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Learning to ride a BIG horse

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  • Learning to ride a BIG horse

    So I'm horse shopping. And my criteria do NOT include a gi-normous horse. But as it happens, the first one I tried was big. BIG. 17h+, long and rangy. Not green, but not hugely educated either.

    I could actually ride him just fine on the flat; he's light, polite, but there's a lot OF him. I thought we got along great.

    Went to jump him, though . . . oy vey! He is a sweet, willing, brave, GOOD boy but I was sprawling all OVER the place on his back. He uses a lot of his big self, especially his neck, and I'm not blessed with a naturally generous "release" because none of the horses I've ever ridden needed or preferred this. So although I wasn't punishing this horse--I can slip the reins--he was reaching so much that I really had to work to stay up with him and not get left behind or interfere with his mouth.

    It wasn't my saddle, I'm someone who naturally prefers to stay in the "back seat", but . . . man. I felt incompetent. Gwen was large-ish but very efficient in her jumping and HATED to be released in the air. Bonnie is a small mover and not extravagant in the air. And Keebler uses every bit of himself and is a very athletic jumper, but he is LITTLE. I can touch his ears when he jumps.

    So have any of you made a transition from a series of smaller, more compact, tidier movers to a big, lanky, long horse who is about eighteen feet long in the air? Is this a transition that can be made comfortably, and what types of work did you do to get there?
    Click here before you buy.

  • #2
    Yes - the nice thing is, there is a lot of neck & back to catch you if you are out of position on the landing This can create a bit of laziness in the rider's "stay-in-the-middle" stickiness!

    1. Get longer reins
    2. practice over grids & small stuff to get used to it, practice the long-rein release and grabbing some mane
    3. it will feel weird going from the big horse to the small horse and back
    Blugal

    You never know what kind of obsessive compulsive crazy person you are until another person imitates your behaviour at a three-day. --Gry2Yng

    Comment


    • #3
      I will be eagerly awaiting the 'secret', here, DW. I'm just starting my BIG one over fences and when he's doing good, he's easy. When he misses a step or jumps funky, oooh boy! I've started more horses than I can count over fences but never one as athletic but HUGE as this guy. He's not even THAT long, either - wearing an 81, but almost too big for his 54" girth right now. I'm a hair under 5'8" and I look like a peanut. I haven't sticked him to be accurate but we're estimating he's somewhere around 17.2-3.

      Good luck, and watch out - those big ones will steal your heart.

      Comment


      • #4
        I tried this -- had a 17.2hh TB -- and it didn't work for me. I did give it about a year but it was just too hard on my body.

        It wasn't the height, it was the weight. I just couldn't be effective in the way I'd be on a smaller horse.

        I found a neck strap and grabbing mane indispensable for jumping. I also found that riding him to the base of a fence, I had to stay a little further back on him than I was used to (which is the back seat anyway).

        Would I do it again? No. My current regular rides are a 14.3hh Morgan and a 14.1hh WelshX so maybe I know my limits now.

        Or maybe I don't.

        You know that 16hh 3YO OTTB I picked up this year? His butt is now 16.3hh and the withers are catching up. Purplnurpl tells me his relatives are 17hh, 17.1hh.

        Comment

        • Original Poster

          #5
          Ahh, well, I've got plenty of weight to throw around up there! I'm neither short nor tiny.

          Also on the list are a couple of more "compact" models. At this stage it's still fun. No doubt less so as time goes on!

          Those jumps sure look small from way up there, I must say . . .
          Click here before you buy.

          Comment


          • #6
            Hi Deltawave,

            I recently made the transition from 16.2hh Cupid to 17.1hh Franklin and will admit that I did not feel at home on Frank when i first tried him.

            He was exactly what i wanted on paper, however, so with his owner's permission I rode him twice more before writing the cheque. I wanted to feel that I was getting more at home with his larger stride/size with each ride so I could convince myself that we were trending towards being a good match.

            By the third ride I had hope and I am so happy I bought him. I actually find him easier to jump now that i'm used to both rides!!

            Comment


            • #7
              I had this same situation when I bought a big 16.3 h long tb (1200lbs!) that liked to use his full body to jump compared to my 15.3 h conn/tb that skimmed over 4ft like he didn't even leave the ground. He was green and instead of jumping up and around the jump he wanted to stretch his whole head and neck out but more in a low and flatter style.

