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Need more forward momentum

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  • Need more forward momentum

    I have recently started dressage lessons and am quite enjoying it. However, I am having one issue I cannot solve. When I have a contact and start working on bending, my horse immediately slows down to a very slow pace. My leg seems to do very little. She goes well off of my leg in every other situation.

    I have used a dressage whip in the past, which was my coach's suggestion, but I find my horse is too forward when I ride with one.

    Does anyone have any suggestions on how to get her moving more forward while I have contact?

    Update on page three!
    Last edited by Flamboyant; Mar. 29, 2008, 12:19 PM.
    www.offthewalldesigns.ca

  • #2
    Just throwing out a few possibilities -

    (1) are you possibly inhibiting her when you ask for contact? ie leaning forward, or blocking with your seat, or something similar? Could there be something different about your position?

    (2) you say this occurs when you ask for bending. Is it possibly a balance issue? If your mare (for example) is not very supple in her shoulders, she will have to slow down to maintain her balance.

    Forward should come from behind, and that takes strength, the bending requires suppleness. Is it more difficult on one side? That may help you to decide where the problem is. And as far as too forward - the idea, I think, is to "gather up" and focus the forward energy. Think of it as being contained and recycled behind as opposed to shooting out the front end.
    www.specialhorses.org
    a 501(c)3 organization helping 501(c)3 equine rescues

    Comment


    • #3
      (1) are you possibly inhibiting her when you ask for contact? ie leaning forward, or blocking with your seat, or something similar? Could there be something different about your position?
      I think so too. I bet your blocking her with the inside rein.
      www.spindletopfarm.net
      Home of Puerto D'Azur - 1998 NA 100 Day Test Champion
      "Charcter is much easier kept than recovered"

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      • #4
        I am very talented. I can block with more than just the inside rein!
        www.specialhorses.org
        a 501(c)3 organization helping 501(c)3 equine rescues

        Comment

        • Original Poster

          #5
          Originally posted by DressageGeek "Ribbon Ho" View Post
          Just throwing out a few possibilities -

          (1) are you possibly inhibiting her when you ask for contact? ie leaning forward, or blocking with your seat, or something similar? Could there be something different about your position?

          (2) you say this occurs when you ask for bending. Is it possibly a balance issue? If your mare (for example) is not very supple in her shoulders, she will have to slow down to maintain her balance.

          Forward should come from behind, and that takes strength, the bending requires suppleness. Is it more difficult on one side? That may help you to decide where the problem is. And as far as too forward - the idea, I think, is to "gather up" and focus the forward energy. Think of it as being contained and recycled behind as opposed to shooting out the front end.
          Of course, it could be me as I have not seen myself ride (I probably should try to get someone to video me, to see what is going on).

          It possibly could also be balance for my horse. What exercises could I do to improve her balance?

          She has had two months off and has only been in work for the last two weeks, so I wondered if it was because she wasn't as fit as she used to be, until I remembered I had the exact same problem (actually I have always had this problem when I would take up any contact) with her before.

          She definitely identical on both sides.
          www.offthewalldesigns.ca

          Comment


          • #6
            Forward, I think, must come first, before contact. I think it is important to get the hind end moving well, articulating, and the back swinging freely. Especially in winter, when weather precludes working consistently, and the footing precludes my horse moving about easily (he's outside 24/7), I tend to warm up, under saddle, by letting him stretch his back and just asking for forward, with little or no contact.

            And they needn't be stiff or unsupple all over for there to be an issue - this is true for you as well. If you lock or tighten even just some of the fingers on one hand, you block everything.

            My trainer had an interesting exercise for me to try: on the ground, gently massage a part of the horse - say the croup - then "feel" the corresponding part in your body. I think this helps you to be more aware of the horse's body when in the saddle. And, funny as this might sound, don't think of yourself as a two legged rider astride a four legged horse. Feel that you are four legged. This helped me release my "poll" - it is amazing how much your horse mimics you. This is another reason why groundwork is so incredibly useful.
            www.specialhorses.org
            a 501(c)3 organization helping 501(c)3 equine rescues

            Comment


            • #7
              It is easier for a horse to shuffle & back off when they bend instead of using their whole body. You need to have a more elastic contact and be quicker to correct that backing-off in order to keep her forward while she bends.

