Vienna Reins (triangle reins, training reins) lunging for balance
I have a question.
But first, a bit of background.
I have a 13-year-old mare with a club hoof on her right front. She's sound with shoes and regular work for being driven and for being ridden by small children/very light adults.
I can ride her occasionally, but not on a regular basis in our hard arena footing without her going slightly ouchie. It's not lame, but she stops going forward and stops following through as she tries to keep from putting full impact on the club side. So no good for teaching her to bend, collect, and come up and into the bit at anything other than a walk with any degree of regularity undersaddle.
She's a fantastic driving pony, never been sore for anything with that, can work 5-6 days a week, no problems at all. But...because I can't ride her, I'm having significant trouble teaching her proper balance and bend for her driving.
I rode hunter/jumpers and dressage for years when I was younger...and the "disability" of not being on her back, using seat and leg and really feeling how she's going has been thwarting me for the entire 7 years of her driving career.
We recently switched to Combined Driving from Pleasure Carriage Driving, and so now the mare really has to learn to go on the bit, carry herself in a balanced position through all manner of turns, serpentines, figure 8's, and other formations...and we're going back to basics to really nail these things that have been holes up until now.
So, we're lunging and long-lining, and it's been going really well...but I am also using "triangle, training, or vienna" side reins. (I listed all names as so many people call them different things) Basically, they're side reins that go from her girth through her bit and on to an upper ring on her surcingle, forming a triangle between the three. The gist of the thought process is that these reins help to balance her body and allow her to get an idea of where to put her head, without "setting" it there.
I want to stop here and say that I am about as anti "gadget" as you can get...and this if my first time using these things and I have some concerns.
So, my questions. Has anyone else used them before, what are your thoughts/experiences on them?
I had thought to use them rather like training wheels for a child's bike...use them now while she's in the beginning of really learning to carry herself and balance properly until she gets the general idea and *builds the muscle tone* she needs; then follow them up with lots of long-line work (without the side reins) to concrete the initial lessons and really teach her how to round up into her back, power from behind, and work up and round into the bridle and onto the bit.
My concern though, is, will she just learn to set herself against them and use them as a crutch, allowing for some immediate improvement now, but only more problems later on because she hasn't really learned anything, and formed a bad habit?
She's a lovely soft mare, light in your hands, and I *really* don't want to spoil that mouth or to teach her to go on her forehand. She's on the verge right now of knowing how to round her back, she's just not quite there...and I'm trying to figture out how to teach it without being on her.
Thanks so much for any help or suggestions on this matter!
I don't think this is the pony's problem, but yours. You can do anything in lines or in the cart that you can do under saddle with proper timing on you rein, voice and whip. So if your pony learns to trvale nicely in side reins or sliding side reins that is fine, but if you do not know how to maintain drive/forward and manage the pony in the bridle once your hands are on the lines that is not the pony or the equipment's fault.
It sounds like driving lessons for you would be a bigger help for your pony than more time on the lunge in any type of side reins. You should not feel like there are things you can get a horse/pony to do under saddle that you can not achieve either in the lines or in harness. I think this little demonstartion from Flyinge Stud in Sweden demonstrates that http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m0Ccx...qQLT3HgknwvgXQ
Okay, first off, I agree with you, I in no way intended to come across as saying that this is a problem solely of my horse's. By no means is it her problem, it's MINE! I am having trouble communicating with her to let her know what I want her to do. SO, I'm working on doing something DIFFERENT in order to try and remedy that problem.
I have worked with trainers, but, unfortunately, I am in an area where there are only two driving trainers, one of whom I used for years and came to the end of her knowledge base (she can start them, but beyond that she's not advanced enough to realy be able to assist me) and the other is too far away for me to use as I am not currently able to purchase a truck and horse trailer, and I cannot board my mare an hour+ from my home and expect to be able to work her with any degree of routine.
