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seeking advice

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  • seeking advice

    I will apologize at the beginning for making this a long post, but I need to put it all out there.

    My TB mare is very against putting her head down and lifting her back. She spent most of her life in a pasture and now at 8 found her way to me, for free. er, well after having teeth floated and bodywork done on her, we are ready for some serious dressage work.
    After injuring my knee because said horse spooked and the dingbat I am left some "air padding" between the horse and the girth, didn't even land on the knee and it swelled up like a grapefruit. I began working on sitting trot with her because I couldn't put weight in the stirrup on the leg I injured. That first ride was pretty damn near amazing. This horse is one who I find myself working just to get her back level and not hollowed out, and her head out of the sky. But being unable to post, she lifted her back. Here are a couple pictures to take a gander at Photo 1 Photo 2 Photo 3 Photo 4
    Here is one before I injured the knee Another photo
    This has been her usual way of going ever since I rescued her. Head up, back hollow and I have been fighting to just come even with her.
    As of right now, it isn't a saddle fit, teeth issue or anything else really. With my sitting trot/ no stirrup work has been to get her to lift her back, listen to my leg aids, and learning (er I want to say re-learning here) how to use my seat and body to affect her movement. We have now pretty much mastered a halt with no rein signal, just my body. She isn't always lifting her back, she still will hollow out and throw her head up. Or now she has begun to just arch her neck up so she is "flexed" at the pole, but not engaging her hind end, and then gets quick. For this I have been doing a lot of turning, serpentines, and just getting her to calm back down at the walk and relax.

    I had a dressage lesson two days ago. While this whole time my friend has been trying to cure me of my low hands, this dressage instructor had me working low and wide with my hands. She even wanted me to bend at my waist to get my hands down low to where she wanted. (and while she is telling me this I am fighting my new mental note to keep my hands up!) To get my horse rounding through her neck and rounding through and over her withers, (I think that is how she worded it) and the rest of the body should follow.
    Here are some photos of the lesson lesson photo 1 Lesson photo 2 lesson photo 3 lesson photo 4 Lesson photo 5
    eh, the results were about the same as when I had my hands up. She didn't want me to sit the trot at all. She also wanted me to either stay on a 20 meter circle or go around the ring, and wasn't really thrilled with my wanting to do a lot of turns to steady my horse and slow her down, get her to listen to me. All in all I probably got the same results as I would have just working my horse as I was doing.
    Yesterday, I let a friend ride her because her horse had managed to injure himself. My friend was more worried about getting the horse to "give" to contact and move forward, because apparently my horse has become lazy. O.o She also worked her nearly exclusively on canterwork, which I know I have been skimping out on. And all my horse did was fight her the entire time. I got on my horse after this, and I wasn't thrilled with what I got. She was arching her neck and hollowing her back out, yeah she was "flexed" at the pole, but behind the vertical with zero impulsion. Any leg aid I gave sent her jigging away. I spent a long time just getting her to relax even a little bit. Trotting her was just about useless because she only arched her neck and would NOT lift her back. But her head was, um... you know, in a "headset." So my friend told me to try the canter. It was a canter alright, her head was down, back upish, and she was rushing and unbalanced. I popped her over a tiny fence set up in the ring (because hey, this horse is an eventer, and jumping is her favorite thing, she is a totally different horse when you start jumping) and was able to get a somewhat decent canter off the back without her being tense.

    Today I got on her to see what damage had been done. I lounged her to begin with, as I always do now, with loose side reins. Getting on her and walking her around she felt tense, and kept lifting her head up. I did a lot of work with getting her to listen to my leg aids and turning. Through this she would lift a little bit in her back but continued to stay somewhat tense. (which is not totally unusual for her, sometimes she has tense moments in the middle of a good workout) I continued into trot work. When she lifted her back and rounded through her body I would sit the trot to encourage her to move on. (she tends to "die" in the middle of a good trot, alas I have no dressage whip) And of course she would tense up, raise her head and start rushing at the trot. I would continue to work on turning, getting her to listen to my leg aids, and sometimes would be able to bring her back to a relaxed trot and lifting her back. Not always the case though. Halfway through I got off and lounged her again with the side reins. This seems to help her relax a little bit. Afterward I mounted again and still found some tension, but we were able to do a full 20 meter circle with a relaxed, back lifted trot, and with her seeking contact. Much praise for that.

