Wow, he's gorgeous, and maybe what he needs is a career change, and/or a fresh start with a trainer who has a different way of looking at things. I watched the balky-spinny video first and then the first ride video, and the impression I have is that he's learned the balky-spinny behavior, or rediscovered it. I'm trying to imagine him with a good event type rider with a strong, solid seat and leg in an AP or deeper seated jumping saddle, and I'm trying to imagine him learning to go straight and forward now from the rider's leg (I realize leg isn't used the same way with saddleseat horses). I'm also trying to imagine him after a lot of ground work where he learns that when life gets tense, lowering your head is a good strategy! I doubt he considers that an option! I can completely understand why you want to work through this and get him back to being the horse you thought you bought. Give some thought to whether saddleseat is really the discipline for him and whether he might benefit from a total start-over with a different type of riding. If you have the interest and the commitment, a winter of groundwork and bodywork might make a huge difference for him physically and also for building trust - mutual trust. That balking and spinning stuff is no fun at all.
He is gorgeous NB!
I would have to agree with the others that it doesn't look like it is related to sight, and is probably more learned behavior (or still maybe some type of pain that hasn't been uncovered yet?) and maybe riding him in a different posture...head down, more relaxed...is a good start, but a little time with a skilled trainer/rider could really help jump-start that process.
However, having also shown saddleseat, I would add that 'some' saddleseat trained horses can get VERY keyed-up when you turn them toward the rail, as that is their canter cue. I have ridden horses that if you turned them towards the rail and then held them back from cantering, you would get some similar behavior as it really confuses them. I doubt that is all of it, but it may be a factor. He seems to be keying on something and the behavior is snowballing from there... I hope you can get him squared away as he is gorgeous and it sounds like he is trying to figure it all out also.....
"A good horse is worth more than riches."
- Spanish Proverb
Thank you all for the compliments. I have to agree with those of you saying he is a pretty pony. <3
Betsy-I've been working on ground work with him since before I sent him to the trainers. He's very good at "move your butt" (move haunches away from me), back, and "pick up" (pick up your hoof.) He actually does know to lower his head and relax during that.
But since he's got that Saddlebred brain (and Champagne Fizz is in his lines, for those of you who know about Saddlebred lineages), when it's work time--he raises his head up. I'm sure it also has something to do with being anxious of course, but even when lunging or long lining he prefers his head up rather than lower. That's not to say that I can't try to teach him to lower and relax a bit, but I feel that that will come later when he trusts me more while I ride him. Also like I've said before his low back makes his neck come straight up in the "desirable" Saddle Seat head carriage. It's just natural for him.
cb-you bring up a good point about the cantering. I try not to turn him towards the rail too much because I've noticed it does get a reaction out of him. I've also had to stop kissing to him under saddle because kissing to him means canter. He's a smart boy and tries so hard. I think I need to train myself in working with him as much as he needs to be trained. :P
Anyway, here is a video of my ride today. It progresses from start to finish. I'm very pleased. Again--his headset is not the priority for me right now. I'm just trying to get a clean, relaxed ride with no balking or spinning. So far so good. Oh and please excuse my mom's talking in the video lol. I think she gets more nervous than I do. She said she didn't even realize she was doing it, especially when he spooked. You could tell she was nervous during that episode haha.
Definitely looks like progress... I would also add try to incorporate more work off the rail. Many saddleseat horses also associate going to the rail to mean "Go, GO, GOOO!". So mix it up off the rail. Circles (spiral in and out), figure 8, serpentine, etc. Concentrate on soft and relaxed everything (bending and transitions up and down)...keep it simple and don't be afraid to just walk in patterns off the rail or just do walk/halt/stand transitions, add walking over a ground pole...stuff like that...and ask for a less frantic trot. It is better to have 5 steps of a soft, relaxed trot and transition back to walk than 20 minutes of frantic trotting. He is clearly capable of relaxing under saddle...Good luck with him!
"A good horse is worth more than riches."
- Spanish Proverb
He looks MUCH better and more relaxed in the neck. It seems like you're on the right track.
I did do some training on a saddlebred once that was never ridden as one. It was a whole different world in getting him to work over the back and through the neck as a dressage rider. He did develop nice muscling along the top of his neck.
