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Green thoroughbred contact issues... let him go long and low to relax?

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    Green thoroughbred contact issues... let him go long and low to relax?

    Hello, I am a hunter rider (who doesn’t embrace the monicker but non the less that is my background) who has also evented and have a green TB that I really want to eventually do straight dressage with (and event... but I think he’s nice enough to do “real”/good dressage). Not a sale prospect horse.

    Background on him, he’s 5, I bought him off the track in June last year, was a horrible racehorse, was said to gallop up in the air vs forward and out. Had the ankles and horrible topline/ weak stifles to support that assessment. I wouldn’t say he’s a spooky horse, more just terribly vigilant, sensitive and reactive. He had horrible gut issues when I first got him, but we’ve put a lot of resources into getting him feeling better. The past 8 months he’s spent a good amount of time long lining and lunging with Vienna reins.
    Due to farm restrictions (and at this point moving is not an option... I love his barn manager) I can’t bring in a trainer until I can get outside and ride in “my” grass ring up near our barn. I’ve developed a ton of TB h/j horses, but honestly this is the first one I’ve had who is this much horse.

    Anyway, as seen in the videos, the horse gets very tight. Wants nothing to do with contact, but I can “get him” if allowed to stretch forward and down. Granted, that is a “hunter frame” and not a “dressage frame”. At this point, is a longer frame (even if he is on the forehand) better than nothing? Does relaxation trump “correctness”? Sitting up and more into him in very concerning to him at this point.

    I understand I will likely get ripped apart for my riding in the below videos and possibly get comments that I’m going to ruin him without a trainer, but believe me I’m doing what I can right now.

    https://youtu.be/shOycxnNhK8 One of few post track ride with other horses in the ring... got quite upset

    https://youtu.be/RqH-I-8dxEk pretty good this day

    https://youtu.be/f1clnjL33h4 lunging



    #2
    Stop worrying about "frame". You need to focus on having a steady connection with his mouth and he needs to learn to accept contact. At this stage you need an open throatlatch and a longer neck. But you do not need to be going around with the reins flopping - sometimes in contact and sometimes loose. Horses are happier when you have consistant contact. Once you have a steady connection you can use bending and other exercises to get him to soften at the poll.

    And this is from someone who had a terrible time being able to keep a good connection on the outside rein. But doing so and riding from back to front solved a lot of my problems.

    Comment


      #3
      And with the lunging the horse is being taught to go with his head down but the flopping sidereins are not teaching how to accept contact. I know - I am working through this with my mare who is on the 30 year training plan. It is hard to get the right length of side rein without making them short in the neck. I am still adjusting to do this.

      Comment


        #4
        Relaxation is number 1, so "long and low hunter frame" is initially what you need to install. We in dressage do not "frame" horses, we teach them to use their bodies in a way that eventually allows for collection which eventually gets you the "dressage horse" appearance.

        You have a lovely horse and you have good basics. Build on that by 1) keeping your thumbs up (no puppy paws) 2) shortening your reins some in order to acquire consistent contact, and 3) every time he softens to your wide hands, bring them back together just above the wither. When, and only when, he is softly swinging his back and connected to the rein, you can ask him to move forward (not faster) more to get a longer stride. Build from there.

        Comment


          #5
          As SusanO mentioned ‘stop worrying about “frame” ‘... you are on a better track when you think about relaxation, that is the first step in the training pyramid. Your boy needs to know that once relaxed he can accept contact and then the work can begin. Till then if he will even stretch lower in the trot work it will help build the top line muscles. That takes longer then most people realize with horse not purpose bred for the work. With a sensitive horse you can also think about transitions and direction changes from weight alone, not just the reins. Don’t neglect the walk, you could spend lots of time picking up the contact and then allowing the horse to walk with contact remembering to not restrict the movement in the neck.

          Comment


            #6
            Originally posted by Sue B View Post
            Relaxation is number 1, so "long and low hunter frame" is initially what you need to install. We in dressage do not "frame" horses, we teach them to use their bodies in a way that eventually allows for collection which eventually gets you the "dressage horse" appearance.

