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Young horses & their frame

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  • Young horses & their frame

    While going through Facebook, I am seeing many videos of young & green horses (3-5 years old) that are ridden in a "frame" and/or "on the bit" (just to help provide a visual of what I am seeing). I haven't ridden a young horse in 15+ years so I'm sure my confusion is due to lack of knowledge.

    In one video, I saw someone who was "massaging" the bit, so much so that you could see it in the video. Isn't that riding from front to back? Isn't that teaching the horse to just hold a false frame instead of reaching into the bit? Can you teach a horse to reach for the bit in under 6 months or a year?

    I understand that you don't want the horse throwing their head up in the air, which would cause them to hollow their back and use the bottom of their neck muscles, instead of the top line. But, I'm confused on how you would properly start a young horse without riding from front to back and how long it "might" take (knowing that some horses progress faster than others).

    I hear about how some horses are heavy in the hands and wonder what should have been done differently in the beginning of their training that would prevented it (as my last horse was very heavy in the hands and he had been ridden that way for 20 some years). I have no plans for getting a young horse any time soon; these are just some random thoughts that I've had for awhile.

  • #2
    Where are you seeing these videos?

    Are they high end European sales videos? In that case the riders might be cutting some corners to make a pretty sales video of a horse that buyer and seller both know will need to be started correctly.

    Or are you just seeing bad backyard trainers?

    As far as an adult horse being heavy on your hands that is something you absolutely can mitigate or fix at any point. The important thing is that the rider refuses to get into a pulling match with the horse or to hold the horse's head up.

    That's a different issue than riding a young horse on the vertical. You don't know the video horses feel heavy. It's just as likely that they are ducking behind the bit and avoiding contact.

    Comment


    • #3
      I'll chime in even though I'm limited in my dressage experience, I think people have lost the art of patience. Even my trainer who broke my horse was trying to start to ask my horse to take the bit at 3 months of training and I told them to stop. They did break him and put all the basics on basically the buckle using seat and wide hands to steer but couldn't resist continuing to push him into a "baby frame".

      Me and my trainer's plan (she is a great dressage/eventer rider) is to continue the long rein, wide hand for months and months until he's stronger and older. Lots of riding out of the ring and straight lines. My last horse I had to basically go bitless and give up on dressage because the previous rider held his head down in a tight frame and he struggled with any contact just wanting to avoid contact and go behind the vertical.

      For sales videos I think sellers are trying to show the horse in a frame because that's what buyers want. Buyers are seeing all the videos you are showing young horses who are in a frame and so they will pass up the young horse being ridden on a long loose rein.

      Comment


      • #4
        Unless you are sitting on a green horse it is so hard to know what you are actually seeing from the ground.

        Due to the joys of shopping on a tiny budget I've sat on about 25 young horses in the past 6 weeks. The youngest was just barely 3 and the oldest was a very green 7 year old. Every single one felt different in the bridle and off the leg.

        In educated hands, a well-conformed horse develops a beautiful and trusting contact in very short order.

        However, most of us have very imperfect hands and balance. Furthermore, many AAs are on horses where their neck, back, etc. can make it harder to establish an honest connection simply because of how they are built.

        There have been threads about what do top young horse trainers do differently and often times the answer is just that they are better riders on nicer horses. At 30 days under saddle, they may have a horse whose understanding of contact surpasses what an upside-down backyard horse will ever understand.

        Top riders are making constant micro-adjustments so that it is barely perceptible and an honest connection becomes the norm in short order. It does not take them 6 strides to realize that a shoulder is popped or that a horse is getting low in the poll. Take these same lovely horses and put a typical rider on them and by the end of the ride they will be bobbing, ducking, etc. not because they were being held in a frame but because they are sensitive and trying to find an unstable hand.

        Comment


        • #5
          Much of this, IMO, is a reflection of the big young horse classes. While a very few horses may naturally go in this balance (and have a baseline of physical maturity and development to sustain it) now everyone “expects” to see it in the young horses and can’t look past how a horse is presented to see what they are actually capable of. In a sense it seems that buyers are super literal “unless you show me the horse with the hugely flamboyant gaits and going in that balance, I don’t believe it can and it isn’t worth the price tag you’re asking” ... as a result, I feel that more and more horses are getting rushed because of this feedback loop between shows, buyers, and sellers.

          I do think that from the top down we are seeing a step back from it though (at last)! This year at the young horse championships there were several remakes from the commentating judge (Lilo Fore) that the way of going a rider was trying for was too mature for the horse’s development and to return to a little longer, a little lower. I think this is a good sign and hope it continues.