I have been told by clinicians that I have good hands, good contact, and I feel that from my dressage background that I am fully capable to working my mare up and into contact. But, when I ride, I use my legs and seat to bend and turn, to move her body around my leg and up into my hands to round her back and bend her body. I know that this is done in driving by driving her forward, then using the whip to ask for a bend from her body while supporting her with the outside hand and asking for the bend with the inside hand...and I've worked on this until I'm blue in the face, and I'm doing *something* wrong, because it's *NOT WORKING*. I'm not saying that the method is at fault, but I'M doing something wrong, and for the life of me, I can't seem to figure out what it is. If you have any suggestions, please, let me know, I'm asking for information here! I'm fully willing to try anything, or perhaps I've got some detail wrong and that's the problem. I'm asking for help, not asking to be told that I need a trainer.
I would love to be able to take lessons with a trainer, that would be fantastic, but unless I move, purchase a new house, and change jobs (which, really, is that an option for anyone for whom driving is a hobby?), I am stuck with where I am and seeking help when and where I can get it at clinics, email lists, forums, books, videos, National Drive, etc. Few and far between for in-person help.
I also agree with you completely that anything you can do ridden, you can do in harness. I've seen it first hand, but there is something, somewhere, that I'm doing wrong, and I, my former trainer, and so many books and videos can't seem to quite figure out what it is that I'm doing to cause this problem. *I* simply have trouble executing some things from the ground or the box seat that I can easily do while riding. It is *my* problem, not hers, but I have to learn to overcome them in order to fix them...hence my request for information.
My only other comment is that when starting a young dressage horse, they are lunged first before they are ridden, in order to help them learn to carry themselves and move properly through, then they are ridden. Driving horses start out in long lines. They are long-lined for weeks or months so that both the horse and the rider learn the intricacies of bend, collection, contact, and flexion before the added difficulty of pulling and being between two unyielding metal poles comes into the equation. It's been so long since either of us worked on this, and obviously, we needed some time to go back to basics to re-school things we'd been having issues with. I am not arguing that I don't need to work on things, nor am I trying to say that this is all the fault of my mare. I'm simply trying to get information about how best to fix this problem from the ground without being told that I'm wrong. I know I'm wrong. That's why I am trying something different in hopes that I can become *correct*.
She will come onto the bit while driving, but not with the consistency that will really help her, and she is very bad about dropping her shoulders on turns and falling in. I've had lessons on this subject, with a variety of different outcomes. Some trainers say to use the whip to turn her, leaving the reins out of the picture almost entirely. This works relatively well, but throws away the contact and she's not working through and up into the bridle. Others have taught me to half halt, particularly with the outside rein during a turn to keep her back on her haunches and moving forward from her hindend, which will keep her from falling through her turns and speeding up because of a lack of balance. This works *better* and I feel will really work well once she's got her balance and muscle tone where it needs to be...but, going back to my earlier statement, I really think she needs early-training ground work to really cement the movements and to build the muscle tone before I add in the increased difficulty of driving and pulling.
At the end of the day, she was sore for several years before we finally learned the right combination of shoes and chiro work to keep her sound and happy, so she's learned how to carry herself off balance to reduce the weight on her right front leg. I'm having to overcome this problem now, and I feel that especially lunging and circle work at slow trot and the canter is going to help her learn to have her own center of balance.
So, my initial question, any suggestions for ground driving/lunging, or equipment to use or avoid in general?
I fail to see how long-lining and lunging can possibly hurt her future driving. It's the basis for everything that happens between the traces and up in the box seat...but I want to make sure that I'm doing it *right* before I continue onwards.
So, once again...any suggestions for me to help with this matter? Videos, books, training regimes, step-by-step methods for correctly asking for a turn or a bend (to make sure that I'm asking correctly and not doing something funky with my hands that's causing the problem)?
Last edited by Flopsy_Ponies; Sep. 16, 2012 at 10:00 PM.
I am not a sidereins fan, they fall into "gimmick" for me. Our horses that we tried sidereins on, never got light, just hung on them. We had to backup to start over with the long lines lessons again, had them sliding thru the bit rings, so we could give and take with the horses. You can give rein instantly, take horse up quickly, no constant pressure on the bit.
Sidereins even with the rubber insert pieces, just don't give like your hands do. You can't do the constant adjusting of reins in movement, give to the head. We found we needed these to communicate, so the horse could understand what we wanted in body carriage, SELF CARRIAGE as they move forward and learn all the various gaits of a Driving horse.
