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How to transition a WP QH/appendix to Dressage.

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  • How to transition a WP QH/appendix to Dressage.

    I feel like an idiot even asking this to be honest.

    I moved and have been out of horses for like 5 yrs. But a friend here is starting a 4H club and as I used to be a dressage rider has asked for my help as she wants 2 of her horses to be able to show the kids dressage. Note - I am NOT a trainer & 1st lvl was the highest I ever showed, but I guess that works for 4H. I've restarted 3 OTTB but I never had a problem with forward with them, the opposite, so this is WAY different.

    She has 2 appendix QH that I rode today. They are both extremely quiet and were WP horses so they have the jog & lope down. I have never ridden western so the jog & lope felt like they were lame. At the jog I tried nagging with my heels, seat & legs but they didn't uh...move faster.

    Both horses are decent sized (~16.2) and built a tad uphill or level - they're not short halter types. In pasture they have decent movement so I'm trying to get that under saddle.

    As I was just seeing what they know I didn't bring a dressage whip or my spurs. I did use my bridle with a french link as all she has are western ones with curb bits. I was also using a western saddle today as it was all she has.

    I need suggestions on how to get them going forward. I'll be going out tomorrow with a dressage whip to nag them and spurs, but they need to learn to do it without aids. I know a lot of transitions and possibly trotting them over cavaletti so they'll pick up the dragging feet.

    Beyond that I don't know how to get them more forward!

    Suggestions are welcome!

  • #2
    The hardest thing will not be getting him forward but getting him into the contact. He'll pick up the forward pretty quickly. He's not used to contact, though. Use a very mild bit and you may want to do a lot of lunging, which should help with both the contact and the forward without you getting in his way. I also wouldn't use spurs on him - these horses are trained to spur stop. A whip should be sufficient and it should be used only to support your leg and seat.

    We took an entire barn of QHs from the QH circuit to dressage. However, all of ours were All-arounds and not strictly WP horses, so they were used to HUS classes - they all knew Western saddle meant slow and English saddle meant more forward.

    Being a WP horse, though, your guy is probably broke to death and will be a blast at shows b/c he's so quiet and not phased by the warmup ring. Good luck and have fun with him.


    • #3
      Don't use the dressage whip to "nag" them with.

      Use the dressage whip to back up a light leg aid with a BLAMMO!
      Take your leg all the way off to test him and see how long he maintains himself.

      When he slows down, BLAMMO!

      Horse should be going forward enough that you can leave daylight between him and your leg and he'll still truck along. If you can't complete a 20 meter circle with your leg in the air, he's not forward enough. Rather than carrying him around with your leg, give him the opportunity to make the mistake and then correct it.
      The Noodlehttp://tiny.cc/NGKmT&http://tiny.cc/gioSA
      Boy Wonderhttp://tiny.cc/G9290
      The Hana is nuts! NUTS!!http://tinyurl.com/SOCRAZY


      • #4
        And get the fwd before you go for the contact.
        "One person's cowboy is another person's blooming idiot" -- katarine

        Spay and neuter. Please.


        • #5
          I watched a western pleasure clinic at Equine Affaire this weekend. (Yes, I had to be forcibly dragged in there by my niece, who is showing WP for 4H). I thought I would hate it, hate it. Well, knock me down with a feather! The clinician told all the people riding that they needed to get their horses more forward and by the end of the clinic, they were and they looked a whole lot better. He said that his technique for the spoiled ones at home was to take them out in an open field and just let them gallop for 30 days. He said they have to learn to "stretch out" again. He told them not to worry about head carriage or head set, just get 'em moving out consistently.

          He also made the people riding the clinic get their horses' heads up. The people riding in the clinic seemed shocked and the horses too.

          So there ya go, words of wisdom from the WP folks themselves. Clinician said they only have themselves to blame for the bad rep they've gotten. Very interesting and I hope it's a trend that catches on.


          • #6
            Just be aware that if either of these horses are trained to do a "spur stop" they may react differently to the spurs than you are expecting!
            You have to have experiences to gain experience.

            1998 Morgan mare Mythic Feronia "More Valley Girl Than Girl Scout!"


            • #7
              Originally posted by quietann View Post
              Just be aware that if either of these horses are trained to do a "spur stop" they may react differently to the spurs than you are expecting!
              No joke here. It isn't just the idea of the spur stop that seems contrary to our thinking in a funny way. Some of these horses have been trained this way by less than sympathetic techniques, and it really upsets them when they realize you are asking for fwd, but they know that if they go fwd, the penalty is near-death. Be aware, and perhaps go around the issue until you really have the horse's trust (i.e., carry a whip and use it *properly* rather than resorting to spurs).

              Also remember that the physical change from the slow, fractured gaits to a more natural, forward way of going is hard on their bodies. Think of it as physical therapy.
              "One person's cowboy is another person's blooming idiot" -- katarine

              Spay and neuter. Please.


              • #8
                Get them out in the open, and gallop. Go. And Go some more. Ask them down to a big trot and praise the hell out of them for doing it. And gallop on some more.