              The trick for me was to just focus on the "arms" and let my body go with the motion but just don't move the body. It would feel weird but I would just think arms forward..really forward and let him jump up to me. He even stretched his lips out when he jumped.
              http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2520/...1f3b631f3c.jpg
              http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2737/...82e81d6749.jpg

              As he got stronger and developed more in his flatwork he was able to jump around the jump and he didn't feel like such a long horse anymore. I had developed a pretty darn good release by then so it was no trouble
              http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2489/...c63e3042d9.jpg

              I worked a ton on compressing the canter as one of the main issues was me just being able to get him to the base of the jump and not leave long and flat because he couldn't compress. Sounds like that guy is green as well and I promise when the canter comes so does the jump!

              I practiced jumping him almost every day even if it was just x-rails so that I could train my body to just stay over the center. Eyes up, push my legs a bit forward and slide the arms. I am only 5'5 so it was really hard to get used to but he was a cool horse and dead honest about the jumps.
              http://www.benchmarksporthorses.com/

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by JER View Post
                You know that 16hh 3YO OTTB I picked up this year? His butt is now 16.3hh and the withers are catching up. Purplnurpl tells me his relatives are 17hh, 17.1hh.
                I thought he looked big but I didn't realize he was that big!!
                Blugal

                You never know what kind of obsessive compulsive crazy person you are until another person imitates your behaviour at a three-day. --Gry2Yng

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Blugal View Post
                  Yes - the nice thing is, there is a lot of neck & back to catch you if you are out of position on the landing
                  This!!

                  Those jumps sure look small from way up there, I must say . . .
                  This .

                  I worked a ton on compressing the canter as one of the main issues was me just being able to get him to the base of the jump and not leave long and flat because he couldn't compress. Sounds like that guy is green as well and I promise when the canter comes so does the jump!
                  And this (are you noticing a trend here? )

                  Lots of good advice here. I have a 17.2 huge guy that's back is as long as Texas. He also does use himself a lot over fences, and it's taken awhile for 1) him to not want to take the long spot and launch us, and 2) for me to release and go with him more (I'm still working on this ). I am no slouch size wise, but it is still a work in progress to manage 1400lbs of spottedness!

                  I find that my reins will get longer as I go through a course, which then in turn makes it tougher to keep him together (duh!). So, I have been training myself to release more with my arms so when we land I have that short rein length and therefore better ability to keep that giantness packaged .

                  But, I find that as he's gotten stronger all of it is a lot easier and like Jleegriffith's guy I think mine has become a bit more efficient and compact (but I think will still always use himself more over fences than some other horses).

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Hmmm pharmgirl, the one I rode was named Moose as well. If this thread gets long enough I wonder if a third Moose will pop up...
                    Blugal

                    You never know what kind of obsessive compulsive crazy person you are until another person imitates your behaviour at a three-day. --Gry2Yng

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Blugal View Post
                      Hmmm pharmgirl, the one I rode was named Moose as well. If this thread gets long enough I wonder if a third Moose will pop up...
                      Technically, mine was named Moose when I found him... It didn't fit, and I kind of figured he could use a fresh start.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Heinz 57 View Post
                        I will be eagerly awaiting the 'secret', here, DW. I'm just starting my BIG one over fences and when he's doing good, he's easy. When he misses a step or jumps funky, oooh boy! I've started more horses than I can count over fences but never one as athletic but HUGE as this guy. He's not even THAT long, either - wearing an 81, but almost too big for his 54" girth right now. I'm a hair under 5'8" and I look like a peanut. I haven't sticked him to be accurate but we're estimating he's somewhere around 17.2-3.

                        Good luck, and watch out - those big ones will steal your heart.
                        How old is he? Is there a star under that forelock? He looks eerily similar to a guy we had for years who was 17.2 and a smidge. He wore a 56'' girth, though I do think he wore an 83'' blanket. I doubt it is the same horse, but worth asking! He ended up ponying race horses and fox hunting somewhere is so. MD, but never heard anything after that. He would sail over 5' like it wasn't even there. He was able to turn on a dime too, unlike most of the big ones. A lot of fun.

