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Anyone else have an easily offended horse?

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  • Anyone else have an easily offended horse?

    I have a 13yo QH gelding and in the past two days have had two incredibly frustrating rides. I'm wondering if anyone else is dealing with a similar situation...

    I've had this horse for 5 years now and he has always been very forward, and will speed up if I let him (if I rise at the trot, pat on the neck, etc). So, bad me, I learned to ride with my legs OFF , trying to keep them quietly at the girth so as not to get any unwanted speed. I worked for the first two years on getting him to s l o w d o w n.

    Now, we are schooling 1st/ 2nd and looking for more collection, and I need to be able to put my legs on! The problem is that whenever I give a "fluff", "bump", or (God forbid!) a tap with the whip he positively scoots forward and gets himself in a tizzy. The past two days have been a nightmare, between this "normal" stuff, spring thaw, and gusting winds that are threatening to take the roof off our indoor. I am losing confidence very quickly.

    Trainer encourages me to "rock the boat", ride through it, and continue on, but I am having a hard time finding a balance between pushing him (and myself) and being patient through his shenanigans.

    Anyone know where I'm coming from?

  • #2
    but you are getting the right answer from him! if he scoots, bring him back gently and try a softer aid for forward again, but let him know that he answered correctly. Forward but stay with me, forward but stay with me. That is the message you want him to hear
    www.headsupspecialriders.com

    Comment


    • #3
      Shoot, this may be the first thread on the dressage forum that I can knowledgeably reply to! Thanks for the opportunity!

      I grew up riding Western and by that I mean more roping/penning. We ALWAYS rode with our leg off.

      My mare is 1/2 QH, 1/4 Morgan 1/4 Arab. VERY VERY forward.

      For her first 15 years under saddle the only time a leg touched her was to bump it up a notch.

      And then I went to the dark side.

      Well, first I went to the chocolate (H/J) and now I'm doing dressage (the REAL dark side)

      She had to learn. She isn't the type to get pissed off, but she did think that we were a bunch of idiots at first and was happy to let us know.

      Just take your time and keep a leg on. They DO learn. At first though, you may get a passage or piaffe...just be aware....they're not being naughty, they just are trying to figure out what in heck you want.

      Reward the effort.

      It does get easier!
      A good horseman doesn't have to tell anyone...the horse already knows.

      Might be a reason, never an excuse...

      Comment


      • #4
        If your horse can't handle your leg, they have never really accepted it and (as you've already learned) you can't go far.

        I rode a mare for a while with this problem and whose owner rode as you do. We share the same trainer and she started with me, since I am not prone to being overquiet with my leg as the horse's owner is, putting my leg ON. Yes, she ran for a while, but I kept on keeping on and half-halted until the dang thing went through . She got to the point where he accepted my leg, and it was then easier for her to accept her owner's leg, and now we can get somewhere. maybe have your trainer ride a few times to get through the initial resistance, and you can watch?
        Lark B
        socialwstudent@gmail.com
        _________

        Comment


        • #5
          I wish I had your problem.

          Comment


          • #6
            curious here.. If you did not put your leg on your horse, how did you get it to bend?

            Comment


            • #7
              Just start from the ground level. Stand at a quiet halt and hug horsey with both calves. Do not take your legs off or do anything else until horse has accepted legs at halt and is standing quietly. I would then ask for some poll flexion left and right, maintaining the leg contact and the quiet halt.

              Then, keeping solid contact with legs, proceed to a walk. If horse speeds away just keep quietly correcting with half halts until he goes in a quiet walk with leg contact. Same with trot and then canter. If he gets out of control at any point, go back to the previous slower gait and add more leg at that gait and wait for acceptance. Then go to faster gait with a little less leg.

              It only took me about a week of this little game to get my OTTB to finally accept my leg at all gates. The key to all this with these hotter, sensitive horses is to keep the leg on all the time. I'm NOT talking about nagging and pushing with the leg, as that would drive them crazy. But they do need a "hug" at all times. Always have your calves long and wrapped around the horse's barrel. It gives them security and acceptance of the leg. Then to actually ask for forward motion you only have to take the leg off for a brief moment and put it back on and they respond beautifully.

