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Controlling Speed

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  • Controlling Speed

    Hello! I received a lot of encouraging and correct advice last time I posted a question on here. My OTTB and I are new eventers, this is his new career since being off the track. We are doing green as grass this year and have great progress. One of the challenges we are having is controlling his speed on cross country. So far I've trotted 2 courses just to keep him from becoming the unbalanced adrenaline junky that he is. After several XC schoolings and working with my trainer I think we have made some good connections about this issue but I'd like to hear more from people's experiences and what they did. My horse REALLY locks on to fences/flag and he wants to rush the jump. Of course this causes him to get flat and unbalanced which exacerbates the problem. He will lean on the bit (snaffle) and pull me down which really makes me lose my own stability despite my best efforts. We are only doing very small inviting XC obstacles for our safety and his soundness as we find our rhythm and learn how to be safe on cross country. I've found that when he makes a big effort, usually after a very slow approach which he needs, it can get me unseated just a bit and of course that unbalances him and off he goes because now my position is telling him GO GO GO. I've been really putting my heels down, leg closed, grabbing mane and "taking the back seat" to prevent this from happening and so far it has helped. My "go-to" for a runaway fast horse is to circle, disengage the hind quarters. But obviously this is not ideal. Not only that but I really can't count on the footing being suitable all the time for a tight circle to slow him down. Our last schooling we worked on having control of speed on the straight away because obviously I want to be able to control his speed WITHOUT circling. For this I've been anchoring my heels down, calves on to reinforce the stability of my upper body that I attempt to have completely straight, shoulders back, elbows at my side in 90 degree angles as I check him back and release, check and release. Reins SUPER short, his poll nearly at my chest. My horse obviously doesn't like this but its been effective. If he gets his head down at all he will lean on the bit and start running. At the end of this lesson I was able to canter over small jumps without him running. During this lesson however he did manage to lean on me enough to cause the skin on my ring finger to completely come off. Which was unpleasant to say the least. I'm looking forward to our next schooling to see if this lesson really affected his way of going on XC.

    Thank you!


    Here is Mr. Enthusiastic
    Image result for CarlisleChipper
    Image result for CarlisleChipper

  • #2
    Originally posted by Equestrianette View Post
    Hello! I received a lot of encouraging and correct advice last time I posted a question on here. My OTTB and I are new eventers, this is his new career since being off the track. We are doing green as grass this year and have great progress. One of the challenges we are having is controlling his speed on cross country. So far I've trotted 2 courses just to keep him from becoming the unbalanced adrenaline junky that he is. After several XC schoolings and working with my trainer I think we have made some good connections about this issue but I'd like to hear more from people's experiences and what they did. My horse REALLY locks on to fences/flag and he wants to rush the jump. Of course this causes him to get flat and unbalanced which exacerbates the problem. He will lean on the bit (snaffle) and pull me down which really makes me lose my own stability despite my best efforts. We are only doing very small inviting XC obstacles for our safety and his soundness as we find our rhythm and learn how to be safe on cross country. I've found that when he makes a big effort, usually after a very slow approach which he needs, it can get me unseated just a bit and of course that unbalances him and off he goes because now my position is telling him GO GO GO. I've been really putting my heels down, leg closed, grabbing mane and "taking the back seat" to prevent this from happening and so far it has helped. My "go-to" for a runaway fast horse is to circle, disengage the hind quarters. But obviously this is not ideal. Not only that but I really can't count on the footing being suitable all the time for a tight circle to slow him down. Our last schooling we worked on having control of speed on the straight away because obviously I want to be able to control his speed WITHOUT circling. For this I've been anchoring my heels down, calves on to reinforce the stability of my upper body that I attempt to have completely straight, shoulders back, elbows at my side in 90 degree angles as I check him back and release, check and release. Reins SUPER short, his poll nearly at my chest. My horse obviously doesn't like this but its been effective. If he gets his head down at all he will lean on the bit and start running. At the end of this lesson I was able to canter over small jumps without him running. During this lesson however he did manage to lean on me enough to cause the skin on my ring finger to completely come off. Which was unpleasant to say the least. I'm looking forward to our next schooling to see if this lesson really affected his way of going on XC.

