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Dressage Frustration

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  • #21
    The reason I suggested halting when he gets fast is that I think if it isn't working for him for 2 years, it is time to mix it up a little and try something else. Right now it sounds like he is saying "she's going to bring me back to "normal," better get in my kicks while I can!" Then bringing him back to "correct" is just reining in of the fun, not something negative that he views as a tradeoff so no reason to stop his customary behavior. If you halt/walk, a horse that likes to be fast will often think "I want to go fast, but if I go too fast she'll make me go SLOW, perhaps I should settle for [requested speed] so I don't have to stop YET again." If you are consistent it will usually click for them.

    Until he's willing to do adjust rhythm on your command and stay on that rhythm until you tell him otherwise, it's hard to work on relaxation/being round/through/etc. because even if it looks right, it's not really right because he's not being fundamentally obedient. It's skipping over the basics on the training scale -- he's just faking it (and since he sounds lovely, he might be able to get by with that to some extent -- but he will hit a wall in improvement).

    What you don't want to be is be hard on him with the halts because you don't want him upset. So be gentle, consistent, calm and steady. Pat him when he halts and otherwise do what you can to maintain a peaceful mind. Walk a bit like pegasusmom suggests. It is not punishment, it is cause and effect -- you choose extra fast, what happens is you get extra slow. He is smart, he will understand.

    Take this with a grain of salt, I learned my dressage through my German-trained jumper coach so I don't always do things by the book.


    • #22
      Originally posted by fordtraktor View Post
      Take this with a grain of salt, I learned my dressage through my German-trained jumper coach so I don't always do things by the book.
      Sometime, we'd wish horses could read the damn books!!!!
      ~ Enjoying some guac and boxed wine at the Blue Saddle inn. ~

      Originally posted by LauraKY
      I'm sorry, but this has "eau de hoarder" smell all over it.
      HORSING mobile training app


      • #23
        you have said lots of things that contribute to the issue

        1st, I have yet to believe that there is a horse out there that "hates" dressage.
        Horses make their opinion according to what earns the most praise. And they make their opinion according to COMFORT. So first you need to realize the idea that your horse can and should enjoy walking, trotting, and cantering.

        The first year I could barely SIT on his back without him flying off. He by nature wants to tense through his back all the time - so anyone sits even softly and he scoots off.

        The first thing that is easy to pick out is that you say he won't let anyone sit on him and he's super uncomfortable to sit.
        That makes total sense and goes along with your dressage issue. He's inverted. All the time.
        He is not accepting of the aids. Period.

        But he does need the long and low - and I do a lot of the on the buckle canter and trot around the arena and let him go and let him find his spot where he just stays and relaxes.

        He sounds spoiled. The above = letting him do whatever he wants to do. A competition horse must be taught to be a business partner--a soldier.
        On the buckle usually means with zero contact.
        Not sure if that is what you mean but for now, I will assume it does.

        Riding on the bit IS allowing the horse to be big over it's back. So I don't understand what those trainers are talking about.

        I am all about halting and backing, and then going forward as many have suggested. And for me personally, I do that with this type of horse, and I do it sitting. That way I can feel the EXACT moment the back starts to hollow. At that time I halt again, back, and proceed. This goes on over and over and over. Eventually the horse lets me in. When I say that I mean the horse finally accepts me as a rider and my body can sink into his. All of my aids are finally accepted.

        A REALLY good test can be with the whip. My new guy is like this. He is not accepting of me right from the start just yet. If I tap him with the whip he over-reacts, swishes his tail, or gets balky with his hind end. Drama Queen.
        When he finally lets me in, he reacts to the whip properly and does not give me a stupid dramatic reflex answer but actually stays within his rhythm and comes through a little more.

        Honestly, I chalk it up to work ethic. And yes, competition horse can go their entire lives with poor work ethic.

        There was a really good thread that we had up and running a month or two ago. It's all about working these horses and keeping them moving over their backs. I have no idea how to find it. Maybe someone could offer a link?
        I think it would be a good one for the OP to read through.
        Horses are amazing athletes and make no mistake -- they are the stars of the show!


        • #24
          I didnt read the other replies...