                • #9
                  Ditto on the spurs. If they are spur stop trained you'll need to re-work that.

                  I used what is called a 'hog slapper' on my mare to get forward. Got it at a Big R. About as long as a dressage whip but the end has two flaps of leather that pop nicely when you whack 'em on the butt.

                  Squeeze with legs to go and when no response, whack on the butt with the hog slapper. No mark, doesn't hurt, nice sound and forward showed up in fairly short time. Once she had forward we transitioned to the dressage whip.

                  I had the advantage of green and lazy and not WP trained.
                  No one can make you feel inferior without your consent. - Eleanor Roosevelt
                  For you to insult me, I must first value your opinion - Unknown
                  Pleasure Portrait 1989-2016...sleep well my girl


                  • #10
                    I retrained a ruined horse that was overly "desensitized" so he'd brace against the whip. I agree with using a whip with a popper. I looked like I was learning to drive a stick shift on mine: he'd go forward then remember his old experiences and think he had to come right back. Eventually we got 1 stride, 2, and just kept getting him to stay forward longer and longer. Big thing is to not nag because you don't want to have to use those aids forever, and praise any moment of forward. Ask first with the aid you want to be able to use, then harder, then WHAP, make them go. But always start asking lightly, even if you have to ask every stride at first. Don't get sucked into always using the loud aids. Worry about contact later. Being outside an arena really helps, too. Good luck!


                    • #11
                      I haven't read all of the posts but I'm presently working on this exact same thing with my new Appendix mare. I'm far from an expert or trainer but I'll tell you what has been working for us: starting over from the ground. She's doing really, really well but it was really confusing for her at first. I start every session with some stretches and suppling that my instructor has taught me - she LOVES it now - not so much at first. I also do some leg yields from the ground to help her understand bending and flexing away from the leg. She was trained to spur stop.

                      We first started longing in a halter and I' just wanted her to understand my commands (old owner let her act up on the longe) and I'd just encouraged her to listen and pay attention to me....moved to a lesson on a motivated trot rather than a jog and we did not do any canter for several days days (she got a little bored, really). After a couple of sessions she rally started getting it and I did lots of transitions and looking for balance and cadence at the more forward trot. Then I added her new bit and I worked a couple times with the line attached to the opposite ring on her bit until I added side reins. I set the reins so she could bend to the inside on the circle (straight like a barge was how she moved when we started). The reins were NOT to ask for flexion, were pretty loose, just enough to understand this new idea of contact. She literally stopped in her tracks the first two times I asked her to trot, but because she'd become so good at listening to my voice and watching for my body signals she took it in stride and the lightbulb went off when I praised her up and down for figuring it out without a fit.

                      Every 3rd day we I added 1 or2 cavaletti and 3-4 trot poles to get her to reach and use her back - she hated it to start but when she became stronger she seemed to fret less and less over the set.

                      After about 3 weeks I got on her with a side pull and asked her to do all we did on the ground (except canter or cavaletti) with my voice commands and then added legs - she totally got it. She slowed down once with leg but *remembered* what we learned from our previous lessons. She felt very different from the rides prior to the groundwork...less stiff and less like I was going to spill forward over her ears.

                      She was doing great but when the ground got hard about 10 days ago her navicular flared up so she's taking it easy now until we get the farrier out - but I'll tell you that this horse LOVES praise. I know her old owners and they aren't the type to pat or praise so I see a huge change in her desire to learn all this new stuff ....it's been so much fun to watch her change from lolly-gagging on the forehand to looking a little more like an athlete. In fact when the vet came to see her on Friday he thought she was another TB . She's my first QH and I had high hopes for her....sad about the navicular but trying to be proactive and roll with whatever happens.

                      Anyway, I hope this has been somewhat helpful. All of this I've gleaned from my instructor, COTH and from a Klemke book that I have. I hope your transition goes well!


                      • #12
                        Soft hands and quick aids
                        ~~Member of the TB's Rule Clique ~~


                        • #13
                          The spur stop is one of the worst things to ever happen to horse training. Ugh.

                          I hope these horses don't have that!

                          Often a WP horse is used to going forward when the rider is standing in their stirrups - think as close to half seat as you can get with long WP stirrups. See if just getting out of the saddle helps the horse figure out how to move, and you can gradually work to keeping that forward while posting/sitting at the canter. Lots of other good ideas, and I agree - DO NOT NAG. Good luck!
                          Originally posted by Silverbridge
                          If you get anything on your Facebook feed about who is going to the Olympics in 2012 or guessing the outcome of Bush v Gore please start threads about those, too.


                          • #14
                            Is your friend looking to have these horses converted to dressage, or is she still wanting them to be able to show WP? The reason I ask is that it may help if you understand how the hores was trained western (is it spur stop trained for example) so that you don't break its WP buttons while trying to teach dressage.

                            I do think it helps if you use completely different tack from what the horse is used to, so english saddle and snaffle bridle as the horse will pick up on different expectations based on the different tack. Bitless may even help the horse learn to look for contact in the short term.
                            Freeing worms from cans everywhere!