            You have a lovely horse and you have good basics. Build on that by 1) keeping your thumbs up (no puppy paws) 2) shortening your reins some in order to acquire consistent contact, and 3) every time he softens to your wide hands, bring them back together just above the wither. When, and only when, he is softly swinging his back and connected to the rein, you can ask him to move forward (not faster) more to get a longer stride. Build from there.
            This.

            Stretching into contact and going long low and *out* is step number one for a dressage horse. You do not start to raise the neck and bring the poll in until you have contact confirmed long low and out, and you are starting to think about collection.

            In other words a green dressage horse *should* be moving like a hunter.

            Continue to ride like this until you have steady contact. Meanwhile you need a crash course on dressage basics. If you go into dressage thinking about frame and headset you *will* ruin your horse.

            You need to put emphasis on getting the hind end engaged before you think about collection so start with all the lateral work at a walk, low head is fine for now

            Comment

              Original Poster

              #7
              Originally posted by Scribbler View Post

              This.

              Stretching into contact and going long low and *out* is step number one for a dressage horse. You do not start to raise the neck and bring the poll in until you have contact confirmed long low and out, and you are starting to think about collection.

              In other words a green dressage horse *should* be moving like a hunter.

              Continue to ride like this until you have steady contact. Meanwhile you need a crash course on dressage basics. If you go into dressage thinking about frame and headset you *will* ruin your horse.

              You need to put emphasis on getting the hind end engaged before you think about collection so start with all the lateral work at a walk, low head is fine for now
              Ok... all the professionals post videos of “first rides” where the horse is already higher and collected, so that’s why I get “stuck” into thinking maybe I’m doing it wrong. I know how to (for the most part....sometimes) ride a green hunter, but I watch all these pros on YouTube (on TBs mainly) and they have them higher from the get-go, so that’s where I get confused. But, if the answer for right now is to work on a better hand and shorten my rein to work on a consistent contact while encouraging the long and low, I can work with that. He’s very flexible laterally (compared to other horses I’ve ridden), so I’ll keep playing with that at the walk.

              I really appreciate you all!

              Comment


                #8
                That was a nice post-track ride. The first thing to focus on is rhythm at the walk and trot after the track. You want a steady walk/trot the whole time, teaching the horse to maintain the rhythm that you set i.e. a steady four beat walk and two beat trot.

                The position of his head is not important right now, what is important now that is the next order of business is accepting contact and going forward. When he flips his head about he is discussing this whole “contact” idea with you. He is evading the contact and seeking to get behind the leg. You need to maintain a steady contact with his mouth at all times. Think 1 pound of pressure in both hands. Make sure the weight is equal and is steady and in no circumstance do you want to pull back or lean onto the reins as that will punish him for going forward; which, the unsteadiness of your reins in the second riding video is punishing. You have contact with his mouth and then you throw him away and this can be distressing for a young, green horse but especially for one that can be a bit anxious. Your steady contact is your source of communication with him, a way to tell him that you will help him balance and that you will tell him what to do or expect next.

                When he flips his head about, raises his head, or backs off your leg thus causing slack in the reins, do not shorten your reins or pull your hands back to find the contact again. Instead gently close your legs to encourage him forward again and into the contact. Right now he will probably scoot forward quickly and awkwardly and lose his rhythm but that is okay, stay steady there for him. Horses that can be anxious or are described as being “a lot of horse” tend to go through a phase of resistance with contact, it is not ugliness on their part but a misunderstanding. I would not allow him to go around the arena with his head down and on the forehand as this will not teach him to accept and to seek contact but can do the opposite by teaching him how to get away from it by dropping his head. It also does not encourage the development that you will be looking for in dressage. Alternatively, teaching a horse to stretch at the walk and trot is taught once the horse is learning to accept contact begins to seek it and reach for the bit.

                You are not looking for him to drop his head or break at the poll, you are looking for him to stretch into the contact and when he does you will see a lengthening of his topline/neck.

                Best of luck, he is a cute mover and one day you will really appreciate having that energy and forward-thinkingness to work with!

