Retraining a Quarter Horse from AQHA HUS to Open HUS
After not riding for many years, I am looking to get a horse again to show in local circuits. I am leaning toward a Quarter Horse because they are pretty much bomb proof. Some of the ones I am leaning toward are really nice movers and have plenty of step, but carry themselves like a AQHA HUS. This seems to be only when a rider is on them. When they are turned out they carry their head normally. How do you retrain them to be not so downhill? Their conformation is fine in that they are not butt high, but as soon as a rider gets on them, the head goes down.
The Great White North, where we get taxed out the wazoo
I think a lot go in kimberwicke type bits which with the curb seems to encourage this head down thing which seems to be what wins. Probably allowing it to go forward into a soft hand with a snaffle type- I'd try a french link for starters- might get them up and going.
I have a QH mare that I dabble in a bit of everything. I cannot recommend the AQHA enough for the way they inform their members, and many of the hunter style quarter horses carry a large percentage of TB blood, sometimes well over 75% (my mare is about 20%). She has no problem going in whatever "frame" I want her in, if you wish to use that word. What is more of a problem is retraining the horse to go on contact and to be light in front and drive from behind. Most of these horses are pulled down in front, for lack of a better term, and do not know much lateral work or collection. There are a few horses who can do QH HUS and drive from behind with an elevated front end, but the vast majority of the low-level horses drag themselves around, so getting them to drive from behind can be a bit difficult at first. Lots of rollbacks and cavaletti, and hills.
Also pay attention to what sort of bits these horses have used; some go in plain snaffles, some in corkscrews or double twisted wires or dees with hooks and any variation of mouthpieces, and the riders do not always have nice hands. QH people do not necessarily want contact. My mare has a "tougher" mouth, with a tendency to root or lean on me, because she knows just how big her noggin is. But I would not ride her in anything stronger than a myler dee with hooks; it has minimal leverage and she loves it the best for its stability, but gives me enough lift to keep her from dragging me onto her neck. Anything stronger and she curls. She will tolerate a snaffle with dropped noseband, but she does not like it too much and will begin to lean. She does like a correction mouth full cheek snaffle almost as much as the myler (no leverage, just a jointed port). With proper training, most will be able to go in almost anything (as it is with most horses). Also, nothing beats a QH-trained stop - my mare almost sent me over her ears a couple of times! Do not let that stop go, it really comes in handy!
These horses carry their heads low because they were trained that way, and it is easy for them. They will tend to lean or go behind the bit, but being ridden forward by a rider with nice hands will make a world of difference. I have found that my mare responds well to being ridden off of my seat, with some support from my hands to confirm a bend, half halt, or change in direction. Many of these horses are smart and willing; they have to be. Good luck with whichever one you choose! I love mine, despite her bad habits ;p .
Oh boy, this is a little pet peeve of mine, and a major topic of discussion in my household and at the trainers right now. A little background about me. I started out riding and mainly ride QHs, and did the All-around as a novice, then specialized in HUS for a while, then went back to all-around. Every QH I have owned has jumped a bit, but never specialized in it when I was younger. About 4 years ago I decided I wanted to really jump and started riding with a USEF trainer who was actually very happy with my seat, soft hands, and ability to do lateral work on the flat. She improved all of those and worked with me over fences.
Now, I have a 5yo that I started myself as a baby, she shows both USEF and QH and mainly does O/F with some flat work as well. She adjusts her frame depending on what I ask for. She has points in QH HUS classes, but in the baby greens she is still undefeated in the hack. She just moves better that way, and I really wish I could show her QH HUS that way but I can't. But she will go the "qh way" if asked. Just not quite as pretty, but better than most horses.
When trying to remake a QH HUS to an o/f horse, I would literally throw them away for a while. Raise up in a half seat when cantering and ask them to move out. A lot of the horses won't move out, and will have to learn how to. Get them to depend on their own body instead of your hands to lean on (hence throwing them away). Do some lateral movement, shoulder in esp because that is a movement they will have no idea about and they will have to elevate the front end to do sucessfully. Most horses will two track, but will be over bent so just a warning. Do lots of cavaletti to elevate them up. Also, make sure and raise your own hands up. Most QH people ride with their hands WAY TOO LOW, like below the withers low. If you raise your hands up, if the horse know what to do with contact, hopefully the head and neck will follow.
I'll see what else I can think of. I've got to go for a bit but I'll let you know if I come up with something else, and feel free to ask questions.
Last edited by sandsarita; Oct. 23, 2012 at 10:29 PM.
I've been working with an HUS trained QH for almost a year now. Coming from open hunterland, his intolerance for contact was infuriating at first. His owner still actively shows him on the AQHA circuit, so I couldn't just up and retrain him, but he and I have reached a compromise in terms of contact, and his movement is that much better for it. I found him very willing and workable, but you just have to reintroduce contact very slowly. Lots of hill work, roll backs, lateral (IME, they know almost nothing about lateral movements), etc. They're sweet, willing horses. I wouldn't hesitate to snap a promising one up.
