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heavy on bit

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  • heavy on bit

    We have an 8 y.o. Irish Horse who is built level at best. He hs the typical Irish head, long neck that joins low into his chest. He is short coupled, and big. 17.1 and somewhat heavy, though certainly not extreme.

    My daughter is 5'10", weighs about 140 and has ridden for 20 years now. She is extremely STRONG, freakishly so. She has very good abs, legs. She has a tall seat.

    I have worked with dressage horses, coaches, trainers and students many decades, and most of the training tips I give her, don't seem to be doing what we need them to do.

    The horse hangs. He hangs when he is engaged, when by some miracle we get him engaged, he hangs on a loose rein, he hangs he hang he hangs. She engages him, as soon as he starts to hang, throws him away, does he carry, oh no, he just drops the head right on down, and hangs on what rein she gave him, put him on a belt buckle, he will drop down to the ground, kick him forward...forward, he is lazy. We love him dearly, but we tease him routinely he is the only Irish we know that would make a wonderful western pleasure horse.

    Transitiions, lunging, we have tried most everything, and in a year, of trying to be consistant in work outs, transitions, poles, he still hangs. She rides him in a loose ring snaffle, has tried a bouchet, rides him in a mylar combo for x/c, which prevents him from hanging or inverting to some degree.

    He is currently doing Preliminary level events. Now, for some positives, he likes lateral movements, not as heavy that way...go figure. He will score 8's on most anything lateral, and then as soon as we try to do a circle, or go straight, guess what happens? Yup, heavy heavy heavy.

    Canter is about the only gait he doesn't hang terribly in. He has a gorgeous canter....and jumping, thankfully, he uses that..

    ANY suggestions? She works with a trainer, actually a couple, and the two who have been on the horse are about as frustrated as she is. One has suggested a double bridle, so that when he starts t get heavy, she immediately can fix it with minimum fuss, another says he needs to learn to go forward much better first...UGH..THANKS SO MUCH ALL.
    May the sun shine on you daily, and your worries be gone with the wind.
    www.mmceventing.com

  • #2
    Reschool the half halt.

    Here's how-

    Everytime he starts to hang, slow him right down to a halt. Go forward again, until he starts to hang, then bring him right down to a halt. Repeat over and over until you get more and more strides before he starts to hang. Eventually, you should be able to just bring him back in a half halt instead of a full halt and he will stop hanging.

    It will take quite a long time and a lot of patience.
    Good luck.
    "Against stupidity the gods themselves contend in vain" ~Friedrich Schiller

    Comment


    • #3
      Since he seems to like doing lateral work and doesn't hang much while doing so, I would suggest you concentrate doing lateral work!!!

      Actually, shoulder-in, haunches-in, leg yields, half-pass are really good, if not the best!, to help self carriage. Just work on that. On straight lines, on circle...all the time.

      And even in the warm up or at all time, I would encourage you to work this horse in a shoulder fore position at ALL time.

      And yes, he will probably need to learn to go a bit more forward in order to carry himself properly and not use your daughter hands/arms/shoulders as a head rest! When he hangs, push him forward and then practice your half halts, like Ecletic horseman said.

      Since you are doing Prelim with him, I must believe that he is physically built for the job and muscled up for it? Tired or weaker horses, no matter how big they are, will lean on the bit as a result.
      ~ Enjoying some guac and boxed wine at the Blue Saddle inn. ~

      Originally posted by LauraKY
      I'm sorry, but this has "eau de hoarder" smell all over it.
      HORSING mobile training app

      Comment


      • #4
        My mare is very much like this, only shorter and with a higher-set neck. She LOVES to lean. It's easier for her not have to carry herself.

        Here's what has helped.

        First, fix the downhill build. I use Epona shoes (since they are about the thickest you can get), and Vibram pads. It adds about 3/4 of an inch in front. It makes a HUGE difference. The mare goes from dumpy downhill-QH to nice suspension and collection (working 2nd/3rd). Absolutely feels like a different horse.

        Then get a pair of web reins, and no gloves for the rider. That will give you a much better feel of when he starts to lean. You also can't hold back against him.

        The best bit I have found for my mare to prevent the leaning is a copper JP oval loose ring. It's nice and fat, so doesn't cut into the tongue as much (because with this mare, that makes things worse). She prefers a mullen, but she also likes to lean more on the mullen.

