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How to fix this galloping issue

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  • How to fix this galloping issue

    My horse is a 15yr TB, has been off the track 11 years, and has been dominantly a ring horse with some controlled walk/trot/canter on trails and a schooling field. I haven't had the place to take him out and let him gallop until very recently, when I moved him to a boarding farm. He was intended for hunter/jumper, I saw he had tons of holes in his flatwork, so I did mostly flat reschooling for a while. He now goes beautifully in a fat double jointed copper loose ring in the ring to flat and to jump, and also goes in this bit to hack out walk/trot/canter by himself.

    Recently I've been taking him out for hacks around the farm, the majority of the path is around the edge of a big hay field (very open). He is not barn/buddy sour in the least, so that's not the issue. He's very good to trot out for the first bit, has a good, controlled, balanced, and fairly slow canter when I ask, and up until yesterday had a pretty good gallop. I'd let him go, encourage him on, and he would stretch out low (he isn't a high-headed type horse). The slow-down would be a bit tricky. I could get him into a definite slower balanced canter, but it would take a while before I could get him to drop back down into a trot or walk (once he breaks down from the canter, I can put him on the buckle and he'll walk or halt- no jigging). I could feel him start to brace against my and and sitting down in the saddle and half-halting did nothing. Pulling obviously wasn't working, so I'd have to plant a rein and yank repeatedly on the other (that sounds really ugly but it wasn't THAT terribly bad). After the first couple times of trying this in the snaffle, I switched him to a double jointed two ring elevator (using two reins). The extra rein on the leverage part hardly made a difference- he still tries to lean. I was okay with this because I figured I could gradually school him to listen a bit better.

    We can still do short canters after this, in a different spots, and he's fine. We canter or trot in a lot of spots where we can get short ones in, but only gallop in this one stretch because it's the only area long enough where I can really let him open up. I know that's part of the issue, but I KNOW he knows we're going to gallop there. He will walk fine, but when I trot coming to the stretch, I can feel him "asking" to go. I'll cue him, he'll go into an open canter, I'll give him a kiss and some leg, and he'll gallop. Usually we only do it once per ride, coming from the same direction, and then he's fine to do a short canter after that in another spot. So I know it's this one stretch. The day before yesterday, I turned him around after our first gallop, and let him gallop back along it. When it came to slow down, he wouldn't (as usual). I could definitely feel the bit working to lighten up the front up so he wasn't pulling down against me, but I had to put him sideways and use a lot of effort before I could get him to slow down. And this was coming into the woods- I doubt I could have gotten him to slow down in the open. Even still, it didn't seem that bad.

    Until yesterday. We were doing our normal gallop in the only spot where he can really open up, and it turned into a very open, very fast gallop with him REALLY stretched out. I tried to slow him down through my seat- nothing. Tried to slow him down through my reins and he pulled down and went faster. That's when it got scary. I tried a one rein stop, tried both reins, pulled on the snaffle and the curb reins as hard as I could, he just stretched down further and went faster. This, I imagine, is what his race training taught him? I had to really grab one rein, sit down, and pull as hard as I could into a circle in the middle of the hay field until he had to stop. Not easy and not fun.

    I didn't at all expect that. It wasn't technically like he was bolting, because I asked for a gallop, but I definitely did not ask for that open and fast of a gallop with zero input from me. I didn't gallop, canter, or even trot him after that. We just did a long walk to cool out (which he was perfectly fine for on the buckle). Usually our first gallop is fine, just the normal issue with completely coming down from a canter.

    Now I'm thinking he's probably going to do it again next time, which I want to prevent, but I still want to be able to let him gallop to stretch out. I know many people will say reschooling, but I can't school him if he's running away with me and I can't stop him at all. The mild mouth-piece two ring elevator (second rein is on the first extra ring) obviously doesn't work. A martingale would do nothing because it's not a high-head that's the issue, it's him stretching down and just running. When I was starting to show him in baby hunters several years ago (without good flatwork- he would try to pull down against you when jumping), we put a bit with a corkscrew mouthpiece on him because he would get strong, and even then I could get a slow slow slow canter out of him, but could not break down to the trot. I don't know what to use on him and would love suggestions on how to fix this problem. I know the horse very well and he's a bit tricky in general to figure out his buttons- which is why in general I've had more success in having a cooperative, smooth ride than some of my trainers (trainers have been on him to teach him new things but he's never as relaxed or cooperative with someone else up as he is with me, even doing basics). Point I'm trying to make is that I'm not overhorsed, we make a good pair, but I want to try to event him and can't do so unless I feel I can have a safe, controlled gallop with brakes. I need some new tools to try on him and hopefully you guys can help!