          But I own an OTTB mare who I used for eventing. We had much the same problem. I tried a few different dressage coaches who were all about trying to slow her down by yanking on her mouth etc. This only ever resulted in her wanting to go faster, or alternatively, rearing.

          The best thing that happened to us was finding a dressage coach who knew how to properly form a connection.

          I started taking lessons with Eddo Hoekstra and his help with my fast and furious mare was amazing! It is really difficult to explain how we were able to re-establish a proper dressage relationship but the first thing we did was drop our reins to the buckle and do walk/trot transitions with no rein contact. It was difficult, but it was really a great way to get me to think about my body language, and to get her listening to my body language and slowing down naturally. If youare wondering how I got her to walk, it started off rough and would take awhile, but it was really working on ME slowing my body and using circles to slow her down etc.

          I am just ETA that what I explained above was our warm-up We did work with contact once my mare was calm and listening etc... But establishing this type of warmup was the perfect thing, and was carried into anytime she was difficult or to warm up at shows etc.

          Eddo was amazing and gave us all sorts of excellent excersizes for her busy/fast tb mind It also didnt take us very long to get into this type of mindframe and we moved on pretty fast from it.
          "My ideal horse is the horse that I fall in love with again every morning when I see his face hanging over the stable door, looking for breakfast. " - Jim Wofford


          • #25
            Confess I haven't read all replies just skimmed them but the speeding up is defiantly tension.

            when you said half halts and that you feel like you are in his mouth all the time..... and that the horse is happy to go long and low and will regulate his tempo that way...... try half halts with your body, and not the hands. Use your abs, and weight aids, but do not take the hand back. And you can try a fatter softer bit. Or a thinner softer bit, like a nathe.

            that sounds counter intuitive on a horse that feels like it's running fwd away from you and the connection. I audited a Lucinda Green XC clinic where LG was working with rider on a very hot and fwd chestnut mare. After watching the 2 for a little while she had them switch to a nathe. Was amazing to see the mare soften and settle down. Is worth a try.

            ANd like what Pegasusmom said above, the free walk breaks also are helpful b/c they prevent the tension from building.


            • Original Poster

              SO TRUE everyone. Firstly - I CANT drop contact - Even when I ask him to stretch out and go long and low - I have to put him on contact - without contact - he wants by nature to shorten his neck muscles and stiffen through the back and gain speed. I have to have contact or we'd be flying around the moon.

              BUT Lauren you are right - Tami did mention this to me once - but I did not understand - basically because it felt like SUCH A FIGHT and if there is that much fight - I think I must need to rethink it. Jenni Hogan has said it too but to mix it with long and low. Real key is to do this AND to ride this particular horse EVERY DAY. But I have been making him go deeper each time he does this and loads of half halts - he goes through this very tense minute and then relaxes - I have to endure that tension and continue to push him through. Most of the horses I have worked with were relieved when they learned they could relax through the back - this horse - his nature is to tense and he seems happy as heck to just go like that.

              Last week in that jumper course - you may have noticed when I ask him to not gain speed he will toss his head to tell me no and I say YES and he will listen but he gains speed on every stride - its a great thing that he just flies over any jump in front of him. Jumping is easy for him. But I am thinking of putting him in a running martingale for jumping just to get him to stop saying NO when I tell him not to run. There is forward and there is fast and he likes fast. And his 'fast' is not necessarily unbalanced.

              Anyways - I did watch the video of my dressage test and he was on the bit the whole time and round - just so tense [/U][/B]. SO - that was a step in the right direction. The judge just patted me on the leg and said "Oh, I had a horse like this once.... it just takes a while....it took a long time...."


              • #27
                But, you NEED to drop the contact.

                If you "CAN'T" drop contact because you are using the contact to control his speed, then it is allll wrong. I'm sorry, but the reins DO NOT control speed. You will always have a tense horse if you cannot regulate his rhythm with your seat.

                I would ride him in a halter and learn to control him with your seat and leg. Start at walk. Halt him using ONLY your body. NO REIN. Baby steps.

                He will never relax until you learn to LET GO.
                Founder & President, Dapplebay, Inc.
                Creative Director, Equestrian Culture Magazine
                Take us to print!


