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Riding the "noodle necked" horse.

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  • Riding the "noodle necked" horse.

    ....... Who also wants to drop behind the vertical when he feels any pressure on the reins.

    Yes, I know that you ride the horse "from back to front" and that "you must create impulsion before you can contain it".

    But this horse is so soft and so powerful that creating impulsion is easy. But controlling the neck is still very hard. He drops contact by "turtling" his neck when he is going straight, or overbending his neck awhen circling.

    This is an incredibly talented horse (he got a 72 in his first test ever --- which was a First 3 test), but he is developing these habits that I do not know how to handle and we cannot hide them as he progresses up the levels..

    He uses the softest bit I can find (a Nathe at home and a fat snaffle at shows.) so avoiding a too strong bit is not the problem. He went in a hackamore when he was doing the jumpers, but of course, he needs a bridle in dressage.

    PS: teeth are fine. Saddle fits. He does not have: ulcers, Lyme, EPM, PSSM, bad discs in his spine or neck. He is a happy, healthy horse who is too flexible.
    "He lives in a cocoon of solipsism"

    Charles Krauthammer speaking about Trump

  • #2
    I also own a horse that is too flexible. The vet/chiro was impressed by his flexibility. As of right now I don't have much in the way of suggestions, so I'll be tuned into this thread myself.

    What has helped was riding on a loose rein and just going forward. I didn't mess around with the reins a whole lot, but made sure I had plenty of leg. The less I was messing around, and the longer the rein, he began to stretch. Now that he has learned to stretch and reach forward, when I ask for more contact, he is more apt to not curl behind the vertical and reach into the contact instead of sitting behind it. I do have to work against conformation a little bit, because this horse can collect easily, too easily, and also get too bendy in the neck due to his general shape.


    • #3
      This is a horse that must be ridden completely from the seat and leg. That includes upward and down ward transitions. Use the rein only for flexion, a soft wiggle of your pinkie to ask for flexion right or left, just enough so that his head and neck stay ahead of his shoulder. Otherwise keep your hand still, out in front of you with that soft thanks to your flexible elbows, straight line between elbow and bit.

      Powerful or not, he will listen to your seat and leg aids if you work on it. There was a lot of similar discussion in the "letting go of inside rein" thread.
      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.


      • #4
        I ride my 'noodling' mare in a bitless/snaffle combo. The bitless is not the kind that crosses over, but rather just a firm nosepiece. I use double reins. You said your horse used to go in a hackamore...he may, like my horse like to be able to reach into the contact with his nose first and then you can gradually transfer over to the bit.
        ive used this set up with a few horses with eventùal success.


        • Original Poster

          Thank you Merrygoround. I will find that thread and read it.
          "He lives in a cocoon of solipsism"

          Charles Krauthammer speaking about Trump


          • #6
            If I extrapolate from my own "noodliness" onto the horse who has a noodle neck, I would say that the horse needs to strengthen the neck muscles. From my own vantage point of having flexibility one area in my body, I would also say that that area is prone to injury, so what I really need is strengthening in that area. Now I know that horses aren't people, but I do think that for all creatures what is needed is a balance of strength and flexibility.

            When I was taking lessons from an amazing cowboy, we'd play around with contact. Granted, his idea of contact was very different from the dressage idea of contact, but the exercises were useful. As someone upthread mentioned, we worked a lot on riding from the seat and legs and not much with the reins. The lessons were a lot about steering that way and defining the shape of the circle with just the legs. If the horse got off course, then maybe take up just enough contact on the rein to show him the way back, but as soon as he got it, then back to just legs again. It was hard work mentally. I remember asking him about this lesson being enough "work" for the horse, because we did most of our work at the walk. His comment was that this was a lot of work for the horse because he had to carry himself and we just had to guide. Carrying himself (with little contact but marching forward, not lollygagging around) was harder for him than letting the rider carry him (a heavier "supporting" contact which you're more likely to see in dressage), and that built up muscle.

            I could go on about his exercises but it would take me lots of time to write up. In any event, I agree that it is about more leg and seat riding and little rein usage in terms of carrying the horse, BUT the horse needs to also be educated about what contact means.

            I think that when horses are very talented that it seems easy to go farther with them faster than an untalented horse who struggles with the work. In the situation of the talented horse, one may skip things that seem remedial because the horse seems mentally and physically able to do more work and seems like he "gets it." Forward and impulsion are great, the horse's natural outline is great, the horse's gaits are wonderful, he picks up the work easily and doesn't seem to struggle with what is being asked, etc. The idea of "contact" isn't something a horse is born knowing; the lovely horses with great conformation whose necks seem to set them up for easy success can fool us into thinking they "get it" with regard to contact, but really we have to train our idea of contact in them just like anything else.