          (that said, there is also the component of a young horse’s inconsistencies and rider hands, as have been discussed above - absolutely a factor, and not what I specifically address in my comment.)

          Comment


          • #6
            Hard to answer questions without seeing the same videos as the OP.

            But I have spent a lot of time watching a very good young horse trainer, and here's what I have learned watching her school horses nicely. I can live with whatever frame also has an appropriately open throat latch. To me, no matter how high or low the neck and where the forehead is, if the throatlatch isn't too closed, it'a an "honest" frame, one the horse is strong enough to carry himself in.

            IMO, the position of the head and neck reflect the postural strength the horse has. It takes plenty of that to carry the neck up and out from the base, and then to keep the poll at the top and the horse's forehead on the vertical or even the nose slightly ahead of that at all times. Plenty of horses duck back for a bit (closing the throat latch) when they run out of core- and pectoral strength. No matter if that's for a short time, as they need to exhaust muscle in order to build it.

            It can be misleading to see stills, especially the dressage world's favorite phase of the canter with the hind legs down, well apart and in that moment of "leap"-- they all look uphill and like they are maturely on the bit at that moment. But the other parts of the stride tell you what level of postural and "real" strength the horse actually has.

            So I watch the throat latch and the body for its "uphillness" when I'm looking for "honest" riding versus a horse skillfully put in a pose. I think the stills and videos of young European auction horses ridden around the rail in big gaits by professional riders are especially guilty of distorting the American ammy's eye.
            The armchair saddler
            Politically Pro-Cat

            Comment


            • #7
              Certainly there is an aspect of going for steadier and more impressive when showing or making a sales video. Those can be misleading.
              For actual training, I think people tend to ride young horses too low and too closed in front. I'm now on my second warmblood baby with a clean throat latch who can easily come behind the vertical. When they are learning about contact they alternate between behind and above the vertical, because they don't yet know how to carry themselves and handle contact in an ideal manner. My youngster has now been working under saddle about a year, and while she is stronger than many with the same training due to being late 5, she still has those issues. I *much* prefer the tendency to come above the bit to behind it, as lateral bend really helps to soften and correct that.
              I'm attempting to attach photos with my phone, all of which are around 6 months old, I think. One shows her head too low and too curled. One shows her head the right height, but despite nose out you can see she has compressed her neck in and is not truly arching and reaching forward. The other has my trainer on her, and you can see her neck looks far longer because he has her more correctly reaching. In my rides we have worked on all of my control of her body coming from seat and legs as I keep inviting her to reach forward. Her head is that ideal height naturally when she uses her body well - and you can see with my trainer her withers are higher than her hips, where they are lower in my less ideal ones. Training is about teaching them bend, use of their body, a healthy relationship with the bit, and many other things. Cramming them into a frame is not good for them, but many times they want to carry themselves in a pretty show worthy shape when they are bred to do so.
              If Kim Kardashian wants to set up a gofundme to purchase the Wu Tang album from Martin Shkreli, guess what people you DON'T HAVE TO DONATE.
              -meupatdoes

              Comment


              • #8
                Newsflash - there are a lot of sh*tty riders and trainers out there, the internet has made it so we can see them front and centre.
                Boss Mare Eventing Blog

                Comment


                • #9
                  OP, I understand what you're saying, and I think you're exactly correct. "Massaging the bit" is riding front to back and totally incorrect. As is waggling the head from side to side. I also see this a lot. Mostly I see horses being ridden behind the vertical, which people think looks nicer but is so much worse than a horse that is above the bit.

                  I have a young horse that I'm training myself and watch lots of young horse training videos. I've also ridden lots of horses that have major training issues that developed as a result of incorrect and rushed early training and I really want to ensure that I instill proper basics in my guy. I have a huge library of books about training young horses, and my favourite is called "The Elements of Dressage: A guide for Training the Young Horse" by Kurd Albrecht Von Ziegner. This book explains everything so well, I keep going back to it again and again.

                  The horse must learn to balance on his own in all gaits and during transitions without using the reins as a "fifth leg", and allowing or creating too much rein contact before the balance is instilled doesn't help the horse learn to balance under the rider. A horse that is heavy in the hands is one that hasn't learned to balance on his own and once they get in the habit of doing this it is so difficult to fix.

