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Pony collapsing behind the verticle?

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  • Pony collapsing behind the verticle?

    So I went to a clinic and we worked on pony being round for the first time ever. Pony had some trouble but figured it out at the end. Well today was our second ride since the clinic and he has got the walk with bend and his back up down I barely have any contact maintaining it with my seat.

    So today we worked on our trot. Its taken what seems like forever for me to get him to maintain a rhythmic steady trot. So today I half halt and he literally tucks his nose and plows around on the forehand. We walk ask for trot again half halt and its nose to chest again. If I let go of the reins completely he comes back up but still plows around on the forehand then I'll gather my reins back up and down comes his head again. This is seriously the 3rd ride since I've started even asking for any contact.

    Should I go back to just getting him to maintain steady rhythm? Pony is smart like super smart, so I can see his mind going ohh I know what she wants and then trying to do it. So he has essentially made up his mind on the matter. I however do not want him even close to where he thinks he should go.

    Any ideas?
    --Luck is what happens when preparedness meets opportunity--

  • #2
    I think he is telling you, "too much, too soon, Mom!".

    Depending upon the conformation and age of the horse, you cannot expect a him to suddenly be strong enough to carry himself over his back from here on out. What is his age (I am guessing young?), training, and how long have you been together? What has your experience been with other horses, training, and contact?

    Should I go back to just getting him to maintain steady rhythm?
    YES!! You are spot on here! Good thinking!

    Let's look at the training scale/pyramid. The bottom rungs are:
    1) Rhythm and regularity
    2) Relaxation
    3) THEN Contact

    You mentioned that it takes him forever to establish a steady rhythm. This makes sense as to why you do not have proper contact. Without rhythm and regularity first, followed by relaxation, you cannot expect to have correct contact. The ingredients have to be in the right order to get the right results.

    So today I half halt and he literally tucks his nose and plows around on the forehand.
    That does not sound like a H/H. Here, he is saying, "Too loud! Too much halt, not enough half" ie: release me! Your contact sounds a bit too strong here. You can apply a H/H, and still have the horse maintain upward balance. Try to make sure you are riding the horse uphill (not looking down, colapsing your body downward/forward) through H/H and downwards transitions.

    A half halt is QUICK = squeeze/close aids and immediate release. It is way too strong and long of a HALT if he has time to tuck his nose and plow to the forhand. The aids and the supsequent release there of need to be be quicker than the horse (when horse as much as thinks about responding, rider gives immediate release as a reward = then the horse learns the right answer). When he does this, make sure the contact is inviting forward, and then gently squeeze him forward. BUT: you must release!

    If I let go of the reins completely he comes back up but still plows around on the forehand then I'll gather my reins back up and down comes his head again.
    Do not let go of the reins. Contact should be consistant, inviting, and giving forward. NOT taking. NOT throwing away. What your are descibing here is the start of riding a horse from front to back (incorrect), not back to front (Correct!), and over the back.

    Hope this is helpful! You are very much on the right track in thinking you need to go back to the basics!

    Last edited by Fantastic; Dec. 16, 2010, 11:39 AM.


    • Original Poster

      Hes 6 a cob and has been under saddle for over 6 months.

      Then the next thing is I am the queen of too little contact, I flat out refuse to get in ones mouth. I'm often told that my half halts are too silent. And I hate rushing training with a passion.

      Which I guess now that I'm asking for some he's taken by surprise. When I'm talking about a rhythmic trot I'm talking on a fairly loose rein and just rating it with my seat with a slight touch of the outside to say hey. Because all we've been doing is hacking everywhere.

      I've also made a mistake I'm not trying to get collection so much as I'm trying to get him using himself better. He likes his head fairly level but he doesn't use himself to push off. Down and round would be a good explanation as to what we are trying to achieve. So but adding in the contact I'm essentially trying to complete the circuit between leg seat and hands.

      Your right is could be to much for him but not from a physical stand point but from a more mental one but as a six year old I do think he is ready for a more purpose driven approach to riding.