    What I am looking for are some exercises to help her relax during her workout. Something I can do in the saddle. (besides hopping over a few fences, I don't want to do that every day.) Also is isn't very responsive to my right leg, her entire right side is stiff. (this may partly be due to my hip which gets tight from driving a car ) But she was a little bit more responsive to it today.

    Last edited by crazypaintrider; Sep. 12, 2009, 09:10 AM.

  • #2
    I will let others advise you on exercises, but I will ask this - have you had this mare massaged/adjusted? If she's used to going around inverted with a tense back, she's likely developed all the wrong muscles and is probably sore.

    I know that I can get nice rides on my greenie in the ring, have her supple and round and forward, and then I can go out for a hack the next day which means 45 minutes of her out in the field with her head up in the air checking everything out - after that, my next ride is AWFUL if I don't massage/stretch her first.

    Think about it - all athletes stretch and limber up before doing their thing... why wouldn't your horse need to do the same?

    Also, the abdominal muscles on a horse are like your core muscles - they help with posture and balance.. if a horse's abs are sore, it won't be able to lift its back comfortably.

    I routinely massage my mare's abs, back and neck before my rides, and sometimes after a good workout.

    Good luck!


    • Original Poster

      I had her massaged and adjusted at the beginning of August. (her pelvis was out) I've been checking her back for soreness and haven't seen much if any. And I have been doing a little bit of massage on her back and croup, which she seemed to enjoy. Also a lot of leg stretches. I wish I knew more about massaging and stretching.
      I would have her done again, but finical reasons prohibit it.


      • #4
        Cute mare with some potential.

        Don't mistake flexing of the neck and poll for use (lift and relaxation) of the back. She is or has been a bit inflamed in her hind end (slight hunter's bump). Not a big deal but give her time to develop. Things like cavalettis might be good for her.

        Your knee is separate issue. Don't confuse the 2 things.
        And don't make her try to compensate for your knee, she isn't fit enough.
        See those flying monkeys? They work for me.


        • Original Poster

          Originally posted by nhwr View Post
          Cute mare with some potential.

          Don't mistake flexing of the neck and poll for use (lift and relaxation) of the back. She is or has been a bit inflamed in her hind end (slight hunter's bump). Not a big deal but give her time to develop. Things like cavalettis might be good for her.

          Your knee is separate issue. Don't confuse the 2 things.
          And don't make her try to compensate for your knee, she isn't fit enough.
          First of all thank you. She does have some potential (you should see her jump O.O), and her dressage potential is beginning to be unlocked.

          I can feel when she actually lifts her back. What other people are trying to get me to do/ do with her is the forced flexation at her poll without the engagement from behind or any lift in her back. They keep telling me "get the head right and the rest will follow." Which is the exact opposite of what I have been doing with her, and what seemingly works for her. I have been working more on getting her to slow down, steady her gait, respond to my aids, lift her back and use her hindend. With light "sponging" on the reins every now and then to encourage bend depending on the direction we are traveling.
          I know those pictures are not the best. That was the last day of me being unable to put weight in my stirrups and I have been working on both posting at the trot and sitting when she engages and lifts.(to encourage momentum) I find it a little bit easier to give an extra push to help her along in the sitting trot. She tends to break more (and by break I mean rush forward and lift her head) when I post when she is lifting/ engaging. It might just be something I need to develop more.
          I do know about the hunter's bump. It seems to be the way she came to me.

          And for my knee issue, she was the one who lifted her back. Before that I could not sit her trot because she would brace against me. I had asked her to trot that day and it was not me asking her to compensate for my knee, it was her lifting her back. (my friend tells me it was to make up for spooking and dumping me) My original plan was not to trot for more than a stride or two, but because of what she did I allowed her to trot a little bit more than I would have otherwise. I did this for only about 3 days, and those 3 workouts were very light. The last one she was upset by children on bicycles when I entered the ring and that tension carried over into the workout. Which was when those photos were taken. After that I was able to ride with my stirrups, but the workouts have remained rather light because of the weakness in my knee, with a lot of walking, turning and getting her to listen to my leg aids and my seat/body. I know she isn't fit and that is why, when she was willing to lift her back I allowed her to and did not push her beyond what she was willing to do herself. (in a sense) Which was at the most a long side or a 20 meter circle before I would have her down transition into the walk. She was surprisingly responsive to my seat and leg aids at the time. I hope this helped clarify that it was working with what she was willing to give me instead of me forcing her to lift because of my knee.