              Comment

              • Original Poster

                #8
                I should add that I have been with the current trainer for a little over a year and a half now, and she has made it a point to keep me riding with leg ON the whole time. We are working hard to get him moving FORWARD (not faster), hind legs up under him, into the contact (his default coping mechanism is btv/ duck behind contact) and asking him to come "through" more...

                Anyway, I've been putting my leg on for over a year and a half, shouldn't he "get it" by now?

                It usually goes like this:
                -leg on - he thinks about going a little more forward, flicks an ear back to me
                -leg actively squeezing - the tail starts swishing , passage-y steps
                -"fluff"/ "bump" - he scoots ~2 strides
                -I bring him back w/ half halt - he props neck/ tries to duck behind contact
                -leg on, reminding him to keep going forward

                And so on.... even with exercises to try that might keep his focus & get him to move forward to the bit (which is a loose ring plastic mullen mouth). I'm trying shoulder-in, haunches-in, leg-yields, half-pass, trot-halt-trot, walk-canter-walk, stretchy trot, circles of all sizes, riding quarter lines, lengthening & shortening stride...

                I just don't get why he's (still!) so upset about my leg being on & active!

                Comment

                • Original Poster

                  #9
                  Originally posted by blackhorse6 View Post
                  curious here.. If you did not put your leg on your horse, how did you get it to bend?
                  This horse was part of a rent-a-trail-horse string before I got him, and I got a chance to work with him at a summer camp that borrowed 10-12 horses each year for the campers. No one wanted to ride him because he was "too fast" so I ended up on him for the summer. Realizing how great it would be to have a sensitive horse for dressage, I made an offer at the end of summer camp.

                  The first year or so he got to "be a horse" while I finished college in the south. When I came home and started working with him we were working on things like w-t-c calmly and halt (& stay halted please!) so bend wasn't as much of a priority, it was more getting him to relax and go around quietly.

                  As we progressed (really slowly) I used my leg for bending aids, to ask for transitions, and that's it. Then my leg reverted back to its quiet place at the girth & didn't bother him. Now I know I need to use my leg for all the aids, but also keep it consistently on, or else I guess he forgets they're there and maybe it scares him

                  I feel like he would much rather I leave him alone than keep my legs on. Maybe at first it was a confusion thing, like, I'm going forward already, what else do you want? But he's still offended almost every ride...

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by blackhorse6 View Post
                    curious here.. If you did not put your leg on your horse, how did you get it to bend?
                    Well shoot! We had our seats for that!

                    In all seriousness though, you could certainly get bend ( I also did barrels where bend is pretty important) but everything was a cue--not a consistent pressure thing.

                    IE: I want X I put leg on for X. I want Y I put leg on for Y. But as soon as they are doing X or Y, the leg is back off.
                    A good horseman doesn't have to tell anyone...the horse already knows.

                    Might be a reason, never an excuse...

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Just a thought, but would it help to think of it differently? Not that he's "offended" (which I realize you may be saying half-jokingly), but that he either:

                      a) doesn't understand, and is throwing a bunch of answers at you trying to guess

                      or

                      b) doesn't want to (ie is resisting) because to really work more off the aids is more effort at first, and hard, and he would rather go the way that seems easier

                      I'm guessing more the latter, to some degree, esp. since you said he ducks behind the bit, etc. though if you are just starting to introduce the idea and don't do it consistently all the time there may be some of a) involved too.

                      Not that that means you should be angry or punitive at all. Just that you shouldn't feel sorry for him or be apologetic. If you can be clear and consistent, he should get the hang of it with practice.

                      Maybe that's a real "duh" comment - no offense meant!

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by LuvMyDressageQH View Post
                        This horse was part of a rent-a-trail-horse string before I got him, and I got a chance to work with him at a summer camp that borrowed 10-12 horses each year for the campers. No one wanted to ride him because he was "too fast" so I ended up on him for the summer. Realizing how great it would be to have a sensitive horse for dressage, I made an offer at the end of summer camp.