    Thank you!


    Here is Mr. Enthusiastic
    Image result for CarlisleChipper

    Image result for CarlisleChipper





    It seems to me that you need to go back to work on your control/ride-ability issues before you continue jumping. It is helpful that you are considering your equitation.

    What a lovely horse!

    However, there are too many basics that are missing and they need to be addressed. "Disengaging the hindquarters" of a "runaway horse" is a bizarre concept at best. At this point in time you are flirting with disaster.

    Do you wear gloves when riding? Your skin should not be "coming off" of your fingers, you should not be riding with "super short reins" and your horse's poll should not be "nearly at your chest"

    Your trainer should have (best case scenario as a competent trainer) either prevented, or had an answer to the out-of-control problem before it evolved into this difficulty.

    It really seems from your post that your trainer is not helping you.

    I don't mean to discourage you, but the difficulties you are experiencing will not be resolved online.

    Is there another trainer in your area with whom you can consult?

    "Natural horsemanship" has its limits and if your trainer believes that "disengaging the hindquarters" (especially those of a horse that is running away with you and with whom you continue to jump with it's head in your face) is the answer to all of these issues, they are sadly mistaken.

    Work at getting your horse to respond to your aids on the flat.and proceed incrementally to jumping?

    Perhaps there is someone here that is near where you live that can help you find another opinion from a different trainer or perhaps a kind mentor.
    Last edited by skydy; Apr. 22, 2019, 04:43 AM.

    Comment


    • #3
      An addendum: I don't see a runaway with his head in your face in the photos you've posted.
      You do look a bit stiff and braced.

      How long have you been riding and how long jumping cross country?
      Last edited by skydy; Apr. 22, 2019, 04:47 AM.

      Comment


      • #4
        Starting point is more of the usual. Lots of work in the arena, basics, getting enough oomph without more speed, regular rythmn that you can change up or down, straightness between hand and leg and work on balance for both you and horse, light responsive contact. Good xc takes an adjustable horse, who listens. Keep it simple and train the horse to listen in the arena before asking the same xc. If you watch the best riders xc they are sooo balanced and rhymical. They slow the horse through upper body position, they rebalance through body position, they soften over the fence to allow the horse to use itself. That takes confidence in yourself and your horse. Which takes you back to basic exercises in the arena.

        You have a lovely horse and the images certainly don't look like a train wreck!

        You do have an American seat that possibly encourages the horse to speed up xc. Look up Lucinda Green on the 'defensive' seat.
        "Good young horses are bred, but good advanced horses are trained" Sam Griffiths

        Comment


        • #5
          What a pretty boy! I have no advice to offer but I just had to say that.

          Comment


          • #6
            You won't like my answer. I was you with my horse. He calmed down around 11. No matter how well he worked in the ring, he was a complete runaway XC. I put a big pelham in his mouth and got away with it, but it was not the best solution. In hindsight, I should have just spent ages working on staying relaxed after each tiny fence and not moved on until he did. That would not have happened for years. So this time, I got a quiet horse. Horses with that much get and and go are better suited to professionals. One minor mistake on my part, and my horse was gone. It wasn't fun to be honest.

            Comment


            • #7
              It just takes time. Lots of trotting fences and gymnastics exercises in the arena to improve rideability. Lots of work outside of the arena (with no fences) on transitions between and within gaits. No harm in trotting cross country fences for a while either. Most important for your position is to keep your shoulders back - hold strong in your core and don’t let him pull you out of position. Also work on keeping your upper body up a bit more over the jump so that you land ready to sit up and balance him again.

              If he is really leaning on you in cross country, you might want to consider a beval (wonder bit) or 3-ring elevator. They come with all kinds of snaffle mouth pieces, but help you get a little more leverage so they can’t just bear down on their forehand and pull you out of the saddle.