              Think about driving a car (especially if you've ever had an old car without power steering). It's a lot easier to turn the wheel when you give it some gas. Same thing for the horse. Push her into a circle or bending line. Concentrate on the rhythm & thrust of the hind legs as you bend instead of concentrating on the bend.

              This is just part of your learning curve with dressage. Keep at it!
              "You become responsible, forever, for what you have tamed." - The Little Prince

              Comment


              • #8
                That's very good that you observe that and are eager to correct it.

                This is a very common problem.

                Just about every horse will slow down when the rider tries to work on bending and establishing that connection. Especially when it's a new thing it can be really hard for the rider to go forward and to keep bending and keep a contact.

                Most horses - MOST - haven't been ridden 'into a connection'. To them, 'connection means stop', you take up a contact with the reins, and they stop. And they KEEP thinking that in the circles and alot of their work...the rider really needs to urge them to go forward INTO the connection, and teach them, 'hey, it's alright, you can go!' Usually horses like it very much once they figure out it's ok. It's just that they've been taught any time someone touches their mouth they should stop.

                You aren't using enough leg, most likely. You're concentrating so much on doing bending and such, that you aren't riding forward enough with your leg.

                Try 'building a bridge', meaning make kind of a transition from 'no contact' to 'a little contact' for the moment, and 'a little bending'.

                Try this. Establish a very briskly forward posting trot, post on the inside diagonal so you can urge your horse forward more effectively. Take a very light, soft contact with the reins. Does he slow down - push him forward to the correct rhythm. Ride as large a circle as your arena allows - or ride around the arena - the whole arena, making very shallow, wide corners, not riding deep into the corners.

                Bend only by shortening your inside rein ONE INCH - just barely enough that you can BARELY see the shine of the horse's inside eye. Just a bit of it, you should not see his whole eye - that's too much bend.

                Now GO! Go REALLY forward. More than you might think you should - urge the horse out to the bit and urge him to take a contact, and when he does, say 'good boy!' and go on- more! Do that for just a few minutes, and then quit, and walk on a loose rein, encouraging your horse to put his head down and really stretch the reins, EVEN if he pulls on the reins.

                Most people - MOST - they slow down on circles, though most people after a while, get so they don't slow down on large circles, only smaller ones - the goal is to keep the same tempo, connection and forward activity on any figure - large circle, small circle, straight, corner, etc.

                Comment


                • #9
                  slc2 - great post!!! It's such a hard concept for me, that there's flow to the aids, not that you give an aid, stop, start. Riding the hind end through so that your horse brings your hands and his mouth to you - what a wonderful feeling when it happens, but so opposite what so many of us do!
                  www.specialhorses.org
                  a 501(c)3 organization helping 501(c)3 equine rescues

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Kudos to you for realizing this and fixing it now. This is really the basis for doing dressage correctly for many levels to come, so you are very smart to really fix it right now. You already have a lot of good suggestions. I often tell people to think of asking the horse to take a bigger step with every stride; for some reason, thinking of continually increasing the horse's stride tends to make you push the horse for forward without rushing, and to do it continuously. Working on these concepts outside of the ring sometimes helps, too, because both you and the horse tend to "think" more forward outside of an arena.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      You say that when you use the dressage whip she is 'too forward'
                      Are you comfortable with the feeling of impulsion when she is really using her rear and pushing off every stride?
                      If you are not totally comfortable with the energy then get comfortable with it first. Encourage her to go forward, push, use her rear and forget about bending. Work on contact and connection with forward so she understands what you want and you are comfortable with the feeling.
                      Then start asking for bend.
                      An exercise that I learned to keep the motor running while you are bending or turning or whatever is to do big loopy serpentines rather than work on a circle. Concentrate on straight and forward when you are preparing to change the bend in anticipation of the turn. If you feel a surge of impulsion at that point then she is off balance when bending and/or turning and when she regains her balance at that point she can use her rear better. When you can do the loopy turns and changes of direction without feeling like she is stalling and starting and sputtering then you are keeping her balanced. Then you can move on.
                      I used to work around the jumps in the arena. Big circle here, little circle there, zigzag around another jump, long straight line. It taught me what he felt like when he was balanced, or off balance and showed me when I was bending his neck instead of his body and what that did to his balance.
                      Often on a circle the balance just gets worse and worse as they tip in and the engine just dies.
                      Nina's Story
                      Epona Comm on FB

