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Young horse progression

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    Young horse progression

    This may be a bit of an odd question, but I thought I'd ask those of you who regularly train young horses about training progession.

    I have my four year old going fairly well under saddle. He's destined to be an endurance horse, but we are working on dressage principles right now to teach him balance and obedience before we start working on the conditioning needed for endurance riding. He is a Paso Fino/Arab cross, 14.1 hands right now, and still obviously growing. He will be 5 in September. I have been riding him for about a year now, but it's only been the last five months or so that I've really started to ask him for more work.

    Here is my question. His first rides consisted of mostly walk, a little bit of trot, working on flexability at those gaits, obedience, and brakes (I like those!). Since I've started to really work on his education, his rides have increased to anywhere from 30 to 45 minutes and about half and half walk/trot, with an occasional canter thrown in just to start him cantering under saddle. He tends to be lazy, and I have really worked hard on installing a forward button. I believe I have that working well. However, what I'm noticing is about 30 minutes into a ride, he starts to get cranky. When asked to go forward or leg yeild, or well, anything really, he does it, but the head goes up and the ears go back and the nose pokes out.

    I'm trying to figure out if this is a normal progression with young horses. At the 30 minute mark, he's starting to get a little bit tired mentally, and this is his way of expressing it? And if so, do I push him through it, or do I back off a bit. He is not physically tired, I ride with a heartrate monitor, and can monitor that fairly well. I've tried breaking the work up and doing new things, like poles and small crossrails, but that seems to make no difference to his attitude. I am kind of thinking that he's having a problem with his work ethic, and I just need to work him through it, ignore the crankiness, and hope it goes away, but as I've never done this before, I'm hoping to get advice from others that have.

    For those that will ask, yes he is sound. His saddle fits like a glove. He has no sore spots that I can find, or that his vet or chiropractor can find. He is happy and cheerful the other 99% of the time. He goes out on trail rides at least once a week, some as long as several hours, and he's seems content and interested for the whole ride.

    Any thoughts would be appreciated on this. I don't really have anyone here to bounce ideas off of about starting young horses!

    #2
    Are you letting him stretch out during the ride?

    I try to stop the ride before they get cranky, and slowly increase the length and demandingness of the ride as they gain more buttons (so they don't get bored), but if I mess up, and the horse does get grouchy, I do indeed make sure I ride through it, but usually end soon after, doing something the horse is good at so they can end feeling successful.

    It can often help to do a little stretching excercises part way through the ride so the horse isn't carrying tension or locking its jaw/pole/neck.
    Freeing worms from cans everywhere!

    Comment

      Original Poster

      #3
      Hmm...no, he stretches during the ride. Right now, I am not asking him for anything but self carriage. He just recently figured out how to rock back a little bit, take some contact, and use his engine. But we do only a little bit of that at a time. That DOES make him physically tired.

      A normal ride starts with about 10 minutes or so of walk work, doing walk poles, leg yielding, circles, serpentines, bend, counter bend. We might do some turn on the haunch or turn on the forehand if I'm feeling in the mood, but not much right now. Then we start trot work doing the same things, but with some trot poles and an occasional cross rail. Trot work is mixed with walk breaks. Because he's a bit lazy, if he does something particularly well, I reward with rest. If we are going to canter, it happens after about 15 minutes of trot work. Canter work right now consists of get the canter and hold it as long as possible, preferably with me asking him to come down just before he loses his balance and has to. He is currently allowed to hold his head wherever he wants too, providing he doesn't lean on my hands. He will go from head in the air to head between his toes at any point in time during the ride. I do try to encourage him to carry it at a nice medium height for him.

      Perhaps if I do a little less walking at the beginning and more walking in the middle? He doesn't give me the crankiness when walking, which is why I think it's a work ethic thing more than anything. Trotting takes energy, none of which he wishes to expend more than absolutly necessary.

      Comment


        #4
        I'd say it's a fitness issue. 4 is quite young and immature. I try not to ride them longer than 25/30 minutes at a time total at that age. They just can't do it.

        If you really must ride him for that long of a time consider breaking it up into 2 rides, one in the morning and one in the evening.

        Remember, your horse is your greatest giver of feedback.... he's telling you he can't work as long as you like to ride.
        Stoneybrook Farm Afton TN

        Comment


          #5
          My 5 year old (she'll be five July 13) hits a mental/physical breaking point at about the 25-30 mark as well. She's only been under saddle for about a month, however, 20 or so rides total, so she's still VERY green. And considering she wasn't even halter broke until I got her the end of March ... she's had to learn a lot. Our current training rides consist of walk and lots of trot, ground poles, and she has popped over a couple cross rails but that isn't a huge focus right now. First we made sure she had forward and brakes, now we're working on lifting her shoulders a bit and using her hind more (she already naturally does nicely, so it's not that difficult). Like you - we don't stress her head much, though we have started to teach her to accept contact. The only thing she isn't allowed to do with her head is root or put it down between her knees, or get behind the bit - we'd rather she throw her head up than get behind the bit.

