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Young horse behind the leg - what to do!

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  • Young horse behind the leg - what to do!

    I went to the stables yesterday with a plan in mind for my youngster, the plan was to lunge him for 10mins and ride for 20mins working on straightness and getting him to work from his hind leg, well guess what - things didn't go to plan!! he was behind my aids to the point where I was becoming frustrated.

    In the trot the more leg I used the slower and more reluctant he became, and any chance he gets he breaks into a walk. Mainly is when I am getting tired urging him forward and take a deep breath boom ... breaks in a walk!

    So I decided to push him into a forward canter and again he was reluctant wanting to halt, smacked him with my short crop on the shoulder and one on the bum to push him forward and again the canter was very bouncy not covering any ground, so I kept pushing him until he broke into a gallop and did a few rounds in a big canter on both reins.

    Horse back is checked, saddle fitter came this weekend and all is good. My trainer said it's the right reaction to do this, but I felt a bit bad afterwards, although after the good canter he was working in a good forward trot and happily stretching down.

    Wanted to see your thoughts.

  • #2
    My first question would be about what your hands are doing.

    Generally speaking, if a horse is that far behind my leg, I'll forget everything else and solve that problem first. To me, that means asking for him to go forward from my leg, with the amount of pressure I want. If he doesn't go, and I mean promptly, I use as much stick as is necessary to get a brisk trot or even canter from him. I want to feel him say "Oh! Ok, then. Yes ma'am. Right away." And I'll give him room with my hand to do that. If I feel safe, I'll allow a loop in my reins. If I'm not sure, I might use the crop in one hand and bridge my reins in the other. Either way, I'm giving him room in front so that I'm not punishing him in the mouth for that perhaps large reaction he'll give me from my stick.

    I mention all this because I think a lot of folks in dressage world are quite focused on the contact in their hand-- like that must always be there and be the number of pounds of pressure they want. Yes....... but to me, that's not more important than being ahead of my leg. So I'll sacrifice the nicety of the horse staying in my hand or in balance or whathaveyou just to get the dull SOB tuned up and taking my leg seriously. After I have the gas pedal problem fixed, I can go back to using my hand as I'd like to shape the horse I'd like.

    Stay safe, but put "ahead of my leg" first on your list of requirements for your horse. And with a young one, you want enough stick to send him decidely forward, but not so much "shock and awe" that you surprise him and then he surprises you. You have to be able to ride the reaction you create.

    Good luck!
    The armchair saddler
    Politically Pro-Cat

    Comment


    • #3
      I agree with everything mvp said. Forget about straightness, etc... None of that will really happen while the horse is slow with his hind legs and pulling himself along with the fronts anyway. Be fair, give him a chance to go forward from your simple, quiet aid but as soon as he doesn't, come to his rear end (or on the barrel right behind your leg) and give him a solid thwack! to go forward. Praise whatever reaction you get so long as it's a big one. What you have to watch for is that your crop doesn't elicit the gait or pace you wanted in the first place. You want that crop to be taken seriously, otherwise you'll eventually end up nagging him with your leg and crop the entire ride just to get a pitiful trot going. So to clarify, if you're at a walk and you bump him gently to move up to a trot and he is anything but completely willing to do so, use the crop and make him jump forward into either a big trot or even a canter. Then (and this is critical) come back to the walk, and ask again for trot the same gentle way. If you made your point the first time around, he will probably go bouncing right into a trot. If not, you may need to pop his bum again. This is ok. It can get a little messy for the ones that have spent many many rides behind the leg, but it WORKS and makes a lot of sense to the horse once it's happened. #1 thing to remember though is to be consistent! Don't settle for using more leg and I think your rides will get easier. Good luck!

      Comment


      • #4
        How old is he? Is he a warmblood? It is entirely possible he's just testing you. Slamming on the brakes, or oozing into easier work is a common avoidance technique employed by young warmbloods once they realize that work is hard.

        I'd focus on "forward means forward" first, and worry about everything else - like contact, turning, and straightness once he understands that your leg means go. Once he gets that, you make sure you don't need to beg him to stay in whatever gait/speed you start with. Leg on. Leg off. If he stops, leg back on - and his world needs to END if he doesn't jump off your leg the first time. I'm not advocating beating him, but once or twice of "My leg means GO", backed up with a tap of your whip, should be enough for him to get the picture. Things get eventually easier after that. Sprlitrockfarm give you good advice above too!
        Here Be Dragons: My blog about venturing beyond the lower levels as a dressage amateur.

        Comment


        • #5
          https://www.heartequineacademy.com/s.../05/Finding-Go

          i think you handled it well. Forward means forward and some tough to fix habits can start. Your comment about getting tired reminded me of this blog. You want to make sure that you address this now to keep an equal partnership.
          Time management tough for you? 42 great tips and support through this course!