              Comment


              • #8
                So sometimes a bit change is warranted - I say that with some trepidation because I’m not really saying “bit him up”, but if he leans or curls there are some bits that counteract that and it can be helpful. My current horse is big, strong, and excitable, but a bigger bit is a disaster in him, so he goes in a lever noseband and a mild bit. Works like a charm. So some experimentation might be warranted.

                However, in my experience (I’m now many years into this sport but remember very clearly my somewhat painful transition from h/j), mainly you need to work on relaxing BOTH of you out and about with no jumps in the plan. People think that a tb at the low levels doesn’t need conditioning and from a physical fitness point of view they are right, but then they don’t ride out, and miss all the other benefits of the essential Eventing skill. If you can, incorporate one day a week for a conditioning ride, or ride out, or whatever you want to call it. You don’t have to do traditional sets. Just ride. Not on a trail, in a big field. Walk, trot, canter if you can calmly. Don’t aim for dead quiet, aim for relaxed. Use your voice. Spend a month or two or three just walking and trotting if need be.

                You actually don’t want to be able to look like that drawing as a “baseline” - there is another outline you want to shoot for, horse a bit softer in the top line, rider more relaxed, reins bridged and hands resting on the bridge, maybe a bit of a loop in the rein. At some point down the roads you need to be able to go out and tool around like that in a forward but ultimately relaxed way....then when you approach a fence everything gets more engaged and elevated. You will not only not feel in control, you will be exhausted if you are in tense lock down mode all the way around the course.
                This takes time but there is no substitute for it in my experience. I once had a horse - not a tb, a 17.2 hand German dressage horse 😆 - who had NO IDEA how to be out and about, and would get so excited just being in a field that he’d nearly turn us both inside out. I got some great advice on here and spent lots of time working on that until he was so broke he’d wait for ME to say “”ok, go!” out of the box. Would he still get excited, especially first school of the season? Yep. Did I still need a bigger bit? Yes, at training and prelim, bc that was a lot of horse to rebalance coming down to a coffin, for example. But the SKILL and mental practice of just being out was now part of both of our comfort zone.

                so get out there and ride. I’m not sure I’d even do xc schooling for a bit until this is a bit more normalized for both of you.
                The big man -- my lost prince

                The little brother, now my main man

                Comment


                • #9
                  OP you could, the next time you go school, intermittently jump. If you can get him adjustable in the field pop him over a jump, then back to flat work. Rinse and repeat.

                  Side note, why do people get so offended by being told to go back to flat work?

                  ETA: Looking at your other thread about his bucking you mentioned with other riders your horse did just fine school XC. If that’s the case the problem is you and how your riding. Work on letting go of his face. He can’t lean if you’re not there to lean on and I wonder if his head coming up so high is his way of telling you to get out of his face.

                  Random pictures of what he looks like when he’s good are not helpful, nor are random pictures of what you think is happening or what you think you look like are not helpful.

                  Do you work in a two point for extended periods of time to strengthen yourself?
                  Last edited by Denali6298; Apr. 22, 2019, 09:37 AM.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    I showed a literal freight train last season, and when I was first starting off with him I was worried that I just wouldn't ever be strong enough to overcome his power and desire to take the bit and RUN. What ended up helping me was to really dressage (using that as a verb) between the jumps even if just for a few strides. (At lower levels you have to worry more about going too fast than making time, so this won't affect you much in competition.) After you jump a jump, use your entire body to half halt him, leg to really lift his back, seat to rock him back, hand to get him back on the bit. The second you feel him lift his back and quiet down you need to OVER exaggerate your release. Even if the thought of giving is scary, it is the only way to train the "quiet down" aid. You can give/release sufficiently just by pushing your elbows toward the bit without slipping the reins at all.

                    I was correct in that I would never win a tug of war with that horse from last season. He is a giant big-boned Oldenburg; he will be stronger than me until the day he dies. BUT...the more I worked on picking him up with my leg-to-hand and releasing, the more the grabbing the bit and running seemed to decrease and my corrective aids needed to be quieter and quieter to achieve the desired result. In the mean time, you can try bridging the reins during gallop stretches if you are really feeling worried...but this and upping your bit power are only temporary fixes that will make it harder to improve your horse's rideability long term.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      I have 2 suggestions:

                      1.) Saddle Fit: my horse used to pull down hard on me after fences. I felt like a kid on a pony. He would get so unbalanced! I got him a saddle that fits so much better and it has eliminated this issue.