We want a horse with an EDUCATED mouth, not excessively reactive when we take up the reins, not argumentative with some hold on the reins as they drive from behind, willing to take up any extra rein given them. Not hiding behind the bit with a head-on-his-chest or throwing head up when they feel the bit pressure. That is NOT LIGHT on the bit. Him NOT dragging you off the seat with reins or making YOU pull the vehicle with those reins, traces hanging loose, as you endeavor to hold him back!
You probably need some lessons with a Driving trainer to help you see what you are doing correctly, what you may be not seeing as the horse communicates back to you out on those long lines. Driving and Riding are similar, but not the same in what they ask of the horse. Some stuff you just learn to ignore, like head on new horse being overly high, then diving to the ground while doing his circles. He is trying out various postions to learn what feels comfortable as he moves along. Sidereins put on at this point will limit his movement, so he can't figure it out himself. He is just FORCED into a fake headset postition, not doing things correctly, not building the muscling needed to hold himself in that correct position. Probably not using the rest of his body well either.
If horse is doing what is asked of him in gait, we can ignore his head position as he bobs about. He WILL get correct with time, because that is the most comfortable place to put head. He needs to learn his voice commands, be responsive immediately. Your long lashed whip is there to touch horse to keep his FORWARD working, not be able to ignore your commands in changes of pace, speed or direction. YOU have to be able to use that whip to just touch him lightly as needed, NOT just be waving it about or cracking lash with no response by the horse. Lash has to be long to reach him on out there on big circles. Whip is like your legs when riding, only a touch is needed on horse ignoring you, not for punishment. Your hands on the long lines need to give and take, not just holding on. If horse drops his nose to pressure, you QUICKLY give rein as reward, so he can tell the difference in RIGHT and WRONG by bit feel. Might only be 2 strides, but he needs the reward from you. He will never get that with a fixed siderein.
"Sidereins even with the rubber insert pieces, just don't give like your hands do. You can't do the constant adjusting of reins in movement, give to the head. We found we needed these to communicate, so the horse could understand what we wanted in body carriage, SELF CARRIAGE as they move forward and learn all the various gaits of a Driving horse."
Yes, this is *exactly* what I was concerned about. I had been told that the vienna reins were better about this, but as I had never used them before, I was concerned and wanted to get more information.
"We want a horse with an EDUCATED mouth, not excessively reactive when we take up the reins, not argumentative with some hold on the reins as they drive from behind, willing to take up any extra rein given them. Not hiding behind the bit with a head-on-his-chest or throwing head up when they feel the bit pressure. That is NOT LIGHT on the bit. Him NOT dragging you off the seat with reins or making YOU pull the vehicle with those reins, traces hanging loose, as you endeavor to hold him back!"
She has been driving for almost seven years, five of those with a trainer, and I've been told by several people that she has one of the softest and most responsive mouths they've ever driven. I don't want to do *anything* to endanger the softness of that mouth! We worked for years on the falling in on the circles problem, and nothing we tried ever really seemed to work. That was when I finally realized that the trainer I was using was good for beginning...not so much for the finer details. She was great to teach how to hitch up, long-line, forward, how to bend and move and change direction, even how to come onto the bit...but when my mare still dropped her shoulder despite everything that Ashley knew to try that had worked with other horses...we realized we needed to do something different, and Ashley was out of ideas. Hence my coming here, to books, to videos, asking *questions*.
There are no other trainers within hours of me. There is one, but I'd have to move my horse out to her farm, and she's almost two hours from my home. It's just not feasible for me to board there. So, I'm stuck with questions, forums, emails, and occasional clinics. I'd love to have a trainer who could help me every week, but right now, it's just not possible. There's just NO ONE here.
"Driving and Riding are similar, but not the same in what they ask of the horse. Some stuff you just learn to ignore, like head on new horse being overly high, then diving to the ground while doing his circles. He is trying out various postions to learn what feels comfortable as he moves along. Sidereins put on at this point will limit his movement, so he can't figure it out himself. He is just FORCED into a fake headset postition, not doing things correctly, not building the muscling needed to hold himself in that correct position. Probably not using the rest of his body well either."