            How does the horse do with in-hand work? Flexions in-hand would be my focus. (Personally I would not put side reins on and lunge a horse like this, but I would do in-hand work before every ride, really focusing on the accepting of contact.) How does he respond to a request for lateral flexion? How does the handler respond? What is the goal of what you are looking for? For a horse that is prone to tension, the handler would look for softness and a release in the neck. For a horse that is prone to noodling around, and is "too soft", then the handler would look for and reward the appropriate contact. I'd do this standing still, then I'd do it in a circle at the walk (unmounted). Then I'd do it standing still while mounted, and I'd do it intermittently at the walk while mounted, going from walking on a loose rein, to asking for appropriate contact for a couple steps, then back to loose rein, etc. This is what I mean by remedial work.

            Some of this might apply to your situation or none of it may apply, but if it were me, I'd go back to some remedial in-hand work.
            My Mustang Adventures - Mac, my mustang | Annwylid D'Lite - my Cob filly

            "A horse's face always conveys clearly whether it is loved by its owner or simply used." - Anja Beran


            • Original Poster

              Pocketpony, By "in hand" work, do you mean long lining?
              "He lives in a cocoon of solipsism"

              Charles Krauthammer speaking about Trump


              • #8
                I don't wish to speak for Pocketpony but I do exactly what she's referring to in hand when standing, in hand while I walk along the rail with horse asking for flexion, lift and driving/walking and contact, ditto with long lining and ditto with ground driving. I vary the work so that I can make sure that he really is understanding what I'm wanting and to keep it from becoming just drilling. My 3 year old is developing a very nice understanding of contact by focusing much of the education on the ground. On his back he's already reaching into the bridle - unsteady and not fully committed but the pieces are there. Over the next year I am expecting him to connect the dots. It's the ground work though that allows me to see where I can help him use his body better and achieve what I'm asking without overfacing him.
                Ranch of Last Resort


                • #9
                  My noodle neck had multiple other issues and an actual fear of contact, not just failure to accept it, so my experience may be extreme in comparison. Partly Cloudy made me curious if we ride with the same trainer, as I've heard of so few doing that, at least within the US. My trainer starts horses with both the cavesson rein and bit rein, but he also does it for horses with contact issues. Alex Gerding was the one who taught him to do that, and it really makes for a simple way of teaching them.

                  We also really rode my guy very up and open to help him develop muscles to carry himself with an open throatlatch and to make sure contact was only on the corners of his mouth, not the bars. My trainer would tell me to attempt to ride him hollow. I never actually successfully got him hollow, he was so developed to be overly round, but it kept that mindset and allowed him the room to step under from behind that overbending his neck blocked.
                  Originally posted by Silverbridge
                  If you get anything on your Facebook feed about who is going to the Olympics in 2012 or guessing the outcome of Bush v Gore please start threads about those, too.


                  • #10
                    This is pretty common in the training/1st level 3/4/5 year olds that I see coming over from Europe. We ride them very up and out in the frame. Think about keeping the neck and body even and straight between two reins all the time. If you need bend, use a few strides of counter-bend. Use two legs to bump the horse up each time he tries to curl. Develop a half halt that comes from the seat, while the reins don't change.


                    • #11
                      I worked very hard with my second horse to keep him light on the rein... and succeeded too well. He effectively parked himself behind the contact. Which did become a problem when venturing into dressage.

                      My coach at the time had me take up the rein and go ahead and ride him slightly behind the vertical as that was where he would start to take the contact. Once he took the contact it was still very light, but not behind, we could work on getting him stretching forward into a longer contact. The BTV business didn't last for very long.

                      Yes, I know ​riding behind the vertical is a sin of biblical proportions. So did my coach. But sometimes we can break the rules if we a) have a reason for doing so, b) understand what we are doing and why, and c) keep foremost the knowledge that this is a temporary arrangement to get to where we want to be.


                      • #12
                        Ride the body, not the neck. The problem is not in the neck.

                        And RedHorses, that makes sense. You are allowing him to build the strength and confidence to carry himself correctly.

                        Most horses will "come up" if the rider simply lifts their chest.
                        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.


                        • #13
                          Use shoulder in when you feel him go behind the vertical - and ask for long and low work several times during each ride


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Lord Helpus View Post
                            Pocketpony, By "in hand" work, do you mean long lining?
                            Sorry, I haven't checked in until just now.