                      2.) XC Schooling: I think Jimmy Wofford described the different "styles" of xc schooling. One of them is stop and go jumping fences one by one. Eventually they anticipate the halt after the fence and start to rebalance on their own.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        OP I'm sorry that you were offended by my post, that was not my intention. I read what you wrote and answered accordingly.
                        Last edited by skydy; Apr. 22, 2019, 05:01 PM.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          The image you posted of horse and rider is WAY more horse energy than I would want to see in a horse on a green-as-grass level eventing course, if that's what it looked like most of the way around. At the events I attend that have a well-stocked GAG level division, that probably wouldn't get you a yellow card, but it would get you (and your trainer) a talk with the TD.

                          OP, skydy's post #2 is what occurred to me as well, on every point. I think that had you read it with a more accepting frame of mind you will see that your answer read more into it than was posted, and missed the fundamentals. That's the way your profanely aggressive response read to me. Your language and anger were uncalled for and didn't represent you well, and are not what COTH should be about. skydy wasn't really addressing the skin on your hands, but the horse's training to date, just as an example.

                          I am not a UL eventer and don't ride speedy courses. I want my horses to express their enthusiasm in a controllable way, and definitely not looking like the image you posted above. Getting there with a high-adrenaline horse is a painstaking, prolonged step-by-step process. IMO horses with a lot of TB in them have a very necessary step in basic training, and that is learning to be calm in the face of exciting stimuli. That starts in-hand, and then on the flat, because if you don't have it there then there is not a foundation to work from as the pace and stimulating input increases. skydy's suggestions described what I would do in your situation (and in fact I was thinking through what to type when I read it in skydy's post and was saved the time ).

                          If you feel the horse flats well in open country with a mild bit, including the faster gaits, changes of pace and length of stride, works attentively faster for a while then slower for a while with cooperation and acceptance, then he's ready for the what the other posts above are describing, hopping over a few speed bumps quietly then back to flatting. Etc.

                          However, if the flat work in open country isn't yet consistently stable at both faster and slower work, then IMO more flat work is needed before schooling jumps on a xc course. Sometimes riders want to rush through this because they can feel the good part yet to come and are anxious to get there soon. They are out on a cross country course and it's supposed to be exciting. If a trainer is also wanting to move forward while the horse is still rushing jumps, then it's time to think carefully about that connection. IMO

                          The last thing I would do is bit him up. That doesn't solve the basic issue - in fact, it just hardens it for higher-level work in the future. The horse doesn't learn to regulate his emotions in those early days (they can learn that), instead he learns to focus on the pressure on his mouth and head. Just my opinion borne out by years of experience.

                          I'm sure you are on the same train of thought about good manners in open country at all levels of faster work. If what you are doing now is not working, I'm sure you are ready to take one step back in order to set up for two steps forward once that backward step is solid again.

                          There is no way I would continue xc jump schooling on a horse that was as hard to speed-control as you describe. I'd be expecting to spend a few more months easing up to a more predictable ride over a xc course. And I'd expect some wonderful years of fun on XC as a result of the time invested.

                          That's just my opinion. Good luck with your beautiful horse.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Ive experienced similar issues with my young horse. My inability to slow her down on cross country had to do with how green she was on the flat. I decided to take a break from jumping all together and have had her in dressage training with a prix saint george rider for the last four months. It has been such and eye opener to see the holes in her (my) training.


                            BUT what has worked for me with this horse and other horses has been LOTS of gymnastics and cavalettis. Also, a german martingale. Perhaps that is something you can try with the help of your trainer.

                            Best of luck to you!