    Sorry for the super lengthy post, I just wanted to include all the details.

    ETA: He hates anything with a curb chain and goes in a figure-8 bridle.

  • #2
    A bigger bit usually isn't the solution, unless you need emergency brakes when you're at a show. The goal is to deal with everything in a snaffle (or as close to it as possible) at home so that when you do go to an event, any "upgraded" bitting will get the respect you need to stay safe and controlled.

    When track horses are galloping, jockeys have a strong hold of their mouths and are in 2-point. When the race is over, they sit up and loosen the contact. (This helps explain it: http://eventingnation.com/home/laure...olume-vii.html)

    Learning a pulley rein (sounds like you were doing a version of it) as emergency brakes is always a good idea for when you're out in the field. Using hills to practice "go" and "whoa" is helpful. Instead of letting him gallop around, practice cantering/hand gallop --> increase speed for X amount of metres and then come back down to circle at a balanced canter. Add in lots of change of speed so he comes back to your hand when you ask.

    I have periodically seen galloping safety/position clinics available... sounds like something like that would really help. They will teach you how to teach him on being more responsive in the higher gears.
    A quick tutorial on interval training: Conditioning your horse for eventing


    • #3
      Sometimes horses learn too well. You've given him a place to do something fun and now that's all he'll do and on his terms.

      You don't mention if you ever do anything besides canter/gallop in this place, but you need to start walking it. Having done the same thing myself, I now know for the horses who love to run, I can't enjoy it every time or this will happen. They learn "we gallop here", rather than waiting for you to tell them what to do.
      He's not going to like it, but you have to walk in the 'fast' places until he's calm. If he gets too strong/jigs, he has to turn back. When he is reliable walking you can try trotting but make sure you have brakes - so you let him trot, and bring him back right away.

      He has to be listening to you and waiting for you to say OK. It may take a long time for him to unlearn this.


      • #4
        I'll be interested to hear possible solutions too because my horse stretches doooooown and gallops too. And he's not as OTTB. He's a Saddlebred. At first I thought it was a reaction to my two point and he was trying to lug on me so I've switched completely to a neck strap and gallop on a loose rein and he still does it although he is now better than he was a few months ago. And once they're down there, it's pretty hard to get them back up where you have a chance for control.


        • #5
          Hi there, I think your horse is finally allowed to do what he was bred for and trained for. Even after years of confined ring work he still remembers his job. So do not blame him.
          I'd suggest you go do your work with this horse along with another horse or several that doesn't/don't have this problem. As someone else suggested - walk and maybe trot only thru the areas where the horse expects to gallop. Try to figure out what slows your horse down - jockeys whistle, talk, stand up in stirrups and let go of reins...
          Stronger bits are a shortcut, eventually you will ruin the horse.

          Further explanation:
          Pulley rein is foreign to racehorses, jockeys and excersise riders do not use that, this technique can be dangerous to the horse, the horse can fall over if the rider is actually strong enough to do this maneuver.
          We do not want a million dollar horse to fall over because we can't stop it and we don't want to loose our job doing a silly move like that.
          That being said - race horses excersise on tracks designed to be safe for galloping, they are normally eased to slower pace and they know from their daily routine where that is. Or they are led by experienced Pony or Older racehorse to do so and to learn.


          • #6
            Originally posted by Hilary View Post
            You don't mention if you ever do anything besides canter/gallop in this place, but you need to start walking it. Having done the same thing myself, I now know for the horses who love to run, I can't enjoy it every time or this will happen. They learn "we gallop here", rather than waiting for you to tell them what to do.
            Ditto. Sounds like you have a horse that likes to go. You can gallop a lazy horse in the same spot every day but definitely not the ones that love to run and learn to anticipate. My gelding even at 21 LOVES to gallop and I have to be very careful how much I let him gallop in the same spot or even how often because he will anticipate. It is not a training issue, it is just HIM. There are a couple rules I follow when I gallop him and I think they are good rules to follow for any horse that has their own motor while galloping.

