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  1. #1

    Default Working on suppling, bending and straightness

    This is my first real post here, so Hi everyone!

    My guy as been under saddle for about 7 months, for 6 of them I have been dealing with saddle fit issues. Between that and his tendency to play hard he has had a ton of chiropractic issues and muscle soreness.
    I ended up having to get him a custom saddle. I just got it and I immediately saw a huge improvement. He had some time off from riding and had just seen the chiro. He seems to be moving well and not sore. For now his physical issues seem to be under control.

    When I first started him he had no problems bending, responding to leg, using his back etc. While we were trying to work out his physical & saddle problems that all went away.
    Now if we hack out (which he loves) I can practically think something and he does it. I know he knows what the aids mean.
    In the ring he is a mess. I cant even get a straight line down the rail. He's tense, he pushes back against my leg, if I ask for any bend he counter beds. If he really doesn't want to do something he just stops. It doesn't help that he has a hard time focusing.
    With the new saddle he is using his back more, dropping his head and more accepting of contact.
    I know do circle and serpentine work, but he's so tense and rigid its worthless. Standing still he immediately gives and flexes left and rite, moving I cant get anything. Im trying to work on just getting him to relax and supple.

    Any advise, exercises?


  2. #2
    Join Date
    Oct. 13, 2006


    The bend doesnt come from asking and asking and asking as much as it comes from getting a horse soft on the bit and on the aids... The relaxation forward and in rythm type deal again

    Ive read this a ton of times and it made no sense until I rode a horse that was WAY to heavy and strong for me to insist on bend. Ride a horse like that and you find out just exactly how much you have been getting away with.

    So you start working on your seat and balance and aids. Your hands should be gentle and it shouldnt feel like you are really having to pull the horse in a half halt. Just like anything else if a horse is on the forhand or heavy and not using himself, or stiff he/she cannot bend.

    A horse in balance will bend like butter (not collection) just making an attempt to carry itself.

    Lastly, you should use your circles for early attempts at bending, just ride them correctly and focusing on that. Maybe a spiral in and out here and there, followed by a change of direction trying your best to be straight (dont force that let them tell you where they are crooked because that will tell you where your seat is as well).

    Lastly check your shoulders, most seats can be fixed just by getting even shoulders that are back and not hunched (ask me how I know) lol

    Ps if a horse hacks up and open that usually means that in the arena WE are not as up and open as we are on the trail. On the trail we have soft eyes looking beyond the horses head and that definately relates to our seats
    ~~Member of the TB's Rule Clique ~~

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Mar. 4, 2009


    Also, it sounds like he hasn't had much under saddle time, and add to that some of it sounds like it's stressed him out and/or confused him a little bit. For now, I'd focus on developing a forward-moving horse without tension, gradually working into a soft connection (absolutely not trying to get him into any sort of "frame" at this point). Just work on developing a forward, happy, relaxed horse.

    Look at the training tree. Straightness is almost at the top. Between the saddle fit issues, time off, etc. your horse has had, how much under saddle time has he really had? Straightness is likely a long way off. Also, you mention that he has a hard time focusing. I'm tempted to think that's less about his focus and more about him being stressed and wanting to evade you. Ultimately, your foundation right now is going to help shape his attitude towards work in the future. It's more difficult to eradicate tension and resistance than to build confidence and a happy, cooperative work ethic right from the start. Take your time now and it will pay dividends in the future.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jun. 30, 2011


    "I cant even get a straight line down the rail. He's tense, he pushes back against my leg, if I ask for any bend he counter beds. If he really doesn't want to do something he just stops."

    You won't be able to "make him straight" on a straight line..and you won't be able to ask for bend until he is straight (hind feet following in tracks of front feet). have to make him straight first. He may be tense from lack of understanding and balance.

    I'd ride him on varying sized circles, frequent changes of direction...most importantly maintaining rhythm at all times. Always make sure you see the outside corner of the inside eye (even when riding down the long sides).. To maintain the rhythm on smaller circles and larger circles, you are simultaneously incorporating your signals to him for more or less energy as needed. That work will create relaxation...aim for almost

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Apr. 1, 2003
    SE Ky


    Just starting my upper level mare back after an injury - and she acts liek a very green 3 yo. Also tense, running, trying not to bend.

    Start by trotting a 20 meter cirlce on LONG rein, asking for long and low and trying to get him to carry himself. He won't have muscle to do it for long but give hime lots of breaks to relax muscles.

    Once he can do that ask for more bend. With my mare she love to hold on right rein so I have to really use my right hip/leg and sit left to help balance her. If still not bending as much as you want do the "turn the key in the lock" exercise where you turn your wriat to the outside while engaging inside thigh and leg, then release key (don't held leg either or horse will lean), Repeat as much as necessary - a LOT in the beginning.

