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Horse avoids contact, upside down neck--Update w/Photos

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  • Horse avoids contact, upside down neck--Update w/Photos

    Sorry it's long!

    I have started riding a gelding who has a NON-conformational ewe neck. He has been ridden by the same (bad--admittedly bad) owner/rider for years. The rider allows him to hollow, trail out behind, avoid contact, etc. He is also behind the leg...Rider likes "how slow he can trot." (Jog is more like it.)

    But I see potential and I like his conformation and mind and we just click.

    I have ridden him 3 times. The first couple times (evaluation ride type thing) was with the owner's setup, regular eggbutt snaffle with a hugely too big bridle (bit hanging in horse's mouth, noseband loose and floppy). Saddle that didn't really fit, with an old riser pad. OK, so he's probably uncomfortable, I figured once the lease starts I'll get him set up properly.

    I bought a used Courbette and it fits him like a GLOVE. I took the bridle home and punched more holes in it, dusted off the flash noseband and put holes in that. Bought him a loose ring French link. Today was our first ride with everything comfortable and fitting correctly.

    He went better than previous rides, by a mile. So I'm not complaining.

    But I am wondering how best to fix his neck/contact issue. Because of his bad muscling and training his head movement is strange, and I can't get a consistent feel of his mouth, because he pops his shoulder around turns and does the giraffe thing.

    What I did today was just very lightly follow his head movement as best I could, and ask for more energy in the gait, and lavishly reward him whenever he accepted my hand steadily (even just a stride or two). I tried bending him but he is very stiff and out of shape. So I would release for a very short, shallow--but correct--bend. At the end of the ride he surprisingly did work long and low for me at the walk for about 3 minutes. On his own. Meaning I dropped the reins thinking "that'll do for today" and he followed the bit all the way down and stretched himself. So I gently picked the reins back up and we did a little bending that way too.

    Is this an OK plan? I hate to turn to a German martingale or other device but I am not sure whether my "reward for contact" riding plan will do a lot of good on its own, because his neck is soooo poorly muscled. I am also afraid that a gadget will fizzle him out even more and discourage him from moving forward.

    Anyone who has had this problem please, all advice is welcome!!
    Last edited by alg0181; Mar. 11, 2011, 04:33 PM.

  • #2
    It sounds like a good plan. I wouldn't use any gadgets. With my mule, I usually do alot of circles, serpentines, figure 8's, with my hands still, just squeezes to soften, and try to get her to work off her hind end into my hands. Good luck!

    Comment


    • #3
      If you can get a Happy Mouth mullen mouth bit, it may help. Really any straight mouth bit may help, but I find HMs to be very quick and easy. Of course, working the school figures will always help.
      "Rock n' roll's not through, yeah, I'm sewing wings on this thing." --Destroyer
      http://dressagescriblog.wordpress.com/

      Comment


      • #4
        Also longeing will help a lot. Use sidereins and gradually tighten them to get him to accept contact and then lengthen them again to get him to follow the contact down, Take lots of time....you are re-shaping the muscles...and his brain!

        Comment


        • #5
          He sounds like a good candidate for longeing. I would buy some Vienna reins (they're pretty cheap from Dover Saddlery) and use them a lot for the first couple months. They really allow a horse to stretch over their top line toward the bit, and develop muscles properly.

          Make sure you keep the horse as forward as he is strong enough to handle. Good Luck!!

          Comment


          • #6
            Just be sure to take small steps! A horse that has been muscled like that can take up to a year to come back normal 'straight'!

            In the saddle, I suggest you do lots of flexions and leg yields because before being able to put him round thru the bit, you'll have to gain back his suppleness thru the jaw, the neck, the poll and his whole body as a matter of fact!!! Then he will give up his mouth properly!

            Do lots of transition and muscle is back and behind first.
            ~ 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

            • Original Poster

              #7
              So that's 2 votes for longeing.

              I was worried that longeing in side/vienna reins would teach him to suck back. I have ridden lots of horses that were "trained" this way (probably too tight of sidereins) who had a real problem with BTV (which their owners thought was pretty of course). I would much rather deal with above than behind the bit.

              I guess it could probably work if I push him for more & bigger so he learns to move into the contact. This is my first dressage project and I do not, NOT want him afraid of contact!! I guess I am just paranoid!

              Thanks very much for the suggestions. I'll keep you all updated. I plan to take video once or twice a month to show his progress and so you all have plenty of footage to pick to pieces

              Comment

              • Original Poster

                #8
                Originally posted by alibi_18 View Post
                Just be sure to take small steps! A horse that has been muscled like that can take up to a year to come back normal 'straight'!