        And then every time the horse leans, you go back to the lateral work, wiggle the inside rein, lift the hands up and forward, whatever you can do to stop the leaning. With my mare, putting my hands up and forward helps a ton. Think saddleseat up and forward. She suddenly softens, lifts her back, engages, and is nice. I also do some neck stretches from the saddle after a nice walk warmup, so her neck is more supple. Really concentrate on CORRECT bending.

        Now, I did have to put my mare in a double for a week or two to break the cycle of leaning. But once she stopped leaning so badly, and I could ride off just the snaffle rein, she went back into the snaffle. I have also ridden in a double before, and she has been ridden in one occasionally too.

        Comment

        • Original Poster

          #5
          He could probably lift a mack truck....we had him fit enough that he won a most fit horse award, and you know how tough that is with an irish who has a core temp one degree higher than most? And he still hung. He just thinks his head is too big for him to have to carry it by himself....I am absolutely POSITIVE he thinks we are nuts, and that it is so much easier to be lazy and let us do the work...but he has got an absolutely WONDERFUL attitude about everything else...silly horses. Have passed on the tips so far. And we do tend to keep him doing lateral. THAT way he doesn't wear her totally out, but will keep working at that, and will sure give the reteaching half-halt a try as well.
          May the sun shine on you daily, and your worries be gone with the wind.
          www.mmceventing.com

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by Eclectic Horseman View Post
            Reschool the half halt.

            Here's how-

            Everytime he starts to hang, slow him right down to a halt. Go forward again, until he starts to hang, then bring him right down to a halt. Repeat over and over until you get more and more strides before he starts to hang. Eventually, you should be able to just bring him back in a half halt instead of a full halt and he will stop hanging.

            It will take quite a long time and a lot of patience.
            Good luck.
            I just learned a "new to me" exercise from one of the trainers I work with. My horse likes to hang /pull at the trot and canter. For the trot when my horse starts to pull I bring him to a very collected walk make him walk this way for a few strides and ask for trot again. If he pulls I go back to the collected walk, I do this a couple of times and then go back to trotting if he pulls again I think and ask for the collected walk without actually going back to the walk.

            Very much the same as Eclectic Horseman's exercise in either case you are basically schooling the half halt. The Trainer that I work with believes that these issues need to be dealt with going forward at all times, other trainers believe that the halt done properly is still forward and that the halt give the rider an opportunity to regroup. I think you should use the method that worked best for the horse. Try both and see what gets better results.

            The trouble in many cases of the horse hanging / pulling in my opinion is the strength of the rider and their ability to hold the horse. In essence the rider by being able to hold is giving the horse the resistance it needs to hang on the forehand and push through the aids.

            My issue is that at times I try to fix this issue with strength, when a pulling or hanging issue is something that takes more of a finesse. Schooling the half-halt by either method stated above is a matter of finesse once you get to the part where you are asking for a halt / slowdown while keeping rhythm and not breaking gate is all feel and finesse. You have to have enough leg but not to much, and enough hand to balance it all out.

            None of the exercises will work over night, but a horse that understands a half-halt will be a easier horse to ride. Also the rider will have the ability to rebalance the horse at any time when needed that will build the horses confidence and readability.
            Last edited by ginger708; Jan. 13, 2011, 10:51 AM. Reason: Spelling
            Life's a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death.
            -Auntie Mame

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by ginger708 View Post
              The trouble in many cases of the horse hanging / pulling in my opinion is the strength of the rider and their ability to hold the horse. In essence the rider by being able to hold is giving the horse the resistance it needs to hang on the forehand and push through the aids.

              My issue is that at times I try to fix this issue with strength, when a pulling or hanging issue is something that takes more of a finesse. Schooling the half-halt by either method stated above is a matter of finesse once you get to the part where you are asking for a halt / slowdown while keeping rhythm and not breaking gate is all feel and finesse. You have to have enough leg but not to much, and enough hand to balance it all out.
              yes, yes, yes. I am pretty darned strong in my biceps, and I do tend to pull. That's why lifting the hands helps so much, because you can't pull like that. Unplant them from the withers!

              Also, riding a horse who stops if you pull will help too

              Comment


              • #8
                No suggestions, but it may be an Irish horse thing... we have one in the barn who is a "hanger" as well...!
                "Adulthood? You're playing with ponies. That is, like, every 9 year old girl's dream. Adulthood?? You're rocking the HELL out of grade 6, girl."

                Comment


                • #9
                  I got a great piece of advice here about a heavy-headed hanger, which I will pass on in appreciation of the person who advised me I think it was Beasmom. Thanks!