                Comment


                  #9
                  First I want to admire your courage in posting videos and second, you've got some serious butt glue. And third, your endurance in being able to do that much trot work.

                  You have some positional flaws that you need to work on.

                  Your hands get too low and start pointing to the ground. You want to strive for the hand and elbow straight to the bit always. This will allow you keep the constant contact.

                  A horse usually comes above the bit because the back and neck muscles arent strong enough to support him being in self carriage.

                  That is the goal. Dressage means training. We want to do meaningful work that slowly builds the correct muscles so that the horse will be ready for the more demanding tasks ahead.

                  I can see that you are trying to keep from pulling his nose in. But loosening the reins wont fix this.

                  Lateral work is a good way to help your horse learn how to accept contact.

                  Turn on the forehand and shoulder fore are very simple exercises that any horse can learn to do.

                  Also, letting your horse just trot around isn't really teaching him anything.

                  Do some upward transitions walk to trot and transitions within the gait shortening and lengthening for a few steps.

                  If you can, invest in a couple of lunge lessons with a dressage instructor. That will help you with your position and balance.

                  You may also consider sending him to a dressage trainer for a few weeks.

                  This is no reflection on your abilities as a rider. I am suggesting it because you may be able to consult with the instructor about exercises that you can do on days you arent having lessons.


                  You've got a really nice horse and you ride pretty good already.

                  One last thing, and I mean this in a constructive way, Dressage is not a do it yourself kind of thing. You really need the eyes on the ground. Videos and books are great and you can learn a lot from them. But there is no substitute for an educated eye.
                  Ask me how I know ths.

                  Hope this helps.
                  Good luck.



                  Certified Guacophobe

                  Comment

                    Original Poster

                    #10
                    Originally posted by AnastasiaBeaverhousen View Post
                    First I want to admire your courage in posting videos and second, you've got some serious butt glue. And third, your endurance in being able to do that much trot work.

                    You have some positional flaws that you need to work on.

                    Your hands get too low and start pointing to the ground. You want to strive for the hand and elbow straight to the bit always. This will allow you keep the constant contact.

                    A horse usually comes above the bit because the back and neck muscles arent strong enough to support him being in self carriage.

                    That is the goal. Dressage means training. We want to do meaningful work that slowly builds the correct muscles so that the horse will be ready for the more demanding tasks ahead.

                    I can see that you are trying to keep from pulling his nose in. But loosening the reins wont fix this.

                    Lateral work is a good way to help your horse learn how to accept contact.

                    Turn on the forehand and shoulder fore are very simple exercises that any horse can learn to do.

                    Also, letting your horse just trot around isn't really teaching him anything.

                    Do some upward transitions walk to trot and transitions within the gait shortening and lengthening for a few steps.

                    If you can, invest in a couple of lunge lessons with a dressage instructor. That will help you with your position and balance.

                    You may also consider sending him to a dressage trainer for a few weeks.

                    This is no reflection on your abilities as a rider. I am suggesting it because you may be able to consult with the instructor about exercises that you can do on days you arent having lessons.


                    You've got a really nice horse and you ride pretty good already.

                    One last thing, and I mean this in a constructive way, Dressage is not a do it yourself kind of thing. You really need the eyes on the ground. Videos and books are great and you can learn a lot from them. But there is no substitute for an educated eye.
                    Ask me how I know ths.

                    Hope this helps.
                    Good luck.


                    I loosely have plans to do a month of training board w a dressage trainer when we get more going, but that won’t be for a while. Thanks for the suggestions!

                    Comment


                      #11
                      You do not need to get going to go to the lessons. You can go now and have the correct way of going instilled so as you don't have to retrain what is being done wrong between now and then.

                      There is two things I would change immediately.

                      Get rid of the vienna reins and use side reins. Side reins are not a gadget. Everything else is.

                      You need to be taught how to lunge with them. As with your riding you want him going forward into the side reins. You never pull them in with side reins, the same as you never pull them in when riding to create a frame. Don't walk in side reins, they can cause a lateral walk.

                      The other thing I would do is drop your stirrups. You have to earn your long stirrups so you can't drop them right down immediately.