          I feel like I have a need to be defensive (and slightly offended) because I tried to make it clear that I was not seeking mere "flexing of the neck and poll", and could tell the difference between actual lift in her back and her being in a "headset". And that I was looking to encourage her to relax, because when she is tense she rushes and braces, or arches her neck(which seems to be because she was forced to flex at the pole without true impulsion and only rushing). When she is relaxed she is able to lift her back and begin to engage her hindend, lower and round her neck and stretch out to find contact with my hands. Without the relaxation, further work on getting her to lift, etc is almost useless.


          • #6
            1stly -- your position work on that and alter your stirrups to the correct lenght you can check that on my helpful links pages of how to do it

            there also loads of other helpful things which all relevant check all the links on page one

            then check your saddle -- ie get a saddle fitter to check it fits you and your horse

            lastly -- look down all the time -- the floor will say hi to you
            look up chin up andlook between the horses ears - where you look the horse will follow
            all the time you looking down your not giving a clear signal to the horse

            all the time you legs are out and pointing outwards you have no control of your horse as theres nothing there as legs are off the sides from foot to thigh so your relaying on your hands which will cause the horse to hollow as your supporting your bodyweight through them
            so work on your position having starting with correcting your stirrup lenght which in turn will straigten you up and help your position then frust the bust and chin up point your feet forwards having the stirrup bar on the ball of your foot - if you cant turn toes in then point them forwards

            most of your problem is your position -- and working the horse from your hands and looking down
            when you should be working the horse from butt to poll to a relaxed yaw using an independent seat and light soft hans witha secure leg

            which would help your knee

            some people often ride croaked and blame the horse many saddlers get saddles in that are often in consistence of the horse body but of the rider way of riding -- ie there position on a horse
            and they send it off for reflocking but to consistendly ride in the same whay is actually cuases the horse damged along its back in some cases its irreversalable and then the y have to have medcial attention etc

            so 1 check the horses saddle is the right size and length by going to a master saddler they can measure the horse saddle to you also they can tell you via weight of how that saddle wears underneath in how its affecting the horses way of going

            2-- improve your position as in turn this will help you as a rider and the instructions your giving your horse also as you have a knee injury - it might well be its beacuse of your position of not seating central on your horse - looking dwon also causes that centralisation to be off

            -- ie loook down left automatically your body goes to the left -------- then you fall off
            aldo hands go left as they have tendancy to go where you look, and becuase the hands do-- guess what so does the horse

            you cant ask for lift implusion or relaxation if your position is all wrong as this confuses the horse by not having a direct signal confusion is doubt in a horses mind a doubt is a fear factor in a horses mind
            and fear factors are 1st to flee - ie spook and look 2nd to advade you ie hollow up advade ie hollow up etc
            posistion positition position
            Last edited by goeslikestink; Sep. 12, 2009, 06:00 AM.


            • #7
              "seeking lift, impulsion and relaxation"

              Unrealistic. Seek that when your horse has its neck slamming your nose, you can get your horse to put her head down.

              "position is all wrong"

              Yes, but saying 'sit better' doesn't cut it. The rider has to get her horse to not put its head up in the air.

              You need to post the trot. There isn't any grey area here. The horse hasn't enough back muscle to sit a lot on.

              The biggest thing that scares me with this type of problem, is the mindset that folks get into. They are convinced: the instructor knows nothing and is having them do things that are totally wrong and incorrect and make it worse, and no one who gets on the horse is doing anything right, they're just messing up the horse, sure they have position problems but what's that got to do with it, this is the HORSE that's doing this (LOL). It really has nothing to do with them. The horse just needs to RELAX. How to make the horse RELAX????

              Oh my God, the most misused word in dressage. It appears to be something the horse is sort of just supposed to DO.

              It is so frustrating to watch this go on. The first step should be like in a twelve step program, LOL, 'Hi, My name is Mary and my horse sticks his head up in the air because of how I ride him'. Not the instructor, not the other rider, the saddle, or the horse needs to do something mysterious called RELAX. So have a smile on your face, nod eagerly, and fix it.

              People say, 'but taking the blame for everything is so depressing!' Not really. It's saying, 'oh, this can change! Cool! I just have to learn something new and change what I do...I can do that!'

              You understand 'a head set is bad', but what you don't understand is how to consistently get your horse to not put its head up in the air.

