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can you offer some advice to a hunter rider?

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  • can you offer some advice to a hunter rider?

    Hey all, visiting here from over in hunter land, and apologize in advance if this gets lengthy...

    Last year, i rescued from the feedlot a 6 year old OTTB. After some research, it appears that he raced until 2008 and then was laid up with a bowed tendon (which my vet says they did surgery on to cut the check ligament...but I digress...) I love this horse to pieces but he is the most difficult green horse I have ever ridden.

    When I first got him, it was clear to me that he was track broke. He did not steer, did not understand the reins, counter bent, fell in with his shoulder and hip etc. He only knew how to GO!

    So I have spent the last year working on straightness, acceptance of my hand, proper use of my leg, and getting him to use his back. Over this period of time, he has gone from not being able to trot with any sort of consistent pace or rhythm to being FAIRLY consistent trotting. One of the biggest problems that I am finding is he has no self carriage when going slow. I am able to ride him in a frame (although sometimes he does get behind the bit) and it's only after about 45 minutes of riding in a frame, with him accepting my hand, and doing tons of changes of directions, circles, and transitions, that I am able to start to see some self carriage. If i were to give him his head early in the ride (say like a stretchy circle) he will lower his head and end up on his forehand (not heavy in my hand) but will lengthen his stride to the point where he builds bigger and bigger until he breaks into the canter (obviously i dont encourage this,so i don't do it often.) By the end of a ride, it's a little better. Is this a strength issue or is it something I am doing wrong?

    The other issue that I have (we have many! LOL) is that i think i need to start really incorporating some sort of leg yield work or SOMETHING to reinforce moving off of my inside leg. (let's see if I can describe this...) Horse is in a frame, working nicely to the left. if i am walking into the corner, i can move him off my left leg, with him bending left and get him into my outside rein. SOMETIMES at the trot I can do this. Other times, he is still SLIGHTLY counter bent and drops his hip and shoulder. It IS getting better (like I said, we've been working on this for a year.) His overall body straightness is getting better, but I am wondering of there are some other exercises that you could suggest which might help us. 90% of the time i spend trotting, i spend at the sitting trot with no stirrups, because it seems to really help him balance better.

    I am trainerless right now (b/c I have to pay for DD's pony and lessons) so I am reaching out to all sources for a little insight. Thanks for your help....
  • Original Poster

    bump. no one?


    • #3
      Based on your description what sticks out to me is that you need to develop the skills of a thinking, in the moment rider. Ride every stride. That's not a skill a forum can give you, but we can make instructor recommendations.
      Ride the horse, not the plan
      chaque pas est fait ensemble


      • Original Poster

        thanks. i do try to do that...just thought i would put it out there to see if there was something else i can do. I have instructor recommendations in my area, thanks. Just can't afford them right now. Thanks for the comment.


        • #5
          I'll take a stab at some of what I'm reading between the lines. If I'm off the mark, let me know, but being a former hunter rider - I'm thinking that I know some of the issues that you're having, because I had the same issues with my mare.

          #1. check and double check your position. When a horse wants to carry itself counter bent, it is amazing how quickly riders will let their pelvis follow the horse right over into that position. Meaning that your seatbones are cueing the counter bent position. Make sure that you are actively turning your seat (the whole unit - pelvis, trunk, shoulders) in the direction of travel.

          #2. Second position check. Make sure that you are carrying yourself, especially when asking for long and low. I see a lot of riders who don't keep contact in the long and low work. I don't know if you do or not, but your description of what happens is suggestive of someone who is throwing the reins at the horse as they move out and of someone who is not doing the horse any favors by keeping their upper body balanced as they move into a lighter seat.

          #3. Get after the outside hind leg of the horse and the hind end in general. I see a lot of horses that are not being ridden with enough energy behind to correctly carry themselves. When you do this, you need to keep a connection with the front.

          #4 Regarding bending and keeping energy - one of my favorite exercises is to do a bit of shoulder in and then drive into a circle to keep the hind pushing. I would guess that you can do a modified version of this for leg yield - Leg yield over one, two or three steps, and then go into an energized circle to keep the hind coming forward.

          #5. I would ditch the sitting trot and keep your stirrups and work on having him move out a bit. THat you are having better luck with balance in a sitting trot w/o stirrups suggests to me that he's not better balanced - he's just going super slow so it feels like there is less to correct and that if you're sitting, you are probably doing more with your upper body in regards to helping him balance - and that you are losing that in the posting trot.

          I hope this helps and that I haven't missed the mark too much - I made some assumptions by reading between the lines and from my own experiences working through some of the same issues that you describe.


          • #6
            I am quoting this from another thread on TBs in dressage.

            It's from EqTrainer:

            "TBs are my horse, and ride, of choice. We have had so many truly good minded, excellent movers over the years that I am always a bit when people say they are hard to find.

