I have been having a training issue with my horse and I am at a loss on how to remedy it. He is a lovely, quiet gelding who is very responsive to both rein and leg aids. However, I can ride him around at any gait with long reins and he will happy go around long and low. He loves to be ridden long and low. The problem is when I ask him to bring his head and neck up and ask for more collection. What I normally do is shorten my reins and drive more from my leg and seat into my hands, but he goes behind the vertical. He still maintains contact with my hands, and at some times can get a bit heavy, so I use more leg. If I lengthen the reins and try to get him to stretch forward more, he will stretch down long and low. I'm not sure what I should be doing to encourage him to carry himself correctly. Any ideas?
(Hope that explanation made sense! I'm writing this quickly!)
Well I think part of your problem might be when you say "when I try to bring his head and neck up." Collection is something built up over time, not something you really ask for at first. Do not focus on the head/neck at all, use exercises like shoulder-in, haunches-in, transitions, and leg-yields all the while concentrating on pushing those hind legs further and further under your horse. Only ride the hind legs, forget the front all together. Ride those exercises and transitions throughout your ride and at the end of all that take a look at your horse's head/neck. I bet his whole front end will be elevated, it's something he will naturally do. He'll elevate his forhand when the hind legs are pushed further and further under him.
Yes you are totally right. It's just that when he stretches long and low he ends up going with his head way below his withers almost on the ground with his neck stretched. I would like to be able to take a bit of contact and bring him into a normal, working frame to do his other work. Or should I be doing all my work in this long and low frame until he has more strength to carry himself?
Sorry for these stupid sounding questions, but I have never had this issue before.
Last edited by LoveLongManes; Feb. 28, 2010 at 08:58 PM.
One of the key is relaxation of your upper body, how elastic your elbows are because the way you picture your problem makes me feel your horse does not like your contact.
If he is young, then he might be looking for his own balance and when he is heavy, that is the contact he offers you at this point in his training because he is not balanced, neither strong enough to carry himself properly.
the front end doesnt come up (well the head and neck do), the back end goes down.
He needs to build up the strength to carry himself. let him do his stretchy stuff for warm up and reward, but before you ask for more contact half halt. then if he still goes BTV do a transition, then a transition again back to back. that will get the weight back on his hiney for ya. He needs to learn that the balance can come from his back end, and transitions are one of the kindest ways to get that point across.
LoveLongManes, to answer your question, yes, I would do the lateral work and transitions in this long and low frame for now. As his hind end builds strength he will gain the ability to sit more behind, and then you will start to see and feel the lightness in front that you are looking for now.
Ideally you do want to be able to position the head/neck where you want it at any time, but this is an end product. And it comes from the strength, bending, and carrying power of the hind legs.
Just be sure he is not heavy in your hands for now. Use a half-halt and then give him the reins, be light, and ask him to carry himself. He can stretch as long as he is not heavy and making you hold his head up. The stretching he is offering right now is a good thing. Use those transitions and lateral work and do not worry about his head at all for now. As he gets stronger you can start to ask him to bring his forehand up by driving the hind legs under, but it's still done with the lightest of contact. Steady, but light.
And no questions are stupid, the only way you'll learn anything in dressage is to accept the fact that you don't know anything! Haha!! Dressage is as much of a mental challenge as physical, that's why I love it!!!
I recently worked through this with my almost 4 yo. I discovered the btv was me, not him. When I concentrated on keeping a forward feeling hand with the shorter rein, he was able to stay IFV with poll up and back round etc.
It was keeping a soft shoulder and elbow, so I could follow his mouth rather than pulling back. Of course, I didn't feel like I was pulling back until it was contrasted with actually not pulling back LOL!
When you have hime going nicely long and low - i.e. using his back - do a HH by pushing down on BOTH stirrups at the same time with LIGHT squeeze/release on BOTH reins. This will cause hime to bring his neck up (alittle) - you must immediately shorten reins to match his new (but TEMPORARY) head set.
If done correctly you'll now be riding with slightly shorter reins and head/neck up higher than they just were. Repeat if you want a bit more height.
Key is horse doesn't have muscle to hold head/neck up higher for long periods of time - so start by asking for slightly higher frame and keeping it there til he builds muscle.
Now since he's been allowed to go long and low, and it's HARDER to come up in frame, he'll probably start to lean on the reins. Solution to that is a quick pull straight up in air with inside rein - but do NOT hold. What you're doing is telling him he's not allowed to be very heavy (expect him to lean a bit until he builds muscle). You may have to repeat a few times until he gets the message.
Now once you have this don't forget to keep long and low inbetween his "up" sets or he'll get back sore and ill tempered.
Eventually he'll build enough topline that you can ask for more and more "uphill" frame, and he'll quit leaning and/or nose diving.
My 19 yo mare learned this last year - had I known back in the day I was showing her what I know now she'd had gone onto third level (or above) - she's more uphill than her confirmation indicates (it's "even") and is a joy to ride.
I have zero expertise in this area, but I just wonder if your horse was trained in another discipline before you got him.
When I was horse shopping, I was open to trying all breeds of horses except for gaited, and I found that most of the quarterhorses I tried were schooled the way you describe.
That was my first thought too... QHs and other stock breeds are encouraged to go long and low with little to no contact.
My foundation QH/Paint was broke and trained by a dressage rider, so she didn't get that memo. I want to do an APHA show this summer - which only offers hunter classes - and just accept the fact that my mare won't go long and low. I mostly do dressage now, so I don't want to teach her otherwise either.
I agree with the above points, but also check your bit. My young super sensitive feather light mouth mare couldn't be ridden in a metal bit at all. Switched to a Nathe and troubles nearly all went away. She was just trying too hard and I could not be light enough on the fat, matal loose ring she was wearing. The Nathe is more inviting and she doesn't seem to want to "back off" of it so much. My mare is ridiculously light though...
PS...throw out any drew reins or gadgets...sounds like yours may have had bad riding previously with gagets like that...pretty common reaction to draw reins too....