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OK, here I go again--how do I teach him to run?

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  • OK, here I go again--how do I teach him to run?

    Hey guys--just finished an outing with Gully at 5 Points. We didn't get to do showjumping because he was sore on Sunday, though he's much better today and I'm pretty sure it was a muscle strain in his butt or hip.

    I was really pleased with his xc jumping but we finished 45 seconds over the time of 5:07.

    I'm coming off a bad cold and it's high allergy season, so I had some asthma problems toward the end, which didn't help as it made me more of a passenger. I'll say that's worth 10 seconds.

    We had a few spots where Gully slowed down to get a good look at what was being asked of him--primarily the two down banks (one into water) because while our options were straightforward there was a lot of stuff going on around us. It was his first training run in 16 months (due to a wide range of issues, from family stuff to abscesses) and this is how he rolls, so I'm not at all concerned. I'll give us 10 seconds there too.

    We didn't take big sweeping turns, I tried to balance him before the jumps without slowing him down, he's about as fit as he's ever been, and yet--there we are, at least 25 unexplainable seconds over time, other than to say that we're just going too slow.

    But I do think I finally understand one thing: his default speed is Novice. If I just loop the reins and don't kick out on course, I get Novice speed. If I kick, I get a burst of speed--but then back to Novice.

    So what do I do? Obviously, I keep working on our mutual fitness. But how do I get him to understand "faster"? Is there some trick to it? Or do I just kick and smack and chivvy him along until he gets it?

    I'm planning (as long as this lameness really isn't any big deal) to run him at the Midsouth Training 3 Day, and a friend thinks that giving him the experience of steeplechase will help. I really hope so. He's got a lot of jump, and he's game, and he loves it--but by golly we've been slow for awhile.

  • #2
    Originally posted by gully's pilot View Post
    I'm coming off a bad cold and it's high allergy season, so I had some asthma problems toward the end, which didn't help as it made me more of a passenger. I'll say that's worth 10 seconds.
    Not much help with the horse, but I agree that asthma symptoms can really cramp your ability to be a fit partner. My vote would be to make sure you have the asthma symptoms under control so that you can best get him going the appropriate speed. I know that my asthma has crept up on me in the past few days, such that I didn't realize why I had no endurance despite being on my regular steroid inhaler.

    Good luck and take care of yourself!


    • Original Poster

      I used to have really serious asthma, but I'm much better now. I do have an every-day regime and one I do from four days out from xc. Given that I'd had a cold, I probably should have gone to Plan C, which is to take some prednisone for a few days out, but I've been so well managed I really didn't expect trouble. As an aside, for years it was really hard to work on my own fitness, because every time I ramped up the intensity of my exercise routine, I had a big asthma flare, and every time I had a big asthma flare, it made my lungs techy for days, so that I couldn't really exercise at all. I'm so thankful to have a really good asthma specialist physician, who felt happily challenged when I said to him afew years ago, "I know that I'm breathing the best I ever have in my life--but I need to be better, because I want to be more athletic." But I have had three separate physicians tell me that I'm lucky to have not died from asthma as a child. So I am really careful. If I'd started serious wheezing any earlier in the course yesterday than I did, I would have pulled up. I've done so before.


      • #4
        OK the following is advice that has the qualifier that you have the asthma under control and have a buddy with you.

        Find a fellow rider who is competent at a gallop, hopefully with a non fruitcake horse.

        Find a decent hill to gallop up free of gophers, ant hills and unemployed ambulance chasing lawyers.....

        Combine the two....

        First at a trot, a couple times. Doesn't have to be more than a few mins trot. Doesn't have to be straight. Can be curvy.

        Teach the horses to go up together head and head. That is to say you riders have to work to keep them next to one another.

        Next try a canter, but no more that 1-3 mins of this at a time!! (THINK PHAR LAP)

        BUT first and foremost..have an ESCAPE PLAN!!!! If they're too strong have a way to say that to each other and know to stop when it's not going well.

        Ideally however you want to use the horse's natural instinct to be first with your training. Let him get a head in front and then hold him as the other horse comes up and passes him so his head is at the other's rider's knee. And then move him up so her horse's head is at your knee.

        Walk down hill and repeat as needed considering what the horses can handle with their current fitness.

        Do this 1x every 10 days and in a month or so you will have a horse that knows what "GO" means.

        (If any of this is not crystal clear, ask.. I may be able to describe better)

        "Courage is not the absence of fear but rather the judgment that something is more important than fear. The brave may not live forever but the cautious do not live at all." ~2001 The Princess Diaries


        • #5
          I had a horse who wasn't so keen on the "go" part (especially in an arena, but to start with out in the open as well). In addition to being stupid and racing him against some friends (we were all in control and competent at the gallop, fear ye not).

          Just a thought... do you do gallop sets? With my old guy, we'd canter, then gallop, then canter, then gallop, for whatever time intervals and speeds were on my schedule for that day. It helped get the idea of, "ok, this means go" more into his head. I also use the older galloping position (or attempt to ) so when I got up out of the tack and crouched forward, he knew that meant he needed to get outta dodge and move his feet. I did mostly jumpers with him but I still liked conditioning him more like an event horse, I suppose that's a leftover habit from when I evented him a little bit.

          Now with my OTTB, we have the opposite problem... which is one I much prefer, honestly, hehe.
          Trying a life outside of FEI tents and hotel rooms.


          • #6
            Did anyone more experienced walk the course with you?

            I ask because you said you didn't take sweeping turns but you may not have taken the most efficient lines. Did you note where on the course to kick up the speed to make up for where you took back?