              I do notice you seem to be absolutely and totally convinced the changes of direction and the sitting trot is really THE ANSWER, that you HAVE TO DO THAT, and yet complain it isn't working. There's something contradictory in that.

              Work with a good instructor, and try to do what the instructor says. Have a little faith and patience, stick with it. Don't look for it to be perfect after one ride as the habit has been there a long time.

              Don't condemn the instructor's methods instantly for not being 'classical' or 'correct'; it's like criticizing a cop for wrestling a bank robber to the ground because Emily Post says to always start with an introduction and inquiry about the person's recent health. This is not some refined dressage training, this is about not having your spectacles jammed up your nostrils by the horse's neck.

              When fixing this, the RIGHT FIX can indeed make the horse really resistant, even fighting, even for quite some time. WHY? Because the fix is wrong? No. Because horses are used to doing things a certain way, they don't like change and because the rider may not be applying the fix with 100% consistency or clarity.

              Take your horse off sugary pasture grasses, alfalfa, supplements, grain, and rich hays. Your horse looks very fresh when it is getting inverted. The horse is fat in the belly and has almost no muscle in its neck or back or hind quarter. It doesn't look like the horse is getting worked 6 days a week. Work the horse more often, and stop avoiding the canter. Let the horse loosen up at the canter. If you're afraid to canter, put her on the longe line and let her canter. Try riding her in an indoor arena, or at least an out door arena with a fence and a gate, with the gate closed. Make sure she gets turned out a lot.

              The solution is not in doing a sitting trot or changing direction a lot and avoiding cantering, as you have been doing. That is avoiding the problem AND reinforcing the problem.

              To change how the horse goes, change what you are doing. Change is not easy. It quite often puts us in a position of doing something we are afraid of doing. That doesn't make that change wrong.

              Establish a rhythm on a large circle as your instructor was trying so hard to get you to do. Stop doing the changes of direction. Get on a circle and let the circle help you. That is what the circle is for. It seems, ironically, the very things that would help you are the things you most won't do! Isn't that odd when you think about it? But it's true of everyone, when it comes to training problems, we are truly our own worst enemies.

              DO put your hands down if they are too high, but bend your horse. This is not easy. You have to bend without tightening up the neck more, and that means allowing the neck to bend with the outside rein and counteracting the stiffness in the neck by, yes, actually, sometimes a rather large inside bend.

              This is physical therapy, not training exactly, because the muscles get stiff and tight. You need to go forward enough that the horse flows along, but not so fast she gets tense. As tight and stiff and inverted as the neck is, that's how much bending the horse needs. Bend in both directions, on the large circle. Supple your horse. When the horse puts its head up, bend her. The more she puts her head up, the stiffer her neck is, and the more she needs to bend. There may be times when briefly you bend quite a lot, and then 'ask' the horse if she will let loose the muscles for even one stride, and respond again, and bend a lot.

              When she gets inverted, you tense up into a defensive, position, lean way forward, grip tightly with your legs, and surrender the reins. That doesn't work. It actually rewards the horse for inverting and teaches her to do it MORE.

              You need to find something else that you do during that moment; don't lean your upper body forward and tighten up your legs. You look terrified; somehow you're going to have to find a way to become more confident, loose and effective right during those moments. If you have a script of 'what to do' and train yourself to automatically click into that script and just do those things, it can help.

              And it may take a very, very forceful, insistent instructor to break through YOUR habitual reaction, so don't be surprised if you don't particularly like that; it may be just what you need.

              I think you need to change many training ideas. Yes, it is good to understand 'head set is bad', but don't let that 'understanding' mean that every effort to get your horse to not put his head up in the clouds is 'bad' and a 'wrong method'. Correcting such extreme inversion as shown in some of the pictures, isn't always dainty and very lovely looking.

              Being more open to good quality instruction, and having a little respect, faith and patience in the instructor, helps, though so does picking someone who actually knows what they're doing. Realizing that the fixes for a problem may not be entirely 'classical' sometimes or totally embraced by the horse instantly, helps. Condemning a trainer based on one lesson does not help.
              Last edited by slc2; Sep. 12, 2009, 09:29 AM.


              • Original Poster

                I don't feel unrealistic. Today was working through "its neck slamming your nose, you can get your horse to put her head down."

