I hate that I do it. I hate that I can't have a good ride where I'm content with whatever small victories he has. I hate that I have such high expectations for him.
I feel, every time, like pulling him into a frame with my hands. He opens his mouth in protest, but I keep doing it. I know he knows how to have contact..so why isn't he?
I don't jerk or yank. But I pull. I know I hurt him.
I get so frustrated with him. He won't keep his head still, he won't engage his hind end. I've tried everything I know, but I can't get him to collect even a little bit.
When I get off, the look in his eye makes me want to cry. He doesn't deserve it. I vow to never do it again, to never lose my temper with him again. But I do. I can start the ride perfectly, in total peace, and end flustered and angry.
There's other stuff going on in my life, and I know I'm taking it out on him. I know this from afar, but in the moment, I get mad and aggressive on his mouth.
I'm scared. I've never been abusive with a horse before and in every other sense I take good care of him. I don't want to become abusive. I'm scared of what this might turn into.
He most likely is not giving into the contact because you are not a willing partner. Just pulling is not going to make a happy horse or a nice frame. Why don't you just give up trying to get into a frame and just have fun. Trail ride or just relax together until you stop stressing.
It is NOT fair that you are taking your anger out on your horse. God bless him that he has not sent you flying. I would have and I know that my horse sure as hell would have as well.
Here is my advice that I tell teens who decide that they can no longer control themselves and take it out on the horse. GROW UP and drop it when you are riding. Your horse does not deserve your anger. Or just stop riding and do the horse a favor.
I am on my phone 90% of the time. Please ignore typos, misplaced lower case letters, and the random word butchered by autocowreck.
My gut feeling is you're trying too hard. I ride western, have all my life. Once, I went off on a tangent and did dressage plus a little jumping type stuff. The one thing I do know, my brain ain't wired for english. I loff dressage but do it in a western saddle. Jumping isn't my thing. I prefer all four hoofies on the ground as much as possible.
Quit trying so hard, sit back and relax. Pop a Corona and thank your adorable horse he hasn't killed you.
You should stop riding and do clicker training for 30 days. Get a good book (Alexandra Kurland or Shawna Karrasch) and work on developing that relationship with your horse.
I'm not going to tell you that you are wrong for your actions... because it is clear that you already know! You are admitting it, and that is the first and most difficult step. I have been very, very frustrated before and I understand what a vicious cycle it can become, ESPECIALLY when there are other things going on your life.
Contact can be a difficult concept...it is truly about feel. But it starts from your leg and your seat, not your hand. To develop feel...you must learn to FOLLOW your horse's head without asking for anything. Once you can truly follow and have independent hands/seat... only then are you capable of asking a horse for contact.
If you are approaching contact any other way, all you will create is a false frame and a head set.
Years ago when I did some private lessons, I would tell riders that they needed to leave their "bad day" and frustrations at the job and not take it out on the horse. "HE wasn't having a bad day until you gave him yours!!!" I never do serious training when I'm feeling "pissy"!! I go for a soothing, calming trail ride on a soft rein.
Sounds like you are creating some of your horse's problems. Take a deep breath and get some pro lessons/help. Until you have a firmer grasp on "how to..." - don't try it alone. You'll ruin your horse and your outlook on riding. JMO
Be sure that you know what correct contact is and how to ask for it! You and your horse may be getting your signals crossed. When I met my SO ( who rides western) he didn't know about contact, and thought that you got them into frame by "see-sawing" their mouths. (left, right, left right). Needless to say, it didn't work well for him and ended most of his rides frustrated.
Charlie Brown (1994 bay TB X gelding)
White Star (2004 grey TB gelding)
When you feel yourself getting frustrated, you've got to just get off the horse and get out of the situation. It's not fair to the horse to continue in that state of mind.
As a teenager, I'd get horribly frustrated with my horse. Perhaps not what you've described, but along those lines. It's not useful for anyone. The horse resists, the rider gets frustrated and angry and nothing is accomplished. Contact, especially, is SUCH a conversation. The horse has to come to the hand.
So, get off. Do something dead easy that has no chance of failing. Reward for good behavior and put the horse away. Come back another day when you're in a better mental space to work on the harder questions.
I've also found that the "you KNOW how to do this! WTF?!" frustration always stems from something else. A bad day for me, or an actual lameness issue in the horse. Take a step back and really look at what might be the root of the issue.
You will never get your horse to collect and engage by using hand, the horse must move forward into the bridle from your leg. You can haul back all you want and I guarantee you will never get anywhere. Had you or your horse done any dressage (or whichever english discipline you're riding) prior to last summer? Sounds like you are jumping waaaay ahead of that game and based on the description you gave. It definitely doesn't sound like you are ready to be working toward any kind of collection. I would almost guarantee that you are trying to force your horse to do something that he is physically incapable of doing. It takes an incredible amount of correct work for a horse to develop the muscle strength to carry himself and properly engage his back and hind end. What you described above is anything but correct.