          Here's some snips of her 16th ride (I've been out of town for a week so have no new videos, but I do have the person in the video catch riding her 4x a week):
          http://www.youtube.com/gentlespirith...12/RZqrrkuD7BE

          trot poles:
          http://www.youtube.com/gentlespirith...11/uVZdyHHkt-Q

          She's willing and good until about the 25 minute mark, then starts to get fussy. She's a lot earlier in her training than your guy - but we are just slowly building up her endurance and pushing past the fussy little by little. In another month or so we'll probably take her out on trails more if we can (we have to trailer to trails and I haven't worked on trailer loading yet) which is a great way to build up the endurance and get past those time limits.

          I just keep reminding myself that she's very young with her lack of training and just age wise, and try to read her actual attitude towards riding. In Nya's case she truly appears to be enjoying being ridden and learning new things - so it's pretty easy for me to say it's just a "baby" thing. You know your horse best, though, so you'll have to decide for yourself if it's a young horse thing or if he's truly learned that fussiness gets him out of work.
          If you don't like something, change it. If you can't change it, change your attitude.
          ~ Maya Angelou

          Comment


            #6
            First off, I don't believe in a "lazy" horse. Horses are still very much instinctive, and laziness would not be a trait favoured by evolution!

            In the hotter breeds such as your horse, laziness is usually caused by the rider sending conflicting signals. I have never seen you ride, so I may be off base, but often a lazy horse will have a rider with a stiff back/hip that is blocking the same forward energy they are trying to create. It can be a very subtle thing! Make sure your hips are loose and feel the movement of the walk before going to a faster gait.

            Also, in reading your new post, I see some conflicts. One, you start by riding in "self carriage". Self carriage is a state where a horse is trained, fit, and balanced and is able to hold themselves in balance off the riders leg. Your horse is too green for this. I think what you mean is that you are riding without contact and leaving your horse to find its own balance...but your horse is not able to do this.

            This is shown by its later response to contact which is to either tuck behind it, or come above it. Both reactions common to a horse that is inverted and does not understand contact.

            I would go back to some basic in hand work to teach the horse to accept contact, and then ride the horse with contact and lots of forward energy to help it balance out in a more level state of balance rather than its current on the forehand/inverted one.

            Once the horse is more level, its back will be in a better position to support the weight of its rider, and it will be more willing to work.
            Freeing worms from cans everywhere!

            Comment

              Original Poster

              #7
              I think we could have a terminology issue here...

              Self carriage to me means my horse is not plunking around on his forehand. He may not be "collected", but his weight is 50/50 distributed between front and back. I could be using the term incorrectly, but that's what I mean. That is all I'm asking him for right now, and he's doing pretty well at it, I think anyway. he's not there 100% of the time, but maybe 75%. Good enough for now. I have never seen my horse go behind the bit, if his head is down, it's because he has enough rein to put it there, not becuase he's going behind the verticle. He will go above the bit, but we are fighting a natural ewe neck (which I might add is getting much less pronounce. Must be doing something right).

              It is also possible that I block forward motion. My last horse had no whoa and a ton of go, so I learned to block as much forward as possible. I am trying to stop doing this with the baby, as he's really very good natured and kind. However, I still think he's a bit on the lazy side, breed not withstanding. He'd rather stop than walk, walk than trot, and trot than canter. Which is funny, as his canter is his most balanced gait. This is at liberty or on the lunge or on the longlines or under saddle. However, he's also very willing most of the time, and I think we have forward fairly well established.

              Tomorrow we are heading out for a trail ride, and he'll have Monday off, but Tuesday I think I might try working to just before crankiness. He's been so willing, that sometimes I think I forget he really is very young still....

              Comment


                #8
                lne

                Fighting ovarian cancer ! 2013 huge turnaround as I am winning the battle !..
                http://esergerie.wordpress.com

                Comment


                  #9
                  Originally posted by Leena View Post
                  I am just working on young horse and there is immense discovery to make as a rider about be loose, be relax and still be clear in the aids so baby will obey to this authority. You don't need to be strong, just clear in your aids.
                  This too - another thing with the young ones that I have to remember is not to "overcue" ... especially if I've ridden a different horse before her. She doesn't understand "inside leg to outside rein" yet. She doesn't understand that a solid inside leg on a turn means to bend around the corner. She doesn't understand half-halts or any of the more refined things that I use on other horses. She will, she just doesn't at 20 rides So make sure you are giving clear "baby" cues and not upsetting him by asking for things he doesn't understand yet.
                  If you don't like something, change it. If you can't change it, change your attitude.
                  ~ Maya Angelou

