Help w not going into contact...kinda long, sorry!
I am SOOO frustrated!
We have a great opportunity with a recently aquired horse, actually, pony. We do eventing, and by happenstance, stumbled onto a freak of a pony, who is a jumping fool.
We have had him working, for about four months. Background, he was purchased by an amateur, off craigslist. I dont think he was very trained. She had him three years. He is currently 7. She was kinda one of those girls who dabbles in everything, has fun, etc. but had no dressage expierance at all.
He is just 14.1, has no neck to begin with, but when we got him, his only method of carriage in the head was very short, head on verticle, grouchy butt. He wouldnt go down even on a loose rein.
Well, thru a TON of walking, we finally have him walking freely, on the buckle, if we take contact, he bunches back up.
Trot, never going happen. He sets his head, and WILL not deviate.
First, we have taken to lunging in a de gough. He will, quite snarlish, put his head down, and I sppose, we have seen a fraction of an inch longer neck....I guess. Granted, not been very long.
She has tried a longer rein, with a lot of forward aids, he canters off. She takes contact to stop the canter, he balls back up.
She did a clinic with a big name dressage person...he had her hold both hands way out, short, drive, shift the jaw a bit, and generally push, till he gave. It wasnt pretty, and I dunno, just, seems like in end may make it worse, though he did go into contact after twenty minutes of this.
I have her doing lot circles, using an opening inside hand.....occasionally we get a bit longer neck. Not sure why, is he just bored? Its extremely inconsistant. The weather may have just as much effect.
IE nothing seems to be consistantly working. Are we fighting a losing battle?
Today we scored a 52, a 52! In her dressage phase. Short neck was a commn comment. The test seemed rushed, but well, he had a nicer neck then usual. So, sitting her really wanting to cry, conformationally not much neck as it is.
If you have any suggestions!! Also recommendations for a GOOD dressage trainer in Florida? I am really sad that she got a 52. I think much more and it will be over. She, daughter, works so hard for this, to be throughly troussed.....sigh!! HELP!
I'd say without seeing him go you need to get him to open his jaw and loosen throughout. What you go into a trot on the buckle what does he do? If you trot and take a little contact, such as long and low, does he bunch up then into a set frame that he has been taught?
I'd probably work on a long contact in all gaits. Asking for pushing from behind and forward and not mess with his head at all. Let him find where the contact is very low and long. Lunging in longer side reins and shorten a bit at a time probably as well so he can learn to follow a steady contact without rider hand interference at first. I'd flex him on the longer rein in the jaw. Which i mean I'd ask for Him to follow my contact inside bend to outside bend without until he relaxes and just follows and doesn't pull or block my hand.
Horses aren't our whole life, but makes our life whole
When trotting on bucle: he puts himself back in frame, then bolts. Any, and I mean any contact and he balls up. To date, pretty much anything we try tends to make him worse instead of better. Sad thing is...on the lunge, he just floats. Also, teeth, chiro, all done. In one of our tests, it asks to put hands forward to test for self carriage. Nope, hands forward, stays same place.
And as for push from behind....he way pushes! His canter is so uphill! Prolly saying this wrong, but his canter can get so uphill, so sitty, its almost like he is rearing. Also, this pony, ca, does, regularily, clear five foot jumping. Think how much push thats takng.
Oye I'd say for sure. He has been trained to carry himself this way and sounds like it maybe a mess to fix. I'll let more cothers that's have more experience with this issue try and help. I've never had to deal with this problem so I'd be interested to see how they would deal with it. I didn't realize he was that bad that he on a loose rein will frame himself and bolt. Good luck with him sounds like an amazing nice pony. Hope you can get it worked out.