            I think a difference may be, that many TBs start off correct but not extravagant. They develop expressiveness with confidence and partnership. You have to know that when you see a great canter and walk, but a so-so trot, that its going to be ok buy the canter, and perhaps equally important, the * desire * to canter.

            TBs can be more difficult at the lower levels because they tend to be forward and need to be balanced rather than pushed. What makes them tough in the beginning, makes them easy later. Later when you need a horse who will go forward and work hard for you, you've got it. They tend to dislike being unbalanced, it scares them, and builds tension. If you ride them like a less forward horse, and push, it freaks them out. Its almost always about learning to carry, the push is there from the beginning. Run them around trying to make them round and you will fry their brain.

            To ride them well, you need to be able to let go. Tension building? Let go. Horse rushing? Let go. They tend to be claustrophobic. Let go. You cant hold them into a frame, you have to focus on their back lifting and softening and then shaping them.

            I love the way they think. Energy in a young TB can scare people, you have to remember, they love to move. Tap into their love of movement and they will work so hard for you.

            And arent they just beautiful?"

            I would just add to check your saddle fit. And thanks for rescuing another OTTB.
            2012 goal: learn to ride like a Barn Rat

            A helmet saved my life.


            • #7
              Come back to hunterland, MyAlter! We love you over there! (Seriously, I saw the title of your post and came over to see what advice you were getting.Sad to see that no one was helping.) -----Edited to say that I had started this post before The Horse Problem posted.

              MY advice is that you need to start slowly, asking him to take responsibility for his own balance. Holding him up and then lengthening the reins are the two extremes. Asking him to go straight from one to the other is asking too much.

              Try getting him balanced and then giving by 2" with your reins for about 5 steps. Before he falls out of balance, pick him up again, and re-ask for 5 more steps.

              Gradually lengthen the amount of time you give with your hand(s) so that he has a chance to become used to the idea that being responsible for his own carriage is the end goal. After a week, instead of picking him up and rebalancing him when he starts to discomboobulate (a highly technical term, used exclusively in classical hunter training ) sit deep for a step, half halt to remind him of his job and then give him a chance to do it.

              You cannot expect him to suddenly carry himself after you have spent a year putting him to together and doing the balancing. He needs training wheels before he can balance on his own.
              "He lives in a cocoon of solipsism"

              Charles Krauthammer speaking about Trump


              • #8
                I would expect more, for less time. And I would NOT sit his trot if he can't hold himself up yet.

                I would do a lot of correct transitions - making him hold himself up instead of you doing it for him. Start doing large circles insisting on correct bend. The bend gets the inside hind stepping under them and supporting weight on the turn. a "frame" is useless without the body doing the right things, and head position will get there from the body doing what it's supposed to.

                You didn't mention the canter - how's that? For the horses with weaker trots, cantering well and in balance can help build the strength to carry themselves in trot.

                You say you don't have the money for lessons, but your post screams to me that you believe yourself in over your head. I'd figure out some way, somehow, to get lessons and help from someone who can actually see how you're doing. It may be much better than how you make it sound once you get a second perspective!
                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.


                • #9
                  Originally posted by netg View Post
                  You say you don't have the money for lessons, but your post screams to me that you believe yourself in over your head. I'd figure out some way, somehow, to get lessons and help from someone who can actually see how you're doing. It may be much better than how you make it sound once you get a second perspective!
                  I agree with this.
                  It would be great if the internet could help here but there is only so much that can be typed into a text box. People could spend 45 minutes typing something up, which would only be guesses on their part given your extremely general problems, and would be basically useless to you because how do you incorporate general guessed advice into an actual ride? Or you could have a 'lightbulb moment' in one 45 minute lesson.

                  Can DD take a backseat on lessons for a month or two? Tell her that mom's horse needs some help too and maybe help her yourself for a couple months to free up lesson money for the horse that needs it more. You may well make huge progress in just a couple weeks if you have someone help you.
                  The Noodlehttp://tiny.cc/NGKmT&http://tiny.cc/gioSA
                  Boy Wonderhttp://tiny.cc/G9290
                  The Hana is nuts! NUTS!!http://tinyurl.com/SOCRAZY


                  • #10
                    First of all, kudos to you for rescuing this guy and sticking with a tough greenie!

                    I would say that this horse should not be in any sort of a "frame" if he cannot carry himself. I think you need to go back to basics and do some work on the longe line with him. No side reins or gadgets to start - just work on getting him to go forward softly and consistantly and ignore any antics. You want QUIET and forward on the longe.

                    Undersaddle, keep him off your hands. Start off with a big loop in the reins and half-halt as needed to slow him down if he gets rolling. When he is getting too heavy on his forehand, try a light squeeze aand half halt as needed, but do not carry him.