                In the saddle, I suggest you do lots of flexions and leg yields because before being able to put him round thru the bit, you'll have to gain back his suppleness thru the jaw, the neck, the poll and his whole body as a matter of fact!!! Then he will give up his mouth properly!

                Do lots of transition and muscle is back and behind first.
                The problem with leg yield and bending is that the owner has a terrible chair seat (said so himself) so where the owner's leg rests for lateral is where mine rests for GO. Does that make sense? My leg is under me while owner's leg is out in front. The horse is very sensitive and quick to learn, so I am trying to slowly re-teach him leg cues to suit a normal rider.

                Owner "turns" horse with his legs, but the horse just swings his hq out. Does a spin on forehand basically, doesn't bend through his body at all. So he is re-learning all of that.

                I know it sounds crazy for me to be tackling all of this but like I said, the horse learns VERY quickly. Today was our 3rd ride and I didn't even need the whip this time, he knows that I can ride the big trot (not jog) and that he has freedom to move out.

                We did LOTS of transitions today because I would like him to be more prompt anyways. So we did like 6 strides trot, 3 strides walk, mix it up, for most of the ride. Helps him focus too because he is a rubbernecker, always got his ears locked on something. Which doesn't help with his neck issue

                I have been stretching him and it seems to be helping. Anyway baby steps is right, thanks again for the help.
                Last edited by alg0181; Mar. 9, 2011, 09:16 PM. Reason: oops typo

                Comment

                • Original Poster

                  #9
                  After writing the last post about the horse knowing he is free to really trot, I was thinking. What if he is naturally forward (he is in a round pen) but owner gets scared of the big gaits, and catches him in the mouth? That could be the source of all his problems. Because he acts hesitant when I ask him for a more energetic gait, but not lazy.

                  Hmmm. Food for thought. It's amazing how writing things down is so helpful for thinking through an issue.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Probably if the owner rides in a chair seat and lets him get away with carrying his body incorrectly, she probably DOES get in his mouth too much. I would vote for longeing with side reins also. Send him FORWARD into the contact just like you would if you were on him...that is the key. No hands to mess it up, he will figure it out himself.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      I second,third or fourth the longeing with some side reins. slide them low along the sides. Keep momentum forward so he doesn't get behind the bit or get where ihe wants to totally lean on it (and get too on forhand) topline muscles take time..LOTS of long and low stretchy walking too.
                      Guenter gets all his stretching down in the crossties,great release for their backsand works those muscles. start with some treats,stretch down and forward then down and under themselves (like working on a bow)
                      keep the other person OFF that horse (or make them ride with the reins in their teeth instead of their terrible hands)

                      Comment

                      • Original Poster

                        #12
                        Originally posted by Poody View Post
                        I second,third or fourth the longeing with some side reins. slide them low along the sides. Keep momentum forward so he doesn't get behind the bit or get where ihe wants to totally lean on it (and get too on forhand) topline muscles take time..LOTS of long and low stretchy walking too.
                        Guenter gets all his stretching down in the crossties,great release for their backsand works those muscles. start with some treats,stretch down and forward then down and under themselves (like working on a bow)
                        keep the other person OFF that horse (or make them ride with the reins in their teeth instead of their terrible hands)
                        Yeah I have been doing stretches with carrots. The topline stretch made him bend his knees to get the carrot instead of stretch his back!! He couldn't lengthen his back at all, he would try and then pop his head back up immediately. That's how tight it was at first! He is getting better each time though.

                        That other person is unfortunately his owner. Very sweet and kind man, just a beginner and totally overhorsed on this guy. Luckily he only rides 2-3x per month. I can't exactly tell him to stay off his horse.

                        He has asked me to give him lessons though, we've talked about trading lessons for the (very minimal) lease fee. Maybe longe lessons are in order.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          That is why legs yield are important, to teach the horse leg cues properly. You start at the walk of course, and can stick to that for a moth or so before doing them at the trot.

                          You said the owner has his legs in a chair position (for leg yield) where you would put yours to Go? No, it doesn't make sense unless your cue for going forward is in front of the girth? Neither leg yield and Go cue should be done in front of the girth, which is where legs go when in a chair seat. Legs should be at the girth or behind.

                          Anyway, doesn't matter how the owner rides, if you are 'in charge' of training this horse, those are the basics to obtain some sort of supplesness and put the horse on the bit.

                          Spirales are good too. and yes, lungeing is a must!
                          ~ 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

                          • Original Poster

                            #14
                            Sorry, I meant the owner brings his leg "back" (from in front of the girth) to ON the girth for his weird stiff turny thing. It isn't really bending. I'm saying my leg ON the girth makes him want to swing his hindquarters out.

                            I am not trying to bash the owner, he means well and loves the horse to death. It has just influenced the horse and I thought it was relevant.

