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Do we look tense?

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  • Do we look tense?

    I have a 14 year old morgan mare that I've had for almost 4 years. When I first got her she was a VERY tense horse. Her neck was developed completely upside down because she braced it horribly (not against the bit) and I couldn't even TOUCH her mouth with contact because she was so afraid of it. She also had a verrrry tight back (chiro definately helped that) and is a hot sensitive mare. Her past is pretty much unknown. The only equipment I know for sure had been used on her before (because I saw her in it) was a western saddle with a tie down and twisted wire bit. She is also extremely panicy about any kind of pressure on her poll, which makes me wonder if ropes were used on her at one point. I have worked extremely hard with her to get her to relax and take contact. She's gotten much better but she sttill has a ways to go. Also, I am 5'10" with very long legs. I do feel that this does not really help her, since she is only 15H and fairly narrow, so I have a harder time keeping my leg on her like I should. We havn't had very much instruction(maybe 10 lessons in 4 years) because I can't afford it. I also have been having back/shoulder pain for the last year that makes my back fatigue pretty quickly I definately notice that I bring my head too far forward, I think to relieve the pressure. Does anyone have any tips to help prevent this? Or any excercises to help strengthen my back/shoulder muscles. It frustrates me because I didn't have this problem before.

    Here's the clip. Basically I just want to know what you think of where we are and what we should be doing better. I already have a few things I noticed, but I am sure there are more. My goal is not to do high level dressage with her (I have hardly any training myself anyways) but would like to do some lower level stuff with her. Mostly I just would like her to go correctly and find ways to help her relax and enjoy her job. She tries really hard, but the tenseness never really goes away (and that's probably me- so help!) Any questions or anything just ask. Thanks in Advance!

    Here's the clip: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QjgC-SBebEM
    Last edited by Dream Away; Jan. 4, 2008, 02:47 PM.
    My horse isn't dead broke, but my wallet is!

  • #2
    In the video clip, I see a horse forced into an artificial frame, with her nose behind the vertical. Most of the clip is at the sitting trot and canter, with a few moments of posting trot that I was very interested in, but then the video cut ended. I wanted to see her allowed to move out more.

    To get her to relax her whole body, try opening her up at the posting trot more and asking her to reach forward. Consider even riding in a close contact saddle and getting up into half seat and letting her relax into a hand gallop. She just looks too restrained and restricted, at least in the video clip.

    Your position is very nice. I too have sometimes a tendency to carry my head too far in front of my shoulders, which can make my neck and shoulders sore. I ride more comfortably when I remind myself to pull my head straight up toward the sky. To strengthen your back and shoulder muscles, try push-ups and a little weightlifting.

    Comment


    • #3
      from what i could tell it did look a little tense and she had short tight strides. it would be nice to get her to take bigger steps with a longer stride, more push, and a swinging back. i agree with Dixon that posting trot would help free up the back. stretching the topline in posting trot will help as will long and low warmups, and serpentines.

      Comment


      • #4
        I have just started dressage with a trainer a little over a month ago. Most people on the forum have seen me and my tense self with my tense horse but we are coming a long way. In a month he is doing shoulder in@@@@@ and bending in the corners because we have to use the corners. Its amazing what a trainer can help with but I also have to give credit to the posters that gave us advice because it helped also. I would say (I'm no expert) she looks like she is not engaging her HQ at all. She is not bending in the corners either nor on the circle. Her HQ seem to fall out of the turns probably because of the stiffness. She accepts the bit pretty well but needs more forward motion and more push into the bit instead of sitting her pretty head on it. My trainer helped us with this by having me sit the corners and post the straights. You can put more leg on to have the bend in the corners when you sit but she will relax more if you post and not sit the trot right now. Try doing some diaganols and asking her to reach more forward for the bit on the diaganol while posting then right before the corner sit and push with inside leg to try to get the bend. Also before you go into a corner make sure your inside leg is on and you can see her inside eye to try to get the correct bend you might want to put your outside leg on further back to keep her from throwing away her hindend. My guy is a morganXperch and he was VERY STIFF but he is loosing up a lot now but we still have further to go. He does shoulder in and leg yields great now with out spurs. I'm so excited. Good Luck and keep us posted.
        Horses aren't our whole life, but makes our life whole

        Comment


        • #5
          There is still room for improvement, but it sounds like you have come a long way, based on the OP. Continue to work patiently. You appear to be going in the right direction, based on the info you provided.

