I am just getting underway with my super cute new greenbean Lipizzan mare. She's so willing and sweet and such an awesome mover.
We are slowly working our way up the training scale, and our first little road block is some intense stiffness and rushing at the trot. She is very fluid and relaxed and reaches into the contact at the walk, and surprisingly balanced at the canter.
She has a very high head set (like a friesan) with an extremely muscular neck. The problem, I think, is that the majority of her neck muscling is in the bottom of her neck. She is built like a pulling horse...when she goes into her trot she SPRINGS along I think she uses her neck muscles to balance herself at the trot.
So the issue...we will be in a nice, relaxed, swinging walk...we go into the trot and she immediately jets into warp speed under neck muscles engaged...giving me a very pretty...but verrryyy tense trot. She resists lateral flexion and even shakes her head...because i think it is just sooo hard for her. She accepts contact but doesn't reach for it. She will just flex her chin in with her neck still way up in the air.
My question is: i've never ridden a horse with this much tension before, and i'm having trouble relaxing her. She struggles doing even large circles because she's so stiff and bending is a real struggle. How can I begin to help supple her and re-build that upside down neck?
I just really want her to streettchhh...and she's not following my steady contact. My suspicion is that the tempo needs to be slowed, but she reaches so nicely under herself in the fast, forward trot...and in photos she looks brilliant...but the feel doesn't match the look....she is just posing and not releasing her back.
It is definitely a balance issue but she needs to build her strength to balance correctly. If she cannot stretch down on the longe line yet, she may need to go back and do some work there first. Clearly you need to get her under neck muscle to atrophy and she needs to develop a top line. This is hard to do if she keeps taking the same habitual posture in the trot. So you might want to do some work on the longe using a vienna (sliding) longe rein to encourage her to lengthen her neck and lift her back. Spiraling in and out on the longe helps to make this happen.
Once you have broken her habitual pattern of movement and posture on the longe, it will be easier for her to gain the strength and balance necessary for a rider.
"Against stupidity the gods themselves contend in vain" ~Friedrich Schiller
Couldn't agree more about needing my trainer. She is coming out in the beginning of December...but money is a bit tight for us at the moment so unfortunately until after the holidays I'm stuck without much in the way of instruction . I lunge her before every ride...she actually works better in donut side reins then Vienna reins and will somewhat stretch (resists Vienna reins). She also does well with no side reins, but with me asking her to spiral out on the lunge while asking for flexion pushing her out on the circle....she will reach fdo without any side reins at all...from the act of moving out on the circle...think I actually just had a lightbulb moment...spiral circles under saddle will probably help
Couldn't agree more about needing my trainer. She is coming out in the beginning of December...<snip> I lunge her before every ride...
Take your time
When your trainer arrives, do just lunge lessons - spend 4-6 weeks correcting her muscling/carriage on the lunge (it's unparalelled as you can watch her every move), then start back under saddle with your trainer watching you & her
You can do alot of ground work, hand-walking her up/down/angleways/sideways on hills/slopes, over poles, off property (use this an an excellent time to desensitize her to dogs & joggers & cyclists & whatever comes your way), explore some agility training (if you think you'll be bored not riding) ...
The pix you posted does not show a horse which is too high but rather too closed (in the throat latch). The neck should be rather high (mouth around the point of the hip), but the horse free to meet the hand. Longitudinal flexion (aka being on the bit) comes later (and should rarely be 'at the vertical).
When riding a greenie the rider MUST sustain the proper tempo, SPEED is the ENEMY of impulsion, and that is not only a problem for joints (hocks) but also for balance. The horse contracts rather than stays open/into the hand. It is a fine line finding the right tempo. Active enough that the horse in motion stays in motion without learning to stop/lessen (w/o repeated actions of the leg), yet slow enough to allow a swinging back/relaxation.
So the RIDER must POST SLOWER to allow the proper tempo. When you do that the horse WILL open the throatlatch (when you lunge COUNT) and then do that SAME TEMPO when you are riding.
Also, realize that although the horse can relax in the walk (an earthbound gait) does not mean they will do so in the other gaits, exp the trot. And, if you follow the training scale it is lateral suppleness (ie large circles at this point) which allows for the horse to 'come into the outside rein'. And when that happens it is the beginning bit acceptance (rather than precipitious longitudinal flexion to the vertical or shortened). And ONLY from that will the horse 'chew the reins from the hand'/extend the neck (aka 'stretch'). The building of the these topline muscles (in front of the shoulder and the ones that 'hold the saddle' (behind the scapula) should EASILY appear within the first three months if the riding is correct.
Horses will ALWAYS use the neck as a 'balancing rod', it is up to the rider to understand how what they do (in training) effects the entire horse.
HOW are you asking for lateral flexibility (merely lifting the inside rein a inch? or turning the 'key in the lock' by turning the thumb out? or by making closed hand? or by an opening rein (early on) OR is it only when the horse is too compressed?)?
Have you started 'only' by riding whole arena with very shallow corners (three lightly bending strides)? Large circles? Realize if the horse is over tempo they WILL have problem, fall over the outside shoulder, etc.
I do not see an upside down neck at all. Go back to riding whole arena, slow your posting tempo (do not follow her, but set the tempo according to that which allowed fdo while lungeing). Esp a growing horse may lose its balance day to day.
When lunging first do so w/o sr until the horse seeks fdo. When using s.r. use them (regular ones set high enough/not low/no vienna reins (which are meant for work in hand for piaffe)) in TROT only. Then again, stretching w/o them at the end.
The training scale is: rhythm (pue gaits/steady tempo/which allows relaxation (a swinging back); suppleness (lateral flexibility allows for eventual longitudinal flexion); contact (flexion according to the level); impulsion (active lifting and placing of the hindlegs); straightness (ability to control/place the shoulders); and collection (amplitude).
Do you do any work in hand?
Also, I would move the saddle slightly back and would carry the hands a little higher as well.
Last edited by ideayoda; Nov. 19, 2012 at 01:36 PM.
Reason: forgot something
Lunging is great, but i will say when you ride her don't ask for so much contact. In the photo she seems to be hollowing in her back so you can see she is tense. I'd ask for a long and low frame, think hunter type to help start building the correct muscling and getting her to relax. Overtime you can pick her up more and more. Right now work on the forward into a nice long rein with a light contact and not ask for a 1st level frame, more a intro level.
Horses aren't our whole life, but makes our life whole
From the picture I would already say to put your hands more forward and make sure you are not interupting the strides by "keeping" like you would a big forward mover. Soft hands but closer towards the mouth while warming up if that head stays up. Its ok to go a little wide and down to educate but maintain your own seat at the same time.
Its okay to sit a bit more "interested" in stretching IMO. If you sit really posturific it could be a bit backwards in the hand/seat if the horse doesnt understand longer in front of the saddle connection.
Many will argue here but thats what I see good trainers doing with these horses so its my own idea of correct to start Mine is currently riding an Andy mare and she insisted upon a longer neck but not by throwing the reins at her but shorter contact in warmup until the horse is really starting to stretch down then letting them out and sitting straighter.