                Yes, there are problems with my position. I know I am not in the best shape currently because I injured my knee, and therefor I need to work the strength back into it. But to do so I ride. I am a defensive rider, I am an eventer. I learned to ride on horses that are "slow" and "lazy", I learned how to get them moving with just my leg, and maybe a little seat. My first actual dressage lesson, the one I described, was a complete disappointment honestly. I learned nothing new.

                Her diet consists mostly of beet pulp with about a pound to a pound and a half of grain. (a grain made for horses who tend to get hot on other grains) When it suggests that she get about .5 to 1 lb per 100 lbs of bodyweight for this grain. She is getting about a half a flake of alfalfa to compensate the fact that her pasture is just about dead until it begins raining again. (which I normally feed well after I ride and not beforehand) And she is ridden just about every day. (although she is getting this weekend off because I am moving) I can remove the alfalfa from her diet. She is also in 24/7 turnout.

                I ride her in light contact. I find it works best, because she will fight heavy contact. Which is what she did to my friend.
                And yes, no one is riding my horse but me. I'm not making that mistake again.
                This friend is also the one who told me she is "lazy". Which in my opinion, she is not. I have been getting her to slow down and steady her pace. She mistook the slowness for laziness, and the fact that I have been using seat and calf to get her moving instead of just calf. I may be wrong, but I have been trying to work on her impulsion from behind and encouraging lift instead of just "fiddling" with her head. (because that just gets us nowhere)

                How I have been relaxing her is a lot of turning, getting her to bend and respond to my leg aids for which direction to move. Along with getting her to respond to a command for "halt" without using the reins at all. Which I will edit to say a halt command as in stretching taller, and slowing her down with just my body instead of a combination of both body and reins. Mixed in with getting her to move off of both legs, haunch turns and some light lateral movement. Bending her when she is inverted is very difficult, but doing so is how I have been getting her back from being inverted and to relax.
                The relaxation I am looking for is sort of "a big sigh" when the tension and stiffness leaves her body, she begins to respond to my aids without bracing or resisting, which then leads to a steadier gait, a little bit of inside bend and her back lifting and her reaching for and holding the contact.
                "What you need to do is bend your horse. It's a very, very difficult thing to do with an inverted horse, almost like walking a tight rope, you have to be VERY CLEVER with your aids, getting her just forward enough that she swings her back and loosens up without rushing, and bending her and setting up a connection without leaning forward and getting your arms and hands tight with the reins short. It's VERY difficult, but that's what you need to do."
                At least we have come to the same conclusion.

                As for lessons, the instructor I want to take lessons with, moved an 8 hours drive away. I have now tried 2 different instructors in the area and have liked neither of them. There is another instructor I had a lesson with whom I would have taken more lessons from, but our schedules prevented it, is one possibility. Or, I would really like to take lessons from a local classical dressage trainer. But then again, I am also at a point financially where taking regular lessons is impossible, especially if the one I really want is $70 for an hour. (ouch, that makes my back account shrink even thinking about it) Although it is something I am willing to save up for, or take a couple of the half hour lessons. (as the horse doesn't get fat on air)

                Yes I know there are a lot of problems in my position (why I ride another horse and a pony to help strengthen my knee) Sitting there passively and praying for things to fix themselves doesn't work, and that isn't what I have been doing. You do not go from this to anywhere near this by sitting there passively. Or take this horse and revealthis horse. It has taken a lot of patience, and a lot of work.

                Well, to end this post I will include a picture of her specialty. Nothing wrong with our position there.
                Last edited by crazypaintrider; Sep. 12, 2009, 11:18 AM. Reason: clarification


                • Original Poster

                  Okay, so you changed your post. Now I have to re-read it to be able to respond to it correctly.

                  First of all, perhaps it is a GREAT thing that I have come seeking help. Don't completely chastise me for it. That is what I find rude and offensive. Perhaps this was the wrong option for me to take. Have a bunch of people I don't know tell me I can't ride and that I have no clue what to do with my horse. I think I am more frustrated by that fact that I feel completely and utterly belittled.
                  Be nice about it for heaven's sake!


                  • Original Poster

                    As to cantering, I have been avoiding it because my knee is not strong enough to deal with it. But I haven't been avoiding it entirely. I have been working on it when she is quite and relaxed.
                    I might have torn another ligament. Therefore my knee is unstable.

                    I was working a little bit "safe" rather than "sorry."


