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

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    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.
    There's no shame in that! The type that go from behind the leg and quiet to still behind the leg but inverted and panicking are really really tough to ride. I am soooo team neck rope for horses like this. My preference is to have the rope/leather/whatever long enough that I can hold the rope and my reins at a normal length. This gives you a lot of security and also prevents a backwards feel of the hands if he scoots. Whenever you feel him ball up and get tense you can only control your own level of tension. Being calm doesn't guarantee that he will join you but at least you are not adding fuel to the fire. Personally, I focus on my breathing and will sing/hum if needed to keep breathing and try to turn the horse using more leg than hand. It may look like a two by four but I try to think soft soft hand, stable seat, regular breathing, and try to get the ribcage to move. Avoiding a backwards feel on the reins when a horse inverts can often cut down the inversion time to a few strides instead of a few laps of tension.


      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!
      I completely agree with this post. And he will get less spicy over time with horses in the arena. My hot OTTB had a really hard time working with other horses in the arena because he just could not understand why they were not all going in the same direction

      I was taught to ride my hot OTTB this way (having 30 days retraining off the track): get him in front of the leg as described in the above post, and then focus on bending his body instead of worrying about where his head is. I just kept working on the bend (which is a really hard question for a baby OTTB) and it eventually turned into roundness and a connection to the outside rein. Plus bending can keep you safe

      I wouldn't trot him around on a loose rein- that's not helping anything and definitely not going to help with any naughty behavior. Give him a job- do figure 8s and serpentines and such, while asking for the change in bend.


        I don't have any issues with your stirrups or position. It's a hunter seat, but you're probably better off with a mobile seat and short stirrups on Spicypants. I would just push him forward when he evades the contact. You're doing great.


          Originally posted by Scribbler View Post

          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!
          Scribbler is spot on, as usual. Highly skilled riders are able to eek out flashes of what the horse can be. I got to observe the same giant young WB at our barn ridden by 3 people: 1) the adult amateur owner; a good rider but a little timid and not in peak fitness 2) The trainer, who is a fantastic rider and all around horsewoman 3) One of the top show jumping riders/trainers in the country. This horse is 18.1 and coming 5yo and fresh and silly like most baby WBs. It also has pipe-cleaner legs that it obviously doesn't trust 100% to be in the right places. Watching rider #3 hop on and canter off was mind-blowing. All that goofy baby WB energy was...I don't know...somehow gathered up into a tidy package with a bow and they were rolling along perfectly balanced and relaxed at an even tempo that also had incredible kinetic energy and effortless collection and extension. All within developmentally appropriate parameters for a 5yo monster WB. No collection and self-carriage like Valegro. Just nice rhythm and relaxation and an invitation to dialogue by rider #3s aids and the horse receptive and engaged in the conversation. Would've made a great sale video for what the horse could do for us mere mortals in a few years!

          You've gotten great advice from much better riders than me. But a few thoughts from the amateur biomechanics freak perspective:

          1) Has he been trained to understand what's being asked by the leg, seat, and hand aids? I didn't fully understand this until I watched my trainer sit on a client's OTTB for the first time. She checked to see if he had factory installed brakes and then started by gently applying her leg. As soon as he took a step forward, she took her leg off and offered effusive praise. A few repetitions and he thought this was the. coolest. game. ever and his attention was fully focused on her. Same process with the seat. Just 15 minutes at a time so he didn't get tired. Racehorses (at least around here) are trained that pulling back on the reins is the gas pedal. In watching people retrain OTTBs it seems like the response to the leg and seat has to be fully programmed before even thinking about real contact in the medium-upper level dressage sense.

          2) Frame in the way that I think you're envisioning can't happen until the horse develops a certain level of strength. After 30+ years of riding whatever was offered to my fiscally challenged self I got ridiculously lucky and fell into a lease on an FEI-level dressage horse that didn't like to compete but loves working on green human projects. After several months of riding only him I hopped on my daughter's horse. Asked her horse for a canter and it took me a few seconds to figure out that he was, in fact, cantering. Even at a slow, collected canter my horse has exponential power compared to my daughter's horse thanks to years of careful training to develop correct strength and balance. It pushes "meh" riders like me right up out of the tack. I wasn't having to work anywhere near as hard to maintain correct position while her horse cantered. To the point that I couldn't tell he'd made the upward transition at all.

          3) As others mentioned, there's a lot of motion in your hands/arms. Personally, I think it's mostly caused by the dreaded closed off hunter hip angle. Leaning forward, you have no choice but to use only arm muscles. When the hip angle opens so you can sit back, you're able to use the much larger, stronger muscles of the scapula and back to stabilize your arms. It's also a much stronger place to be when you need to get the horse to come back to you and fast. Sit down and back and your whole body acts as a lever versus just the forearms. The most obvious example I can think of is watching someone like McLain Ward on the last few strides of the approach to a jump. He's collecting the horse and sitting back but still riding more horse out in front of him than behind him, if that makes sense.

          You do the same thing with your inside rein that I do, letting it drop down. I've been gently scolded by both a German Riding Master clinician and by my horse on this. My daughter does it, too. (Maybe it's genetic in her case? lol) You might get the horse to drop his head by dropping your hand but you won't get the softening and inside bend necessary for true self-carriage and frame. When the inside bend eventually develops, it will come by moving your elbow straight back. Not by dropping the hand down. I blame the ubiquitous cue of trainers everywhere, "Bring your hand back to your hip!" Yeah. Guess what? Most of us have to lower our hand to bring it to our hip. Maybe it's time for new language? We yoga teachers used to all say, "root to rise" and "spin your back foot flat". Most of us no longer use those cues based on better, more current anatomical information.

          Hope some little tidbit in there might help. You guys look like you're off to a great start together!


            You might find this video helpful. It is my "young" OTTB right after I started riding him (30 days off the track training) during a lesson with my trainer, who is excellent with young horses and OTTBs:


              Don't hate me... but when I quickly scanned the list of thread topics, I read this one as ... Green thoroughbred contact lenses... and for a nano-second or six wondered why anyone would want green tinted contact lenses for their TB...


                Original Poster

                I kinda fell off the bandwagon with this thread, but thank you all so much!


                  At this stage it's more about the relationship the horse is developing with the bridle than about the outline he takes on at any given moment. The phrase I've always really liked is that you are "offering the bit to the horse to accept". You quietly keep the bit lightly and passively in contact with his mouth, and tactfully ride his hind leg toward it.

                  You mention that he is lazy when he's not running away. Both behaviors indicate he is not really in front of your leg. You will need to establish a reliable acceptance of and obedience to the leg before you are able to really address the contact. Rhythm, Relaxation, then Contact.

                  When he is steadily forward from your leg and quietly accepting your passive contact in a natural outline, then introducing some baby leg yield etc will help you establish lateral suppleness. Then sending him forward within that suppleness will develop a stronger connection over the topline and a more formal- looking outline.