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Well, that's the problem.

                        'Going forward' from the whip isn't impulsion. Going fast isn't impulsion.

                        I understand that many people new to dressage may be afraid of what is really just a 'working trot', a bit more active and faster than the ordinary trot a relaxed, unfresh horse offers on his own. It can be quite a shock after a western jog and lope or a hunt seat trot with a 'daisy cutter' action and a long low stride.

                        And I understand they may feel uncomfortable if they just sense the horse is 'falling in' when turning or scurrying along taking quick, short strides into the ground that may seem very fast and out of control. I think most beginners would be surprisingly comfortable at a canter or gallop if the horse was balanced, but they don't know how to balance the horse, and they're unlikely to be on a horse that balances itself or is so schooled that it balances itself for even part of the ride (that sort isn't usually a school horse). All this is unlikely to be correct unless the student is sitting on a longe horse being handled by a very skilled trainer.

                        It's unlikely the horse will be balanced and straight enough to do impulsion in most cases with a beginner rider. It's not realistic to expect that.

                        And for a beginner, I mean someone new to dressage, generating impulsion isn't something they're going to be doing for a long time. Not real impulsion, which is harnessed energy, contained energy, all that wanting to go forward meeting an educated hand, and half halts.

                        It involves a whole big huge slice of the training pyramid, something it's not fair to expect someone to create right away.

                        Impulsion involves a great deal of tuning of the aids and coordination of the aids, and a super position on the rider - stable and still, going with the motion yet not interfering with the balance. And it involves a trained horse - if I understand right, the OP's own horse isn't trained in dressage, and she goes home and rides it after a dressage lesson, and tries to duplicate what she felt in the lessons - is that right, OP?

                        In that case, it's quite likely that the horse simply IS too fast when she picks up a whip. Many horses associate whips with 'you better move quick and be nervous!' rather than it being an encouragement or reinforcement for a leg aid.

                        And in most cases, it's going to be a darn long time before the rider can create activity and meet it with a hand, create half halts and channel that into impulsion!

                        The fundamental principle here is you can't create impulsion with a whip. You can create activity, but you can't create impulsion.

                        Impulsion is created by creating activity and MEETING it with the hand. Making half halts and recycling that energy. The 'circle of the aids' is no baloney. It's real.

                        At times with impulsion, the horse has a really very frank 'contact', it at times can be quite strong, but it's a flexible giving connection within that strongness, and it's not that the horse is leaning on the bit for balance, he's just that good at going to the bit and stepping both his hind legs into the bit.

                        What a beginner does in his lessons, is to work to have a little contact with the bit, and some activity - a marching, active gait in which the legs are lifted clearly from the ground, the joints of the hock and knee are bent and straightened freely and smoothly, and the horse happily and clearly accepts the bit, taking a contact on both reins, bending left when circling left, bending right when going right. And if the new rider can make all that happen, they need to get a Nobel Peace Prize! It's enough expectation to just do that at first.