                  Drop his head and drive him forward. The INSTANT he gets heavy, make him completely carry his own head. You daughter sounds like me, big and strong, probably not aware of quite how strong she is holding the rein (because it doesn't tire her as much as it would someone smaller and less strong.) My draft mare made me carry her head for her ALL THE DARN TIME. I even succumbed to pressure to bit her up, using a ridiculous high ported Kimberwicke thing...I think she laughed. I realized my folly and switched back to the French Link Dee and worked on disciplining myself to INSTANTLY drop her head when I felt the slightest pressure.

                  I also agree with mixing up transitions up and down, as well as quickly going to lateral work. A great exercise that I like is 20m circle at A/C, start a second circle but open it up, then take the quarter line, leg yield to the wall before the midway point, half halt in the corner, then start again at the other end. I hope I explained that right, my instructor calls it out for me usually
                  Lifestyle coordinator for Zora, Spooky, Wolfgang and Warrior

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    No I believe it is a horse and rider thing, mine is a basically a Hanoverian with some Trakhenher and Thoroughbred tossed into the mix. Ever so slightly downhill but very proportionate over all. When I take the time to concentrate and correct the problem he is the Aces. If I let myself go back to old habits he is a freight train with no conductor. Some horses no matter what breed are just going to need more guidance than others. Just like people, horses have different personalities and work habits.
                    Life's a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death.
                    -Auntie Mame

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      a few things that may help
                      a horse physically cannot hang on the bit if it is working correctly off it's hindquarters. even in stretching reaching they will be light in the hand when working off the hind.
                      so, that said, anytime this horse hangs he's not working his hiney.
                      The reason why he's better in lateral is because lateral suppleness encourages longitudinal suppleness. it's one of the best ways to warm a horse up. use that lateral to your advantage.

                      I've found horses get heavy for 4 reasons
                      1. they are bored
                      2. they are tired
                      3. they are sore
                      4. they are confused

                      by reschooling the half halt and doing lots of transitions (seriously, go watch the GM horsemanship clinic... he's schooling dressage warmups when not jumping) you will be able to scratch 1 and 4 off the list. if the problem persists it's 2 or 3.
                      www.destinationconsensusequus.com
                      chaque pas est fait ensemble

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Just wanted to pipe in and say I'm really appreciating this thread! If you switch the horse in the OP to a TBx who's actually built slightly uphill, it would be my pony to a T. I'll be looking into the suggested exercises as well. I'm relieved to hear I'm not the only one experiencing this!
                        "Last time I picked your feet, you broke my toe!"

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          I agree with Petstorejunkie the more correct a horse works the less forehand stuff will be going on. However for the horse to be correct the riders have to be correct. And unfortunately half-halt like sitting trot can be different from horse to horse. Also the horse has to learn what half-halt means.

                          So for a while you may have a horse that has to be half-halted every two or three strides. I think this is where Dressage riders get a bad reputation of micromanaging their horses. But this may be what it takes for the light-bulb to turn on in the horse but once they get it the half-halt is a great tool.

                          The other problem is that many trainers and riders that give advice will just yell half-halt or shoulder in or leg yield without completely explaining how to do these movements or give instruction and fail to make adjustments to the instruction to adapt to the individual horses needs.

                          I think for the OP repetition of half-halt training and lateral movements will be the answer here. Don't be afraid to half-halt at every stride if needed for a while. This type of riding is much harder on us than it is for the horse. I believe for us as riders sometimes we get lost in the pleasure of being on top of the horse and forget to give guidance until there is a problem that has to be addressed right away and then we as the rider are prone to make the wrong decision. Or at least that is how it works for me.

                          In reality for me I know that as soon as I feel a slight shift in my horses balance I should be right on top of it with a half-halt or shoulder fore. However is usually miss that and make the adjustment when my horse is completely on the forehand. I know that my New Years resolution is to be way more present in my ride and not to get so distracted.
                          Life's a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death.
                          -Auntie Mame

                          Comment

                          • Original Poster

                            #14
                            Just got in. So I took some of the suggestions, and had her get on. We worked first on the half-halt to halt and back to walk, back and forth. She and I discovered....she lets him pull when she asks him to halt, and lets him take those few extra steps...bad girl. I put a halt to that...lol, play on words here. Then we went into more of a trot, to walk working with half halt. He started getting lighter....Then he got inverted...OKay buddy oh, let me get on him. Now please, I am 5'4", WAY too heavy to be on a horse, NO leg, in my daughter's VERY TINY dressage saddle...won't discuss that...awful site.