      Here is what we achieved with the clinician, and all I'm trying to replicate by ourselves. Here in this photo I did release a tad to much hence the elbows and hands. Just to show down and round and using ones self is all I'm asking.
      --Luck is what happens when preparedness meets opportunity--


      • #4
        It is not asking too much at all. He is using the ducking as an evasion. I would not give up the contact- that just shows him he can hide from it and get away with it. I would use a quick "upward" half-halt and push him on forward every time he tries to duck. (the upward half halt is a quick chuck up toward the ceiling and push him forward at the same time) He must not learn that when he hides from the contact you give it up and let him loaf along. 6 years old is plenty old, he should be on contact and on the bit without arguing at this age.


        • #5
          Keep in mind if you are "very light" in contact, your attempts at contact may well be quite abrupt to him, even if you are trying to stay gentle. Often times a "light" contact is more severe than a more solid contact because it's not continuous. So the horse gets loose rein/pull/loose rein/pull depending on how you're moving, the horse's head, etc. A gentle steady contact with following hand keeps the communication constant.

          Reflecting solely upon my own riding and problems when I say it, my guess is that the problem is in your ability/lack of ability to keep steady contact.
          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.


          • #6
            Originally posted by mickeydoodle View Post
            6 years old is plenty old, he should be on contact and on the bit without arguing at this age.

            When does reaching a certain age determine whether a horse has the fitness/musculature/conformation to perform a task? This horse has been under saddle for 6 months and this is only the third ride in which the OP has even asked for contact.

            OP, have you tried walk/trot/walk transitions? Start with 5 walk steps/5 trot and work up to 1 walk/5 trot. Just be sure you're thinking "forward" into the down transitions and the up transitions are quick and crisp. Then increase the trot steps until you've got him going forward nicely into your hand, but always try to transition to the walk BEFORE he curls up.

            Because it sounds to me like you've got the idea of what you want, and you're ready. But your horse can't quite do it yet. And he's still sorting it all out.
            "... if you think i'm MAD, today, of all days,
            the best day in ten years,


            • #7
              Fantastic had it spot-on.

              From here: http://www.artofriding.com/articles/trainingscale.html

              "3- Contact: When the horse is accepting the rider’s hands, seat, and legs, it is said that he is offering good contact. Many people mistake contact for the horse being on the bit. That is not necessarily true and denotes riding with the hands alone. A horse moving under a rider is in contact with his seat, legs, and hands. Good contact is when the horse accepts and responds to seat and leg aids while maintaining a round outline with a mouth that is relaxed and accepting the bit. You can point out good contact when the horse’s back is raised, his quarters engaged, his poll the highest point, his jaw relaxed, and his nose a hint in front of the vertical (That is also a sign of good riding and training)."

              The horse is simply accepting of contact and as they maintain a round outline with a mouth that is relaxed and accepting, they start to pick up the bit as a natural course of progression.

              And here: http://www.classicaldressage.co.uk/T...ng_scales.html

              "Contact is the soft, steady connection between the rider's hand and the horse's mouth. The horse should go rhythmically forward from the rider's driving aids and "seek" a contact with the rider's hand, thus "going onto" the contact. A correct, steady contact allows the horse to find its balance under the rider and find a rhythm in each of the gaits. The poll should always be the highest point of the neck, except when the horse is being ridden forwards and downwards. The contact should never be achieved through a backward action of the hands; it should result from the correctly delivered forward thrust of the hind legs. The horse should go forward confidently onto the contact in response to the rider's driving aids."

              The HORSE seeks the contact as a natural progression once relaxation, rhythm, and suppleness are achieved. It is achieved by the FORWARD THRUST OF THE HIND LEGS, NOT by the rider's hand.

              And here: http://www.suite101.com/content/the-...-scale-a173217

              "Contact is the term used to describe a horse and rider who are well-connected from hind end to bit, coming through the horse’s back and rider’s body. A horse on the contact is easily visible due to the rounded-up appearance of his back just behind the saddle pad, which suggests he is rounding his back and stepping well underneath himself, and has an arch to his neck with his face on the vertical. The rider feels as if she has an arched bow under her, ready to spring. A horse, not the rider, should take the contact. Contact is part of the “familiarization and habituation” group and the “development of pushing power” group."