I love a nice QH. I consider the breed to be the best "go-to" entry level horse and then have the ability to move up. I once bought a stunning, 16.2h, dark liver chestnut with flaxen mane and tail and all the chrome!! He was a champion in AQHA WP and HUS. I couldn't bear to see that lovely big horse crawling along with his nose in the dirt. We put him in a snaffle bit and did a lot of trail riding with a big TB buddy and flat work in an open field. At first when my TB was flat footed walking the QH could lope along side. We started popping him over logs and small jumps - a shock at first because he didn't even see them until they were under his nose!! Long story short...he became a delightfully forward, soft moving hunter and even foxhunted before I sold him. The key...in my opinion...is to use a mild bit and not touch their mouth. The WP people "bump" their reins to signal the horse to drop his head...so leave his mouth alone!!
I would say that it really depends on where the horse comes from and what you will get in regards to contact. I guess I was lucky in that my first true HUS trainer really wanted contact with the horses mouth, similar to what my USEF trainer wanted, just in a different frame. But the same concept of feeling 5 to 10 lbs of weight in each hand. I know my current QH trainer, who also does o/f and USEF events, has had to remake numerous horses that have come into her barn to accept contact, because alot of them won't. Alot of trainers to the snatch, snatch, and release, and repeat again. It will just really depend on where the horse comes from to what you get. Some of the better trainers want that contact, but often you will be paying more money for those horses as well. But alot do take retraining. There is a reason why I bought an unbroke prospect over some of the green broke horses - she had no training to undo! Plus, there was something about her that just screamed hunter.
I purchased a double reg QH and breeding stock paint gelding 4 years ago. The trainer claimed he did not know what breed he was. The horse was built and looked like a huge dutch warmblood and I did not really care what he was just knew he would be a nice little project and might be able to get my kid some experience moving off the ponies in a year or so. 2 months later I found out he was a QH that had been slated for english Pleasure and HUS in the AQHA world. He has turned into an AMAZING hunter. And has matured into way more than I ever could have imagine. He jumps the hell out of the jumps and will start doing 1st years and Juniors this year. He has gotten in the ring with me this year as my 3'3 A/O Hunter and has rocked the world. He is kind, easy going and will out jump most of the warmbloods he comes up against. He walks into any ring and jumps around with no schooling, a very short lunge and no extra-curricular "prep". I love the breed.
When I got him he wanted to go in that head down, pitched forward way. I used a pair of draws put to the billets on either side and not down between his legs. also used a pessoa lunging rig in the same matter. He responded great and built his topline quickly to carry himself in our USEF hunter manner. Then lots of trotting and cantering ground poles to elevate and lengthen his step (although, the step was naturally long).
We now have no problem with him. The one thing I did like is the western folks already had a tune on him so he is always light on the hands. good luck. !
Right now I am riding my trainer's QH, he goes the exact same way as described. As long as you are light with your hands and support with your leg he will do anything you ask. He really prefers to be guided rather than using a very direct rein, but he is light in my hand and carries himself well. As long as you stay soft in your hand he is an absolute blast! Can't trade anything for that QH brain, always pleasant and willing. You can see Oscar and I doing our first derby class this past weekend in my provile pic
Yay for you to go the QH route! I love my APHA gelding
This is also a hot topic in my household because DH and the inlaws are hardcore WP and halter folks and I often get the comment "He looks great, but isn't his head too high?"
What I have found to work may go against what some people think, but it has worked for me. An AQHA or APHA HUS horse will currently be used to reins only meaning one thing - "Put your head down now!" So what I do to start the retraining is ride with very little contact and work on pushing them forward and getting them to use their hind end.
Once the horse is going nicely and softly, I'll reintroduce contact so that whenever I touch the reins the horse doesn't nose dive. It's worked for me in the few horses I have worked with for the ranch.
Raised solid caveletti spaced correctly and gradually lengthened in distance and added in number
Correctly ridden hill work
Low bounces (add to the number gradually)
I had a little QH mare that I retrained by doing lots of this! She was built to always go slightly downhill but as she got used to our way of riding she has gradually lightened up and raised her head (slightly) We also worked on lots and lots of transitions, focusing on not trying to pull up the head but getting her to use her hind end properly. We also ended up using a full cheek ported bit which she absolutely loves as it gave her more room for her tongue.
I did end up winning a lot on her (at AA rated shows) but it was always a challange to keep her canter at a good stride (she's only 15.1 and as long as I kept a nice forward pace we never had issues with any lines)! She's now a lesson horse and loves it......I love a good QH, they have great minds and are so comfortable to sit trot too!
Go Ahead: This is a dare, not permission. Don't Do It!
With the couple QH's I have owned or leased, it was a matter of really letting them unwind from that low headset and then building in proper contact.
Lateral work is your friend (also I love walking turn on the haunches), and I also recommend getting out in the field or on the hills. This can really encourage forward, and once you have the horse pushing forward back to front, then you can start building more efficient, uphill, functional collection. Admittedly, I think the only reason one of my mares was forward is because she found something new to be terrified of every three minutes, but it worked!
and DO experiment with bits. Both QH mares I rode had tough but not bad mouths. One rode in a slow twist copper and the other in a smooth corkscrew. I really do like copper bits or sweet iron since the horse gets a better, more positive association with the bit, particularly after some of the contraptions that some (not all) QH trainers apply.
Also check the brakes--both of mine had been trained that "whoa," no matter how loud you said it, meant stop dead in your tracks. While this is an awesome safety button, it did mean re-thinking and re-training half halts.