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by Aphrodite View Post
            ...smacked him with my short crop on the shoulder and one on the bum...
            Just a side note: using the crop on the shoulder does nothing to reinforce leg aids, and therefore, forward. That's why I prefer to carry a dressage whip on the youngsters so I can tap-tap right behind my leg without taking a hand off the reins.

            Comment

            • Original Poster

              #7
              Originally posted by mvp View Post
              My first question would be about what your hands are doing.

              Generally speaking, if a horse is that far behind my leg, I'll forget everything else and solve that problem first. To me, that means asking for him to go forward from my leg, with the amount of pressure I want. If he doesn't go, and I mean promptly, I use as much stick as is necessary to get a brisk trot or even canter from him. I want to feel him say "Oh! Ok, then. Yes ma'am. Right away." And I'll give him room with my hand to do that. If I feel safe, I'll allow a loop in my reins. If I'm not sure, I might use the crop in one hand and bridge my reins in the other. Either way, I'm giving him room in front so that I'm not punishing him in the mouth for that perhaps large reaction he'll give me from my stick.

              I mention all this because I think a lot of folks in dressage world are quite focused on the contact in their hand-- like that must always be there and be the number of pounds of pressure they want. Yes....... but to me, that's not more important than being ahead of my leg. So I'll sacrifice the nicety of the horse staying in my hand or in balance or whathaveyou just to get the dull SOB tuned up and taking my leg seriously. After I have the gas pedal problem fixed, I can go back to using my hand as I'd like to shape the horse I'd like.

              Stay safe, but put "ahead of my leg" first on your list of requirements for your horse. And with a young one, you want enough stick to send him decidely forward, but not so much "shock and awe" that you surprise him and then he surprises you. You have to be able to ride the reaction you create.

              Good luck!
              I am very soft in the contact and was pushing him forward with little to no contact in the mouth. Yes I've figured, shall I hop on and try again today or shall I hack him out?

              Comment

              • Original Poster

                #8
                Originally posted by eponacelt View Post
                How old is he? Is he a warmblood? It is entirely possible he's just testing you. Slamming on the brakes, or oozing into easier work is a common avoidance technique employed by young warmbloods once they realize that work is hard.

                I'd focus on "forward means forward" first, and worry about everything else - like contact, turning, and straightness once he understands that your leg means go. Once he gets that, you make sure you don't need to beg him to stay in whatever gait/speed you start with. Leg on. Leg off. If he stops, leg back on - and his world needs to END if he doesn't jump off your leg the first time. I'm not advocating beating him, but once or twice of "My leg means GO", backed up with a tap of your whip, should be enough for him to get the picture. Things get eventually easier after that. Sprlitrockfarm give you good advice above too!
                Yes he's a 4yr old holsteiner, yes i think that should be my first priority to be honest this is the first he has done it this badly and I dont want him to get into this habit. I was worried about giving him a bad experience as it was a bit messy especially the initial, going nowhere canter he gave me, hopping around covering 0 ground.

                I will try doing transitions and get him off the leg, keeping him going was a nightmare - I felt exhausted.

                Comment


                • #9
                  In addition to the other great advice here, you can also practice getting sharp, quick transitions on the lungeline since you mention lunge work. It is not a time-killer, but a precursor to the saddle work. Plus, you can be much more precise and insistent when you're safely on the ground. Incorporating voice commands to w/t/c and whoa can be very useful.
                  Savor those rides where you feel like a million bucks, because there will be those where you feel like a cheap date...

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Go forward. Go in a field and establish a good hand gallop. Then come into the arena and establish the same thing. Contact, etc, comes second to actually going forward. Go for a brisk canter on a track, march out on a trail, etc.

                    Forst and foremost you need to get him going forward. All you are doing with your aids right now is nagging. One of my instructors had me do a hand gallop in two point (yes, in a dressage saddle) with no contact as part of my warm up when I was on a horse who has a tendency to really suck back behind the leg.

                    Once you get some form of forward you can work on refining it (contact, straightness, rhythm, transitions within the gait and between the gaits) but you need forward to actually be an option first. So long as it isn't, you're basically driving a compromised vehicle so long as the engine isn't working. Nothing else can happen until you fix the engine.

                    Once you have him thinking that forward is actually a thing then I would look at sharpening the aids. There are a lot of good excercises out there depending on your horse's level of education. As a four year old I assume he's not up to advanced questions but even something like starting with a transition at every other letter and then as he gets
                    better at it, a transition every letter... between the gaits, within the gaits, as much with the seat as possible. And then a preparation for a transition down oh wait just kidding I actually want a bigger trot now. Can be done on a circle at the cardinal points but I prefer the whole arena to avoid so much time on 20m.