                    • #11
                      Well . . . I think you should go back to a lot of walking work, especially as she looks like she's not ready to pick you up in a real sitting trot just yet. I suspect one reason the without stirrups work seems a little better is that you have to be softer while you sit because you've nothing to brace on and if you tense up too much you'll bounce off. :-)

                      I would do a lot of medium walk, stretching out free walk, medium walk transitions. Schooling figures, bending, flexing left, right, and a little down. Walk whoa and rein back practice can help as long as you sponge the bit and make sure the nose does not go to East Jabip.

                      I also recommend that you do ground poles to help her want to put her head down and lift the steps. If you have Blox or cavalletti you can make about 6" off the ground, that can do wonders.

                      As the walk gets softer and rounder, then you can add in short trots where you really concentrate on getting that jaw to relax--do flexing left, right, and a little down, schooling figures to help her bend, add in trot poles. Really the same stuff as the walking, only at a trot. As soon as she gets all high hollow come right back to walking work--you might only get half a 20 meter circle at first, but just keep at it.

                      I'd wait until I had some relaxation and strength in the walk and trot before adding in the canter work, and then I would do something similar to the way
                      I added in the trot work--half a circle here, short end of the arena there, etc--and increase it as she gets softer and stronger.

                      That's basically the progression I used with my TB broodie, who had been packaged and not educated. We spent a month or so with the walking, another month or two adding in the trot, then in came the canter. She's a whole new horse now.

                      I think your leg looks a little pinched up--maybe drop your stirrups a bit?

                      Good luck.


                      • #12
                        Halting without the reins is an exercise I would strongly reccomend you forget about immediately. Very, very bad idea.

                        I don't think this will be resolved by just walking, either, in fact I think that's about the worst choice poossible. I think it's a matter for a very good instructor and frequent lessons. I think yiou also have to try and remember that a lot of your pictures are good and there does seem to be a progression and improvement. Just getting better and making changes to allow that to happen is what it's all about'. Even the best in the world change their methods, it's nothing to be defensive about.

                        I don't actually think anyone has been rude, so much as really challenging your very set ideas about how to train and ride your horse. I think you're coming here asking 'what should I change' and then saying 'what I'm doing is very correct and appropriate, so there'. I don't feel any of what you're describing doing is at all likely to work, and I think its lack of success is why you came here asking for help in the first place.

                        I would suggest that you change what you're doing, find a good instructor, take frequent lessons, and try to believe in him or her and do what he/she asks.


                        • #13
                          cpr - as someone who actually owns an OTTB, maybe I can offer some help. I'm with nwhr. I think many TBs have back spines like a mountain ridge - other horses have backs like plateaus. And they tend to be pretty sensitive - to the environment, to even small changes in rider balance, etc.

                          So I think you have two main issues to address:

                          (1) At this point her hind end is weak and underdeveloped. So for her to use her hind end to step under and seek the contact just is not very easy for her yet. One thing that might help is the use of the one the absorbing gel pads (Grand Prix makes one for about $40) while you are helping her to build that strength. Hills are your friend. Lots of (balanced) transitions. Because if you ask her to do things for which she isn't physically ready (or for what SHE thinks she might not be able to do), that can cause the hollowing out. Set her up for success in all your rides, and remember, it will take time to build up the appropriate muscles.

                          (2) The sensitivity. Not necessarily spookiness. The down side? Well, you know that. The up side? What a fabulous teaching tool. Do they ever tell you when you have asked them to do something but are somehow blocking them. One time my trainer's SIL (and one of her ex students) came to visit. At this point, SIL had ridden (had even owned) but was catch and miss because of finances and the fact that she wanted her teenage daughter to get the lessons and rides. SIL wanted to try out my saddle, and of course I said yes. So at the end of the lesson, SIL hops on. Immediately I can see my horse is hollowing his back, not stepping forward as well as he can. She asks for a trot and my horse said NO. And my trainer laughed - gave SIL some pointers, and then you could see my horse visibly relax and be willing to be forward. I'm sure there are plenty of horses that would have been fine with SIL's position. I've learned to become very aware of my own crookedness and imbalances. Maybe when you hurt your knee (at first) you held yourself differently to protect it and in doing so actually changed your position for the better?

                          (3) Given your knee is an issue - what about groundwork? That helps you establish a communication, helps her strengthen and use her hind and and back, but doesn't ask from you what might be too painful for you to do right now.

