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Horse without a motor

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  • Horse without a motor

    My girlfriend's horse -- a young (4) warmblood who was MADE for dressage -- has no motor. Beautiful mover, firsts in every show he's been in so far (just intro -- walk/trot), trainers, judges, riders line up to to talk to her about him and everyone knows his breeding by just looking at him.

    She's had him since the day he was weaned. Been cleared by the vet and farrier, saddle fitted professionally. Horse never pins an ear or shows any sign of lameness at any gait. But, he does have a history of trying to get out of work -- some balking, or taking off while being lunged. He's fed high quality hay and his vitamins and minerals (no grain) and is turned out 24/7 with shelter. She's careful not to "spoil" him so he receives no treats and she is very strict with him about ground manners. This is all really due to his size at 17 hands. But she also loves him and treats him well and takes him on trail rides and does fun stuff other than arena work. Keeps rides to 30 minutes or less, 45 minutes for lessons.

    The horse always and I mean always tries to go slow whether it's the walk, trot or canter . . . if she can get him to canter, that is. It ends up more of a workout for her than the horse. She has to use spurs to get him going. And, she can literally whip the snot out of him and he barely notices. It takes 3 - 4 good whips of her dressage whip to get him to go from meandering to a meaningful walk.

    He is very forward at new places, so that's been her saving grace at shows so far. I feel so bad for her, watching her struggle every time she rides. I can feel her frustration. She is a great rider and horsewoman. She is firm but fair. I wish I had some words of wisdom or ideas for her, but I don't.

    Do you?

  • #2
    What a great day for this post! Look what Jane posted today


    But besides that- others can correct me if I'm wrong, but a 17hh 4 yo WB is still growing into his body isn't he? I mean, isn't that like the horse equivalent of the kid who grows a foot in a year?


    • #3
      I think that is typically what a 4yo will try. When you get through it you have a nice horse. It's part of making a baby horse a useful member of the equestrian community! To say he has no motor is doing the horse a dis-service; you just haven't developed it yet. It takes some time for a large youngster to develop the confidence to carry a person in balance AND demonstrate powerful gaits. He probably just needs more strength. It might help to hook up with an eventer and do some conditioning.
      ... _. ._ .._. .._


      • #4
        He will probably "wake up" next year or whenever he catches up with his growth. I agree with Equibrit. He's a whopping big youngster who probably needs thoughtful strengthening & conditioning work.

        In the meantime, you say he's more forward in new places, so take him to LOTS of new places for trail rides, clinics, pair pace events, fun shows, whatever, and use those opportunities for forward schooling. Put him into those situations where he shows more forward desire and reward him for that. Make forward fun, rather than an endless session of whack-whack-whack round the ring...

        I know it's frustrating. BTDT.


        • #5
          If he's not getting grain, is she sure he's getting enough calories to meet his nutritional needs? A four year old that's still growing, in full turnout, and worked regularly would be burning a lot of calories. Not sure if he could get all he needs from hay/ration balancer (if that's the vit/min he's getting)/grass. Maybe she should consult with a nutritionist? He might need some oats or other concentrated added.

          *OMGiH I Loff my Mare* and *My Saddlebred Can Do Anything Your Horse Can Do*


          • #6
            He is young, but he reminds me of a young large WB gelding that I knew. He didn't really buckle down to work until he got somewhere that he didn't have much turn out and had to do dressage 5 days a week. Previously, it was as though he just thought he could coast through his work days because the next day he would go for a hack. When confronted with the same expectations every day, he finally began to rise to the occasion. But he was very, very lazy.

            At 2nd level he hit the wall though, and it was determined then that he had excercise intolerance caused by larygeal hemiplegia. He had tieback surgery and was more energetic afterward. This is a very, very common condition in horses over 17 hands tall, especially if they have long necks (or draft horse breeding.) That is something that you may want to look at later on if his energy level doesn't increase.
            "Against stupidity the gods themselves contend in vain" ~Friedrich Schiller


            • #7
              either get a new horse who is more sensitive, or put a good young horse trainer on him to have him flying forward off the leg for a year or two before you get him back- if this is not instilled now, it will never be, he will just get duller and duller with each whack, you need a pro with long strong legs, a stout whip and experience with big warmbloods


              • #8
                Going through the same issues with my 16.2H 4yo Friesian/WB cross. For the most part he's an obedient horse, does try to do what is asked, so the only think I can chalk it up to is that right now he physically CAN'T. In my case, it really feels like weakness, lack of balance, therefore not confident enough in balance and strength to go forward. I've seen both types of horses, those that motor around full speed ahead on their forehand because of balance issues and weakness, and those like mine that suck back.

                For a 17-hander, I would definitely guess it's weakness/lack of balance & coping with rider with all other things considered and ruled out. I'd bet next year he'll be a different horse!