                            BUT I found out a few things...Yup, if I stay on top of the half halt, he doesn't pull...HMMM...is it a nagging thing we got going on here...

                            So I worked him about half hour, and then put her back on....We had 3 nice large, circles, completely in self-carriage. Not once thinking he could hang. When he hung, even for a second, I did a quick uplife, and put him right back into forward again. We put him away. It's going to be a process, cause she is very strong, and I don't think realizes as easiuly as I do, when he is starting to pull. He has gotten so use to using her for a headrest, it's not going to be easy to rememedy. THANK YOU ALL. The suggestions are wonderful.
                            May the sun shine on you daily, and your worries be gone with the wind.
                            www.mmceventing.com

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Keep your lateral work interesting and challenging for both the horse and rider.
                              Do not do only 60 meters of lateral (S.I., H.I., Renvers,...). Do S.I for 5 strides, then reverse S.I for 10 strides, H.I. for 10 strides and back to S.I.
                              Change it all the time.
                              S.I down center line to 8-10 center opposite to the S.I and finished with H.P. of new bend.
                              Be creative, think of your own things to do in all gaits.
                              As well the half halt to keep hind end engaged and lessen the hanging front end.

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                Originally posted by Petstorejunkie View Post
                                a few things that may help
                                a horse physically cannot hang on the bit if it is working correctly off it's hindquarters. even in stretching reaching they will be light in the hand when working off the hind.
                                so, that said, anytime this horse hangs he's not working his hiney.


                                I agree with this with one very important distinction. The horse may be working his hind quarters, but it's all pushing power rather than carrying power.

                                It takes true engagement to make a horse carry his weight behind, instead of using the riders hands as a fifth leg. And I strongly suspect that this horse is not truly engaged when you think he is. That's why he's lighter in lateral work. In lateral work you ARE getting increased engagement. So keep him busy with lots of lateral work interspersed into his other work, and read THIS




                                http://www.MyVirtualEventingCoach.com
                                http://www.MyVirtualEventingCoach.com

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  Originally posted by gold2012 View Post
                                  We have an 8 y.o. Irish Horse who is built level at best. He hs the typical Irish head, long neck that joins low into his chest. He is short coupled, and big. 17.1 and somewhat heavy, though certainly not extreme.

                                  My daughter is 5'10", weighs about 140 and has ridden for 20 years now. She is extremely STRONG, freakishly so. She has very good abs, legs. She has a tall seat.

                                  I have worked with dressage horses, coaches, trainers and students many decades, and most of the training tips I give her, don't seem to be doing what we need them to do.

                                  The horse hangs. He hangs when he is engaged, when by some miracle we get him engaged, he hangs on a loose rein, he hangs he hang he hangs. She engages him, as soon as he starts to hang, throws him away, does he carry, oh no, he just drops the head right on down, and hangs on what rein she gave him, put him on a belt buckle, he will drop down to the ground, kick him forward...forward, he is lazy. We love him dearly, but we tease him routinely he is the only Irish we know that would make a wonderful western pleasure horse.

                                  Transitiions, lunging, we have tried most everything, and in a year, of trying to be consistant in work outs, transitions, poles, he still hangs. She rides him in a loose ring snaffle, has tried a bouchet, rides him in a mylar combo for x/c, which prevents him from hanging or inverting to some degree.

                                  He is currently doing Preliminary level events. Now, for some positives, he likes lateral movements, not as heavy that way...go figure. He will score 8's on most anything lateral, and then as soon as we try to do a circle, or go straight, guess what happens? Yup, heavy heavy heavy.

                                  Canter is about the only gait he doesn't hang terribly in. He has a gorgeous canter....and jumping, thankfully, he uses that..

                                  ANY suggestions? She works with a trainer, actually a couple, and the two who have been on the horse are about as frustrated as she is. One has suggested a double bridle, so that when he starts t get heavy, she immediately can fix it with minimum fuss, another says he needs to learn to go forward much better first...UGH..THANKS SO MUCH ALL.
                                  It takes two to pull, so personally, I would release all contact for awhile and go back to basics if the half-halt is not working. It is easy to become engaged in that tug-of-war and you don't even notice you're participating in a vicious circle until your arms are sore! With all contact dropped, bump with your hands (just simply by closing them, not by moving them) and give him a light push with your legs for forward impulsion when he gets too low but overall, do not worry about his head (well, to that extent obviously). You don't ride the head and it will come up as a result of his engagement. Then put him through various exercises that encourage self-carriage (circular work, transitions, poles, hills, lateral, etc etc). Next step would be to maintain light light contact whereby he cannot pull, and focus on exercises that force him to work beneath himself - lateral work, ground poles, hills, transitions, circular patterns, etc. Progressive Schooling Exercises for Dressage & Jumping (Islay Auty). Work through the Training Scale, essentially.