                  Comment


                    #10
                    I train a lot of young horses and have been doing so for 35+ years. Yes there ARE horses that are more on the "lazy" side, its a work ethic thing, not true "laziness". Sometimes it is because they are not mentally or physically ready for the amount of work being asked, sometimes it is an "attitude" thing. The trainer has to be able to interpret the response by the horse and decide what the issue. is. I personally wrk youngsters for 45 minutes MAX and often that includes a lunging warmup (not always). They are ridden seriously for about 30 minutes and then hacked out in field or on a short trail. They are usually ridden 3 - 4 days weekly. I think that is plenty for the average four year old. If I get an "attitude" they are let to know that is not acceptable. I also find a good gallop is very good tool for the horses that need more mental/physical stamina and helps to instill forward. We gallop out on a 4 - 5 acre field. I did post a "progression" series of videos for a gelding we have that starts with his first ride as a three year old end of last november and progresses thru the curreent time, as I thought it was interesting to watch the progression, but was 'yanked" by the mods as they said it was "advertising". What I really wanted to show tho, was how the "laziness turns into "nicely forward" as the horse gets mentally and physically more capable.
                    www.shawneeacres.net

                    Comment


                      #11
                      "However, what I'm noticing is about 30 minutes into a ride, he starts to get cranky. When asked to go forward or leg yeild, or well, anything really, he does it, but the head goes up and the ears go back and the nose pokes out."

                      Red alert for saddle pressure points starting to flare up and hurt....
                      Anne
                      -------
                      "Where knowledge ends violence begins." B. Ljundquist

                      Comment

                        Original Poster

                        #12
                        That is what I'm trying to figure out. How do you tell if it's a "not mentally or physically ready" or if it's an attitude thing.

                        If it's attitude, I'm going to push him through it until he relaxes and loses the attitude, then I'm going to stop. If it's not ready, then I'm going to not push as hard.

                        As far as saddle fit, trust me when I tell you the saddle fits. I ride treeless with excellent padding. We've done two hour trail rides up and down hills with no sore back problems. And he's been checked by my excellent vet/chiropractor. I am paranoid about sore backs and saddle fit, and I check it carefully every ride, before and after. I also ride with a heartrate monitor, and I am pretty sure if there was pain, his heart rate would go up. Even when he's being cranky, the HR stays the same.

                        Comment


                          #13
                          Sounds more mental than physical to me....

                          While you want him to progress, if you are always having to push him past what he wants to do, that is not working - you are just building a pattern of frustration on both sides and he might well end up arena-sour - no fun to ride.

                          Since has plenty of go on the trail, school him on the trail - simple things, like changes of gait, asking for good transitions, an occasional leg yield if the trail is wide enough to go from one side to the other.

                          Or do ground work and work in hand, where you are teaching things in a less demanding way.

                          For many young horses, mental breaks are more important than physical ones. Being told what to do all the time is exhausting.
                          Publisher, http://www.endurance-101.com
                          Blog: http://blog.seattlepi.com/horsebytes/

                          Comment


                            #14
                            A normal ride starts with about 10 minutes or so of walk work, doing walk poles, leg yielding, circles, serpentines, bend, counter bend. We might do some turn on the haunch or turn on the forehand if I'm feeling in the mood, but not much right now
                            you mentioned earlier that you thought you may be blocking him so I went back to see your routine. I think 4 is too young to worry about bend/counter bend. I also would not do so much lateral work at the walk in the beginning or your ride. Also, turn on the forehand has a purpose and it's not for "when you are in the mood".

                            Think about the training scale when you pick him up. I would start off with a short walk then go right in to the trot to push him out to the bit. The work you state above should not be done at the start of a ride on a young horse.
                            Humans dont mind duress, in fact they thrive on it. What they mind is not feeling necessary. Sebastian Junger

                            Comment


                              #15
                              Originally posted by Bogey2 View Post
                              you mentioned earlier that you thought you may be blocking him so I went back to see your routine. I think 4 is too young to worry about bend/counter bend. I also would not do so much lateral work at the walk in the beginning or your ride. Also, turn on the forehand has a purpose and it's not for "when you are in the mood".

                              Think about the training scale when you pick him up. I would start off with a short walk then go right in to the trot to push him out to the bit. The work you state above should not be done at the start of a ride on a young horse.
                              It sounds like he's coming up for 5; bend/counter bend is very appropriate and useful at this age...
                              "Adulthood? You're playing with ponies. That is, like, every 9 year old girl's dream. Adulthood?? You're rocking the HELL out of grade 6, girl."

                              Comment


                                #16
                                I have a 4-yo Arab who is definitely lazy and will try to be naughty and cranky to get out of work. He CAN go, but sometimes I have to remind him of that with some massive legs-off-side kicks.