Horses aren't our whole life, but makes our life whole
Thanks Rabicon. Me too. I dont know if someone tied his head down, or what, but in 30 years, never have seen such a case. He will lunge all day just as nice as. You please. Add a rider! Maybe i should lunge him with her on but still in side reins.........have to try that. Interesting to see others thoughts. Usually its just going more forward......
well... its pretty hard to comment without some video, but i give some general info. the first thing pony needs to learn in even rhythm, working into even contact then bended lines etc. in the bended lines make sure that the contact stay even and that he flexes a bit to the inside. the flexion is important as well as the correct bending because these are what will help him reach for the bit.
so at first dont worry about where his head and neck are - just work on the basics of forward (not running!) rhythm, bend and even contact. then *slowly* over time see if you can get him to put his nose out a tiny bit at a time... try to get a stretchy feel - but under no circumstances let the reins loop or go slack - always keep a feel.
it is not too hard to correct, but it does take some times and feel to do so. do you have a good local dressage trainer you can go to?
i would worry a de gogue would only confirm the habit - not help.
Are you using a de gogue (with the extra piece that comes back from the bit) or a chambon?
Is it possible that he won't reach forward under saddle because he isn't strong enough to lift his back under the rider's weight, or because there is a saddle issue?
I am NO expert, but we have a couple here that like to curl and I can only push them out if I stay off the tack. Maybe some lunging in a chambon over cavaletti for strength, then? I also try move them laterally and stay away from being "straight".
I've also had good luck with my guy (who does not like/trust the bit) with both the Sprenger Duo bit and the double-jointed Happy Mouth. They're so mild that they cover up for a lot of my lack of skill and force me to ride more from my seat and leg.
BTW, I've seen your picture of him jumping, and he is AMAZING. Good luck!
If I understand the problem correctly, I would start lunging him in a vienna rein set up and ride with draw reins.
You have to work on lateral suppleness because his (no) neck is probably as stiff as a board! Work on flexions, one rein at the time. At walk/trot. Make sure his nose follows the rein with big opening reins. Be soft and do big/long movements and wait until he gives, even just a little bit. Circles circles circles.
The goal is to teach him to accept and follow the contact of one rein at the time.
It is easier to re-train the inside rein and than come back eventually with more even contact from the outside rein.
One I had to retrain was so invert I had his ears in my face...A lippizaner...
It took a few good months to come from hollow to straight to round back.
Reschooling is always harder--particularly with a less than perfect rider.
Undoubtedly, the pony's neck is on upside down, and all that stiff strong hypertrophied muscle under the neck will have to go away before you will get correct contact easily. Otherwise, the muscle memory will just take the neck back to the same place. The pony has also learned to balance itself with a rider in this position, so if you change its balance it may get kind of panicky.
If the pony goes nicely on the longe, then you need to find a way to carry that over in the saddle. As a another poster asked, I'm not sure whether you are using a chambon or a degogue. A chambon is for longeing only, but you can ride with a degogue. Have you tried that? Or as you mentioned yourself, start longeing with a rider aboard to show the pony the correct way to balance with a rider.
Once they get it, they usually find out that it is easier to balance with the neck extended, particularly on turns. Try spiraling in and out on the longe, with and without the rider aboard. Make sure that the pony's inside hind leg is stepping up underneath its body and that it is swinging its rib cage out away from the inside.
Part of what might be going wonky with a rider up is that there is just not enough activity behind. When you have a longe whip, you can make the pony use itself behind. Use this when transitioning to going in a circle and spiraling with a rider aboard as well as see if you get a better result.
Good luck. This is going to take a while.
"Against stupidity the gods themselves contend in vain" ~Friedrich Schiller
I suspect that the slightly longer neck you get sometimes when circling with an opening rein, is because he occasionally steps under with his inside hind.
I think, at this point, you need to go with a light to almost no contact, and start focusing on what his back end is doing. It takes a strong well balanced rider to ask for the hind legs to engage. Get him to start reaching in and under with his inside hind legs on circles of all sizes. Make sure the circles are accurate and that the hind end is not swinging out. This last part is critical. Don't worry where the head is. It almost has to come down for balance eventually.
Leave work on contact to the longe line.
Some riders change their horse, they change their saddle, they change their teacher; they never change themselves.