              Contact is NOT established by the rider. It is established by the horse as a RESULT of the horse learning to track up and balance itself and work from behind. This goes for the entire Training Scale - the horse establishes, the rider guides and refines. The horse develops push from behind, starts reaching further beneath itself, and starts rounding the back. As the body rounds into collection, the head and neck falls into place - in front of the vertical, and the horse picks up contact. Prior to that point, the horse is accepting of contact but is not actually on the bit. The hands are only meant to be guiding, not pulling or establishing anything. They guide only.

              How to encourage the horse to work efficiently and thus pick up contact? Exercises. Inside leg to outside hand, spiralling circles, transitions, changes in pace within a gait, lateral work, hillwork, work over poles, etc etc. 101 Dressage Exercises, Progressive Schooling Exercises for Dressage & Jumping (Islay Auty). Progressive exercises that encourage the horse to work from behind, such as circles and lateral work, force the horse to have to step beneath itself to balance itself. As such, they develop strength and the know-how to progress and collect further with the progression of the exercises. Eventually they develop the strength for their poll to be the highest point. Then the rider, who simply guides, can refine where fit with seat, hand, and legs. In the mean time, the rider's hands are soft and guiding (ie. outside rein, light contact, etc), legs are supportive and guiding (ie. inside leg, supportive contact, etc). Everything falls into place and harmoniously progresses from there.

              ETA: the comment about his age actually disturbs me. It shouldn't be about his age nor about arguing - dressage is about harmony; it is not about whether or not he argues about contact. It is your job as a rider to develop him in such a way that he doesn't argue about contact, because it is his idea. As a 6yo, he is where he is. He shouldn't be any further advanced nor less advanced. He is where he is due to his rider and due to his own experiences - age is not a factor.
              ....horses should be trained in such a way that they not only love their riders, but look forward to the time they are with them.
              ~ Xenophon, 350 B.C.


              • Original Poster

                Umm did anyone care to look at the picture I posted?
                --Luck is what happens when preparedness meets opportunity--


                • #9
                  Umm, yes. I did. Cute horse/pony.

                  But from a single photo, I really can't tell you more than I did. He might be a little on the downhill side, which would make going "round" more difficult to begin with. Hence my comment about age not having much to do with what a horse should be able to do at age 6.
                  "... if you think i'm MAD, today, of all days,
                  the best day in ten years,
                  you are SORELY MISTAKEN, MY LITTLE ANCHOVY."


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Justmyluck View Post
                    Umm did anyone care to look at the picture I posted?
                    As it wasn't in motion, just a snapshot in a second of time, it didn't give much information except that the horse appeared to be on the forehand.
                    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.


                    • #11
                      The picture you posted shows a green but happy and relaxed horse starting to seek out contact.

                      You mentioned that you ride with a soft contact but that he is trying to duck behind the bit and I have two separate thoughts

                      1. Sometimes in an attempt to be soft and quiet you can end up with bouncy or inconsistent contact. If this is the case it is likely very subtle but since the idea of contact is so new to him he is confused and curling behind because he isn't 100% sure what you want.

                      2. Personally I am a light hand/light leg rider and I always have to remember to add more leg. At first he is going to need more support from your legs to encourage him to drive from his backend and seek your hand. When my mare curls behind the bit even though my hands are soft and stable I know it is because I an not using enough leg.

                      In general (before you started working on accepting contact) know does he react to your leg? With a more forward thinking horse you can get away with less leg when you are hacking around but you need to add more once you start asking him to stretch.


                      • #12
                        I prefer to call contact connection. To me contact seems front to back, where as connection feels like a more back to front principle. Just my opinion...

                        One thing I've learned on my horse (who also thinks ducking is neat) is that too little connection is just as big of a fault as too much connection. If you ride the horse so lightly that there is no connection, then you have just that- nothing. Dressage is about lightness and harmony but a big part of base of the training pyramid is connection. Without connection we can't expect to acheive anything higher- impulsion, straightness or collection.

                        Here's what I do when my horse ducks- I soften my inside hand to let him through (but not dropping the rein loose) and give him a strong leg aid to push him forward into my outside rein. If I drop the connection I've given him nothing to seek so I use a strong forward aid to ride his haunches under and encourage him to reach back into the bridle. As he makes his way back onto the vertical I'll either soften my arm forward or lengthen my reins to maintain that freshly established connection.

