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How to get pony to slow down and accept the bit?

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  • How to get pony to slow down and accept the bit?

    I can get a nice walk with nice contact out of him, nice leg-yields at the walk when he's like that. I have even got a super-nice leg-yield at the trot out of him. Problem is, most of the time when I ask for trot, his head goes up and out and he surges forward, sometimes practically cantering at first. I CANNOT sit him to make him slow down when he likes that, and if I give a strong-enough half-halt on the outside rein to sufficiently slow him down, he usually fades into a walk. It's like he only goes at turbo speed or walks, he doesn't have a middle gear.

    He's like that at canter, too, will only go FAST or not canter and just do this horrible, h*llish trot that would probably knock me right off his back if I didn't clutch my bucking strap for dear life. (Which, by the way, I have developed the bad habit of doing CONSTANTLY, to the point where my right hand ACHES like I'm 95 for weeks afterward). And most of the time, when I ASK for canter, he'll only do the horrible trot,which I then have to resign myself to slowing down, doing another lap around the arena, then asking again, only to have the same result, etc.
    It's frustrating. Sometimes he WILL canter, but usually (I believe) it's because HE wants to. And he frequently dies out after half or a quarter of the arena at canter.

    I AM a somewhat green rider, having only maybe a cumulative 8 months to year of experience, and have only owned him for 3 and half months, so part of it could be me. He is very high-energy; he can canter forever on the longe or at liberty.

    I have tried riding with a dressage whip. Mostly it seems to make him really rush at the trot, even though I don't use it. I have used it a couple times when he doesn't listen to the canter aid. The first time, he SURGED forward; the second time was two weeks after, and he just ignored it and went into his usual awful, disorganized trot. I have tried asking for canter from the walk; all I get is the same awful trot.

    Does ANYONE have any idea what could help me with him? I cannot bring a trainer into the place I'm boarding (and I do not have the funds to move any place else), and the person who "gives lessons" (HAH; that's a JOKE if you ever see them ride) is not someone who will ever be getting any of my money ever again.

  • #2
    Does he trot "normally" on the lunge line, or does he do the same hell-bent trot then? If he's only rushing with his head in the air when you are riding, check the saddle fit. It may not hurt at the walk, but might be pinching at the trot/canter. If he also rushes the trot on the lunge line, maybe more practice without the rider first. He may be out of shape and rushing to try to keep his balance, or he may have just learned a bad habit from a previous rider who grabbed his mouth and bounced a lot or something.


    • #3
      You need a trainer/instructor to help you, if you have only been riding a year.

      This will only get worse, until something happens and you get scared.

      Figure out a way to trailer your horse to an instructor. You may have to start by just taking lessons with someone on lesson horses, to find someone who will work with you on how to pick up a canter. (Along with addressing the other issues about his speed control.)

      There is no doubt that it IS you and not him. Because you are the rider. And it's your responsibility either to teach your horse the canter aid, if he really doesn't know it, or to teach yourself how to give him the aid if he does know it. It's not possible for us to tell which one is the issue, but most likely if he isn't a green horse, it's you.

      So go and find a good instructor you can ride with, and tell him/her your situation. Work hard toward figuring out a way to trailer your pony to them.

      This is really and truly essential, not something that you can figure out on your own or from advice on COTH. (Not that we won't give you advice anyway, lol.)
      Ring the bells that still can ring
      Forget your perfect offering
      There is a crack in everything
      That's how the light gets in.


      • #4
        LOL, yup, I'll add my advice. I may not know what's RIGHT but I often know what's wrong because I've been there, done that.

        ASSUMING your mare knows how to trot and canter and it's not a saddle fit issue....it sounds like you might be getting tense and stiff and bracing and pinching.

        Ask me how I know THAT scenario.

        Forget the canter for now.

        When you have a nice relaxed walk take a deep breath and sigh, let all the tension drain from your body, give your hands forward and ask for the trot. Post big, give her room to move, even if it's only a few steps. If she starts to rush, walk, establish your nice walk and try again. At this point don't try to fix the trot from the trot.

        Vizualization WORKS if done positively. Develop a mental image of you and her swinging along in the walk, you sitting with your perfect neutral balance, stepping into the trot, you posting in perfect balance, seatbones touching the saddle pointing straight down.

        You wrote that you can get a good trot sometimes. Imprint that image into your brain, not the negative. Remember what you did when you got it right, not when things went south. BTDT, it's very destructive.

        Absolutely DO find an instructor. It is also possible that what you think you feel is not what is really happening. BTDT also, with my current mare.
        I wasn't always a Smurf
        Penmerryl's Sophie RIDSH
        "I ain't as good as I once was but I'm as good once as I ever was"
        The ignore list is my friend. It takes 2 to argue.


        • #5
          Rushing and lateral work aside, it sounds like he's not "ahead of your leg." Being ahead of your leg means two things: Going forward, but also replying to it as you wish. It sounds like he's not actually broke to your leg.