                                Mine also likes to carry himself like a Park horse, so has built up the wrong muscles. He was doing VERY well, but is now going through the teenage attitude years.

                                To me, it sounds like you are dealing with the mental "I don't WANT to" to comes with the work being a little bit more difficult. You also have to keep in mind that he probably is having trouble concentrating on what you are asking, because at this age his mind could very well be in the next pasture watching the grass blow.

                                For the lazy ones, waiting to canter is not the best idea. They need that GO button, and not cantering doesn't really establish a go button very well. Sure that canter might not be pretty right now, and you might (WILL) have issues at times with getting the lead you want. It will probably switch as to easy/hard lead on a weekly basis. But they need to go and they need to go when asked.

                                Also, it helps much more to just do short segments of canter at first. So for now, work on getting the lead you want, and once you get it, do a half circle, maybe one circle, and then back to trot. Then get that lead again (or switch directions), canter another half circle, then back to trot. Just cantering and cantering will build up fitness, but it's not going to do anything about the laziness or the lack of paying attention.

                                With my boy, I've found that he WILL NOT pay attention to me in the walk unless I am asking for a bit of leg-yield to check that responsiveness, or really working on him bringing the hind end up and under him (he likes to trail his hinds and pull himself with his shoulders). So we don't do a ton of walk work. Most of our work is the trot or canter, with the walk as a rest break.

                                He has also recently decided that a walk break means he's done, so I do make sure that I make him go at least a little bit after the walk break where he's decided he's done for the day. It might not be anything hard, but he has to do SOMETHING. Then once he's come back and worked a bit, he's done for the day.

                                To ride the lazy ones, sometimes you have to be pretty brave. You have to be willing to MAKE them go when they think they shouldn't have to, even if they throw in a buck or a leap to let you know what they really think. The ones who want to go are in some ways easier, because they are all too happy to go when asked, usually without the drama.

                                Just my two cents, for whatever it's worth.

                                Comment


                                  #17
                                  Originally posted by monicabee View Post
                                  Being told what to do all the time is exhausting.
                                  This is one of the greatest things I've ever heard (especially if I apply it to myself and MY job! ).

                                  I had a horrible lesson on my TB, Paddy, the other day. I guess the lesson itself was ok because we started out really badly and not wanting to go forward and at the end we got some decent lengthenings, but I just wasn't feeling "it." Paddy was behind the leg, not wanting to go forward, and just didn't seem to be happy with the work. Yesterday (the day after our lesson) we hit the trails and he was SOOOOOoooooo happy to be out there. We trotted through some winding single-track, when we had a wide open trail we had a nice forward canter...we were both just loving the feeling of being out there. If I could get THAT kind of trot in a dressage test, man oh man...

                                  Granted, Paddy isn't young, but I think it can be mentally tiring and/or mentally numbing to spend all one's time in an arena - for horse or person. The weather here is finally nice enough to get out on the trails regularly and I intend to make that a regular part of his training/conditioning, and mine, too. You can still school the basics on the trail...forward, straight, rhythm, balance, lateral work, longitudinal work, activating the hocks, working from behind, etc.

                                  Sometimes you just need to get out of the arena and have a change of scenery. I do have a young horse who is just getting started and he's so much happier to work outside the confines of an arena fence - we can work on basics in an environment that makes both of us happy and still come back to the arena for some work a few days a week.
                                  "A horse's face always conveys clearly whether it is loved by its owner or simply used." - Anja Beran

                                  Comment


                                    #18
                                    It sounds like he's coming up for 5; bend/counter bend is very appropriate and useful at this age...
                                    really? I don't think the horse has progressed enough for that starting off at the walk.
                                    Humans dont mind duress, in fact they thrive on it. What they mind is not feeling necessary. Sebastian Junger

                                    Comment


                                      #19
                                      I found it best with my guy to anticipate when he was going to run out of steam/motivation/interest/what have you and end the ride slightly before that (always on a good note). It gets irritating for both of you to have to push past a certain point and try to still end things well... and at 4 yrs old I doubt that's really warranted.

                                      However, if you don't find that "point" progressing as your horse ages and has more experience under saddle, then definitely re-evaluate.

                                      Comment


                                        #20
                                        Get yourself to a good respectable trainer who can help you and disregard some of this utter nonsense on COTH.

                                        Horses can only react to stimulus. If you're getting reactions you don't want, you're not training your horse correctly.

                                        Its not that your horse has an attitude or a poor work ethic, it's that you don't know how to train him correctly. One of the most important things about being a horse trainer is knowing when to quit and when to push on.

                                        If you love your horse and want the best for him, get a GOOD ground person or actual dressage rider/trainer to help you.
                                        Stoneybrook Farm Afton TN

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