                        It's a hard principle to understand and I think it's all too easy to get into the front to back mindset when talking about connection and contact. Realize that since your horse is green it may take him some time to put it all together and have the strength to work over his back like you're asking. Be patient and remember to ride back to front every single step and you'll find yourself on the way . Best of luck!


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Justmyluck View Post
                          Umm did anyone care to look at the picture I posted?
                          Yup. Like mp and netg said though, you cannot tell much from one photo, particularly from the angle of the photo taken.

                          Very nice horse though he appears to be travelling downhill. He appears soft and relaxed however and progressing nicely. That said, I don't care where his head is at if his body is not in the right position. The head falls into position as the body does.
                          ....horses should be trained in such a way that they not only love their riders, but look forward to the time they are with them.
                          ~ Xenophon, 350 B.C.


                          • #14
                            The approach to horse I was taking lessons on that ran downhill on the forehand was to gently raise one hand at a time to put the horse back where it belonged. This was a trained horse though that did it as an evasion and welcome gift to her new rider... .
                            "Reite dein Pferd vorwärts und richte es gerade.” Gustav Steinbrecht


                            • #15
                              Thanks, naturalequus!

                              That comment that was made about age was irrelevant to dressage! Dressage and harmony have no time frame. Dressage is patient, kind, and not forceful.

                              Umm did anyone care to look at the picture I posted?
                              Yes, I did. The first thing I noticed is that the horse is very much on the forehand and going downhill. No offense, but you are also riding him that way (looking down, elbows are straight, forward and no longer at your sides). Is the saddle too wide? It looks too low in front, which will pitch the rider forward. Are the stirrups too long?

                              This is a longitudinally built horse. He can only reach to wear his nose is pointing. If his nose is pointed down and out, he will also be down, and out. Personally, I'd want to see this horse going much more up and open, with the energy coming from behind. Over his back, not on the front.

                              Do you know how to long line? I would definately put this horse in the long lines - teach him to carry himself in balance without a rider. With the long lines, you have an outside rein, can flex him to the inside with the inside rein, and can drive him forward with the whip. You'd be amazed at what a few weeks of long lining can do for a horse! I mean amazed!


                              • #16
                                Hopefully when I said the horse looked on its forehand that didn't read as if intended as an insult. Based upon what you said about stage of training, it is somewhat expected and not at all surprising.

                                It's hard to tell from your posts if you're expecting too much, but as someone who has gone through the light contact/isn't as gentle as I think stages, I'm guessing your contact isn't as kind and forgiving as you think.

                                I also agree about pushing power. I have some pics from last week I took of my horse (I'm not the one riding, in other words, so please no rider critique) who came with a BTV problem. He's an OTTB, and kept the tendency to curl many get on the track for the next 5 years. A lot of riding forward and teaching him he could uncurl, starting on a loose rein and gradually picking up contact, has gotten him mostly over it. Others here will say to always keep contact, but in his case he had never used any muscles it takes to uncurl, and just getting him to carry himself was a big deal and he had to reshape himself as he changed muscles. Even now, you can see a tendency to break at the 3rd vertebrae in him, and correspondingly too much muscle being used.

                                I'm posting this so you can see what we're talking about with the horse's body and balance affecting where the head is. My horse has a VERY light mouth and only accepts light contact... or none.
                                First picture, he didn't want to accept contact. He curled btv, and fell on his forehand.

                                Two minutes later, without any concern over his head, but with forward requested, his head was where we wanted.

                                I really like these as an example of how head position reflects movement, because you can see he's travelling butt high in the first, but his hips are clearly lower in the second.

                                Now, he's 8, and has many more years under saddle. He *should* look a lot more advanced than your pony (but should also look more advanced than he is... we're far behind where we should be!), but it shows the feel and idea behind what you're trying to get with that contact.

                                Again, though - I give it a 98% chance you're a large part of the issue even while you think you're being gentle... because I went through that. I was lucky to have wonderfully worded comments from a judge plus video which made the things my trainer and the clinician I ride with regularly click in my head to start fixing my problems.
                                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.