                          Just some thoughts. But good luck - she's VERY pretty!!! And I see the potential there too!
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                          • #14
                            Agree w/ DGRH on the hill work and transitions. Basically once she is strong enough (and you are fully recovered!) the transitions will help her realize she needs to carry herself and you will be able to take more of a contact. She is probably also not strong enough in the right muscles - as another poster said, in the abs. I have been working hard to get an understanding of how to ride my horse's abs to lift his back - "belly up" is my trainer's mantra We work on transitions, but also a lot on me sitting up and not leaning forward over his shoulders - how can he get off the fore and use his back end when he needs to support my balance over his shoulders? I rode hunters in college and still hadn't quite shaken the habit of crouching over the saddle...

                            Looking at your photos, I would say the position points to work on would be keeping your shoulders up and back (sitting over the middle of her back, not leaning forward), looking up, and keeping your hands up. Not sure why someone would encourage you to bend over so you could put your hands further down! Your hands need to be above her head, so even when she flings her head up, float your hands higher than the bit. It will feel awful, but putting your hands way down will not help the problem.

                            I also would recommend that once she is stronger, you work on getting some "forward" pushing her into the contact. Not jigging or rushing, but you may have to work through some of that to get the real "through" forward you want. I have a super sensitive gelding too, but he was learning that all he had to do was "threaten" to squirt away or make a fuss and I would immediately take my leg off, and we were going nowhere fast. Now that we have been in consistent training for almost a year, we are miles ahead of where we would have been. My trainer is always emphasizing pushing him forward, and really using my forward aids even when he gets pouty about it. Now we BOTH know he's not going to get away with evading the contact (his weapon of choice was curling up into his chest behind the bit) and not going forward!

                            She is super cute and I hope your knee feels better soon! And good on you for seeking out knowledge. Start saving up for the lessons you want, it might hurt to see the money fly out of your wallet, but it will feel soooo good to make real progress with her and soon you won't even think twice about writing all those checks for lessons


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by slc2 View Post
                              Halting without the reins is an exercise I would strongly reccomend you forget about immediately. Very, very bad idea.

                              I don't think this will be resolved by just walking, either, in fact I think that's about the worst choice poossible. I think it's a matter for a very good instructor and frequent lessons.
                              Who said anything about halting without reins?

                              I'm curious as to why you think correct walking work is the worst "poossible" idea. I'm certainly making no claim to be gods gift to training, but I fail to see how getting relaxation and bend at a walk, then adding in trot, could be so awful. Now, picking at the horse and doing incorrect walk work is not beneficial, but it is no more problematic than doing the same thing at trot and canter.

                              The OP is seeking a new trainer and seeking lessons, so my assumption is she is looking for ideas of what to do while looking for a pro on the ground to help her. I might be incorrect in that, of course, but it seems to me that she is interested in finding local support and doing lesson work.


                              • Original Poster

                                Thank you both DressageGeek "Ribbon Ho" and EiRide

                                What I liked about the no stirrups work was it forced me to use my seat in a way I hadn't in a long while. I know she is weak in the hind end, and that is why the workout have been light and slowly building up the muscles there. I don't expect anything fantastical until a long ways down the road.

                                Actually she was never raced trained, but she still has all the other TB stuff that comes with them. (minus some hopefully halfway decent training.... but plus being a redheaded mare :P) The sensitivity opens up a whole new world, when she is not anticipating your next move. Which allows her to feel when I halt her by stretching up tall and not having to yank on the reins, maybe a slight cue. She is listening to my body. Which, I'm sorry to say, is a very good thing. To me it means she is listening on a deeper level and I am able to transmit my intentions in a better way. That is not something I'm going to forget about easily, or should. (maybe I phrased it wrong earlier)

                                I can set up my trot poles again, since they had been sacrificed to make a couple low jumps. I do not have any blocks but I have a couple small stands that I use to set them up on. Now should they just been regular trot poles, I also like the alternating lifted sides, but are there other configurations that are beneficial? I hope I made that clear, if not here is my analogy- you can set up a gymnastic line of fences or poles on the ground, but then it depends on what you set up as to what your workout will be like.

                                What sort of ground work do you have in mind?

                                slc2- Would you like to pay for the lessons? I WANT good lessons that not only focus on how the horse is moving but also ME! Which is what my last lesson did not. It is not that I won't take another lesson from her, or watch her give lessons, but it wasn't what I was looking for.

                                You are also mocking me, and I find it rude and offensive.