I realize SBs have a whole different neck set, but I don't agree they need bits like that. If you can get a horse to do piaffe, passage, tempi changes, or jump a 5 foot fence in regular snaffle, I don't think SBs need them. I think if this is the norm with these horses, then maybe this level of tension seems normal. I think you're doing a good job, and the relaxation in him is apparent already.
I've got to ask, where is your mom from? I'm trying to place the language and accent.
cb-you're correct about the "go go go" on the rail haha. He is pretty good on corners, but once he hits a straight away he's like "let's gooooo!" I probably should have ridden for a shorter amount of time. I only rode him for about 10 minutes, but I could have walked him more. Every time I got a few nice, slow steps he would speed up again and I would feel like I needed to get those slow steps back. But I'm learning just as much as he is, so I will get better with him.
beenthere- Thanks so much. I'm glad others can see the progress. Since this is only the second ride I've had on him since... maybe February or so, I'm really pleased with how it is going so far!
I'm not saying that Saddlebreds aren't ridden in regular snaffles. I've ridden every single one of mine in a regular, fat snaffle. The slow twist is what he was ridden in before I bought him so I kept him in that. I don't think having a horse in a bit other than a regular snaffle is a bad thing. Some horses do better in certain bits. I'm not saying I'll never ride him in a regular snaffle, but for now this specific bit/martingale set up is working for us.
Haha, we're all from South Africa. She's speaking Afrikaans.
Last edited by NBChoice; Oct. 11, 2012 at 11:17 PM.
ok, saw your ride from today (you're getting somewhere!), and a few quick thoughts....... (I know we've talked before about him as I know him fairly well)
You are doing a good job of keeping him going forward like we talked (sometimes too good, I'll get to that later). He did scoot into a canter at the door once (I didn't watch all, but most so there could have been more), but with his history you were in my opinion, correct to keep him moving forward at the canter past the "scary door" and bringing him back to a trot later. Remember with a horse like him (balky/spinning, refusing), forward is better at this point. I know we talked about a straightaway, and there are points where it looks like he's getting a good bit ahead of himself (speeding up nervously) and it appears the more he goes, the gamer he gets (typical of his breeding as well). At this point, you don't want to get in his mouth too much to slow him down/check him back (contact is ok) or you risk getting a refusal/balk.
This gameness can be a good thing if you can contain it and train it. It will also help you get him over the spooks if used properly. Try trotting him down a straightaway, stop, and stand for a second at the halt. You breathe, and he breathes. Pat him, say good boy, reverse and trot back. He needs to relax and realise the world isn't ending, and so do you lol. The point of doing it in a straightaway is he can only go so far until the end, and will hopefully start to relax. Riding him continuously at the trot in a circle technically has no end, so he will be more likely to engage and speed up. If they know the "end of the straightaway" is coming, it is a stopping point and a place to catch your breath and think for a minute. He is less likely to go wide open knowing a wall is at the end. Then you can work on words like easy, whup, etc, and rate him with your voice. Your voice is going to be a very important tool in a horse like him.
I used that method with a gaited mare I bought who had a reputation of doing what she wanted when she wanted before I got her (quitting, balking, spinning, running, anything but buck and rear lol). She knew the ring was big, and was going to see just how damn fast she could make it around (or sometimes how fast she could spin around the other way). I got her and after a week of "being along for the ride" I'd had enough. From then on, she only did 1 of 2 things under saddle - trail rode (which she enjoyed) or worked in a straightaway. She learned to stop at the end, relax, breathe, reverse and go. She went on to be 1st or second with us from that point on for 2 years until I retired her. She just needed to learn not to get too riled up.
As for the bridle setup/change in career comments, he is built to be a saddleseat horse. Especially being soft/low in the back, his head has no choice but to be up. Realize that many moons ago soft/low backed was considered a good thing because they held their heads up so darn high. It is obviously NOT a desired trait nowadays, but one must work these horses a bit different, even when compared to other saddleseat horses. She does NOT have a bridle on intended to make him hold his head up. I can guarantee you it'd be up that high in a straight rein hooked to an eggbutt snaffle. She has the martingale on trying to bring his nose in and head down a bit, which is typically harder with a low backed horse. Now had she had a Bradshaw Draw on, I'd say you were correct in saying she was teaching him to hold his head up.