                      Think lift your hands and sit on your butt. That will help him get off his forehand.

                      As someone else said. Hand and rein straight to the bit. As the horse advances the head carriage is higher, so you have your hands at a different height depending on what horse you are riding and whether you going at long and low or collecting.
                      It is better to ride 5 minutes a day than it is to ride 35 minutes on a Sunday.

                      Comment


                        #12
                        It is always interesting to use poles on the ground. They improve many aspects such as straightness, rythmn, impulsion, balance and thinking forwards by both horse and rider. Poles on the straight; in circles; randomly placed; at walk, trot and canter. Think about straightness, placing him accurately over the poles, think of rythmn and impulsion over poles. Think about stretching and collecting over poles. Counting aloud is easy and it really helps develop and maintain rthymn in each gait.

                        And circle work, lots and lots of circles, starting with large ones as he builds strength and learns to balance, then they can decrease in size. Then more circles, in various imaginative combinations and patterns.

                        Lots and lots of transitions, with a few more circles, and then lots and lots of transitions. Don't forget the variations within the gait.

                        Oh, and then take up the contact gradually and steadily. Contact is where the fancy moves can begin and it is really difficult for most mere mortals to achieve. It is a dynamic and subtle process between horse and rider and has little to do with a fixed 'frame'.

                        It is always worth remembering that 10 minutes of good work is infinitely more valuable than 60 minutes of "bleah" and 2 minutes of excellent will keep you smiling for hours afterwards. Make every move count e.g. every time you halt, make it straight, every time. It might be helpful to put up letters in the arena so you can ride shapes accurately.

                        He is a very nice horse.
                        "Good young horses are bred, but good advanced horses are trained" Sam Griffiths

                        Comment


                          #13
                          Originally posted by Eventer2483 View Post

                          Ok... all the professionals post videos of “first rides” where the horse is already higher and collected, so that’s why I get “stuck” into thinking maybe I’m doing it wrong. I know how to (for the most part....sometimes) ride a green hunter, but I watch all these pros on YouTube (on TBs mainly) and they have them higher from the get-go, so that’s where I get confused. But, if the answer for right now is to work on a better hand and shorten my rein to work on a consistent contact while encouraging the long and low, I can work with that. He’s very flexible laterally (compared to other horses I’ve ridden), so I’ll keep playing with that at the walk.

                          I really appreciate you all!
                          Are you looking at pro sales videos?

                          If the horse is being sold the horse gets packaged into something approximating a more finished horse so the buyer can see what he looks like. Then the buyer has to go back to correct training. It's like a video of a 3 year old free jumping 4 feet in a chute. Doesn't mean he can do it under saddle.
                          ​​​​​

                          If the horse has a naturally higher headset he may carry his head higher.

                          If the last is true a good trainer will then make that high headed horse stretch to the bit and resemble your horse.

                          Don't believe everything you see online!

                          Comment


                            #14
                            He's seriously cute. I love him!

                            One thing I noticed, and only because I had my headphones in, when he gets into a lovely forward trot you're saying "whoa" a lot in the first video. Then he goes back to the strung out typical OTTB trot which can feel like a sewing machine. While it's a fine line with TB's, he still has to have a motor and needs to go forward. To have him truly in front of your leg but still keeping a good rhythm. He looks like he has a good motor. Ask him to go forward and really mean it. He has to travel without you nagging at him every few strides with his leg. This requires you to be disciplined and constantly checking that you're not getting into the nagging habit.

                            The same thing needs to apply for the transitions. It's a "Yes ma'am" response. Not taking 3 strides to dilly dally around and finally get into the trot. Work on getting a snappy and forward response and so many transitions that you're going to scream if you have to do another one. Mix it up. Walk 5, trot 6, then walk 3 strides and trot 10. It'll really help him getting to think and use himself more too.

                            He also needs to start some lateral flexion. He needs to move off your inside leg around corners and on circles which will also help him relax over the back and move from him.