                  Also, before the horse can be "on the bit", he needs to trust that the bit won't cause him discomfort or pain and learn to consistently seek contact with it. The horse goes "to the bit", and once the energy is going over the back and the horse is seeking contact with the bit, and the contact feels consistently elastic, then the horse will naturally go "on the bit" and be "on the aids". Using too much hand in the beginning causes all sorts of contact and balance issues.

                  It can be hard for riders to be patient enough not to force the horse's head down into a "frame" when they are green and not consistently balanced or seeking contact. As to how much time it takes to instill proper basics in a young horse, it definitely depends on the horse. Some horses are able to find their balance on their own so quickly they are able to progress much more quickly than others. Each horse is different. Some young horse training books I've read say it takes a minimum of 2 years of consistent work (i.e. 4-5x a week) for the basic training (i.e. consistent at 1st level and ready to begin 2nd level work) - and that's for an experienced trainer.

                  This is a good discussion, I'm enjoying reading everyone's input!
                  Last edited by twinmommy; Oct. 5, 2019, 11:15 AM.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Really where the head is, us secondary to how the horse is using his body. Evaluate that by looking at the hind end in all phases of the gait. A horse can be on the forehand or collected with his head and neck practically anywhere up down in out or sideways .

                    Getting fixated on headset as a training goal is a mistake but so is basing an entire critique of a rider on headset. I would exclude of course very brutal examples of Rolkur or obviously brutal hands, but you can have brutal hands with any head position.


                    Comment


                    • #11

                      Well, I think it all depends on the particular horse and particular rider.

                      There is a group of riders/trainers that are riding young horses like they are aiming for the young horse classes. These classes (these days) require an aggressive training program for a young horse. The goal is to electrify the gaits and keep the horse moving over their back. This is why there are "specialty" riders/trainers in the YH classes and European auctions. They get the most from the horse *right now* in the horse's life, but this approach doesn't consider physical longevity.

                      The breeding of dressage horses these days also figures in. Many horses are naturally high-necked and not particularly working over the back without encouragement to do so. Massaging the bit, or moving the bit in the mouth, can keep horses like this from rooting on the bit or moving around with a hollow back. Riding "back to front" or "front to back" doesn't always apply to young horses who are learning the rules of how they should go under saddle/what shape of body they should start to develop. The horse isn't learning a false frame, they're learning how to carry themselves and where their focus should be. Some horses are too mentally immature at 3 or 4 to keep their focus even with 6 months of training, and some don't want to reach for contact. It's easier for them to move without contact and harder for them to accept contact and move over their back. Why should they want to do what is harder for them to do?

                      Also, videos posted on Facebook are going to be the videos the rider wants to upload. They think the horse is going best in those videos and it may not be representative of the normal ride.

                      Some young horses ARE heavy in the hands. Many young horses aren't particularly fit yet and use the reins to help them keep their own balance depending on their build. This is evident in many warmbloods that have less TB influence and more of the heavy lines (although I had a Trak mare who was half TB and was sooo heavy as a youngster). These horses get lighter in the hands when they build body strength.

                      Oh, I'll also add that the culture of the rider means alot. Here in America, we think about "back to front" and light contact. In Germany, for example, my experience is they think about "back to front" and more solid contact. The end result might be the same, but we get there by different roads. Both approaches have merit.

                      Lastly, I'd say that there are many, many incorrectly ridden young horses that are forced into a frame, pushed too hard too fast, or the trainer can't adapt their training program to every horse. It's really hard to tell what is going on my watching Facebook clips!!!!!


                      Proud member of the Colbert Dressage Nation

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by J-Lu View Post
                        Many horses are naturally high-necked and not particularly working over the back without encouragement to do so. Massaging the bit, or moving the bit in the mouth, can keep horses like this from rooting on the bit or moving around with a hollow back. Riding "back to front" or "front to back" doesn't always apply to young horses who are learning the rules of how they should go under saddle/what shape of body they should start to develop.
                        This is done and sometimes turns out OK, but IMO shouldn't even be attempted by anyone but the most skillful, tactful trainer. Much safer to go back a step instead. Groundwork with a focus on improving posture and balance without the weight of a rider rather than riding a hollow, tense horse. Always go back to the training scale.


                        Originally posted by J-Lu View Post
                        Some horses are too mentally immature at 3 or 4 to keep their focus even with 6 months of training, and some don't want to reach for contact.
                        Originally posted by J-Lu View Post
                        Some young horses ARE heavy in the hands. Many young horses aren't particularly fit yet and use the reins to help them keep their own balance depending on their build.
                        So why not allow the mentally immature horse to mature before asking for something that they find too difficult? Why allow an unbalanced horse to be heavy in the contact rather than teaching it to balance without the rider's weight and proceed gradually? It might turn out OK, but a lot of times it doesn't and then the horse gets blamed.