          It's harder for horses to use their hind end and lengthen and relax when they are going straight than you may realize. They must use both sides of their butt and back at the same time.

          Don't bother with the canter now. He's got that, and he's got going forward. In fact, he uses it against you.

          Others will disagree, but I'd spend some time doing what it takes to get the trot you want even for short periods and stopping him if necessary when he offers the wrong one.

          For now, accept a few head-up strides out of the upward transition. A better, balanced one requires lots of strength. But once in the gait? He either goes as you say or is subjected to the increased work of coming back down to the walk or halt.

          If he has been going this way for a while, or has always preferred to canter and scoot around even at liberty, know that you are dealing with a strength issue in part. Be systematic in what you allow him to do under saddle, but be patient and don't drill him. He'll need to build some muscle in the right places to do what you want and that will take some time.
          The armchair saddler
          Politically Pro-Cat


          • #6
            I second the "get to an instructor" response. After only a year's worth of riding this horse is way too much for you. You are relying on the outside rein alone. It takes more than that to control pace and transitions. It is both easier and harder than that,
            Some riders change their horse, they change their saddle, they change their teacher; they never change themselves.

            Remember the horse does all the work, we just sit there and look pretty.


            • #7
              What was the pony presented as when you bought him?

              How much ground work do you do with him? is he always respectful? eg, does he lead nicely or will he snatch at that grass when you're leading him? does he stand quietly? etc ...

              Do you have friends that are more experienced riders that could help you out? eg, schooling rides on him? ground assistance to you?

              Have you looked for another boarding barn where you could trade chores for reduced board? or the trainer could use your pony for X number of lessons per week (make sure trainer has specific liability insurance to cover this (re you own the pony))?

              Where is your old coach in all this (assuming that you were doing lessons during that 8months to a year)? Maybe open a discussion there ...

              If you're young enough that your parents are involved, they need to step in & help you resolve this before something happens & you're injured.


              • #8
                Originally posted by Sparkling_Sunset View Post
                It's like he only goes at turbo speed or walks, he doesn't have a middle gear.

                He's like that at canter, too, will only go FAST or not canter and just do this horrible, h*llish trot that would probably knock me right off his back if I didn't clutch my bucking strap for dear life.
                is he even bred to canter ? don't laugh some/lots of ponies are not....so the trot at great speed is the default gait when they

                a. don't understand the canter cue
                b. are frightened into it as it's not strong enough to canter w/you

                I can only suggest riding the trot in a two point so you are not flopping and whaling and thumping on it's back...give it a little courage by making your seat steady and still and quiet

                then reward the effort by backing back down from the canter before you feel it wanting to break...this is how I do it for green animals and it really does help...it's not canon by any means but it has worked for me for many years...

                Tamara in TN
                Last edited by Tamara in TN; Jun. 25, 2010, 04:44 PM.
                Production Acres,Pro A Welsh Cobs
                I am one of the last 210,000 remaining full time farmers in America.We feed the others.


                • #9
                  You are describing a horse that is out of balance, either due to incorrect training, and/or incorrect riding, and/or he is just plain ole green. Some horses do take more time than others to develop correct muscle and balance to carry a rider with balance. And it takes even more time for a rider to develop his/her own balance.

                  There are many many ways to improve that but unfortunately none is easy for green rider, or an inexperienced rider without proper guidance. It requires a rider with independent seat, with strong core, and can take care of his/her own balance when the horse loses his, and thus help the horse to regain his balance.

                  Please find a trainer or instructor to work with you. If you don't want to work with the onsite trainer, find a clinician and trailer your horse there.


                  • Original Poster

                    Trailering in somewhere is NOT possible. I do not have a trailer, my dad doesn't have money to purchase one, and even getting someone to haul within a TEN MILE radius is at LEAST $50-75. Add to that the minimum $65+ for a lesson with a decent trainer in my area (I'm in the LA/Burbank area, boarding in La Tuna Canyon in Sun Valley), and I would be looking at about $120 OR MORE for a SINGLE lesson. If I had that money I could move someplace better. I don't.

                    Also, I believe I probably made him sound worse than what he is. He will slow to a walk on voice alone, and if I lose my balance horribly he will slow down as well. It's just that he gets kind of quick at trot and sometimes canter. If you wish, you can PM me for some videos of him, of both me and a couple different riders on him. And I should have made myself clearer about putting his head up upon trotting from walk. (Interestingly, it doesn't go up like that at canter) He just kind of hoes like, "Oh! Trot! Here I go!" he doesn't put his head straight up in the air where I've got NO control; he just doesn't go "round" like he should.

                    And on a side note, he does know how to canter. He used to belong to an eventing trainer, and spent a couple months this past winter at a H/J barn. He has lot of knee action, but is NOT gaited. He looks like he's probably got a hefty dose of Arab in him, with maybe Welsh Cob or Quarter Pony. But he's not gaited.