                        My four year old is 17.1 behind and 17 in front right now (I was hoping she would stop at 17, but her butt just shot up again!). I feel safer on the big guys, I like having something underneath me. But, you have to find the right big ones, if they are a clunk and can't get out of their own way, they will never make it as an effective upper level sport horse. I would love if my mare had stayed at 16.3, for me that is the perfect height!

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          No, no star, no white at all in fact. He sounds very similar, though - when he's actually fit he doesn't ride like a BIG horse, very light and easy. He's 13, now. Raced til he was six and I have NO idea how they ever did get him to run, as he has ZERO inclination to go fast on his own.

                          He's ADORABLE!

                          He's a Personal Flag baby, with a whorl below eye level if you're into that kind of thing. Sensible but VERY cautious, which is my only concern with him as an eventer. Cautious enough to be sensible would be nice, just not so cautious that he's suspicious of every fence, I'm hoping! He loves water and will DRAG you into it given the opportunity.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Monstr wore an 86 blanket and 60" girth. I'm big enough to ride that much horse, but it was hard on me physically (I'm naturally tight and stiff). His "issues" prevented us from ever doing a lot of jumping, and I was of the age where eventing lost its luster anyway, but I can imagine that a lot of combinations and related distances would have been he!! with him. Particularly for eventing, I'd avoid Big unless you're a large person planning to stay novice or below (which you're not, on either count). Not to mention all of those Big Horse issues--larger trailer (Monstr barely fit in a standard-sized Hawk, and managed to bend all of the window bars on the side windows), larger blanket (and harder to throw it up there), longer girths, extra-long reins, oversized bridles, larger bits, bell boots shoot up in price when you get over XL (like, $25/pair for Davis), standard polo wraps aren't long enough unless you're reaaaaally careful where you start ... and finding farm-sitters who aren't intimidated by him.

                            Granted, Monstr had some issues that made him even more difficult. It was fun for a while owning The Biggest Horse, but that novelty has well and truly worn off for good. I'm sure you can find what you want in a reasonable (17h or smaller) package.
                            "One person's cowboy is another person's blooming idiot" -- katarine

                            Spay and neuter. Please.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Well, every thing monstrpony said is true.

                              But.

                              If he's the one, he's the one.

                              When I went shopping for my first horse I was looking at entirely normal sized horses -- I am 5'7" and fairly slight build.

                              I fell madly in love with a nearly 18 hand IDx. It was ridiculous. But it was what it was.

                              Some big guys do NOT ride big -- mine have all been quite catty in their way, well balanced and uphill.

                              I did try one big horse who was a TB and didn't look as huge as my guys, and he had such a round jump I had to struggle to stay in the tack -- figured that would have been a problem sooner or later on xc.

                              Notice I keep saying "my big guys."

                              After the first "accident," when I went shopping for #2 I tried horses of every size. Really, I did. I knew all the issues with big horses, oversize everything, harder to keep sound, etc.

                              I couldn't help it. I bought 17.2 h #2.

                              When I went shopping the third time I gave into fate and didn't even LOOK at anything under 16.3.

                              So the "munchkin," a compact, beefy 17h, is the smallest horse I have ever owned.

                              Not much you can do about love!
                              The big man -- my lost prince

                              The little brother, now my main man

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                Haven't read the other posts yet, but I'm sort of in the same boat with you here. The appy (and the beasties before him) were all 16hh and under... then I got the OTTB, who is 16.3++++. I stood him up next to my friend's 17.2 drafty X and he's the same height, if not taller... I'm thinking he's grown a bit since I got him

                                Especially since he's green, it can be a little hard to keep up with him when he moonjumps over stuff. The BEST thing I've done with him was jump with my stirrups in my old XC length. Since he's green, I don't want to EVER encourage him to not use his neck, so I normally grab a little mane in our warm up when he's being a little rocket launcher, and can later switch to a long release. Almost all the other critters I've been on did better with an auto or a short release, so it was a bit of a transition but not too bad at least for me.

                                I also have a bit of an advantage, having been known as Gumby as a child (extremely double jointed and flexible, lol) so if a horse makes a big move or leaves from a ridiculous greenie spot, it's pretty easy for me to stick with it.

                                I second a jumping strap, those can be a huge help!

                                Best of luck!
                                Trying a life outside of FEI tents and hotel rooms.