    I break up with change of direction thru trot (3 loop serpentine) or since my mare is more experienced and rushing I add in some 10 meter circles.

    Start with that and see if it helps. Also some shoulder fore for short periods of time (if he knows it and can do it) - just to keep his interest. Add in lots of transition and changes of direction to keep his attention.
    Now in Kentucky

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jul. 29, 2005
    Out in The Country


    With all this bad history and NO good history - relatively speaking - I suggest you pretend you just started him today as far as what he knows (ie doesnt know). A lot of horses naturally push into the pressure. I tend to do a lot of ground work and get a horse to move away there. You can then also lunge this horse on side reins and build up his back muscles - which we did with a horse that needed to recover from an ill fitted saddle. That horse - we actually laid him up (gave him 3 months off but he was in pasture most of it) and lightly lunged him on side reins - and then we did a lot of side reins lunging and owner did long-low stretchy circles, serpentines and just got him relaxed through the back.

    Your horse has barely ever been ridden and when he was, it did not feel good so he also is mentally expecting pain - so he is likely bracing some through the back in defense of possible pain.

    Again, look at his back as REHAB and look at his mind as started-under-saddle today. And start from there.

    Then I would hack out in the fields and go up and down hills and things like that. Then I would do transitions, trot circles and serpentines and get him to stretch into long contact. As he relaxes and learns some balance - gains some fitness, then post how he is doing.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jan. 20, 2012
    Aldie, VA


    Quote Originally Posted by NOMIOMI1 View Post
    . . .
    Ps if a horse hacks up and open that usually means that in the arena WE are not as up and open as we are on the trail. On the trail we have soft eyes looking beyond the horses head and that definately relates to our seats

    Seriously, a lot of our "problems" are us, not the horse. I've found that if my horse isn't going well, then *I* need a quick trip outside the arena. I relax. She relaxes. We do our warm up on the trail -- SI, LY, TOH, TOF -- and then head into the arena for grunt work.

    Just something to consider,
    Mad Mare™ Studio
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  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jul. 11, 2006


    The difference between trail work and the arena work is probably the degree by which you are taking up your reins. As you prematurely try to shorten the reins on a green horse, it will begin to fall on the forehand, pulling you out of position as well. You need to go back to lunging this horse with sidereins before every ride...again making sure those sidereins are attached correctly and at the right length. After lunging for about 10-20 minutes depending on the horse, you should have the horse relaxing into the bit, being able to take his head to the inside and release it back resulting in a soft, rounded trot. For the under saddle work thereafter, make it short and sweet. Posting trot, reins fairly long, circles about the same size as your lunge circle, many changes of direction. Allow the horse to soften to the same degree as on the lunge. This is your beginning point to develop contact work...not before you can get this consistently. Much more goes into this than I can write. Much more must come after it to establish correct contact. Contact is not pulling the horse's front end to you. Contact is about being able to use your body to bring the horse's hindquarters forward to his withers. "Forward" in the dressage sense is about balance...not the speed of moving along the ground. At the point of where you are, slower is better in that it gives the horse time to get its hocks under it.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Aug. 14, 2004


    well, since he has a total of 7 months under saddle and most of the was in bad fitting tack...... my suggestions that he needs to be thought of as just started - i.e.: he is very crooked and not able to carry the rider correctly in the arena.

    if he were mine I would start work again on the lunge - make sure he will happily walk/trot/canter both ways on a correct circle in a nice forward swinging gait - no pulling or veering in... he should be in even rhythm , relaxed and forward and going with his neck long and reaching forwards/downwards. I would then start adding side reins at trot only - getting his to really reach out and down towards the bit (helps his back) once he can again go both ways easily reaching for the bit and staying in correct rhythm, then I would get back on him and think of him as a baby.... long straight lines, big rounded corners... have just a nice soft following hand. pay special attention to which rein he is heavier on, and GIVE on that rein so your contact is even (even if his neck bends).... once he is able to do this work easily then start adding in 20 meter circles and serpentines always paying attention to which rein is heavier and giving on that rein.

    make sure he stays active and forward - but give him time to learn to balance under you again.

    once he does all of this well start adding in leg yielding at walk, then trot, etc.

    you can also do turn on the forehands to help teach lateral aids.

    if he continues to be heavy on one reins and or very crooked, don’t worry. just keep the work at a level where he can manage and continue to work on leg yielding, TOFs, big circles etc.

    it takes time to build muscles and develop suppleness... think of it as you having to learn to write with your non dominant hand... that is what you are teaching your horse.

    also get some good young horse books, take lessons etc.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Feb. 24, 2011


    You need to find a good dressage trainer in your area and start taking lessons. Trotting around on a twenty meter circle with a soft contact will probably not help you and your horse. If you can afford it, send him to a trainer for a month to help you begin to work through his issues.

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