                        The first year or so he got to "be a horse" while I finished college in the south. When I came home and started working with him we were working on things like w-t-c calmly and halt (& stay halted please!) so bend wasn't as much of a priority, it was more getting him to relax and go around quietly.

                        As we progressed (really slowly) I used my leg for bending aids, to ask for transitions, and that's it. Then my leg reverted back to its quiet place at the girth & didn't bother him. Now I know I need to use my leg for all the aids, but also keep it consistently on, or else I guess he forgets they're there and maybe it scares him

                        I feel like he would much rather I leave him alone than keep my legs on. Maybe at first it was a confusion thing, like, I'm going forward already, what else do you want? But he's still offended almost every ride...
                        Sounds as if he is very very lucky to have found you Good luck

                        Comment

                        • Original Poster

                          #13
                          Thank you all for your thoughtful replies! He's a really good guy and tries his heart out for me. He obviously hadn't heard of "dressage" before I met him and so I feel very lucky to have found a willing partner who has come this far!

                          He's not the 16.2 dark bay warmblood I dreamed of as a youngster, in fact he's short (barely qualifies as a horse lol), red with a butt stripe (red dun) and shoulda been a barrel horse. But, since he's short it's not as far to the ground, and he stands out at shows colorwise, and we can finish a 10 meter circle in 3 seconds flat!

                          Maybe I will try to save up and see if my trainer would be willing to put in a few rides on him to emphasize the point. Hopefully the work we are doing will help him build up the muscle he needs to be able to do the work more easily and he will finally be able to tolerate my leg (or just get over it, anyway!)

                          It is reassuring to hear that at least we're headed in the right direction. I just need to be more patient with him. I forget sometimes where we came from, careening around the indoor looking like a giraffe, to where we are now, with a half pass that my trainer says is "actually scorable" - to the right anyway

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            omg, your title made me laugh my head off out loud!! I was like "YES I HAVE AN EASILY OFFENDED HORSE!" lol!

                            Read your posts, and I'll chime in, I *wish* I had your problem

                            Anyhow, my take is that your horse is forward in nature and wants to please you. He just sounds confused is all. He's probably quite a smart cookie to boot.

                            You'll need to help him by doing things in smaller stages, and rewarding frequently. imho, he needs to know *precisely* what you mean. The whip may be too much for him right now, sounds like you don't need much reinforcement from your leg, and he may not "get it" as an instructional aide right now... so with his perhaps focused and too-eager to please mentality, getting ok with the feeling of legs plus a whip that is meant to be instructional, that might be overwhelming for him.

                            You may want to restrict the use of the whip to in hand work for a while. And if you did, be sure to stroke him with the whip, reassuringly, like praise, so the whip truly is an extension of your hand and can pet him, and calm him, the whip should always be friendly. Scooting away from the whip is lack of confidence, which is lack of understanding generally.

                            Anyway, I've been putting my leg on for over a year and a half, shouldn't he "get it" by now?
                            re-examine how you are when you are putting your leg on. Its one thing to have a horse with sensitive sides, but a year and a half later means he's not understanding. Reexamine how you are when you 'put your leg on'. Do you actively 'put your leg on'? If so that conscious decision on your part may be too much for him. He needs to accept a certain amount of "white noise", perhaps when you are 'put your leg on' you are thinking about it a bit more mindfully, and that makes your white noise leg more active than it should be... lol, did that make any sense?

                            the second thing to examine is how you react to how he reacts when you put a leg on and he misunderstands. What your trainer said about riding it out is basically true.... if you just let your leg lie, like a wet rag against his side, and he scoots out, you need to ride without reacting, without punishing or trying to "make him understand". Horses like this need to figure some things out for themselves, and that takes a quiet rider that can say "here, I do this, and its no threat, its just the white noise of my leg on your side, don't over think it, just feel and accept it". Like teaching a horse to accept the feeling of a blanket for the first time, or saddle, or polo wraps..... there is the moment of 'my G-d what is this?!?" and the thoughtful handler says "I know its strange, but its no threat, just move freely and feel what its about and see for yourself, it doesn't hurt".