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  I went from riding a little packaged 15.3 mare to riding an exploding 16.3 chestnut bomb (tons of power propelling him over the jumps!!!) . The first ride I had on the chestnut bomb after I purchased him I remember thinking- oh holy cow- what did I just buy? He was spooky at the new place and I could barely POST his trot- what would happen when I had to sit it????? The more I rode him and got use to his extreme power (he was known to leave out a stride and jump the 3'3 jump like it was a 5ft oxer- we rarely had rails b/c of this hahaha!!!) the better I got- Saddle tight was my friend at shows, b/c i wasn't taking any chances! He would catch me off guard occasionally and I'd fly up in the air and land back in the saddle some of the time (some being the key word!)

                                  BUT I will say when he was sadly forced to retire at an early age due to a freak accident- my position was rock solid on the new horse I started riding. I went from having crap eq to having a George Morris approved leg in a day! Now this was 10 years ago when I was young and fearless, so I don't know if I could or would want to ride a horse with as much power as the Chestnut Bomb (unless it was him again- he was the best) but by riding a bigger/more powerful horse it really could help you become a better rider on all your other horses! Lessons, gymnastics and tons of saddle time will be your best bet to get you use to the Ferrari gas pedal!!!

                                  It will take time to figure out the power and be completely solid with it, so if you don't feel like spending ~6months-1 year on the big guy and you haven't fallen madly in love with him yet (for me I fell in love with the Chestnut Bomb the 1st time I saw him and even more so on that first ride!!) then I'd think about finding a more compact horse that you like better. After all you're not trying to find your London Olympic mount- just one to compete and enjoy- right? And finding that perfect horse is way better than fighting what you want to be the perfect horse!

                                  Good Luck!
                                  proud owner of a very pretty but completely useless horse (and one useful horse!)

                                  Horse Thoughts

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    Originally posted by Heinz 57 View Post
                                    No, no star, no white at all in fact. He sounds very similar, though - when he's actually fit he doesn't ride like a BIG horse, very light and easy. He's 13, now. Raced til he was six and I have NO idea how they ever did get him to run, as he has ZERO inclination to go fast on his own.

                                    He's ADORABLE!

                                    He's a Personal Flag baby, with a whorl below eye level if you're into that kind of thing. Sensible but VERY cautious, which is my only concern with him as an eventer. Cautious enough to be sensible would be nice, just not so cautious that he's suspicious of every fence, I'm hoping! He loves water and will DRAG you into it given the opportunity.
                                    Haha, the slow part doesn't sound like him at all, he was quite hot when he wanted to be. A very cool horse though, also loved water, would go through or do anything you asked him to. He was actually 3/4 TB 1/4 Belgian, but looked a lot like your guy, all legs! I wonder if they are some how related, he was by Purple Haze or something like that if I remember correctly. I'll have to try to dig out some pictures tonight, I don't have any on my work computer.

                                    Good luck with your guy! Very cute!

                                    Comment


                                    • #19
                                      What kind of horse is he? It sounds like your issue was more with his general style of movement (which might not change or you might not be skilled enough to change) then his size.

                                      It's probably more related to his build and personality then his height.

                                      I would say that most horses have a specific jumping style which may or may not be suitable for what the rider wants to do and probably isn't very changeable. You can change his jumping style and your way of releasing with lots of lessons and gymnastic work, but I think horses always have a fall back habit.

                                      So, do you think in a pinch if you left him alone, he'd leave the rails up at a show and you'd stay on top?

                                      If you really like him I'd want you to watch him with a competent trainer on top so you can see how much is you being unfamiliar with him and how much is his style. Then you can ask that person if they think YOU can ride him well enough. Having a pro make a horse look easy doesn't always mean that YOU can make him look easy.
                                      http://weanieeventer.blogspot.com/

                                      Comment

                                      • Original Poster

                                        #20
                                        He's full TB and has done a number of HTs, including several outings at Training, all clear. Maybe a couple of rails. He jumps fine, it's not a bad style at all, but it's very different than what I'm used to and he's greener on the flat than my usual rides.

                                        My trainer saw me ride and jump him, and thinks it's do-able but would be a learning curve. Which is fine! Learnng is what it's all about, right?

                                        Anyhow, this is all good stuff to think about. I don't know if he's "the one" since I'm probably a little old for that type of thought process. I have a few others on the radar. And today I rode my trainer's gigantic WB on the flat just to see if I could still actually ride a big'un. Yep.
                                        Click here before you buy.

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