your body is not advanced enough yet to use it when needed. Eventually your body will progress to where you can actually raise your stirrup a hole and keep everything in line and unlocked.
    it's best to think of it as a far off distant possibility. Also make sure that you are positioning a spur much higher than you would on a different horse. If you have to hike that thing well above your ankle, so beit. you need to be able to use the spur without having to disturb your leg position much (and by much i mean at all) I have a 36" inseam and ride anything with 4 legs. I have been known to resort to vetwrapping a spur into a higher position when a traditional rigging didnt suffice.
    wow, thank you so much. I don't have formal education in riding and did not realize that my heel was not appropriate at my level.

    I don't think spurs are appropriate for me at the moment either, so I will begin to experiment with a whip and take your suggestions. And thank you for all of your advice.



  20. #20
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    slc, wow, its going to take me a bit of time to read and respond, so reserving a place for that. Thank you very much, I haven't read your post yet, but the time that you obviously took to help me, well, has me very grateful.

    nhwr, I didn't even think of that, thank you. And everyone, thank you so much


    eta: slc, thank you so much for that wonderful frank advice. The instructor was never pissed, just my horse, and I frustrated for it all. The instructor did not suggest spurs, and did not mount my horse, I was just watching later lessons as well. You're right, I am being a great big weenie. I didn't think I could apply any more leg, but I should've dug deeper. thank you!!



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