                        Both of the methods quoted above, in my mind, are shortcuts to proper basic training.

                        Just my thoughts, I agree that there are many ways to Rome, but some are pretty risky, especially if you haven't travelled that road a whole bunch of times successfully. IMO would not be great advice for someone who hasn't already produced a bunch of well-trained young horses.



                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by twinmommy View Post

                          This is done and sometimes turns out OK, but IMO shouldn't even be attempted by anyone but the most skillful, tactful trainer. Much safer to go back a step instead. Groundwork with a focus on improving posture and balance without the weight of a rider rather than riding a hollow, tense horse. Always go back to the training scale.






                          So why not allow the mentally immature horse to mature before asking for something that they find too difficult? Why allow an unbalanced horse to be heavy in the contact rather than teaching it to balance without the rider's weight and proceed gradually? It might turn out OK, but a lot of times it doesn't and then the horse gets blamed.

                          Both of the methods quoted above, in my mind, are shortcuts to proper basic training.

                          Just my thoughts, I agree that there are many ways to Rome, but some are pretty risky, especially if you haven't travelled that road a whole bunch of times successfully. IMO would not be great advice for someone who hasn't already produced a bunch of well-trained young horses.


                          I think the European young horse situation is highly skilled pros who know the right video means the difference between the horse selling for $50,000 or $300,000.

                          I imagine everyone involved knows the horse will need to be restarted to go correctly. No one on this thread is suggesting that an average backyard trainer or ammie should be doing this to their own horse as a legit training technique.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            As a sort of example of development, Carl Hester's piece on "How to make a Valegro" seems appropriate here:
                            http://www.horsemagazine.com/thm/201...ake-a-valegro/

                            Check out the photo of Blueberry at age 3.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Scribbler View Post

                              I think the European young horse situation is highly skilled pros who know the right video means the difference between the horse selling for $50,000 or $300,000.

                              I imagine everyone involved knows the horse will need to be restarted to go correctly. No one on this thread is suggesting that an average backyard trainer or ammie should be doing this to their own horse as a legit training technique.
                              Agree although I don't think the OP was referring to the European elite WB sales when talking about FB videos. I don't see those riders fiddling with the bit or wagging their horses heads around either. And I'm pretty confident that those riders aren't going on COTH looking for training advice.

                              Also just re-read the chapter in the training book I mentioned dealing with contact, which the author calls the Fourth Element of the Training Tree. It is only 4 pages but is so clear and well-written. If any COTHers are interested, I would be willing to quote the text here or in a new thread??

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                Originally posted by twinmommy View Post

                                This is done and sometimes turns out OK, but IMO shouldn't even be attempted by anyone but the most skillful, tactful trainer. Much safer to go back a step instead. Groundwork with a focus on improving posture and balance without the weight of a rider rather than riding a hollow, tense horse. Always go back to the training scale.






                                So why not allow the mentally immature horse to mature before asking for something that they find too difficult? Why allow an unbalanced horse to be heavy in the contact rather than teaching it to balance without the rider's weight and proceed gradually? It might turn out OK, but a lot of times it doesn't and then the horse gets blamed.

                                Both of the methods quoted above, in my mind, are shortcuts to proper basic training.

                                Just my thoughts, I agree that there are many ways to Rome, but some are pretty risky, especially if you haven't travelled that road a whole bunch of times successfully. IMO would not be great advice for someone who hasn't already produced a bunch of well-trained young horses.


                                Thanks!!

                                A mentally immature horse grasps that something is difficult, but isn't actually physically difficult. In my experience, if you let them react throughout their ride, they will expect that's how a ride always goes as an older horse. They do what they think is easy only and argue about what they think is work. In my experience, it is no fun to ride a mentally immature horse who thinks it can call the shots...my wallet has objected to the health care bills. Have you ever started a 6-8 year old horse? They can (not all) be set in their ways and resentful that you are NOW changing the rules in their life. This can happen with a young athletic horse who wants to go with their head up and back locked and becomes used to going that way under saddle. They build the wrong muscles and can become resentful when the rider changes the rules drastically in 2-3 years. A good approach is to show them the way to a good frame (not forcing it, but not ignoring it).

                                A walk, trot and canter over the back is not difficult for any horse at any age under saddle. They all can do it even if they don't want to.