Your pony definately has the typical "Napoleon Complex" - now you just have to learn to use it to your advantage
NB, as I like to say, Sit tight, and Ride Light....... carry on, you're getting somewhere...........
most horses piaffing/passaging/tempi changes/what have you - the riders have some pretty good contact going on. Unless you have ridden a properly trained saddleseat horse, you have never experienced the true meaning of "light in the bridle" (and there are plenty of SS horses that are not, admittedly). Saddleseat horses are typically ALOT lighter in a bridle, just from the way they are built. Those that use what seem like "harsher bits" to other disciplines, are not to us, because we use them for a quick response and release, otherwise they are not used at all. There is no constant pressure when done properly. just the occasional "bump" with your pinky and a quick release. For instance, I may ride a horse in a twisted snaffle, or (gasp) even a mule bit because I have light, educated hands. If an owner/student is going to ride the same horse, I will more than likely drop him down to a slow twist/smooth snaffle. It is very common to switch bits back and forth. but remember, we want light, light contact, not constant "heavy" (thats a relative term, because what most dressage/etc riders consider light, us SS people would consider heavy) contact. and yes, I have ridden both seats and use plenty of basic dressage with all our mounts (it is, IMHO, good for ANY discipline of riding) so it's not a SS biased opinion.
Well, not the ones I've known, and most people I know ride. I ride on pinky contact, and piaffe/passage/tempi changes are done off the seat with a floating rein. There ARE some people that hang on the mouth as dressage riders. I think most good ones do not ride with what you would call constant pressure. There are a very few times I've ever tried a slow twist in a few situations, and it's always ended up being better to use something else.
I didn't make the comment about the bit saying she intended to hold his head up, but thinking that the horse wasn't feeling he could drop down into it. He seems to not feel secure in a lot of things, and I think a bit he feels he can drop into and not have to "quickly release" away from will help him feel better about that.
I would like to see what happens if you teach him to turn and take a carrot from you in the saddle, so he has to relax and trust to do this. Then it will all be associated with good things.
Rocketpony- It is sooo helpful to talk to another Saddlebred person about this who better understand their personality and way of moving. And it's also a plus that you've worked with horses like him before!
I will try the straightaway thing that you suggested today. I've gotten better about it, but I have the tendency to kind of lock my arms and freeze up when a horse is going too fast and I've tried everything I can to slow them down, lol. So I'm sure stopping at the end of the long rails will benefit me a great deal as well. I'll be able to refocus my thoughts and take a deep breath and relax.
You're right when you say he still has a high head carriage with a straight rain hooked to a snaffle. It's just him. Which is a nice change from my show horse... with him I constantly need to work on keeping him light and lifted. Fizz just does it naturally! He's only like 14.1-14.2 hands, but if you didn't see his body, just his head/neck you'd swear he's taller because it's always up in the air haha.
Let me just add, (I'm not sure if I mentioned this earlier or not...) I have ridden and long lined this horse in a regular snaffle before with the same outcome. Last year when I first got him I switched between a regular snaffle, twisted wire and slow twist. He reacted the same way to all of them. The snaffle did not make him drop over any more or relax at all. So I've decided to keep him in the slow twist for now.
Beenthere: That's a good idea about having him turn and take a carrot. Once I get on I usually just sit there and let him chill out. He always turns his head both ways to look at me and sniff my legs. I'm not sure if that's a nerves thing, or just a "hey what are you doing?" thing.
Anyway, this little pony is a piggy. If you give him a snack he will bother you for another one non stop. He becomes nippy and pushy. The only way I give him a snack is putting it in his grain bucket. Do you think giving a snack while I'm on him will elicit the same response, or is it safe to say that a couple times of doing this will not make him greedy?
I think his snack greediness will help you with this. You can give him verbal signals to relax, drop his head, turn his head to each side and give him a treat. If maybe he gets too pushy, then sometimes just give him rubbing and loving, which it sounds like he likes. The sniffing is usually a friendly thing.
But, it seems like this would be a good way to use his natural friendliness and food loving on the ground to make you being on him a happy thing. Instead of stressing out and getting all freaked out, any time he gets quick or spooky, stop him and do these exercises.
If you teach him to drop his head and get a treat on the ground with a verbal cue, than I'm betting he will pick that up quickly in the saddle.
I used to train a really hot TB mare who would NOT stand still. It was all about go go go. Finally I taught her that she was not going to move until she relaxed and took a big sigh. She was so smart she would stop and do a big sigh right away so she could move on. I have dealt with a lot of super hot horses (kinda makes your boy look relaxed) and you just have to spend a lot of time making standing there the thing. It sounds like you're already doing that with getting on.