            1.) Never gallop towards the barn if you are in the vicinity of it.

            2.) Don't gallop in the same spot every time you ride there and do not gallop every time you ride out. You must also w,t,c in that spot and try to gallop in other spots as well. Most horses catch on pretty quick if you repeatedly gallop in the same spot and will start to anticipate.

            3.) Gallop while going up an incline or gentle hill for additional leverage/control.

            Hope this helps


            • #7
              You've made yourself "Pavlov's" horse!!! TB's run...with regular practice you have retaught him that it is ok to run. Your "bad"!! I would stay away from that section of trail for a serious time...then only walk or controlled trot there. You now have to start over to "untrain" your TB and make him back into a sane show/riding horse. Good luck.
              Breeders of Painted Thoroughbreds and Uniquely Painted Irish Sport Horses in Northeast Oklahoma


              • #8
                Just dont let him flatten (that is a running posture, and pulling up from that is like a race horse). A horse should be up/open/active with you following the bascule. If he thinks about flattening, slow him down (and/or trot) in the first place. Stay in two point as well.
                I.D.E.A. yoda


                • #9
                  Lots of trot circles/ serpentines/ transitions etc. You might not be able to walk straight across (possibly not even jig sideways) there for a long time, if ever. TBs are smart and they are also creatures of habit. You have to create a new, less exciting habit.

                  There are people that say they are the devil's handiwork etc.-- but personally I like draw reins for a horse/ situation like this as you can use them as a second rein and keep them soft unless you need an emergency brake.


                  • #10
                    So... you pulley-reined, pulled both reins, etc.

                    Did you ever drop them?

                    My guy is a rocking OTTB. I gallop him in the hills all the time, and he knows the routine, so it's super easy to stop.

                    We went out schooling at a facility with a track and I got to open him up. I certainly know why you did it. There's just nothing like galloping on a horse who knows what to do.

                    Until you want to stop. I followed your same progression of pulling, but since the track was fenced, circling wasn't an option. That gave me plenty of time to just sit there and think about it. I changed his balance by slipping the reins, and we just coasted down to a walk. Easy peasy.

                    You have to decide what you're ok with, though. In the hills, my guy knows that if I pick up the reins at X spot, we gallop to Y. If I do not, we walk to Y. That's fine with me. He's a creature of habit. If you want a soft, dressage-y horse all the time, never gallop. If you have a gallop stretch and want to do it, just learn to work with your guy.

                    Oh, and never, ever gallop towards the barn. That's asking for trouble.



                    • #11
                      This might sound kind of simplistic, but make sure you aren't anxious and thinking you won't get him pulled up easily. Negative self-fulfilling prophecy and all that. Plus he'll feel your anxiety and may interpret it as "yeah, she's amped up to go too!!!"

                      Like others said, old racehorses don't tend to get too worked up about galloping--that was their job for quite a while. When you are ready to pull up, make sure you sit up, but not down in the saddle, loosen your reins. Most race horses and ex race horses that I've ridden respond very well to that. Most exercise riders also tell them whoa in kind of a sing-song type voice too. Like "who--oo--aa" with a decending tone.

                      Also, if your guy was on the track for very long, he probably like peppermint candies--the cheapies you get from the dollar store. If he does, he probably recognizes the sound of the wrapper crinkling. Try carrying a few peppermints in your pocket and a wrapper in your hand. Ask him to "who--oo--aa" and then wrinkle the wrapper to get his attention. Sounds wacky, I know, but I once taught a confirmed run away to come back, just by a candy wrapper. Of course, he was an absolute candy-hog, but it wouldn't hurt to try.