                                A horse who wants to balance on the reins - you discourage it but you can't punish the horse for doing what it thinks it needs to do to balance. You can discourage the behavior by releasing the inside rein or moving the bit in the mouth with driving aids. You can release both reins but some will state that this discourages a young horse from trusting the outside rein. Your approach depends on your approach. Or, you can wait for the horse to learn to balance itsself with correct training. It depends on the horse and you want them to have a confident experience. They aren't on your preferred timeline.

                                IMO, someone starting an athletic youngster should know what they're doing. If not, pay someone. The OP mentioned videos seen on facebook. I did finish with:

                                Lastly, I'd say that there are many, many incorrectly ridden young horses that are forced into a frame, pushed too hard too fast, or the trainer can't adapt their training program to every horse. It's really hard to tell what is going on my watching Facebook clips!!!!!
                                Proud member of the Colbert Dressage Nation

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  Originally posted by piedmontfields View Post
                                  As a sort of example of development, Carl Hester's piece on "How to make a Valegro" seems appropriate here:
                                  http://www.horsemagazine.com/thm/201...ake-a-valegro/

                                  Check out the photo of Blueberry at age 3.
                                  Without reading the article, I know for sure Valegro was an outlier. People should educate themselves on the very athletic but mentally tricky horses that Negro often sires. Bunches of people are going to be surprised. I knew only one Negro baby who was an amateur mount (went to I1). Her daughter was a working student at AvO's barn and campaigned her young Negro son in Europe. Sold him rather than importing him due to his nature. I planned to breed to Negro but thought twice when I considered the odds of getting a non-pro horse and talked with the daughter. Sure, they exist, I had one in the barn! But the odds....
                                  Proud member of the Colbert Dressage Nation

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    My experience with young horses, without knowing the specific pictures the OP is talking about..

                                    . I am still trying to get to PSG with my older mare. we made it to 4th level ok but then we ran into issues and I found out that she is not honest enough in front of my legs and that suppleness was missing too.. You can cheat around it in lower levels but at some point you need that. We have been working on it real hard and I think we are on a good way...

                                    I also have a 5 year old which is very talented and which I love to pieces.. When I started to focus on my problems with my older mare I found out that basically my young horse had the same issues... I alsways thought the reason was that she was young but I decided to try to be as consistent with her and as demanding as with my older mare.... And to my surprise, she had no problems at all with it.... She obviously thought that was normal because she did not have a lot of experience with not beeing in front of the leg..
                                    My older mare had melt downs about it and took us a long time til she accepted it. My young horse had no problems at all...

                                    So my personal conclusion is that I will ride my young horse exactly the same way as my old horse. She will need the basics anyhow and if she is allowed to go in an easier way for her for a longer time she will have problems to adjust... In the moment my young horse feels totally amazing and in many ways much easier then my old mare. Basically she goes the same way without the upper level movements.....
                                    .. And I don’t think it’s a talent thing...
                                    https://www.facebook.com/Luckyacresfarm
                                    https://www.facebook.com/Ulrike-Bsch...4373849955364/

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                                    • #19
                                      I'm such a low level rider it's a joke that I'm even commenting. But in my personal dressage journey, my eyes have been opened to how few people without a dressage foundation truly understand riding from back to front.

                                      Obviously, talented dressage riders of any level get it. But it's not taught in other disciplines, even if similar verbiage gets tossed around.

                                      It's relatively easy to control the head/frame and ride front to back. It's also not difficult to control/manipulate the frame to the point where you can fake riding from back to front to the less-trained eye. It's been shocking to me how many extraordinarily talented riders who claim to value a dressage foundation (show jumpers, eventers, etc.) aren't actually connecting their horse from back to front at all; they are cramming their horses into a frame and have the immense skill to fake dressage-like movements to a passable degree. There are plenty of pseudo-dressage trainers in the sport doing the same thing.

                                      Young horse classes and marketing young horses seems to exacerbate the "faking it" problem. When you have limited time to show off your young horse, steady in the bridle, even to the point of being slightly behind the vertical, paints a "better" quick picture to the average eye than the reality of a young horse being a bit inconsistent in the bridle.

                                      Of course, this is just my two cents. And none of us commenting have seen the videos in question.
                                      Don't fall for a girl who fell for a horse just to be number two in her world... ~EFO

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                                      • #20
                                        Originally posted by J-Lu View Post
                                        Without reading the article, I know for sure Valegro was an outlier.
                                        My point in posting the link was to show that Valegro at aged 3-4 was being ridden like a young horse, in a more open frame. Does that make him an outlier? ;-)

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