                        That's one of the big pieces of impulsion that has to be there, but it isn't impulsion...not quite....not yet. It's a darn good start, though. But that IS all one expects of a beginner at dressage.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Flamboyant View Post
                          I have used a dressage whip in the past, which was my coach's suggestion, but I find my horse is too forward when I ride with one.
                          Is she too forward? Is there such a thing as too forward? Are you just not used to what forward really is? I can tell you that coming from Hunter Land, *I* had no idea what forward really was! Or is she just rushing off her feet and going fast

                          Does anyone have any suggestions on how to get her moving more forward while I have contact?
                          I have been dealing with this with my WB gelding for a while now. It's a challenge. Part of how you deal with this will depend on your definition of "she's too forward with a whip". If she's just fast, then IMHO don't worry about the contact for now, but get her to accept you having the whip and moving off your leg first.

                          You will have to use a whip (or spurs, but whips are better for this IMHO) if she is slugging off your leg when you take contact. As others talked about, there are lots of ways your body can block her, but with my WB he has 2 lines of thought when allowed - hand = slow/stop, and leg = go, but getting the concept of hand = containment AND leg = go is what we're working on I use the whip...a LOT. He's getting it.
                          ______________________________
                          The CoTH CYA - please consult w/your veterinarian under any and all circumstances. - ET

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Moving off too fast from the whip is a desensitization problem in training. It is a different problem to correct. Myself, I would use that energy initially to correct the lack of forward, but the horse would be desensitized to carrying the whip within a ride or two. So it would be transitional to the proper aides only.

                            The quickest way to get your horse going properly? No one is going to teach you on the web in a thousand words what your coach can teach you in person in a few minutes at the beginning of each ride.

                            (As the OP says she is a beginner,) it might be very helpful to have your trainer or coach ride the horse for a few moments first to establish a balanced forward way of going, then have you get on so you get the feel. You are training the horse every moment you ride, so right now, you have trained her to go slower with contact and that is not easy for a beginner to correct, as you have discovered.

                            That is the fastest and best way I know of learning how to correct the problem on your own horse.

                            If you were learning in another country, a properly schooled horse would be used to teach you this. There are very few true school horses available on this side of the pond.
                            "The Threat of Internet Ignorance: ... we are witnessing the rise of an age of equestrian disinformation, one where a trusting public can graze on nonsense packaged to look like fact."-LRG-AF

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                            • #15
                              What an informative thread for me as well!

                              Now that I understand the difference - the "fast" is kind of falling out the front. I know, I'm a geek, but I try and carry this mental image from my old chem texts - the part where, in a reaction, the intermediates or products are at their most stable. In chem, that's "low energy," so for dressage I think of it as "containable, focused energy" - so that you could, in theory, go from a balanced halt straight into a balanced trot.
                              www.specialhorses.org
                              a 501(c)3 organization helping 501(c)3 equine rescues

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                Desnsitizing horse from whip - I don't think of it as desensitizing, so much as teaching the horse what the proper response to the whip is. Not run away, horse, but make energy, push harder with your hind legs.

                                Conservation of matter, I suppose it's really conservation of energy though, if no matter what you do, all you are doing is just shaping or channeling impulsion in different ways.

                                The key is not producing activity - anyone can do that. Yah horsey yah!

                                The key is capturing it. That is what makes it impulsion. Capturing it without destroying it(too much hand) or distorting it(making crooked)?

                                Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle sort of?

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  This is very common!!! Make sure you mentally and physically "get" what tempo is the correct pace for your horse. Get a portable metronome and set it to that pace. Videotape your lessons and see if you can tell what it looks like when he is forward vs lagging behind. So then you will have a clear understanding of the goal...How to keep this momentum?

                                  -NO NAGGING with the legs.
                                  -Keep a connection with the mouth that contains but does not block the energy.
                                  -keep the thighs loose and ankles supple to also keep the energy flowing
                                  -INSIST on prompt response to the leg and respect for the whip (sometimes you have to just do it and not worry about the horse. They need discipline that is fair and kind...as long as you are in a training program with a responsible coach you aren't going to be too mean to your horse.)
                                  -Work out any lingering tension in the arms and hands so you create a spot for the horse to be
                                  -Do not work on too many circles until you are really really forward and consistent in the tempo on the long-sides.
                                  -Give yourself time! Months! Years? It does really take a looooooong time to get this. Getting a good connection with proper energy is quite a hard thing to do.
                                  -Keep the horse strait but overall do not worry about the contact while you are establishing the "go button"...gradually you can introduce contact slowly.
                                  -Work on picking up the reins after a free walk so your horse doesn't go "WAHHHHH" and throw the head up. This will help your overall connection and get the horse to realize he can trust you.