                            Start at the walk, if he tolerates a whip use one, and then come down the quarter line. Bend him slightly to the inside and ask him to move over. Praise every step to begin with and once he's comfortable with that, try in the trot. This will also help him to bend and ride into the corners, instead of going like a camel through them. Same thing on the circle, except close the outside rein on his neck so he doesn't keep going sideways.

                            In the second video, besides the lack of motor, he looks a lot more relaxed. You're on the right track with him. He looks like he's going to be a blast!
                            Not my circus, not my monkeys!

                            Comment


                              #15
                              I think the longer "hunter" frame is completely appropriate and with a bit more of a neutral balance would be pleasant and score nicely at training level.

                              You've received a lot of information and insight. From my perspective, the one thing I think would make a big difference is your elbows. Your actual hands are very quiet and sympathetic but you hold some tension in your elbows. If you look at nothing but your hands you can see in a few sections that there is a bounce happening that traces back to your elbows. My gut says that focusing on a more elastic and mobile elbow will make him more solid in the contact and address much of the hand to bit comments you've received.

                              Comment

                                Original Poster

                                #16
                                Originally posted by BrokenArrow View Post
                                He's seriously cute. I love him!

                                One thing I noticed, and only because I had my headphones in, when he gets into a lovely forward trot you're saying "whoa" a lot in the first video. Then he goes back to the strung out typical OTTB trot which can feel like a sewing machine. While it's a fine line with TB's, he still has to have a motor and needs to go forward. To have him truly in front of your leg but still keeping a good rhythm. He looks like he has a good motor. Ask him to go forward and really mean it. He has to travel without you nagging at him every few strides with his leg. This requires you to be disciplined and constantly checking that you're not getting into the nagging habit.

                                The same thing needs to apply for the transitions. It's a "Yes ma'am" response. Not taking 3 strides to dilly dally around and finally get into the trot. Work on getting a snappy and forward response and so many transitions that you're going to scream if you have to do another one. Mix it up. Walk 5, trot 6, then walk 3 strides and trot 10. It'll really help him getting to think and use himself more too.

                                He also needs to start some lateral flexion. He needs to move off your inside leg around corners and on circles which will also help him relax over the back and move from him.

                                Start at the walk, if he tolerates a whip use one, and then come down the quarter line. Bend him slightly to the inside and ask him to move over. Praise every step to begin with and once he's comfortable with that, try in the trot. This will also help him to bend and ride into the corners, instead of going like a camel through them. Same thing on the circle, except close the outside rein on his neck so he doesn't keep going sideways.

                                In the second video, besides the lack of motor, he looks a lot more relaxed. You're on the right track with him. He looks like he's going to be a blast!
                                That first video where the appy and the pony were in the video he was WILD. Like, he gets tense and leaps airs above ground and I try to slingshot towards the dirt (around 2:20 I think). He goes between that and super lazy. Finding a true happy medium has been difficult for me... and not too proud to say I get a bit fearful sometimes when he’s like that. He’s just a lot of horse. Again, I would get a ton of confidence from someone on the ground, but at this exact time it’s not possible. My overwhelming take away from this is I need to do more transitions and useful work (also lateral) and try to fix from my hand to upper arm. Do those things and the connection will come. And hopefully a more relaxed horse too. Haha

                                Comment


                                  #17
                                  Originally posted by Eventer2483 View Post

                                  That first video where the appy and the pony were in the video he was WILD. Like, he gets tense and leaps airs above ground and I try to slingshot towards the dirt (around 2:20 I think). He goes between that and super lazy. Finding a true happy medium has been difficult for me... and not too proud to say I get a bit fearful sometimes when he’s like that. He’s just a lot of horse. Again, I would get a ton of confidence from someone on the ground, but at this exact time it’s not possible. My overwhelming take away from this is I need to do more transitions and useful work (also lateral) and try to fix from my hand to upper arm. Do those things and the connection will come. And hopefully a more relaxed horse too. Haha
                                  It will come! And you're doing a great job so far.

                                  One thing that helped my confidence to kick through the nonsense with babies or OTTB's is to ride with a neck strap. It's just an old stirrup leather around the neck but I found it a lot easier to grab than having to reach back and grab a monkey grip. It also helped with the moments where I had to just grab onto something and kick.
                                  Not my circus, not my monkeys!