                                "The biggest thing that scares me with this type of problem, is the mindset that folks get into. They are convinced: the instructor knows nothing and is having them do things that are totally wrong and incorrect and make it worse, and no one who gets on the horse is doing anything right, they're just messing up the horse, sure they have position problems but what's that got to do with it, this is the HORSE that's doing this (LOL). It really has nothing to do with them. The horse just needs to RELAX. How to make the horse RELAX????

                                Oh my God, the most misused word in dressage. It appears to be something the horse is sort of just supposed to DO.

                                It is so frustrating to watch this go on. The first step should be like in a twelve step program, LOL, 'Hi, My name is Mary and my horse sticks his head up in the air because of how I ride him'. Not the instructor, not the other rider, the saddle, or the horse needs to do something mysterious called RELAX. So have a smile on your face, nod eagerly, and fix it.

                                People say, 'but taking the blame for everything is so depressing!' Not really. It's saying, 'oh, this can change! Cool! I just have to learn something new and change what I do...I can do that!

                                A- I'm sure the instructor knows what she is doing. But as you have pointed out, my position sucks. Why sacrifice my position FURTHER to only focus on the horse if I am part of the problem?

                                B- If getting the horse to flex at the pole and rush along forward is going to help bringing her head down, and lift her back; I'm sorry, I didn't see it happening. I didn't feel it either. Stressing her out to the point she is completely frazzled doesn't help either.

                                C- I don't expect the horse to relax out of the blue.

                                Also, from what I have seen and worked with this particular horse, sitting trot and bending inside/outside, moving off the leg/lateral work has been the what regains her listening to my aids and lifting her back. And yes, relaxing. I'm sure there are other ways to do it, but every horse is an individual.


                                • Original Poster

                                  I want a hill! I want one really badly. Where she is at now there are a few tiny hills, which I was going out and working on. Although now I have to be more careful about when she gets quick and takes off at a gallop instead of a canter in the field. I might take her out and lounge her for a bit up and down the little hill.

                                  I am also somewhat stuck where I am since the truck's radiator was leaking water going to and returning from my dressage lesson. There is a park that is a small mountain that we have been to a couple times. It is close, but too far to ride there and across a highway.


                                  • #18
                                    Ground work - as in free lunging, in hand. Not trivial if you don't have someone experience to show you! But even careful work, lunging, over trot poles at the walk and trot will help. I just put a pole on the ground, and start with that. Even one pole. The idea is to get them to articulate the hocks and use their hind end - brilliant if you can get them to step backwards over the pole.

                                    And the anticipation is so funny - if I count strides I can only do it once or twice, because then my boy just offers it up. And I have to be appreciative, and say thanks for thinking! but we're switching gears. I suppose if we ever get to tempi changes it will be wonderful....

                                    But it is absolutely amazing to me how much they respond to even the slightest change in body. It has made me so much more self aware! And you are hampered by the knee, so you can only do so much - been there, done that!

                                    So. Anyone have some good ideas on how to create the hills if you live on flat plains?
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                                    • #19

                                      I got one a year ago and love her. TBs are quite different from WBs. My new mare is very sensative- I love and hate this typical trait. She tells me she's uncomfortable very quickly, but also that she's happy very quickly. This,for me, is helping me ride with feeling. I want to suggest that you are possibly analizing too much. I'm new to dressage ideas myself and can see already how "paralysis by analysis" will be a constant thing to avoid! I agree "don't sit the trot." Watch these "classical" riders with their youngsters- they are not sitting. 2. Coming from hunters- please don't use your "seat" to move your horse forward. If you come from eventer/jmpr background, remember that the seat can be a very aggressive aid!!Also, sit on an exercise ball and try to move it forward -you may be telling your horse to stop and go at the same time. I agree w/ SLC2 sit up... But sit lightly. My horse is looking to me for answers ALL the time (yes it can be very aggravating). On the other hand, I can be posative, listen, and work on giving clear and consistent aids. I HAVE to script the ride; if I react to her we are both in trouble. ENJOY YOUR TB- LOVELY horse. I think you will be rewarded greatly!


                                      • #20
                                        Blackberry Farm - I think you've hit the nail on the head. I'M always thinking. TED'S always thinking - there is this constant discourse between us. Except sometimes he gives me something I thought I didn't ask for...but you know, he always gives me what my body asked for, not my head.

                                        But of course, to get me stop stop thinking and analyzing so much...maybe we need a support group!
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