                                  We've got an OTTB like this - sounds conformationally (and temperament-wise) very much like your Irish, and used to lean on your hands. In fact, you took away your hands and he'd flounder about as if he didn't know where to put his feet I told him I wasn't there to tell him where to put his feet. That was HIS job He is no longer pulling and is now carrying himself beautifully, under two novices no less, using the above such exercises.

                                  ETA: just read all the posts above mine, including the OP's update - super progress! I think the key is definitely staying on top of it, and especially lateral work. With the above-mentioned horse, whenever I did lateral work with him he would lift BEAUTIFULLY, sit back, and extend his front end. It is amazing to feel So, more lateral work. If the half-halts work on him when you stay consistent, then maybe you don't have to go back and work on the foundation, you just have to stay consistent with what you are doing!!

                                  Furthering Eclectic's suggestion (tons of great suggestions here btw), if you make your horse a "hovercraft", he can't lean, because he is more engaged, ready for your next request Lots of transitions between gaits (trot to halt, halt to trot or canter, etc etc), including back-up, change in direction (turns on the hind is what I would use), etc. I even do western rollbacks (but from a dressage angle) with my primary OTTB (not the one above) to get him sitting back more and more "hovercraft" and ready to respond to my next request.

                                  PS. I never ride in gloves either, just for the simple fact that I feel I have a touch better feel and awareness without them. That is just my personal observation with myself however, others claim they have the same feel and awareness, but it is something to keep in mind. The other thing to keep in mind is a conscious awareness of softness. If you do not keep on top of yourself about it, it stays unconscious and you might be apt to be dragged into the vicious cycle that is leaning/pulling.
                                  Last edited by naturalequus; Jan. 13, 2011, 05:07 PM.
                                  ....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.

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    Originally posted by gold2012 View Post
                                    ...It's going to be a process, cause she is very strong, and I don't think realizes as easiuly as I do, when he is starting to pull. ...
                                    This is where the web reins and no gloves helped me. It gave me a bit more awareness of when the mare started to pull. Also, if she's finding herself constantly adjusting her reins shorter (as he pulls them out of her hands), have her use that as a reminder to soften.

                                    Comment


                                    • #19
                                      Originally posted by Hampton Bay View Post
                                      This is where the web reins and no gloves helped me. It gave me a bit more awareness of when the mare started to pull. Also, if she's finding herself constantly adjusting her reins shorter (as he pulls them out of her hands), have her use that as a reminder to soften.
                                      Actually, pulling the reins out of the hands is a separate but related problem. When the horse is able to lengthen the rein on his own, this is positive reinforcement of his leaning habit, and he will keep trying to get more rein.

                                      But the solution really is to get more bend in the elbow and get the elbow back directly over the hip. In that way, the horse pulls the whole arm forward and cannot lengthen the rein. My guess is that she is riding with her elbows in front of her body without a sufficient bend in them. She needs to learn to carry her hands and keep her elbows close by her side over her hips so that the horse cannot pull the reins through her fingers.
                                      "Against stupidity the gods themselves contend in vain" ~Friedrich Schiller

                                      Comment


                                      • #20
                                        Originally posted by Eclectic Horseman View Post
                                        Actually, pulling the reins out of the hands is a separate but related problem. When the horse is able to lengthen the rein on his own, this is positive reinforcement of his leaning habit, and he will keep trying to get more rein.

                                        But the solution really is to get more bend in the elbow and get the elbow back directly over the hip. In that way, the horse pulls the whole arm forward and cannot lengthen the rein. My guess is that she is riding with her elbows in front of her body without a sufficient bend in them. She needs to learn to carry her hands and keep her elbows close by her side over her hips so that the horse cannot pull the reins through her fingers.
                                        Oh in one that really pulls, they very well can pull the reins through your fingers, slowly. My hands just aren't strong enough to hold the reins tight enough to keep the reins from slowly inching through my fingers when the mare really gets to pulling.

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