Without actually seeing the pony or at least a video of the pony ..... unless the pony is consistently ridden by a really top notch rider it is going to be tough to show this pony the correct way of going. Once the entire framework has been trained incorrectly their muscles have developed that way. The least painful method for the pony is to give it a year or two of time off (time off from anything that remotely resembles "training" and NO leverage gadgets or bizarre bits), maybe with trail riding on a loose rein.
To really reschool a pony like this, the rider needs to have an Independent Seat and quite a bit of knowledge and compassion goes a long way .... that is if one wants to at least end up with a pony that has regained trust.
So, who are the instructors in Florida that have a classical background, an excellent seat and hands, someone who can teach why the training scale actually works and why the pony has become 'distraught' in the first place?
If he does not go to the contact on his own, bring the contact to him.
Put the contact on. If he balls up, keep it on. Does balling up get him anywhere? No, contact is still on. If he goes liike a curly Q as a result, oh well. He has learned the release comes from balling up, because when he does I suspect your throw your reins forward and say, "Here! Here's room!" Don't fall for it. Ride him around like a curly Q if that's what needs to happen to keep some contact on him and wait until he tugs on the rein to say "Hey, let me out!" When he asks to be let out by tugging on the rein give him half an inch. If he stops filling out that half inch and thus lightens the feel of the rein on your elbows, take the half inch back and he can go be a curly Q until he says "Let me out!"
He does not get any more rein from you than he will fill up.
He can experience progressively lighter contact as he lengthens his neck or progressively firmer contact as he shortens it.
Turn on the forehand in motion is a good way to introduce it.
When trotting on buckle: he puts himself back in frame, then bolts. Any, and I mean any contact and he balls up.
1. Don't ever lower your hands. Keep them up and working on the corners of his mouth, much like you would to "lift the shoulders" approaching a fence.
2. When you ask him to come into contact, start by thinking of squeezing a sponge with your inside leg, just below the knee. then just barely get a feel for a connection to your kidney with the feel of your outside rein. Then, swing open the inside rein like opening a door, then up, then back in to correct position. All those should happen in 1 stride once he gets it, but may take 4-5 strides while familiarizing him with the fact you aren't going to grab his face and kick on.
3. If you are met with any bridle resistance, leg yield and REALLY focus on your rhythm in the leg yield. one thing that was said at a clinic I was just at is most bridle issues are actually leg acceptance issues. so go after the leg acceptance and the bridle will come. I literally watched a horse that was so flippy hippy dippy in the bridle he was rein lame and in moments in two different gaits from front to back. A few times down the long side in leg yield and suddenly he was quiet in the bridle and connected.
You've got some great advice here, and I want to add my own experience.
I started half-leasing a mare about 3.5 years ago. My gosh, would she fuss about my hands. Head tossing, then rooting, then grabbing the bit and going wherever the heck she felt like. If I tried to keep her "in contact" and push her forward, she'd ball up and eventually we'd get bucking and kicking out.
So what did my trainer have me do? Nothing fancy, just ride in balance, keep my hands VERY steady, and ignore shenanigans. The more "boring" I got, the nicer she went. Definitely made me develop my seat and core a lot more. It took a very long time for me to see progress, but I am in my 30's and I can only ride 2-3 times/week, so YMMV. I try to get lessons once every couple of weeks to make sure I'm still on the right track. So definitely find a good trainer to help!
My mare had a history of being defensive about contact, so I thought I was being nice in constantly giving her rein. Turns out I was pissing her off! She wanted contact, and she wanted it consistently. As long as I didn't change things around on her, she was happier. So she got less defensive, I got more confident that I wasn't hurting her or hanging on her mouth, and we continue to improve.
Just today, in fact, we were riding in a lesson and I thought I felt her drop behind the contact during some nice trot work. I thought "Oh no! I've pissed her off and she's curling up!" Said something to that effect to my trainer who told me "Actually, she's moving rounder and she's trying to find her balance in this new way of going. Your job is to help her, so shorten up your reins, half halt, and keep the bit steady for her."
If I were a cartoon, the light bulb would have come on over my head right then. Suddenly I really understood the purpose of steady contact! A small victory, I know, but boy it made me happy.