                    That said there is a good and fairly simple exercise on the circle in the canter... pick up your canter at 12oclock, and then canter one whole rotation and then trot just past twelve - canter within three or four strides of the trot again. the inverse is that you spend more time in the trot - trot at twelve on the circle and trot a whole rotation, canter just past twelve and canter only three or four strides before trotting again. Trot a whole rotation again and pick up the canter just past where you transitioned down to the trot the rotation prior. This form is a little more helpful with horses that are too strong and want to run in the canter though - the variant with more canter is generally more helpful to me with horses that aren't so forward because you are both not cantering for too long, transitioning and repackaging, and then transitioning up again. Keeping them packaged and the quality of your preparation and half halts is key.

                    Comment

                    • Original Poster

                      #11
                      Originally posted by Edre View Post
                      Go forward. Go in a field and establish a good hand gallop. Then come into the arena and establish the same thing. Contact, etc, comes second to actually going forward. Go for a brisk canter on a track, march out on a trail, etc.

                      Forst and foremost you need to get him going forward. All you are doing with your aids right now is nagging. One of my instructors had me do a hand gallop in two point (yes, in a dressage saddle) with no contact as part of my warm up when I was on a horse who has a tendency to really suck back behind the leg.

                      Once you get some form of forward you can work on refining it (contact, straightness, rhythm, transitions within the gait and between the gaits) but you need forward to actually be an option first. So long as it isn't, you're basically driving a compromised vehicle so long as the engine isn't working. Nothing else can happen until you fix the engine.
                      So true! I completely agree 100%, I'll work on it.

                      A friend of mine suggested spurs but I don't think it's the best idea as if he still goes behind my leg I feel he;ll become accustomed to it.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        For as long as I can remember (about 50 years) the correction for a horse that is "behind the leg" or "not responsive to the leg" has been walk-to-handgallop transitions, using spurs, and whip behind the leg if necessary. No hand contact is needed during the upward transition, and be sure you are prepared, so you don't inadvertently catch the horse in the mouth.
                        Janet

                        chief feeder and mucker for Music, Belle and Tiara. Someone else is now feeding and mucking for Chief and Brain (both foxhunting now). Spy is gone. April 15, 1982 to Jan 10, 2017.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Forward is your friend. You are not nor will not be the first person to insist on a gallop to encourage forward.

                          Using a short hunter whip is counter productive. It interrupts your contact, and sometimes destroys it entirely.

                          Get a dressage whip, and learn to use it correctly, so that you're doing little but a slight rotation of the wrist.

                          Longeing properly can be an excellent way to warm up, as is hacking out for 5-15 min.
                          Some riders change their horse, they change their saddle, they change their teacher; they never change themselves.

                          Remember the horse does all the work, we just sit there and look pretty.

                          Comment

                          • Original Poster

                            #14
                            Originally posted by merrygoround View Post
                            Forward is your friend. You are not nor will not be the first person to insist on a gallop to encourage forward.

                            Using a short hunter whip is counter productive. It interrupts your contact, and sometimes destroys it entirely.

                            Get a dressage whip, and learn to use it correctly, so that you're doing little but a slight rotation of the wrist.

                            Longeing properly can be an excellent way to warm up, as is hacking out for 5-15 min.
                            I use a short crop as he tends to moves away from the dressage whip and works on an angle and he feels crooked underneath me. Tried holding the whip in diff positions to see if I'm accidentally flicking him etc.. but seems he can see it and tries to avoid it.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              About spurs--if you are worried about the steadiness of your lower leg there is a solution. The Spusuaders have a different end on the spur, a circle around an inch wide and 1/8" thick.

                              My riding teacher used to take my spurs off (POW) EVERY summer and I could not ride with them again until the fall. With the Spursuaders (at www.spursuader.com) my riding teacher lets me ride with spurs all through the year (I have MS and my lower leg can get wonky in the heat.)

                              Even though these are mild spurs the horses can tell the difference from my bare heel. it is just a little extra for when I need to get the horse's attention (Yes, I meant for you to go FORWARD!)

                              The great thing about these spurs is that the horses notice them but they never seem to get afraid of them unlike other types of spurs. I don't know if they are legal for shows but they work very well schooling when the horse starts to suck back and does not want to go forward.

                              .http://www.spursuader.com

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                Originally posted by Aphrodite View Post
                                A friend of mine suggested spurs but I don't think it's the best idea as if he still goes behind my leg I feel he;ll become accustomed to it.
                                So, this suggests even more that you’re nagging with your leg. Whether you have spurs on or not, your horse shouldn’t become accustomed to your leg aids to the point that he starts ignoring them. If that’s happening, you’re doing it wrong.