                                • #17
                                  Netg - thanks so much for sharing those examples! That is a lovely illustration with the before downhill, and the after correction to uphill! Nice!

                                  Inconsistent rider contact - throwing away contact, taking hand, pulling the horse's head down - all leads to a very confused and incorrectly ridden horse. We've talked about the throwing away the contact and having a taking hand, but what about pulling down? Some riders want to pull down the horses head by lowering their hands into the neck, and breaking the straight elbow-to-bit line (putting rider in downhill stance). Sometimes they will actually break their wrists forward, and will tip their thumbs forward, instead of having the thumbs on top. You cannot force the horse's head down. This is riding front to back.

                                  This pulling down is very harsh on the horses mouth, not to mention ineffective. It creates resistant horses, too.

                                  But it is not about the head: you don't ride the head. It's about the hind end, and the back. Netg's pictures nicely illustrate what happens when you get the hind end going.


                                  • Original Poster

                                    I understand where ya'll are going but at this point I need to figure out how to get him from ducking way down. I need some sort of contact on the reins to half halt and he immediately ducks. If I ride with more leg I still need to use half halts and he ducks way down. I dont want to ride him with his head between his knees. This is the question I was asking. In the two rides since the clinic he now ducks. That is what I'm asking about not about when to seek contact, where he should be on the training scale or anything like that.

                                    The picture shows him slowly stretching down, which is a huge achievement and what we have been striving for. We achieved it but now he wishes to take it further. No doubt part of it is me but now I need to figure out how to get him to stop diving so deep.

                                    Thank you to those that have given suggestions as to get him to come up again. I appreciate it.
                                    --Luck is what happens when preparedness meets opportunity--


                                    • #19
                                      If the rider sends the wrong message, the horse can only react to whatever instructions are given, be it right or wrong in the riders perception. Rider asks a question, horse answers it. If the rider does not get the right answer, it is rider error, not horse error. The rider needs to ask the question in a more concise way.

                                      When the riders contact and other aids aren't right, the horse can either go above the contact, or duck behind the contact. Or, he can give some other response. You are sending a message and he is therefore sending you a message right back. If it is not the answer you are looking for, then ask another way.

                                      The pics from the clinic show pulling of the head down. This is punishing. First he was above and resistant. Now he is ducking. He is saying ouch to both actions. If your hand is giving forward, he will not be diving. Diving comes from too much restriction.

                                      It still sounds like your H/H's are nqr. They are not all about the hand. It should be a split second of a squeeze of the hand, closing of the legs = not enough so that the horse ducks and splats on his front. You want to give a hint, a thought; not loudness to the horse.

                                      With all of the problems that you are having with trying to figure out what correct contact is, I would definately not recommend you yanking the horses head up. This confusion will only lead to more problems for both of you.

                                      Is there an experienced horse that you can get a lesson on, so you can feel good contact?


                                      • #20
                                        I think everyone is a bit confused by your question. I *think* you are saying you taught your horse to stretch and now he wants to go around on his forehand and pull downward when you don't want him to? If that is correct, then here is my advice:

                                        First I will say there is nothing wrong with letting him stretch all the way out and down at the beginning of your rides. Give him a few minutes to enjoy a real stretch like he wants to, sniff the dirt if he chooses. BUT his engine must be going and be sure that his nose goes OUT and not just down! In the pic he appears to be travelling along quite slowly. Turn his hind legs on the minute you get into the saddle. Not chasing, but working! Then when the warm-up is over do not worry about the contact. Picking up a heavy contact at that point will start the tug of war with him wanting to continue stretching and you trying to get him back up. So keep a loose contact and start doing VERY brisk and VERY immediate trot-walk-trot transitions.

                                        As you do them promptly you will start to feel his hind end pushing and coming under, like an airplane at take-off. That is when you can pick up a light contact. You must turn the engine on first, then get the connection. Once his engine is on his forehand will automatically lighten and then you will be able to get the light and steady connection you seek. IMO ducking behind the vertical is a sign that the engine is not engaged. Once the engine is truly engaged his poll will naturally fall where you want it.