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Riding/Training the ALPHA Dressage Horse?

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  • Riding/Training the ALPHA Dressage Horse?

    What have your experiences been with riding and working with/training the ALPHA dressage horse?

    I've had a few alphas over the years, but mostly beta-type horses and just bought a true, very green ALPHA mare. I was drawn to her for her amazing, commanding presence (among other things), but she's a bit of an unbalanced Alpha at this point...always trying to be dominant in her field (she's not yet, but has been trying daily) and when being worked with.

    The other Alphas I've had were pretty balanced...no one messed with them, they never seemed to get aggressive either with their pasturemates or with me...both the green ones and the older schoolmasters...

    Would love to hear your experiences with your Alphas.

  • #2
    I have an Alpha mare that is now 26 and just my hack out fun horse. She came to me when she was 12, had been a brood mare at 3, the previous wners had tried to break her at 5, FAIL, tried to teach her how to drive after that major FAIL, and she had been shooed around to different trainers to see if they could make/sell her.
    The owners had contacted me thru a young lady i was giving lessons to and gave me almost no back story just that she was a green broodmare at the age of 12 that needed to be started and settled down so she could be sold. I waited for them to show up the day after she was deliviered but running out of day light, decided to saddle and try her. Not realizing she was so against the whole human on her back thing, I just expected her to behave, saddled her up, hopped on after a 20 minute conversation about standing still for mounting. They droveup as I was wtc her around to get the feel and they almost had heart attacks. They then told me her full history and we all got a chuckle. For the next 2 years ( I bought her my self) she and I had many a long negotiation over proper behavior. I never used spurs, respected her space, asked politely but firmly, gave ourselves lots of time to be prepared for all endeavors. I tried really hard to never never put us in a situation that would provoke a fight. And I have to say, I never came off of her, she goes over/thru anything I point her at, gave me 6 fabulous babies and still runs her herd without question. She rules her herd with out kicking or biting, just faces, body language and sheer will power. I let my 11 year old daughter hack her out now and I have complete confidence everyone will come home safely. The only thing I have never convinced her is a necessary thing is clipping, but at her age, wth, who cares!
    bad decisions make good stories


    • #3
      I have an alpha mare. I spayed her! She was THAT bad.
      To me the key is defining, and re-defining, that YOU are alpha. Period. Punishment, when needed, must be effective, but short and swift and to the point, and then forgotten.
      She needs to learn that YOU are the alpha, the protector, and that there is no room for error.
      This is not to imply you beat the crap out her, etc. Actually just the contrary. Discipline must be short and swift.
      Lines must be drawn in the sand and NEVER crossed.
      When she is good, she is rewarded.
      Here are some examples with my mare.
      Treats: She likes them. I use them. She asks for them. She gets them on MYterms. Not everytime for things she has gotten them for before. Not everytime she asks.
      Agression example. She kicked at me one when I was putting her shipping boots on her. I hadn't messed with her much in about a month because of my work schedule. She lashed out (she is big--17.2). I lashed back, with the shipping boot. I am sure she thought I was beating the heck out of her due all the noise the foam filled boot was making. After about 10 secs of that she was quiet, calm and very much "yes mom, sorry about that, that was my evil twin".
      She hates to be blanketed. Absolutely hates it. She ran my husband out of the field once when he tried to blanket her at supper time. She tired that one day with me, again in a momentary memory lapse. I chased her around the field with the blanket. She finally stopped dead her tracks, planted all 4 feet and let me blanket her.

      Now, she will do virtually anything I ask. As long as she remembers that since I am alpha, I am also the herd protector and guardian. I think that is the most important thing your mare has to learn.

      I like alpha horses. They are fun. But it can sure be a fine line at times.

      Good luck.


      • #4
        that is funny about the blanket thing, my queen does the same thing!! after 14 years, still have to have the conversation the first sheeting of fall. cant do it in her stall like everyone else, have to be on cross ties ( that was a conversation of epic tales learning to stand where you are put) and my husband doesn't dare!!
        bad decisions make good stories


        • #5
          Enigma is definitely the herd Queen.
          Her presence is an understated commanding nature.
          Sometimes she likes to play catch me if you can and her herd mates must bare with her insistent use of them as barriers to the catch.
          I love her stately Queen presence, that alpha essence shows up in a positive manner when she is ridden....attitude, attitude and more attitude.
          Ask and allow, do not demand and force.


          • #6
            If you want a REALLY good show horse, they kind of have to be an alpha type. They need the confidence. Unless you're not very experienced, you should be OK with a dominant type horse, because you get hurt if you're a person and aren't the alpha, not matter what. The thing I've really discovered is they need a job, or many jobs, to keep them interested and motivated. It's not enough just keeping the herd under control with a look or sideways swipe, but they need to DO stuff and be challenged. They really LIKE to work and be pushed, once they discover how powerful they are. That's why I think you need this personality to do well showing. All of mine have never been very good lower level types--too boring. They've all bloomed when there was "enough" to do in the tests and movements that were challenging.

            My mare now is like this. We've had to do a LOT of retraining and dealing with attitude, and it was a bear to get her to go in a straight line instead of trying to do 50 movements at once, but she is so talented. I ended up getting her, because, even though she was badly greenbroke, way out of shape, and I couldn't touch her head (meaning when riding it was all over, flipping, yanking, pulling , flinging) when I asked her to canter on the spot and passage, even though she had no clue, she did it. Now we're making progress and she is strong. When she's doing a good job staying straight and calm in tempi changes and actually stays straight and through in the trot, she is rewarded by getting to do passage and piaffe. You can just feel that she loves to put all of that energy into using herself in this incredibly powerful way. They're workaholics, and a workaholic without a job is a bad thing.