                                I get it, I’ve been there! I had a lazy horse that could sucker me into nagging him. In addition to what others have suggested, I’ll add that my horse’s responsiveness improved a lot when I learned to keep my lower legs more still and steady on his sides. I think I was creating noise (and more excuses for him to ignore my leg) by allowing my lower legs to move, for example when I posted.

                                Correcting this type of behavior requires consistency but is usually pretty straightforward. You’ve got this!
                                Building and Managing the Small Horse Farm: http://thesmallhorsefarm.blogspot.com

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  I have been in your shoes - two years ago to be exact. 4 yo warmblood gelding with a decided lazy streak (he lives for his naps). Trainer and I spend a lot of time instilling FORWARD with quick, sharp aids. One of the "lightbulb" moments for me was when you add leg instead of adding and leaving on until you get a response, you need to bump and back off. Still no response, BUMP-BUMP-SMACK and back off.

                                  I do want to tell you the other half of his story as a caution. At one point, the sucking back got worse, he was ignoring the bumps and the smacks from the whip and then he started bucking during transitions. For a little bit we treated it like teenage temper tantrums and pushed on. It got worse. Had a full lameness evaluation and while he wasn't obviously lame, he was having some intermittent sticky stifle issues which were clearly bothering him and the vet felt this was just a growth phase that he would eventually outgrow.

                                  We started IM Adequan and backed off training for a few months (as we were heading into winter it ended up being close to 6 months). 2 days/week were long tack walks or trail - on the bit and pushing with the hind, not just lollygagging around. 2 days/week short rides in a longer frame. Walking and trotting over poles and up and down hills as well. The goal was to support his growth and development with *light* work and muscle building, while the Adequan minimized symptoms so he could be more comfortable and not associate being ridden with pain.

                                  I'm happy to report that our plan worked - he came back sooo much better than before. He will never be a hot ride, and I will always have to be on guard that he will take the easy way every.single.time I leave that door open. But he is much more responsive to my aids and as a 6 year old, coming along quite nicely with lovely balance and increasing strength and ability.

                                  Maybe your guy is lazy, maybe he is being a sullen teenager, maybe he struggling with some growing pains and maybe it is some combination of these. You are your horse's advocate, so keep physical issues in mind if the training approach doesn't work.
                                  "So relax! Let's have some fun out here! This game's fun, OK? Fun goddamnit." Crash Davis; Bull Durham

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    Originally posted by Aphrodite View Post

                                    I use a short crop as he tends to moves away from the dressage whip and works on an angle and he feels crooked underneath me. Tried holding the whip in diff positions to see if I'm accidentally flicking him etc.. but seems he can see it and tries to avoid it.
                                    Try carrying a very stiff dressage whip that won't 'bounce' with the horse's movement and touch him when you don't mean to. Cut off or tape down the lash so there's nothing wiggling visually either.

                                    Carry it across your thigh about midway between your knee and hip; from there you can touch him by just turning your wrist.

                                    I agree with previous posters that young horses do go through the 'sulky teenager' phase, and that forward is pretty much always the answer.

                                    Comment


                                    • #19
                                      Originally posted by Aphrodite View Post

                                      I am very soft in the contact and was pushing him forward with little to no contact in the mouth. Yes I've figured, shall I hop on and try again today or shall I hack him out?
                                      Hehe.... it doesn't even matter! He needs to go off your leg anywhere, anytime.

                                      It can help a young horse to work on this problem outside the arena. Let him be in a visually open space to that the right answer-- really going forward off your light leg-- is the one that occurs to him. Sometimes, for the naturally lazy, secure, kind ones, knowing that they'll just have to turn in a few strides makes them think that going forward isn't worth doing.

                                      Outside the ring, on a young horse, however, you want to make sure that he's still attentive to you and rideable. In other words, if you gave him a hard thwack with the whip outside, and he somehow thought that the rules only applied when he was in the "office" of the arena, he might be more likely to buck or say F U than he would have thought to in the arena.

                                      Either way, of course, your goal is to use enough whip to get the forward you want. You aren't here to really nail him for having been so lazy. Of course you might feel that, but remember that he was just unclear on just what your leg meant, so he did the minimum--- which is a logical and self-preserving guess.

                                      So keep this idea about using the whip in mind if you decide to have this conversation with him outside the ring. I don't see anything wrong with that.
                                      The armchair saddler
                                      Politically Pro-Cat

                                      Comment


                                      • #20
                                        On the dressage whip issue: When a fellow boarder had issues with her horse going crooked in response to carrying a dressage whip (which was needed for forward!) she then carried a dressage whip in each hand! I'm not sure I could manage, but it worked well for them. It wasnt long until she could go back to one without him twisting away from it.

                                        Comment

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