                                  Comment


                                    #18
                                    Originally posted by BrokenArrow View Post

                                    It will come! And you're doing a great job so far.

                                    One thing that helped my confidence to kick through the nonsense with babies or OTTB's is to ride with a neck strap. It's just an old stirrup leather around the neck but I found it a lot easier to grab than having to reach back and grab a monkey grip. It also helped with the moments where I had to just grab onto something and kick.
                                    Or better than an old stirrup leather, use a martingale yoke. That's what he wore at the track, and there's a good chance he may slow down a bit when you pull back on it. (I've galloped dozens of racing TBs, you learn to ALWAYS keep a finger on the yoke! Makes it easier to go with the sudden spooks and baby shenanigans.)

                                    I watched most of your first video...I actually really like how he starts out. Yes, he's inverted with no connection, but he was relaxed and swinging with rhythm and energy. Later on, he got flat and behind the leg as it seemed you were fussing with your hands.

                                    Work on developing an honest connection with the outside rein, like holding a child's hand to cross the street: confident, trusting, guiding, not rough or locked. You may play a little with the inside rein (but use your leg FIRST, any time you want bend!), but outside rein must always be steady. What you see professionals accomplish quickly is a consistent, elastic contact, and pushing the horse into it without rushing. It takes practice, feel, and timing, with soft elbows that release instantly when the horse *thinks* about accepting contact and leg.

                                    Try to lift your shoulders and bring your hips more underneath, sit a little more vertical. I know it's tough in a jump saddle, on a fresh OTTB, but it will help his balance and use your body to regulate pace. When your hip is way out behind you, so are his hind legs! Bring the butt under (in increments) and the "frame" will follow.
                                    A clever person solves a problem. A wise person avoids it.
                                    ? Albert Einstein

                                    ~AJ~

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                                      #19
                                      I think you are on the right track from riding video #1 to video #2. A couple things that I don't think have been mentioned yet:

                                      You can teach the horse flexions from the ground to get him to release forward and down when one rein is lifted. Then you can bring this to the saddle and get a forward/downward release when he starts bracing or flipping his head up. While dressage shouldn't shoot for a "frame" I think it's also important to acknowledge that maintaining a long topline will lead to the correct muscle development, whereas trying to ride the hind end is not productive if the back is contracted and the neck inverted. Once you have this response in place, it will be helpful when you start to introduce stretchy trot.

                                      I agree with the comments that you should focus on changing your hands a bit. You tend to break at the wrist and with the shorter stirrup, your hands are often right by your knees. Shorten your reins, put your hands closer together and more forward. You can use your knees as a marker and try to keep your hands away from them. It is OK to ride a little bit with wide hands when a young horse starts losing its steering, but that is a correction, and then the hands come back together in front of the pommel. If you've ever gone fishing, an image that helps me, is to think of the contact like having a small fish on your hook and looking for that energetic feeling through the rein. When you lose contact because the horse is ducking, think of pushing the bit out and asking the horse to go out to it to reestablish the connection, rather than bringing the hand back to take up the slack in the rein. This allows you to keep a soft elbow and wrist, and eventually the horse will find that this is a comfortable, reassuring feeling and seek that soft connection to the bit.

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                                        #20
                                        At this point tin time, simple walk trot and canter, with a lot of from your body transitions, and changes of direction. In your first ride video his head carriage is fine, Just a second before he blew up you arms had a moment of stiffness, and he reacted. Congrats for staying glued. I almost thought you were in for a bloody nose.

                                        I'd take my time introducing turn on the forehand, but LY can be hinted at by an early turn up the long side with a length of arena drift to the track, keeping straight. The ever so useful true lateral work should only be started when he is strong enough to carry an accurate 10 m circle.

                                        Meanwhile, remember contact is just being there, holding hands lightly.

                                        Those first ride already round horses, were probably 'born in the bridle' warmbloods. There is a big difference.
                                        Last edited by merrygoround; Mar. 23, 2020, 04:42 PM.
                                        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.

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