The best advice I could give for the time being is get out of his face, carry a light, steady contact, and work on forward, forward, forward. But what you really need is to get some good eyes on the ground more often, for your horse's sake and for yours as well... Someone who will call you out and force you to behave appropriately if you can't control yourself on your own. Have someone there every ride if necessary and make the decision to not ride or to stop immediately if you lose your temper. It's completely unfair to your horse to continue forcing him to do something that he is probably incapable of doing and continuing to ride him incorrectly will create problem on top of problem in the future. Invest the time and money now and save yourself and your horse a whole lot of pain and heartbreak. I own a horse who was ridden by people with awful, heavy hands for yeeeaaars. It has been such an incredible struggle to teach him how to carry himself. He's an absolute joy to ride now and worth every second of training but I highly recommend saving yourself the trouble - get help and do it right from the beginning.
1. Vacation from riding. Just put that saddle away for a week, or two weeks, or a month. Don't stop spending time with your horse -- just spend it differently. Hand walk around the property (or if it's one giant slush ball like ours, spend some time with him loose in your riding area). Get to know his body language on the ground. Groom, snuggle, pamper, play my-pretty-pony. Do whatever you want, but make sure it's fun! Make sure it's something you can do that doesn't include the possibility of "failure" or "success;" it's just about spending time with your horse that reminds you that you love him, and gives him a break from your temper.
2. When you're ready to get back to riding, see if you can arrange a kind of intensive course with your instructor, kind of like a mini clinic -- it could be a week or two weeks, riding every day or every other day. It's really, immeasurably useful to ride under an instructor every day. Unfortunately not doable for most of us on a long term basis, but it would be worth it to get your riding back to a positive start.
Also, you say you're taking lessons once a week now -- what is your instructor saying? Do you experience the same kind of frustration in a lesson, or only when riding at home. You may not be working well with your instructor, and this may be a sign to change up. Regardless of who you're riding under, make sure you're asking for specific "homework" that has goals you understand. It can be very frustrating when your goal is something vague like "develop contact." You need to break that down into steps that you are able to achieve through concrete exercises.
Step away. Seriously. Don't do that to your poor horse. Hang up the spurs for a while until you chill out. Or only ride once a week with your trainer, who hopefully won't allow this stuff to happen on her watch. If she does, find a new trainer!
I can't imagine ever knowingly hurting one of my horses... even when I'm in the worst mood ever. They're my buds.
I get frustrated with myself as I try to learn to ride dressage, but never with my horse. If he's having trouble with something, we step back and do something that's easy for him. (Or, I get a pro on him to fix it.)
You need to stop. Collection, carriage, and roundness don't come from your horse's face. You're hurting your horse, and you're hurting your relationship with your horse. If he's very very smart he will pay you back, and if he's very very accommodating you will ruin him. I second the suggestion of doing something else like ground work to rescue your relationship. Your horse is not an organic machine. You don't want the kind of relationship you're building; you want a partnership.
Does your trainer know that you feel this way about your other rides? I think that the best thing to do might be to consult with a counselor or psychologist if you can, and to stop riding other than your weekly lesson or only do loose rein stuff on the other days.
I can say that in a way, I can sympathize. I have taken lower level dressage lessons for years and I still struggle (A LOT) with contact. There is something that I am just not getting or missing, especially (unfortunately) with my own horse. I don't know if I'm just not athletic enough or not able to "feel" or coordinate the aids or all of the above.
I was getting so frustrated that when I left the barn, I would literally be in a bad mood for the rest of the day. Now if I don't feel like riding, I do not ride. If I start riding and start to get frustrated, I get off before I ruin my day and groom, feed treats, and go home. Even typing this out feels a bit silly because this is a hobby and it is supposed to be fun, but I can identify with it sometimes being so frustrating that it is not fun. I think that the main problem for you right now is that you feel like you are taking your frustrations out on the horse. Stop doing that, even if it means riding less or spending most of your time on a loose rein. Make what you are doing now not an option.
Stop and take a deep breath when you feel yourself getting tense and frustrated.
Depending on what's available to you, maybe try to "mix things up" a little when you're not in a lesson with your trainer. Go out on a short trail ride. Build some kind of obstacle course for yourself in the arena. Spend some time riding bareback. As others have said, spend some "pampering" time with your horse, just grooming or having a "my little pony" day, or walking him out to an area to hand-graze him for a while.
Consider whether there are other things going on in your life that are building that tension. . .and you're projecting that tension into your riding?
If it makes you feel any better, I have been in a similar situation. There was nothing "wrong" with my horse, but I was so frustrated with a situation in my workplace that it carried over into my riding.
Learn to relax and enjoy. Remember. . .riding is fun. . .right?
Please copy and paste this to your signature if you know someone, or have been affected by someone who needs a smack upside the head. Lets raise awareness.
With my horse.
There's other stuff going on in my life, and I know I'm taking it out on him.
If the other stuff is making you feel out of control, not valued, not perfect you need to address this, but not on your horse.
Your attempting to feel better in your life by having control over something you feel you can control, your horse and riding. By controlling this one part of your life makes you feel better while all this other stuff is happening.
Problem is is that your horse is not at that point in his training, and neither are you. The result is anger over the thing you can not control...just like the other stuff that is happening right now.
Instead of trying to control your horse and perfecting your ride, see your horse as your best friend, your therapy, your zen time. Let your time with him be relaxed, take the time to focus on him and you. Knowing that he needs you for love, attention, and his well being should make you happy and glad to have him help see you through these times.