          If this horse will lunge in low side reins, I'd try that. You don't want them tight, just attach them low on the surcingle/girth. It could be a good way to help her find her balance, which would help her relax.

          Comment


          • #6
            From what I could see rider looks more tense than the horse? In my opinion, horse looks head-set. Looks like a cute and willling horse with a nice canter.

            Could you maybe take a new video outside or inside with more light?

            Comment


            • #7
              She does look WAY better in the trot at the end. Much more forward and much less holding herself.

              Is she always so different from the sitting to the posting trot? How is her back? Also, how heavy is she in your hand?

              I echo the above posters comment about lunging and low side reins. They have to figure somethings out themselves and this may help her work and not hold so much.
              Aren't these lovely... Designer Browbands You know you want one!

              Comment


              • #8
                The video on my screen is quite dark, enough so that I can't even determine what type of bit you are using, and her length of stride is not always easy to see.

                I agree with Dixon too. I would like to see her go more forward at the rising trot. I think quiet walk trot transitions would help her listen to your seat, so that at the rising trot she wasn't running forward with quick steps but waiting for your slower rise to give her time to come through.

                Your seat and position is quiet, but a little behind the vertical which could tend to push rather than slow her.
                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

                  #9
                  Thanks for the comments so far. I actually do ride her mostly in posting trot because she is less tense, I think I was just working on a little sitting trot that day. I wish the clip of me posting afterwards was longer as well. One thing I didn't mention is that she is VERY light with her bit contact. She has a habit of sucking back and "posing". She goes behind the vertical very easily and will hold that "frame" even when I am not asking for it. My catch 22 with her is she is VERY forward. But when I ask for more "forward" and longer strides, I usually get rushing and she gets tense. I have worked a lot on slowing her down and keeping her tempo even, but I know that that can cause a problem too. I guess I'm not sure how to get her forward and ON the contact (instead of behind it) without losing her altogether. I try to do lots of stretchies with her and figures, but once I pick up contact again I get the "fake" frame most of the time. She is also a horse that builds, so letting her go faster and "settle" doesn't work, it just gets her more worked up until she's so tense we can't even walk calmly. She's related to the energizer bunny, she really does just keep going and going... It's a really fine line with her that I've been struggling with, too little and she looks restricted and "fake", too much and we are rushing and tense. But the middle is so small with her, I'm not sure how to find it and keep it consistantly. I probably am too tense as well. I think I try so hard to be "quiet" that I end up too tense. She is incredibly sensitive, and the smallest thing she reacts too. I think I over compensate for that by being stiff and tense. I can recognize it, but not sure what to do about it. Any excercises I can do while I'm riding to help with that without interfering with her too much? Someone asked if she's heavy in my hands, but it's the complete opposite. She is SO light that I often don't feel like I have contact at all, because she is going behind the bit. When I try to push her into it, I usually get more speed, but no contact. I'm not trying to rebut anything you've said, I definately see those things, just explaining it more I guess. I guess what we really need is some professional help, but until I can afford it, any advice is appreciated!
                  My horse isn't dead broke, but my wallet is!

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    did the mare ever do any morgan breed shows or park seat?