            I walked a training course once with a young rider (as a favor for her trainer who wasn't there) who was having trouble making time. Apparently...I walked very different lines then she would have done....and I highlighted spots on the course where she needed to open her horse up because she would probably lose time on a few other spots. (and where to take a tug and make sure she could get him back ) It was like a light bulb went off for her. And she made time that event (and won).

            So be fore you stress about teaching your horse to run....I would be looking at how you ride the course. I suspect he knows how to run...you just need to know when and where to ask for it!

            Good luck on your asthma...I have to deal with it too and it isn't fun. Yours sounds a lot worse than mine.
            ** Tact is the ability to tell someone to go to hell in such a way that they look forward to the trip. ~Winston Churchill? **


            • #7
              Fox Hunt

              There is nothing like fox hunting to teach a horse to gallop over jumps. I believe that TN has a healthy fox hunting culture. Ask to ride as a guest, hilltoppers first and then first flight.

              Bruce Davidson said it at the Annual Meeting a couple of years ago... teaches a horse to gallop over terrain, they gain confidence with the herd and then get bold.

              It has done a world of good to our eventing... now, just need a season where both horse and rider are sound and we will be ready to move up.

              Good luck to you!
              Live, Laugh, Love


              • #8
                My old Training level star started out just like Gully. It's been fun following your stories because he sounds just like my old guy.

                When my guy started he had no clue how to even gallop. It took 2 seasons at Training, but once he got the fitness and then figured out how to gallop, he could easily have handled Prelim speed.

                So, we had to make sure we came out of the start box and immediately got up to speed. Then make sure we were jumping out of stride and landing efficiently. And like one of the other suggestions, make sure you are riding the right lines, or as directly to the next fence as possible. Making your rounds as smooth and efficient as possible will save you quite a bit of time.

                It is easier said than done, but with a little practice each time out, it will slowly become habit for Gully. Have fun and keep us posted.


                • #9
                  Also..teach him to run into contact on his mouth. When I slack the reins to my horses they slow down. When I increase the contact they increase their RPM's. Try working with or at least watching how race horses train.
                  Breeders of Painted Thoroughbreds and Uniquely Painted Irish Sport Horses in Northeast Oklahoma


                  • #10
                    Nothing additional to offer but your tale does remind me of attempting to teach a friend's horse to gallop. No hill, but we did have a nice sloping trail with good footing. We started by having my horse lead and the other follow at the trot and then at the canter to try to inspire the other horse. We finally ended up hand-galloping side by side, with her urging her horse forward and me holding back on mine for all I was worth. So, she asked me to gallop off in front and she if her horse cared. I slacked the reins a bit and Jive took off like a shot, leaving poor Einstein in the dust. Einstein didn't care. I got to the end of the trail, pulled up, and waited. And waited. Finally, along came Einstein at this lovely relaxed canter, galoop, galoop, galoop.
                    The Evil Chem Prof


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by crosscreeksh View Post
                      Also..teach him to run into contact on his mouth. When I slack the reins to my horses they slow down. When I increase the contact they increase their RPM's. Try working with or at least watching how race horses train.
                      I'd probably skip this method. It runs counter to the most basic training of any dressage or jumping horse, and is only going to serve to confuse and complicate things.

                      OP, do you ever get your horse out in the open and just go forward? I think it's perfectly ok if he's a bit of a kick ride, you just need to be on top of when you need to kick. Would so much rather that than a horse running away while it's rider hauls on a snaffle to no avail.


                      • #12
                        In addition to what XctryGirl said about teaching him to move out, when you are on course make sure you leave the start box trying to make the time. If you don't you will have a hard time making it up.


                        • #13
                          I would also do gallop sets where you increase and decrease stride length, from say 300 mpm (but active) to 520+. Teach your horse to respond to your upper body position. You soften the reins and lean forward, your horse GOES. You sit up, half-halt your horse shortens. You will probably need to go to the whip the first time as he won't burst forward with energy when you first ask. Try galloping towards the barn to encourage him to lengthen his stride.

                          Do this forward-and-back a few times a week until he gets it, and make sure you include it in your warm-up for XC. Eventually, he should respond to a slight shift forward in the upper body and a lightening of rein. Then his "cruising speed" will be completely based on your position.

                          Also, try to ride away from your fences. Land, and gallop, dont take 5 or 6 strides of patting yourself on the back after doing something hard! That will also get him in the forward frame of mind.

                          One other thing: you can kick your horse every stride by pushing your feet against the stirrups and then letting them spring back. This is easy on the rider but gets the idea across.


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by gully's pilot View Post
                            If I just loop the reins and don't kick out on course, I get Novice speed. If I kick, I get a burst of speed--but then back to Novice.

                            This means he is behind your leg. Maybe that's not the case for you in dressage or at slower speeds when jumping, but he is behind your leg on x-c when he does what you say here.

                            When you do your gallops at home, practice lots of changes of speed, and don't be shy about using your whip if he doesn't answer your leg. If you put him at X speed, he should stay there until you tell him to slow down. If he slows on his own, get after him immediately. You have to be consistent with this to get him to change his ways.

                            Originally posted by crosscreeksh View Post
                            Also..teach him to run into contact on his mouth. When I slack the reins to my horses they slow down. When I increase the contact they increase their RPM's. Try working with or at least watching how race horses train.

                            This is true for some horses. Lazy horses usually do much better when ridden "up into the bridle". When you have a connection, you then have some stored energy (RPMs) that will help keep the horse energized. It's counter intuitive, but the lazy horses usually go better with a good feel of the reins, and the hot horses go better with a very soft rein.

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