                                  Comment

                                  • Original Poster

                                    #18
                                    Wow! There is definitely a lot of very useful information in this thread!

                                    Originally posted by slc2
                                    You aren't using enough leg, most likely. You're concentrating so much on doing bending and such, that you aren't riding forward enough with your leg.
                                    To be honest, I do not have enough strength to be using any more leg. My coach saw this and that is why she suggested the dressage whip. I spend the entire time squeezing/kicking trying so hard to ask my horse to move forward, I find it difficult to even concentrate on the bending.

                                    Originally posted by slc2 View Post
                                    Impulsion involves a great deal of tuning of the aids and coordination of the aids, and a super position on the rider - stable and still, going with the motion yet not interfering with the balance. And it involves a trained horse - if I understand right, the OP's own horse isn't trained in dressage, and she goes home and rides it after a dressage lesson, and tries to duplicate what she felt in the lessons - is that right, OP?
                                    My horse is definitely not a dressage horse. She has done hunter in the past with her last owner, and very little with me. I do not have lessons on a dressage horse, I have them on my own horse and a dressage coach comes out to me. This is partly making things a little more difficult, but I do not have a dressage barn in the area to even take lessons at.

                                    Originally posted by BarbB View Post
                                    You say that when you use the dressage whip she is 'too forward'
                                    Are you comfortable with the feeling of impulsion when she is really using her rear and pushing off every stride?
                                    Sorry, I should have been more clear. With a dressage whip, she gets a bit rushy. Transitions look horrible, especially the trot to canter, as she rushes into them. She does not settle at all (unless we are walking) the entire time I hold the dressage whip.

                                    Originally posted by slc2 View Post
                                    Most horses - MOST - haven't been ridden 'into a connection'. To them, 'connection means stop', you take up a contact with the reins, and they stop. And they KEEP thinking that in the circles and alot of their work...the rider really needs to urge them to go forward INTO the connection, and teach them, 'hey, it's alright, you can go!' Usually horses like it very much once they figure out it's ok. It's just that they've been taught any time someone touches their mouth they should stop.
                                    Yes, that is exactly it. My horse is very used to any pressure on the reins means slow down or stop. It is a whole new world to ask her to move forward with some pressure on the reins.

                                    Originally posted by CatOnLap View Post
                                    (As the OP says she is a beginner,) it might be very helpful to have your trainer or coach ride the horse for a few moments first to establish a balanced forward way of going, then have you get on so you get the feel. You are training the horse every moment you ride, so right now, you have trained her to go slower with contact and that is not easy for a beginner to correct, as you have discovered.
                                    That's actually definitely a good idea to try!
                                    www.offthewalldesigns.ca

                                    Comment


                                    • #19
                                      You have a problem. The instructor has said to use a whip, your legs aren't strong enough yet to go without, and you don't want to use a whip, because the horse feels too fast then.

                                      Look at it that way, and it's an unsolvable problem.

                                      And you'd have the same problem whether the trainer rides your horse or not.

                                      Soooo...How about looking at it a different way?

                                      Comment


                                      • #20
                                        Originally posted by Flamboyant View Post
                                        I have recently started dressage lessons and am quite enjoying it. However, I am having one issue I cannot solve. When I have a contact and start working on bending, my horse immediately slows down to a very slow pace. My leg seems to do very little. She goes well off of my leg in every other situation.

                                        I have used a dressage whip in the past, which was my coach's suggestion, but I find my horse is too forward when I ride with one.

                                        Does anyone have any suggestions on how to get her moving more forward while I have contact?

                                        Be nice if you could get a video so we aren't just talking in a vacuum.

                                        Comment

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