                            My guess is that your asking your horse to understand several pieces at the same time. For very smart, very sensitive horses, this can be a huge obstacle. Slow down your training, start with smaller pieces. Start by putting your leg "half" on, let him be ok, don't react when he reacts, let him scoot without punishment or reaction, just let him scoot scoot scoot his little hiney all over the place till he realizes the leg on isn't intensifying, its not directing, it just "is" and it doesn't hurt and its not a demand. When he can get "half" a leg, then progress to full soft leg against his side.

                            He needs to know the difference between a request, and white noise, and he's just an eager beaver in compliance, and is easily offended because he's trying and not pleasing you and confused.

                            Hope that made some sense
                            Being terrible at something is the first step to being truly great at it. Struggle is the evidence of progress.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by LuvMyDressageQH View Post

                              He's not the 16.2 dark bay warmblood I dreamed of as a youngster, in fact he's short (barely qualifies as a horse lol), red with a butt stripe (red dun) and shoulda been a barrel horse.
                              aw, send him to me! I love duns and my last pony was a red dun, they are so striking
                              Being terrible at something is the first step to being truly great at it. Struggle is the evidence of progress.

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                Hi,
                                It sounds like you have got a lot of stuff going right for you. :-) I have a chestnut mare who who has taught me a lot about getting along with the easily offended. In my experience, the change needs to come from the rider. I'm not there so all of this is speculation. But I suspect that the problem isn't about how he feels about your legs per se. Rather, I would say it is likely that the problem is a lack of fluidity and movement in your seat and shoulders. He feels your leg 'ask' for something and then the rest of your body blocks it from happening. Again, I'm not there but I see this time and time again in my teaching. So, it is I suspect a good bet. :-)

                                I like to say that softness doesn't come from open fingers or legs off. It comes from mobility and a 'going with' the horse. Rider A can be very light with little contact and no leg but be stiff and so the horse seems offended. Whereas Rider B can have a very 'close' shall we say even 'firm' contact BUT be SO mobile, so with the horse's movement, that the horse is not only OK with it but in fact thrives under the direction.

                                This is how a teacher can perceive that you need to have leg 'on' or more 'contact' and how the student who does not understand what that means (see above) can perceive a horse who is offended by same. Teacher will likely get on and have no 'trouble'. :-P However, the student will continue to have offense if she doesn't not change her presentation.

                                When working with students on this sort of thing I find I need to encourage them to move a LOT more than than they feel comfortable with... 'waggle' shoulders and allow seat to be mobile. They think they look foolish, but I say, ask the horse. The more mobile they are the happier and more freely the horse moves. As you become accustomed to letting yourself move you will find a synchronization and any outside observer will see only perfect harmony. :-)

                                Best of luck to you on your journey!

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  There are a few different possibilities.

                                  The first one that comes to mind is, what do you tell him when he scoots off?

                                  If you don't say NO he has no idea that it's not what you want.

                                  The second is that you are not controlling his front end and so he just runs thru you from the leg aid.

                                  There are more, those are the first two that pop into my head after reading your post.
                                  "Kindness is free" ~ Eurofoal
                                  ---
                                  The CoTH CYA - please consult w/your veterinarian under any and all circumstances.

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    Originally posted by buck22 View Post
                                    omg, your title made me laugh my head off out loud!! I was like "YES I HAVE AN EASILY OFFENDED HORSE!" lol!

                                    Read your posts, and I'll chime in, I *wish* I had your problem

                                    Anyhow, my take is that your horse is forward in nature and wants to please you. He just sounds confused is all. He's probably quite a smart cookie to boot.

                                    You'll need to help him by doing things in smaller stages, and rewarding frequently. imho, he needs to know *precisely* what you mean. The whip may be too much for him right now, sounds like you don't need much reinforcement from your leg, and he may not "get it" as an instructional aide right now... so with his perhaps focused and too-eager to please mentality, getting ok with the feeling of legs plus a whip that is meant to be instructional, that might be overwhelming for him.