                            Not necessarily long-lining, although you can progress to that. I stand right next to my pony while we're just standing there. She's fitted with her bridle and reins. I stand at the neck (probably mid-way between head and neck) and put both reins in my hands, short enough to not be flailing around with my arms to get contact, but long enough that if my hands are relaxed there is no contact. Then leaving the "outside" rein slack (the side that I'm not standing next to), I lift the "inside" rein and ask for her attention. I do not release until I get the right answer. The right answer is that I get her to give me her inside eye. I'll just start with that a few times. Then I move up to actually asking for a flexion. Again, I do not release until I get the right answer. So I want her eye and just a rotation of the head. The ears have to be level, the neck remains still (so I don't want her reaching around with her neck, nor do I want her diving down or lifting up or whatever else she might want to do). A release is letting go of the contact, a "good girl", and some pats. I do that a few times so that I get a consistent response, and then repeat on the other side. During that time, if she's looking around, I'll take contact with whichever rein I need to to bring her head back to center and then start again.

                            Then we walk. I have long reins and clip those to the bit. I stand back more toward the withers with one rein in each hand. I have a light contact on the reins and now I work more in the manner that I would were I riding. So I have a little more (but still light) contact on the outside rein, and the inside rein is there for flexions or to redirect her attention if she gets looky-looing out the arena. I stand on the inside as we're walking. We walk like this and do circles, transitions, and just go around the wall. Then I switch sides and do the same in the other direction.

                            After that I'll move to long-lining, which is more difficult because you can't really "lift" a rein when you're behind the horse, so actually standing next to her and walking is my preference. The long-lining is really for confirming that all the steps we've done prior to that are working and that she's on and accepting the boundary of the outside rein.

                            At times I'll then move up to double-lunging.

                            Other things I'll do are leg yields and shoulder-fore. For those I'm standing at her head and walking backwards while I help her position her body.

                            I hope something here is helpful!

                            ETA: What you release is what you train, so be very thoughtful about what you want your response to be and don't be afraid to hang in there until the horse gives it to you. But you must be very observant and have good timing so that you release at just the right moment and not too late. For example, if your horse tends to go BTV and you're doing the early step of flexions in hand and he gives to the bit laterally but goes BTV and curls in the neck, don't release! Any time he goes BTV, don't release, just be patient and wait for him to bring his head up and then release. Even if you temporarily lose the amount of flexion but your horse brings his head up to level, release on the level-ness. Since you want to get rid of the noodliness and the BTV, always wait for and release on the acceptance of the bit and having the level of contact that you want.
                            My Mustang Adventures - Mac, my mustang | Annwylid D'Lite - my Cob filly

                            "A horse's face always conveys clearly whether it is loved by its owner or simply used." - Anja Beran


                            • #15
                              My Morgan was like this for a while, he too amazed his chiropractor and vets with his noodliness - he even has his own yoga moves.

                              When we took up driven dressage - as he is no longer ridden - I was in a real conundrum as I had no seat or legs to work with. Attempting driving a wiggling noodly mess made us look like we were having slow motion seizures if we decided to try anything remotely resembling a circle - bearing resemblance to amoebas is more like it. Most exasperating and I nearly gave up.

                              4 things helped.

                              First, at the first sign of noodling just immediately going forward. Forward, forward, forward. Then take a fresh start. Don't even attempt to try to "fix" things with my hands. Just get activity going, a forward thinking mind, and start over.

                              Second, the poor footing of winter meant more time doing in hand work - along the lines of whats been described, and it helped loads. Learning SI and HI in hand really helped as there was balance issues in the beginning so my boy really had to rely on me for help. He had to learn to accept and deal, balance and arrange his feet, and go forward and not overthink it.

                              Third, every time we drove I always went forward with a giving hand. Every time I asked for forward, it was with a giving hand. Every single stride. I had to think it so hard I'd mutter it to myself "go forward into my reaching hand". I wasn't offering a sloppy no contact rein, I would envision every step my horse lengthening, reaching for my hands, seeking the contact. I would think that thought with every fiber of my awareness so I completely telegraphed the thought. It's not letting the reins slip, it was find the absolute edge of contact he'd accept vs contact he start to Gumby at, and dancing at that line. Teasing him forward into my hands by creating energy and keeping my hands just at the edge of his comfort zone. Daring him to step into the contact, not me taking a hold. Took a tremendous amount of focus on my part to get the knack of.

                              Finally, cavaletti. Working over cavaletti and increasing the distance until the horse had to round and use his neck and would seek my contact as support, not something to avoid.

                              It took a long while for us, a few years, but now my favorite part about driving him is the feel of his mouth. Steady, adjustable, calmly softly chewing all the time, supple but "there" and trusting. Its just perfect.
                              Last edited by buck22; Aug. 17, 2017, 03:36 PM.
                              Being terrible at something is the first step to being truly great at it. Struggle is the evidence of progress.