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              OP at your home barn, are you able to ride outside the ring in open areas on a regular basis, even a nice-sized field or a xc course itself? Being able to do your regular flat work in areas that are as much like the open areas on a xc course as possible will help enormously in getting him more matter-of-fact about it. Then schooling over stadium jumps in a cross-country type of field, starting little and working up, is a good next step, if that's available to you at your barn. From there, once he's ready, it's easy enough to start working a few speed bump xc jumps, coops etc. into the stadium course. On a gradual schedule, continue adding a little more, bit by bit, only as the horse's behavior indicates that his mind is ready and coping. Taking steps backwards whenever he shows it isn't. He'll get there. Little steps.

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                Anne Kursiniski exercises. We did them when I rode with Jimmy Wofford, I called them blue-in-the-face exercises when I did them with a mare I had at the time. We did this in an arena but they really helped cross-country. You can also set up a similar thing in a field. I would start in an arena. You only go on to the next exercise when the one before it is pretty easy.

                                Set a line of 6 or 7 strides. Start with X's or low verticals.
                                1.Trot the first one. Halt and back, trot the second one, halt and back--in a straight line. It may help you to kick your feet out of the stirrups when you land as it makes you sit and not brace against your stirrups to halt.
                                2. Once you are doing that well, eliminate the backing up and just halt after the first one, trot the second one and halt in a straight line.
                                3. Once that is good, eliminate the halt and just walk a few steps in between the jumps then trot the second one and come back to walk in a straight line.
                                4. Trot the first fence and trot the second one. Halt in a straight line after the second one if you need to.
                                5. Once that is good, CANTER the first fence and TROT the second fence.
                                6. Canter the first fence, keep going and canter the second fence. Halt in a straight line.

                                At this point your horse should be really listening to you. The next step is to start adding strides between the two fences. But that is a more advanced exercise.

                                These are really good but they are tedious. Horses really learn to listen!!!

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  I'm confused. Why would we ever want to control speed! That is the best part!!!! ;-)

                                  The way I train control of the speed is lots of quality LOW LEVEL, e.g. training level, dressage (working into the bit from the back end) and then incorporating that into jump schools. On a HOT horse it requires a VERY soft hand and arm. On a horse that pulls down, and gets fast, I would NOT do tight circles. That just pisses them off. I would use nice large circles and get them to stretch into the bit and soften.

                                  On past horses I would do tons of dressage work on XC and NEVER jump. I would literally make the XC course a dressage test (even rode in my dressage saddle) while WE learned to communicate.

                                  It also sounds like you are weak in the core and not the most solid in your base of support. You are using the lower leg to help you stay balanced, which also tends to result in the hand and arm being stiff.

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    It is the outside rein that controls speed. Only if the horse is working correctly into contact.
                                    It is better to ride 5 minutes a day than it is to ride 35 minutes on a Sunday.

                                    Comment


                                    • #19
                                      Originally posted by SuzieQNutter View Post
                                      It is the outside rein that controls speed. Only if the horse is working correctly into contact.
                                      Where is the outside rein on XC and going in a straight line?

                                      Old school speed control was/is done with the body, not the reins. Being able to adjust a horse using just your body is something that has been lost in teaching it seems.

                                      I am doing it with my youngster now, along with dressage, push up into the gallop, then bring my body back and up as I go into a circle (there is the outside rein), but in time, her will know to come back in a straight line just by my bringing my shoulder and body up and back (without sitting down on him). Watch jockeys.

                                      Comment


                                      • #20
                                        Originally posted by RAyers View Post

                                        Where is the outside rein on XC and going in a straight line?

                                        Old school speed control was/is done with the body, not the reins. Being able to adjust a horse using just your body is something that has been lost in teaching it seems.

                                        I am doing it with my youngster now, along with dressage, push up into the gallop, then bring my body back and up as I go into a circle (there is the outside rein), but in time, her will know to come back in a straight line just by my bringing my shoulder and body up and back (without sitting down on him). Watch jockeys.
                                        Sorry I was referring to the OP saying she was circling to disengage the hindquarters.

                                        Instead engage the hindquarters and it is the outside rein that controls the shoulders not pulling on the inside rein like a one rein stop. This is probably why one of the posts referred to Natural Horsemanship being used.


                                        It is better to ride 5 minutes a day than it is to ride 35 minutes on a Sunday.

                                        Comment

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