Yes, I'm concerned that she's *never* learned to really carry herself well at speed, particuarly the canter. She was lame for the first few years of her life, and she rarely, if ever, canters in the field. She will canter when asked, but even then, she's rushed, she's fast, she's very obviously off balance. It's worst at the canter, but I'm sure it carries over into her slower work as well, particularly circles. This is why I'm taking her back to the beginning, where all young horses start out. Learning to carry herself upright and balanced without anything else, head set, body mechanics, anything. She needs to learn her *own* center of gravity before she can be asked to do anything more complicated. I had heard that the vienna reins were good for that, but I was still concerned, so thanks for your input on them.
"If horse is doing what is asked of him in gait, we can ignore his head position as he bobs about. He WILL get correct with time, because that is the most comfortable place to put head. He needs to learn his voice commands, be responsive immediately. Your long lashed whip is there to touch horse to keep his FORWARD working, not be able to ignore your commands in changes of pace, speed or direction. YOU have to be able to use that whip to just touch him lightly as needed, NOT just be waving it about or cracking lash with no response by the horse. Lash has to be long to reach him on out there on big circles. Whip is like your legs when riding, only a touch is needed on horse ignoring you, not for punishment. Your hands on the long lines need to give and take, not just holding on. If horse drops his nose to pressure, you QUICKLY give rein as reward, so he can tell the difference in RIGHT and WRONG by bit feel. Might only be 2 strides, but he needs the reward from you. He will never get that with a fixed siderein."
Yes, this is just like riding in that respect. Reward is immediate, and is always release of pressure. I grew up riding hunters/jumpers and dressage ponies, this portion of driving is definitely the same. She is good about responding with alacricity to rein aids, voice commands, and the whip...except that danged shoulder dropping around turns. She has a nice natural head set, nothing has ever been done to her to "cause" that set, only her own balance and learning to drive (but I do well remember the bobbing and lowering in the beginning) I had heard that the triangle formation of the vienna reins did give to pressure better than straight side reins did, but I was still concerned that the give was not enough, or not immediate enough. I mean, technically, draw reins give eventually to...but only when your horse has his nose on his chest, and that's just awful for the horse, and incorrect to boot, which makes them completely useless as a training aid. I was concerned that any sort of side reins, no matter the placement, would do the same thing. It sounds as though they do not give to pressure enough, and as such, she's better off simply being lunged and line driven until she can learn her own balance and build up proper muscle tone to maintain that balance.
Ok, I posted before I read your second post. So this is about what you said in the second post.
Firstly we never use one line to work horse in circles, which I call lunging. We think it actually is a poor practice to teach a learning horse. You don't have good body control of the animal that you need, so horse easily can learn bad stuff.
We always long line and use two lines for training. Lines run down alongside the horse barrel, so he is BETWEEN the lines, giving you FULL BODY control of front, sides, back end. Not able to swing the hind end out on circles, outside line can push the rear forward to learn head control easier.
For turns, we do not pull on the inside rein, it stays the same all the time. We GIVE on the outside rein, so horse comes around the corner himself, no bent neck. Sounds totally backward, but it does work if you keep the inside rein stable, don't shorten or lengthen it while driving in the vehicle.
If you are doing special things with the inside line while long lining, you might have to take up rein a little, but you control the turn with the outside rein. The inside rein is his firm spot, like the leg in riding.
Does horse understand whip touches, move away from them while you just stand behind her? This might be something you need to practice without her WAY out on the lines. She should move shoulder over with touches, same with hip, in both directions. We use STEP with whip touches, but you can use any command you like for sideways movement. This is with no forward, just side-stepping. She needs this understanding so she can move away from whip touches sideways out on the long lines when asked. You can just flick, flick on the side, so she moves away from the irritation. Say WHOA, praise her. Walk forward before asking anything else.
If horse is falling in so much, use your whip, touch her shoulder, move her over. Don't let her bend so much, support with that stable inside rein and whip touches, give on the outside rein.
Consistancy in any movement, gait, comes with time and work, as horse develops the correct muscling to HOLD those positions, LEARN what is needed to do as requested. Building muscle can take a LONG time, over many training sessions. You don't ask a young Dressage horse to do advanced movements, he doesn't have the knowledge or muscles to do it, such moves could hurt him in this beginning stage. He needs to learn all the other beginner steps WELL, before he can move up to the next level, understand what you are asking of him. Same for Driving skills, you get good basics, build on them to move up in what horse can be asked and expected to do well.