                            I'll pick up some side reins and see how it goes!

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              ok!

                              Looks like you have some good work to do!

                              At least the owner is trying and seems eager to learn!
                              ~ 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


                              • #16
                                Longeing, yes, particularly spirals. The horse cannot bend in the ribcage if his back is locked in a hollow position. Think "Turn on the Forehand in motion" to get him to step underneath himself with the inside hind. Long lining or longeing in a round pen is helpful to keep him straight.

                                Vienna longe reins are better than side reins for this problem because the horse can brace his neck to a certain extent with sidereins. You want him to relax and extend his neck. The best longeing device that I have found for this is the chambon. It does not use force, it simply encourages the horse to drop his neck.

                                The tough part about this problem is getting the cow muscle under the neck to atrophy as well as changing the horse's "muscle memory."
                                It takes some time, but can be done.
                                "Against stupidity the gods themselves contend in vain" ~Friedrich Schiller

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  If you're leasing, is horsey just going to go back to owner to be "ruined" again?

                                  I would seriously consider riding in a chambon. It's a very gentle reminder to get the nose out of the sky, while still allowing th ehorse to stretch his neck and thus his back. It has done wonders for my naturally-upsidedown greenie. With some of them, there is only so much sending them forward into a soft hand that you can do, because they just don't get what you want. The chambon helps show them without being harsh, and without having to go back and reteach them to stretch (like a german marty, draw reins, etc).

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    Originally posted by alg0181 View Post
                                    ...hollow, trail out behind, avoid contact, etc. He is also behind the leg......I am wondering how best to fix his neck/contact issue. ... I can't get a consistent feel of his mouth, because he pops his shoulder around turns and does the giraffe thing.

                                    ...At the end of the ride he surprisingly did work long and low for me at the walk for about 3 minutes. On his own. Meaning I dropped the reins thinking "that'll do for today" and he followed the bit all the way down and stretched himself. ...!!
                                    So first thing is to get him in front of the leg. As soon as you lightly ask for trot he should trot - if not strong tap with the whip allowing him to go forward at ANY gait - idea is ask for forward get it and allow him forward (even a gallop) to inform him that he responded correctly. Slowly over time you should be able to back off on the tap strength as he responds to the light leg.

                                    After he is forward and in front of the leg you can gradually (over MONTHS) shorten the rein and establish more contact. In fact if ridden correctly he will "offer" it by raising his head making the reins looser, so you can shorten the reins to re-establish a nice steady contact.

                                    So now that you have forward and a steady contact it's time to work on the giraffe (hollow, not through) issue. I rode my mare who liked to do this for 6 months with Long and Low interspersed between working gaits. Every time she'd loose contact, giraffe, hollow and/or get behind the leg I'd boot her forward and re-establish long and low. The L&L also allows him to stretch his back muscles which will get achy as he uses them more and more - so LOTS of stretching.

                                    The key here is doing a proper long and low. Horse needs to be forward and on a long contact, but to demonstrate that the horse is not on their forehand the rider should see a "bulge" in the horses neck.

                                    Lastly to fix the shoulder pop - outside rein should be carried AWAY from the neck and contact kept on that rein (inside leg to outside rein) to prevent the shoulder from popping.
                                    Now in Kentucky

                                    Comment


                                    • #19
                                      Originally posted by alg0181 View Post
                                      But I am wondering how best to fix his neck/contact issue. Because of his bad muscling and training his head movement is strange, and I can't get a consistent feel of his mouth, because he pops his shoulder around turns and does the giraffe thing.
                                      Fix the feet before you fix the topline.

                                      If he pops his shoulder out, ride a few steps counterbend. Use your bending hand more opening rein, less pulling back rein.

                                      Use true bend and counterbend as necessary to keep the shoulders in front of the hips.

                                      Fix the feet, THEN worry about the topline.
                                      The Noodlehttp://tiny.cc/NGKmT&http://tiny.cc/gioSA
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                                      • #20
                                        The nice thing about Vienna reins is that the really encourage the horse to stretch toward the contact and use his back muscles. However, you must be sure when you adjust them that they are long enough for the horse to stick his nose a little above the vertical. It may seem counterintuitive, but it helps assure that the horse doesn't just curl-up and evade the contact.

                                        I used to have a horse very similar to the one you have, and after spending a month or two in Vienna reins a few times per week I could really see a big difference in the horse. She was stronger, and her muscle development allowed her to use her hind end and back correctly.

                                        With the stiffness issues a good place to start is proper bending on 20 meter circles and corners. With horses like this corners are your best friend. My horse used to swing her hind end out too when asked to bend... you will have to learn to use your outside hand and leg to prevent this. It will not happen overnight.

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