                • #28
                  1) Is he a bigger mover than other horses you've ridden? It's possible what feels like GO is "let me give you my real working gaits" but it feels bad. I had one of these where the judge (fix-a-test is the best thing in the whole wide world, if you can find one) said my stretchy circle was is "real" working trot and I was riding him short the rest of the test. If you do a huge-normous spiral in and out with a longish rein, do you get something less rushy? That was the test a judge told me to use, and she was right.


                  2) Are you working mostly in the trot or canter? I have always found that with the really forward horses, particularly TBs, the canter is the gait that improves everything. If he is adjustable in stadium and x-c, maybe it's because the canter should be his training gait. Every trainer I've worked with when I rode a TB told me to do a couple of circles of trot each way and get our butts into the canter work as soon as we could. My last two TBs go much, much better after a couple of canters.
                  Shut up! You look fine! --Judybigredpony
                  Ms. Brazil


                  • #29
                    The phrase "push him to slowness" A former instructor said this over and over and over when I was riding a hot TB. Push him forward into the contact. Put leg on and make him understand it doesn't mean faster, use your seat and your post rhythm or hip rhythm to establish the pace you want and *don't* move faster even when he does (OK, that's really hard, but trying helps). Lots of lateral work, etc as other people have said. I did approximately a gazillion 10 meter figure 8s at the trot and the canter (he was very balanced) and soon he figured that he could just settle in and slow down while doing that. Every time he would take a rushing step, I brought him back to that.

                    For some horses, halting. Ask for the trot/canter you want. As soon as they rush halt and hang out until they chill, then go forward to the trot, but if they rush halt.

                    I also do the canter work first for the forward TBs.

                    And to reiterate, you have to be able to drop contact. If you don't feel safe, try it first long lining him, but work on walking with his nose on the ground. Take him out and let him graze while you are on his back to help with the idea of reaching down and relaxing. Get brave, drop the contact and let him zoom around, controlling the speed as much as you can with your seat and leg, when he gets tired and wants to slow down don't let him, push him forward to the pace you want, when he gets tireder, get a minute or two of the right speed and then praise him profusely and let him stop and walk a few minutes. Pick up the trot, rinse and repeat - you need to be fit enough to stay with him through all of this

                    Be patient (way easier said than done)
                    OTTBs rule, but spots are good too!


                    • Original Poster

                      THANKS GUYS!

                      I think I painted the wrong picture initially.

                      I ride him long and low stretchy all the time. He can canter on the rail and do counter canters and loops in a long frame. IT DOES HELP A LOT. He does build and build - but if I keep a soft contact on and remind him to stretch up and over his back - its all good. I am used to all the horses I have worked with before getting that light bulb moment when they stop needing me to remind him not to brace and not build. I guess I should celebrate the journey...

                      Breathrough moment this past week though - I put my trainer ON him and she spent 20 minutes pretty miserable - then switched bits. Then she spent 15 minutes on him when he was miserable and then things started to come together. It went back to the weakness he had when I got him - he was not started and he had apparently some kind of injury on the left side on the shoulder and neck area that gave atrophy and made him stretch forward with the shoulder uneven. I went through a lot of vetting, chiro and massage and saddle fitting and now he is even but weaker on that side. And everything appears to stem from asking him on the bit particularly that side.

                      So she and I figured out - overbend and then wait a second or two - for him to give and then softly set him into the outside rein. It takes longer and more diligence but appears to be the way to go.

                      At the dressage show last week - he got several 8s on his tests - the only bad things were when he did brace (as if he does - it happens so fast its hard to catch - he braces if ANYTHING minutely goes wrong at all - could be simply a trailer skidding on rock in the distance) - the recovery particularly if going to the right - is 3-5 strides which can mean the movement in a test is basically missed. I got a 7 7 6 7 and then a 2... then a 4 and then an 8.

                      Its just when I ride my WB or even the little rescue Arabian in a dressage test - I start thinking about how wonderful they are and how they deserve treats. When I ride this horse in a dressage test - I get half way through and start wondering if it is worth it and when will the test ever be over.
                      Last edited by LaraNSpeedy; Apr. 9, 2013, 05:23 PM. Reason: length