I have another question. Should I work him 5-6 days a week or should I skip a day in between each ride in the beginning? I don't know how to handle a horse that acts like this--keep him on a strict work schedule, or give him a day in between to relax and decompress?
I think you'll have to go with your gut on that one. You're not really physically working hard, so it's not an issue of overwork. He may want to see you every day, and the day off may make him want to see you more. I would just play with it and see what works.
I usually do five days a week for my own sake. I don't think it hurts the horses to get ridden every day, but I think they're fine with days off, but mine are in a herd on 60 acres with hills, so I'm not fussing about them being in a confined area too long.
Well, whatever you've been doing it seems to be working, although I would prefer to hear whatever verbal cues you are using or whatever noises are in your immediate area (even if it is your mom speaking rapidly due to tension - her tension could add to the sum of all the stuff that is going on). Music is nice as is no soundtrack but they both cover up the important use of verbal cues and tension in your voice if there is any.
Your hands are moving up and down and back and forth much less and you look more relaxed as well, which may be that you've gotten the saddle issues straightened out and now have a plan that is working so you are both able to relax. It's nice to see and if you keep on you should get better and better.
As far as the low back, Snort has quite the big shoulder and low back as did another horse from my barn and they don't automatically make a high head, although if the neighbors shoot off fireworks Snort's head gets waaaay up there and he grows about a foot taller. He can do a handsome five gaited Adult show pleasure headset and body carriage or if you put a forward seat saddle on him, lower your hands and change your style he can follow that and lengthen out nicely.
It's funny, but also educational, that this has morphed from a vision issue only and gone through all the inputs like saddle fit and possible pain and then on to training tools. I do wish all the disciplines could stop diverging so much over time, it makes it so hard to use advice if the methods are contrary to the general riding style. (I'm thinking from Western to Hunt to Dressage to Saddleseat - going from the kiss to silence and back to the kiss for a canter cue as well as all the other little differences - no wonder we all get so confused!)
My mom asked me to please take out the talking haha. I'm constantly telling him easy and good boy and whoop and whatever else. I mindlessly talk because it also relaxes me. If we are doing a circle, I say "we're doing a circle now." Or if I'm cutting across the arena I tell him "We're going to switch directions now." My talking helps me relax, which seems to help him relax. My mom was verrrrry quiet in today's ride. She really didn't say much, but she wants me to edit out whatever she does say.
I do feel a lot more relaxed. I'm glad that it shows in the video. I feel much more confident on him and I feel like I know how to handle him when he does get worked up. I must admit there were certain parts during the ride where my hands did get a little more fussy, but my mom told me to relax and keep my hands still and then it would get better again. One positive from my ride today is that he had NO "nervous poops" as I like to call them. He used to poop at least 3 times from the time I started tacking him up until the end of my ride. Today he had zero.
Yes, it can be quite confusing. Some suggestions were very good on this thread, however--I am forever a Saddle Seat rider and Fizz will forever be a Saddle Seat horse to me. (Unless of course something happens that I see he will be more comfortable in some other discipline.) But for now he is simply Saddle Seat and I think he does quite well that way.
One other way I've seen him improve is on the ground. When I first got him he would not pick up his legs for me. Or if he did he would panic and immediately try to put his leg down. Now I tell him "pick up" and touch his leg and he lifts it for me and I can take as long as I please. I can also now use a brush on his face with no issues. Anyway, thanks for reading!
Circles help bleed off speed. Down the straight away when he gets fast and rushy make a circle then go straight. Then make another circle. It helps you put the aids on him to slow him down and balance him and in a sneeky way to slow him down without pulling on him. So if you have to make 30 circles on the long sides do so.
I'm glad you're making progress! It's looking better as in more relaxed and doing what I think you want to do (having no clue what you'd want to do for saddleseat.) Are you working with the verbal cues to get him to stand relaxed and turn his head side to side in the saddle? (Since you like talking so much! I'm the same way--I talk ALL of the time to the horses. Whatever does the job!)
Yes, I am doing the side to side once I get on. He does really well with verbal cues, so I figure why not just have a chat with him lol!
I also stop him every once in a while and pet him and talk to him until he relaxes, drops his head and mouths his bed. He's doing it faster and faster with every ride.