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Try to get her to stretch outward - I would try this on a circle - run your inside hand up her neck - drive her forward so she stretches her neck outward - bending around your inside leg. You can also try running both hands up - driving her forward until she reaches outward (not sucking back - your doing the opposite) - I would do this with your trainer.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Dream Away View Post
                        I'm not trying to rebut anything you've said, I definately see those things, just explaining it more I guess.
                        Your attitude is so refreshing We often get people posting videos/pictures and then trying to explain away all the issues that other posters point out.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          I can't tell much from the video either, but your horse sounds very similar to my saddlebred - the tension and fearing contact and the whole settling-into-a-headset business. Makes me wonder if she was shown or trained as a gaited horse as mine was. Mine would suck back and boy could he make that neck short.

                          My boy was also fairly short and narrow, and I am 5'11, and I found it helpful to ride with a shorter stirrup so that I could actually put some leg on. I had a lot of luck actually sitting with no stirrups, so that I could feel how much I had to bring my lower leg up and back to actually touch his sides. My trainer would tell me to ride "knees down" so that my base of support was generally correct (or as correct as I could make it ) and my seat was independent of my leg. My heels were not down.

                          We also worked on lots of long and low - which in normal standards, never really got very long, or very low, but hey we tried, and it helped!!
                          where are we going, and why am I in this hand basket?

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            not very cleear video but the orse is forward you need to practice half haltsstride to get her back under control and collect her when shes to forward not just go with her but remind her to slow up as her cnater was to fast and not collected as it could be

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              look here -- http://www.chronicleforums.com/Forum...d.php?t=117959

                              then apply with pelnty of trnasitions making the horse use himself by lenghtening and shortening your strides added half halts so horse learn not to rush things -- basic triaing skills to get the horse balaned and round off -

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                I agree with most of the other posters were saying.......I do think over all you have a nice position from what I could see....as the video was quite dark .......... you have a nice long leg but I would like to see your leg come under you slightly......at times I thought I could see you in a slight chair seat. I would also like to see more weight in your stirrups and less in the saddle.

                                I have a new dressage instructor this past year and one of her comments was most people don't put enough weight in their stirrups......she likes to see 75% in the stirrup and only 25% in the saddle.....this has made a huge difference for my horse.....as when I remember to weight my stirrups I can feel her lighten and bring her back up to my seat......this might help your horse be less tense.

                                Dalemma

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  Yes, you do look tense. But there is a lot right in this video. You look like a soft rider who has good balance. I like that the horse is not overbent and popping the shoulder out. The horse looks like he lacks suppleness and energy. There was a lot of stiffness through the shoulder area and the neck was tight. The horse is a "daisy clipper" (I have one that likes to do that given the chance). There was no swing in the back. He looks like a saddle seat horse, especially in the canter.

                                  What to do about this?

                                  Softer hands that encourage the horse to stretch. Open the elbows! Sprial in and out. Transitions. Lots of changes of direction. Try some baby counterbend and bend for a few strides (just to see the inside eye). Make sure to stay strait between, this is very subtle. You could try the half-seat and see if the horse will stretch down.

                                  This is one horse who needs (!!!) cavaletti and jumping.

                                  I would practice response to the leg asking the horse to really strech, allow your hands to open the door. Post with energy and do not nag with the leg. You horse looks like he doesn't need much leg, but needs more momentum and lifting of the legs and shoulder. Don't worry about the head or looking nice. I would not sit the trot on this horse yet. He is not ready.

                                  I have an efficient horse too, you have to insist on energy at all times. This is a nice horse and rider who show a lot of promise.

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    My first dressage horse was an exact copy - morgan mare, tense, fast. What worked for her was lots of long and low, constantly asking her to stretch forward and down, keeping her deep without btv. But that's not enough, I had to constantly change direction and vary the excercises so she couldn't guess what we were going to do and she was forced to balance herself. So lots of figure 8, serpentines, 20m circles, loops, etc.

                                    We also went into lateral work with her pretty quickly as she loved it and it calmed her down - simple spirals with counter bending in and leg yielding out, leg yielding from quarter-line or zigzag once she was good at it, and shoulder-in.

                                    Oh, and I almost always cantered early. That seemed to settle her more quickly and get out the energy.

                                    I have to disagree with those suggesting lungeing. For horses like this, it just leads to them building strength and never calms them, at least not my Morgan.