                                    You may want to restrict the use of the whip to in hand work for a while. And if you did, be sure to stroke him with the whip, reassuringly, like praise, so the whip truly is an extension of your hand and can pet him, and calm him, the whip should always be friendly. Scooting away from the whip is lack of confidence, which is lack of understanding generally.


                                    re-examine how you are when you are putting your leg on. Its one thing to have a horse with sensitive sides, but a year and a half later means he's not understanding. Reexamine how you are when you 'put your leg on'. Do you actively 'put your leg on'? If so that conscious decision on your part may be too much for him. He needs to accept a certain amount of "white noise", perhaps when you are 'put your leg on' you are thinking about it a bit more mindfully, and that makes your white noise leg more active than it should be... lol, did that make any sense?

                                    the second thing to examine is how you react to how he reacts when you put a leg on and he misunderstands. What your trainer said about riding it out is basically true.... if you just let your leg lie, like a wet rag against his side, and he scoots out, you need to ride without reacting, without punishing or trying to "make him understand". Horses like this need to figure some things out for themselves, and that takes a quiet rider that can say "here, I do this, and its no threat, its just the white noise of my leg on your side, don't over think it, just feel and accept it". Like teaching a horse to accept the feeling of a blanket for the first time, or saddle, or polo wraps..... there is the moment of 'my G-d what is this?!?" and the thoughtful handler says "I know its strange, but its no threat, just move freely and feel what its about and see for yourself, it doesn't hurt".

                                    My guess is that your asking your horse to understand several pieces at the same time. For very smart, very sensitive horses, this can be a huge obstacle. Slow down your training, start with smaller pieces. Start by putting your leg "half" on, let him be ok, don't react when he reacts, let him scoot without punishment or reaction, just let him scoot scoot scoot his little hiney all over the place till he realizes the leg on isn't intensifying, its not directing, it just "is" and it doesn't hurt and its not a demand. When he can get "half" a leg, then progress to full soft leg against his side.

                                    He needs to know the difference between a request, and white noise, and he's just an eager beaver in compliance, and is easily offended because he's trying and not pleasing you and confused.

                                    Hope that made some sense
                                    I like this explanation .

                                    Comment


                                    • #19
                                      Very good suggestions, I especially agree with letting your leg just lie on his side.

                                      One thing that helped me when I was riding an ultra-forward horse was to just sit on top of him, and ignore what was going on beneath me. For example, if he wanted to speed up at the trot, fine, I'd just keep posting at the same tempo that I wanted to go at. If we were trotting and he kept trying to break into the canter, fine, I'd just keep posting. Even if he did flounder around for a second, he'd settle down and match what I was doing much more quickly than if I tried to deal with the overreaction to my leg. Horses are surprisingly matchy matchy in this way, so if you just sit on top and ride the way you want, then he'll settle down and stay with you.

                                      Comment


                                      • #20
                                        Originally posted by LuvMyDressageQH View Post
                                        It usually goes like this:
                                        -leg on - he thinks about going a little more forward, flicks an ear back to me
                                        -leg actively squeezing - the tail starts swishing , passage-y steps
                                        -"fluff"/ "bump" - he scoots ~2 strides
                                        -I bring him back w/ half halt - he props neck/ tries to duck behind contact
                                        -leg on, reminding him to keep going forward

                                        I think many hot horses train their riders to keep their legs off. And as you are finding out, you can not progress unless your horse accepts your leg. You're on the right track w/ the lateral work. I use basic lateral work to teach the hot horse acceptance and understanding of the leg.

                                        And it's hard to say w/o seeing it, but this part of your explanation makes me think that your horse feels like he's being blocked from going foward when you ask him, hence what sounds like an initial hesitation about responding to your leg aid, and the scoot when you back it up with a stronger aid. So just double check to make sure that you always have a soft elastic connection with the bit. And that you do not make the common mistakes of turning your hands inwards or downwards. Both of which can block the horse and "jam him up" in the back, creating tension that can cause the scooting forward that you described.
                                        http://www.MyVirtualEventingCoach.com

                                        Comment

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