Your horse may know some of these skills, but not be transferring the knowledge by the way you ask with less aids, maybe poorer rein and bit communication on such long lines. Not being pushed forward with the whip as needed to get the idea thru. Maybe her muscles are not well developed to do it more than a stride or two, like head postion for collection. It hurts after that, so she puts nose out again. I find that happening on my young ridden horses too, you only get a stride or two of "perfect headset", before horse needs to get that nose back out, he just can't hold the position yet. You build on it, with give reward when he does it right! Give reward needs to be FAST, so he can learn RIGHT reaction, from when he is not being asked to give.
Sorry about not having any Trainers you can drive to. But could you take YOURSELF for a lesson or two at those farther away Trainers, use their trained animal to learn the feel of right and wrong? Will you be able to attend the National Drive, observe the Trainers, maybe take some lessons there? Even without your own horse, there is plenty to observe and learn from. I have only heard good things about the Clinicians and lessons available there.
I had never thought of lunging in just that context, but it's so true! So long-lining will be much more effective for her development, it sounds like. I've long lined before, it's just been several years. I do have one question though, when I've long-lined her previously, I was told to stand in the middle of the circle, like with lunging, and the inside rein goes from bit through tug (or low surcingle side ring) to the handler, and the outside goes from the bit, to the side ring, around the haunches, and back to the handler with the horse moving in a circle around the handler in the center. I see how this is very different from lunging because the lines are around the body, allowing the handler to have more complete contact and control of the entire body. My question here is that she seems so much heavier in my hands when I do this, and I worry that as she trots and her hindlegs move she's banging herself in the mouth because of the outside rein coming from her mouth, around her rear, and into my hands. Is this a legitimate concern?
I have long-lined standing behind her for other things, like fading through cones and moving in straight lines, but I was told to do circles from the center as well.
I had never tried moving just her shoulder or just her haunch with the whip, and I'll *definitely* try that and see what happens. It may well be something that I need to work on to really fix that falling in issue. I had been asking her for the bend with inside rein stable (or occasionally squeezing slightly if it's her stiffer side and she needed a bit more incentive to come into the bend), outside rein giving, but not giving TOO much, previously I'd been "throwing her away" with the outside contact, and not giving her the outside support she needed to carry herself through the bend. Muffy Seaton was kind enough to help me realize that problem in an email a month or so ago, and it made a world of difference. I also realized that I had been pre-bend half-halting incorrectly (squeezing both reins equally, rather than squeezing the *outside* rein before asking for the bend) and that was another major improvement from Muffy's email. And I think that's what's tripping me up with this...it's something small, but that makes a world of difference.
As for the whip, I'd just been touching her, middle of her body, about where my leg would be, to get her to move over, without much luck. I'll definitely try touching her at the shoulder and seeing if that improves the shoulder dropping. Based on other small changes, it may completely solve my problem.
Thanks for the suggestion of driving more accomplished horses, and I have been able to do that with previous trainers. A friend and former driving trainer has a lovely old QH school master mare who I have had the pleasure of driving a few times, along with Ashley's father's Morgan driving horse, and both horses were excellent teachers. So I know how it *should* feel...it's just being able to communicate it to my horse that trips me up. I'm doing something in there that's causing an issue, and I feel that it's probably something really minor...like not touching in just the right place, or not giving or taking at just the right moment...and the only way to fix that is with a trainer right there, at that moment, helping me to realize what I'm doing wrong. So, it sounds like I'm going to have to figure out how to be in contact with a trainer on site. Good to know. Not sure how I'm going to do it...but I'll just have to see what I can come up with.
I am attending the National Drive, second year. Last year I had a lesson with Bob Giles and he fixed in five minutes some counterbending problems I'd been fussing with with the old trainer for a year. It was fantastic. He's not teaching at this year's Drive, but I'm definitely signing up for any lessons I can with anyone for this year. It can only help!
Last year my mare was on her "best behaviour" for Giles...and so I wasn't able to demonstrate a few things we'd been working on...like the shoulder dropping...ugh. Just like taking a car to the shop... But, hopefully this year I can get a bit more information, and hopefully I can have some of these things fixed.