                Yes, there are some horses where they are just LA-ZY, and are really hard to motivate. But at 4 and him being so large, I wouldn't give up on him yet.


                • #9
                  hes a baby-- and unbalanced big neds are well known to develope later in life
                  as they continue to grow till 7, hes only 4 its ok for him to a who arh henry on thelunge they all do that at that age -- so no biggy i woudl turn him away now till next spring and let him grow and develope those muscles and legs
                  and stop smacking him whips and kicking him with spurs all thats going to do i give you a hrose with dead sides to make him fowards in canter it will happen when it happens but wont happen if you havent got the walk as in all walk strides and all trot strides
                  better by lengthening and shortening the horse using the half halt stride so he can use himself and learn to become more balanced

                  you may also want to read this link as few helpful tips


                  • #10
                    Maybe he wants to be a hunter...point him at some jumps to find out.


                    • #11
                      He's doing a lot for a 4yo still growing big horse in my book.

                      I really don't understand HOW *anyone* gets to the 4 & 5yo tests, but then my guys grow and grow and grow and grow until they are 7. THEN they fill out. Part of it may be my climate, part genetics. I dunno. But I only sometimes sit on them at 3, not usually 'till 4. And my four-rising-5 yo is back having recess because she is haunch high again, *and* the neck fairy seems to be visiting in small spurts.

                      I dunno. This temperament IS what some folks want. A 'push' ride. But it also could be age. Calories (agree that's not enough unless his hay is very high alfalfa), summer... could be lots of things. A young horse rider/trainer used to big young WBs might be the ticket.

                      I still think 4 is a baby though.
                      InnisFailte Pinto Sporthorses & Coloured Cobs

                      Bits are like cats, what's one more? (Petstorejunkie)


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by pintopiaffe View Post
                        I really don't understand HOW *anyone* gets to the 4 & 5yo tests . . . I still think 4 is a baby though.
                        Neither do I!! 4yo is definitely still a baby!! I am going through the same stage with my 4yo, 17.2hh baby right now. He just doesn't have the strength, confidence, balance, etc. to really GO forward. I just keep setting him up and asking him to try. Never take him too deeply into the corners or make circles too small. Lots of time on nice straight lines. As I have built him up, he has suddenly found his forward in the last few rides. I don't know what has changed for him to suddenly feel like he can go forward so nicely or how long it will last until he hits the next awkward growth spurt that throws him out of kilter again, but I'm enjoying it while I have it. I think with these big horses you just have to be prepared to give them a little extra time to really grow into themselves and sort out those long legs. In the long run, they will turn out sounder than if you push them too hard before their joints have finished forming.



                        • #13
                          Thank you, thank you! We have a large 4 year old who is the same. I am in a different situation in that we bred him for my oldest daughter who lost interest and has now just gotten married. Great. However, we have a younger daughter who is super keen and a pretty good rider at 14. So, our guy is mostly hanging out in the paddock waiting for his rider to get big enough. He's been broken in and had the basics and is ridden once a week just to keep him ticking over.

                          I have been feeling a bit slack because we haven't done much with him, but this thread has reinforced my decision not to sell him and just change his job description. I don't think it's doing him any harm to grow into his big body. He is a late maturing horse anyway and the trainer I sent him to told me to think of him as younger than his chronological age. (He did look good when he was in work for those few weeks), but now he is looking a bit unbalanced and it is hard work for him AND his rider to get him motivated.

                          One thing we do that works to get him moving without a lot of pressure, is my daughter rides her wonderful schoolmaster pony at the same time the young horse is being ridden and it's much easier to get the young one moving forward if the pony is ahead of him. He's learning to go with just light aids. Hopefully, he will remember the lesson when the pony isn't around!


                          • #14
                            Well, everyone has brought up good points so far. He may just need to finish growing, and he may need some additional calories in his diet.

                            If your friend is having as much trouble as you describe getting him to go forward, I would certainly put him in training with a good young horse trainer that can get him to understand what forward means, or I would turn him out for another year and leave him alone. I can't help but feel that your friend's constant nagging at him to get him to go forward may create bad habits for the future (dead sides, etc). In trying to be "understanding" about his laziness, she may be being a bit "too nice" and actually be teaching her youngster to be dead sided or lazy. It sounds like this horse may have lazy tendencies even once he's grown into himself, so she really needs to be firmer or send him to a trainer for 30-60 days who can be more effective, then maybe turn him out for the fall/winter.

                            Also, ground work can be very helpful for young horses. They don't have to worry about the rider's balance and their own at the same time, and you can instill some very good habits from down there if you have the timing. Again, I think turnout or a young horse trainer for 30-90 days would be the best options. If a trainer isn't an option and she really wants to keep riding, then I would suggest she just let him coast to get saddle miles and not ask him for more than she can easily get.