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Sparkling_Sunset View Post
                      And I should have made myself clearer about putting his head up upon trotting from walk. (Interestingly, it doesn't go up like that at canter) He just kind of hoes like, "Oh! Trot! Here I go!" he doesn't put his head straight up in the air where I've got NO control; he just doesn't go "round" like he should.
                      Round isn't a function of where his head is, it's a function of what his back end is doing. If he's bringing his hind under properly then the head position comes naturally - head poking up probably means he's hollowing his back and his hind end is trailing along behind and he's going around on his forehand.

                      That could be because he's in pain and trying to avoid it (would you want to lift your back up into something that was poking, pinching, or thumping you?) or it could be rider error, or it could be something else entirely.

                      If you want him actually doing things properly you really need experienced eyes to assess you both, and someone experienced in person to check him for soreness and saddle fit, at the very least. IMO, anyway.


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Sparkling_Sunset View Post

                        And on a side note, he does know how to canter. He used to belong to an eventing trainer, and spent a couple months this past winter at a H/J barn. He has lot of knee action, but is NOT gaited. He looks like he's probably got a hefty dose of Arab in him, with maybe Welsh Cob or Quarter Pony. But he's not gaited.

                        I did not mean to imply that he was gaited...you'd be surprised to know that entire lines of welsh mountain ponies and welsh cobs have only marginal canters...bred almost totally for some front leg swinging, hoof slinging trot action and not round canters

                        Tamara in TN
                        Production Acres,Pro A Welsh Cobs
                        I am one of the last 210,000 remaining full time farmers in America.We feed the others.


                        • #13
                          oh there are so many possibilities given the limited information. The strongest thing that sticks out to me is green pony with green rider. Get the to an instructor, STAT!
                          chaque pas est fait ensemble


                          • #14
                            Beg, borrow..or steal old copies of Dressage Today. Read! Read!! Read some more. Then ask your occasional instructor questions. Or come back here with some vocabulary tucked away, along with concepts that confuse, and ask again.
                            Some riders change their horse, they change their saddle, they change their teacher; they never change themselves.

                            Remember the horse does all the work, we just sit there and look pretty.


                            • #15
                              Try to find a copy of Janie Savoies "A Happy Horse Home Study Course" used on ebay if you can't get out for lessons.

                              She has both videos on DVD and audio on CD. Starts right smack at the beginning. Lots of very useful stuff.

                              My guy did lots of what I called 'tranter' till he got enuf strength to really be able to canter. Canter in the front, trot in the back - felt like hell.

                              But you gotta check saddle fit, too....some of 'em HATE having their withers pinched. Some are pretty stoic about the whole thing.


                              • #16
                                Instruction is an absolute necessity in your case and yes, it is you, at least in large part (it's always us!). You need to work your way up the dressage scale. Rhythm (which will come as a result of relaxation - physical relaxation will occur as a result of mental and emotional relaxation), suppleness, contact (HE will pick up contact, not you), impulsion, straightness (comes as a result of all the rest and especially impulsion), collection (the result of everything below it in the pyramid). He obviously is not relaxed sufficiently to have rhythm or suppleness, so he is NOT going to give you contact (not properly anyways, and particularly not when the 'challenge' is increased for him ie. he's asked to trot or such). Kdow actually hit it BANG ON!!

                                You are describing a horse who is tense both physically and emotionally and who is out of balance physically (hence the lack of canter). Using a whip is the last thing you should be doing - don't force something he can't do, you are just going to end up flustering him. In fact, forget about the canter altogether - how can you expect him to canter correctly if he cannot even trot correctly? Trottrottrot until it is relaxed, rhythmic, supple, etc, THEN start asking him for the canter transitions (trotting correctly will actually drastically improve your canter). Without whip. If you have to use whip in this case, you are doing something wrong.

                                Lots of suppling exercises at the trot (forget the canter even exists), and forget about his head. His head will come as a result of his mind and body. Second off, it sounds like you are sitting his trot? Don't. Do rising trot while he is so hollow, particularly if he is a young horse. It is easier on his back and will make it easier for him to start (eventually) rounding beneath you when you are not bumping around on his back. Check out Progressive School Exercises for Dressage & Jumping (a blue book) and 101 Dressage Exercises for Horse & Rider - they're all fabulous exercises that will effectively develop the dressage scale if you work through them progressively.
                                ....horses should be trained in such a way that they not only love their riders, but look forward to the time they are with them.
                                ~ Xenophon, 350 B.C.


                                • #17
                                  If you cannot afford a trainer for lessons and training this pony, then my suggestion is to sell him and find an older "been there done that" low level FORGIVING Schoolmaster. This is not a project that I think a "somewhat green" rider should be tackling without a trainers assistance