                    I am a hunter rider too, but I am working with a dressage instructor/trainer on some issues with my horse, and the biggest thing I am learning is lightness and self-carriage for my horse. He has balance and confidence issues - especially at the canter - and longing quietly with voice commands for the transitions has helped so much. So has starting off at a walk on a loose rein and working with very light contact only to get him to carry himself.

                    Good luck!


                    • Original Poster

                      Thanks so much for these responses. I am at work and have skimmed through them, plan on re-reading again later when I have more time.

                      First, maybe i should clarify. I am not holding him up. In fact, more often than not,i am letting go. I KNOW i can't hold this horse up and balance for him. I detest a ride like that. It's unpleasant. I do ride him in a frame, then soften my hand to see if he is really working from behind and using his back to see if he will stretch and reach for my hand...it's slowly coming.

                      thank you, Thehorseproblem, for the quote from Eqtrainer. perfect.

                      I tend to longe one day a week and ride 3-4 others. We have worked on voice commands and that has actually really helped in our transitions...he doesn't usually get heavy in my hands...it's more of bracing...and it's NOT constant. It's evasive... like when he doesn't want to work, or he wants to spook in the corner. That kind of thing. He has learned and is pretty steady with a half halt (when he is not distracted). His canter is naturally rhythmical, on his balanced days. On the days when he feels particularly unbalanced and wants to lengthen and get strong,if I sit down and hold him together in a circle between my leg and hand, then let go and softly close my leg out out of the circle, he usually gives me a nice canter.

                      It's not that i feel that i am in over my head. But I do like having a second opinion from the ground and completely agree that it makes a HUGE difference. Hopefully I will be able to arrange my finances so I can take some lessons too...

                      Lord Helpus...thanks, I flip flop between dressage land and hunter land


                      • Original Poster

                        witherbee...the longing QUIETLY part is part of his issue..he's not quiet! LOL but, i think a lot of that has to do with his grain. I am switching barns at the end of the month and will have a lot more control over how much and what he eats. I hope to see a difference in his focus and energy level...


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by myalter1 View Post
                          it's more of bracing...and it's NOT constant. It's evasive... like when he doesn't want to work, or he wants to spook in the corner. ....(when he is not distracted).
                          I just want to reiterate that these are all symptoms a horse exhibits with a rider who isn't riding every stride. If you aren't "interesting,"he will find a way to entertain himself. Riding every third or fourth stride isn't enough
                          chaque pas est fait ensemble


                          • Original Poster

                            ok i thought i was riding every stride. When i go to the barn, i will try to see what it is I am doing. I know several of the posters said that it's not a good idea to ride a horse like this in a frame right now, but I will say, that when he is working in a frame and I am constantly changing directions, circling, transitions, etc, he does not brace like this. If I am always doing something new, the better he is.

                            I also understand why several of the posters said not to ride sitting trot w/o stirrups...I actually sit the trot without stirrups b/c it keeps me from pinching with my knee if he gets quick. I can sit, wrap my legs around him and use my leg much more efficiently than if I have my stirrups. It's not just a pokey little sit trot, pretending to work...


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by myalter1 View Post
                              ok i thought i was riding every stride. When i go to the barn, i will try to see what it is I am doing.
                              most people aren't it's a whole new level of concentration that must be taught by a really competent trainer imho.
                              chaque pas est fait ensemble


                              • Original Poster

                                ok thanks. I completely understand that. If I had the funds for a really competent trainer, i probably wouldn't be asking! I have a great friend who is a GP dressage rider, but she's 3 states away...


                                • #17
                                  I understand the frustration, believe me. I haul 5 hours 1 way for lessons.
                                  chaque pas est fait ensemble


                                  • Original Poster

                                    That's how far away my friend is It stinks, doesn't it? And i LOVE riding with her...even though I'm just a lowly hunter rider. I've often said, if I ever can't jump, I MIGHT invest in a dressage saddle (although honestly, I don't know HOW you ride in them! They are SO much wider than my Antares!)


                                    • #19
                                      I think you need, from what it sounds like, to work on using your aids consistently, exactly the same and expecting the same response all the time but more importantly, you are missing an overview of what needs to be happening (how to change your horses body).

                                      If you cant afford instruction, you cant. It happens. In that case my advice is Mary Wanless book Ride With Your Mind, the Masterclass (pictures!). Work thru each lesson slowly, take your time, forget what you think you already know.

                                      And yup, let go, let go, let go. Your horse cannot push back on what you do not give him to push on.
                                      "Kindness is free" ~ Eurofoal
                                      The CoTH CYA - please consult w/your veterinarian under any and all circumstances.


                                      • #20
                                        Originally posted by EqTrainer View Post

                                        And yup, let go, let go, let go. Your horse cannot push back on what you do not give him to push on.
                                        I hope you saw that I gave you credit for your brilliant post (quoted in #6 above.)
                                        2012 goal: learn to ride like a Barn Rat

                                        A helmet saved my life.