                      Last edited by Chestnut Run; Nov. 7, 2012, 09:27 PM. Reason: hit enter by mistake and it posted before I was finished


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Chestnut Run View Post
                        Also, if your guy was on the track for very long, he probably like peppermint candies--the cheapies you get from the dollar store. If he does, he probably recognizes the sound of the wrapper crinkling. Try carrying a few peppermints in your pocket and a wrapper in your hand. Ask him to "who--oo--aa" and then wrinkle the wrapper to get his attention. Sounds wacky, I know, but I once taught a confirmed run away to come back, just by a candy wrapper. Of course, he was an absolute candy-hog, but it wouldn't hurt to try.

                        LOL! Never underestimate the power of the mighty peppermint!
                        Unrepentant carb eater


                        • #13
                          We went on a trail ride in Ireland several years back. The horses were pretty much unflappable packer types but we got to one particular field one day and the horses all started jigging and fidgeting. Our guide turns back to us and says "this is where we like to gallop." She was off like a shot, and so were our horses. There wasn't a thing we could have done to stop them. Once we reached the end of the field, the horses came back to a walk and were back to their old selves.
                          A bit later we reached another spot and the jigging and fidgeting started up again. My coach (she took several of us) asks, "do you gallop here too?"
                          The trail guide says, "yes" - end of discussion till we hit the end of the next field.

                          Maybe your horse thinks he's figured out the game. He's decided that's where he gallops. I'd do tons of transitions in that area and make sure you do your galloping in varying locations so he doesn't start to anticipate a pattern.
                          The rebel in the grey shirt


                          • #14
                            I've never heard of bribing a horse to stop galloping with candy. I guess it's like a parent promising McDonald's or ice cream to a wild kid to behave
                            And the wise, Jack Daniels drinking, slow-truck-driving, veteran TB handler who took "no shit from no hoss Miss L, y'hear," said: "She aint wrapped too tight."


                            • Original Poster

                              Thanks for all the advice!

                              This is the only place I let him stretch out the most (its the most suitable long stretch) and I admit I've become addicted to doing it, so we've galloped in that spot every time I've taken him out. However, its always been more of a controlled gallop- he has never stretched out this much/low.

                              He never jigs approaching this spot, he always walks or trots on the buckle, and will canter nicely if I ask. I am the one asking for the gallop, its just the last time I did, he flattened out too much and went into racehorse mode. I can't blame him though- he was definitely in horsie heaven and its like he got zoned into it. I didn't even think about standing up and dropping the reins, but I should've because he seemed like he really thought that's what he was supposed to be doing.

                              After I have him back to at least a trot, he is perfectly fine to go on the buckle again or quietly walk on the buckle. Even after a gallop, he is fine to do a balanced soft canter or trot like we are in a dressage ring. It's just when I allow him to really gallop that we have an issue stopping.

                              I don't think draw reins would help at all on a running horse, especially one that will canter all day with his nose to his chest if he really wants to.

                              So I guess my best solution is to both mix it up by walking/trotting/cantering in that spot or to try the jockey-style slow down if I do let him really gallop in that spot. Or just do a balanced gallop and school the slow down for that.

                              We also never gallop towards the barn and we always walk back to the barn. He really isnt bad or obnoxious in the slightest, he just loves to do what he was bred to do. I love it too, but I'll love it even more once I know I can stop him. I also am not anxious on him since I knew before I could get him to stop eventually. I wasn't nervous this past time, because I didn't expect it. It'll be interesting to see if standing up and completely loosening the reins will work to reduce his speed. He raced three years and had some success, so he has to know his job.

                              Thanks again for all the advice! I'll have to try that and report back with what happened.


                              • #16
                                I forgot to say that the way to stop him may be to use a bridge and press down on his withers with it. Lots of TBs understand that cue. But I would not ask for galloping until you have retained control.


                                • Original Poster

                                  Oh, and he's kind of a finicky eater and has a maximum treat intake level It's kind of hit or miss if he's going to eat a peppermint, and he only like certain kinds of cookies, so I don't think that would be too helpful. However, that may REALLY help on my teenage ex broodmare pony that I'm breaking (or rebreaking since I don't know too much about her). She is very treat/reward oriented and it definitely helps her to relax and realize she's doing the right thing (she's an anxious type). I will have to try that trick with the wrapper! She's very smart.