                                    Btw, age and my improved seat helped tremendously as she was also very sensitive to my seat. So once my riding improved, she improved.

                                    Comment


                                    • #19
                                      Originally posted by Dream Away View Post
                                      Thanks for the comments so far. I actually do ride her mostly in posting trot because she is less tense, I think I was just working on a little sitting trot that day. I wish the clip of me posting afterwards was longer as well. One thing I didn't mention is that she is VERY light with her bit contact. She has a habit of sucking back and "posing". She goes behind the vertical very easily and will hold that "frame" even when I am not asking for it. My catch 22 with her is she is VERY forward. But when I ask for more "forward" and longer strides, I usually get rushing and she gets tense. I have worked a lot on slowing her down and keeping her tempo even, but I know that that can cause a problem too. I guess I'm not sure how to get her forward and ON the contact (instead of behind it) without losing her altogether. I try to do lots of stretchies with her and figures, but once I pick up contact again I get the "fake" frame most of the time. She is also a horse that builds, so letting her go faster and "settle" doesn't work, it just gets her more worked up until she's so tense we can't even walk calmly. She's related to the energizer bunny, she really does just keep going and going... It's a really fine line with her that I've been struggling with, too little and she looks restricted and "fake", too much and we are rushing and tense. But the middle is so small with her, I'm not sure how to find it and keep it consistantly. I probably am too tense as well. I think I try so hard to be "quiet" that I end up too tense. She is incredibly sensitive, and the smallest thing she reacts too. I think I over compensate for that by being stiff and tense. I can recognize it, but not sure what to do about it. Any excercises I can do while I'm riding to help with that without interfering with her too much? Someone asked if she's heavy in my hands, but it's the complete opposite. She is SO light that I often don't feel like I have contact at all, because she is going behind the bit. When I try to push her into it, I usually get more speed, but no contact. I'm not trying to rebut anything you've said, I definately see those things, just explaining it more I guess. I guess what we really need is some professional help, but until I can afford it, any advice is appreciated!
                                      A good friend of mine has a morgan mare that sounds just like this. Her background isn't too well known, but she definately did some saddleseat/park stuff... This mare can TROT... her overall gaits are very nice, but always too few moments of nice relaxed stuff. And this mare has been in training with a local dressage trainer, that did the long low stuff, rising trot was ALWAYS better, and the canter to left, occasionally was good but OMG to the right, just scary... Can you say lean, and tight tight tight in the back, and TENSE... After a few years of "trying" to have fun with her as a dressage horse, showing lower levels, with scores (at intro-training-and a couple of first level tests) ranging from the mid forties (yikes) up to mid sixties, it was decided to "retire" her from her dressage career... This mare had a score in the 40's and in the 60's at the same show in the same level of class...

                                      At 13, she had now had a baby, and the mare now 16ish, is having fun being a driving horse... trot trot trot... The baby, whom from day one has been trained for dressage, is now coming three, and is incredible, and we only see bigger and better things with this guy... We just wish she had the mom before the saddleseat/park career... What a horse she "could have been".

                                      I have a friend that has the stallion bred to this mare, and he is very competitive at 2nd and 3rd level throughout FL, is schooling all 4th level stuff, jumps, drives and he is not TENSE... But no saddleseat training in his background, though he does like to park out when hanging out. Is that inbred into morgans? lol

                                      Anyway... good luck with your girl, but it is hard to overcome. Lots of sweat and tears...
                                      Lori
                                      Fly Teddy Fly!
                                      Connemara's Rock!
                                      RIP Reilly Go Bragh

                                      Comment


                                      • #20
                                        Are you interested in competitive trail riding at all? If she likes to trot all the time, and you can get her out on trails, that might be a good alternative. I know lots and lots of Morgans in New England that use that trot to win all the competitive rides around here!
                                        I realize that I'm generalizing here, but as is often the case when I generalize, I don't care. ~ Dave Barry

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