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Dressage Frustration

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  • Dressage Frustration

    Anyone have a horse that just wants to GO so much that dressage seems like beating your head against a wall every day?

    I get so discouraged. I start thinking it is me - and then a horse like this mare comes along - a little rescue Arabian I have now - and she just goes soft in my hands and does it all happily but she is not a serious event horse.

    MY event horse - his XC and stadium is pretty solid. His dressage - GAWD all he wants to do is RUN - I work with two dressage trainers and they are also like - make him round all the time - make him stay slow and work off his haunches and through his back - so I do - I make him do this - I have tried all the techniques. But after 2 years I am like - he still is trying to gain speed EVERY step. I have to hold him back and half halt every stride. I feel like I am on his mouth SO FREAKIN much and I hate it.

    Irritating.

    Anyone have any outside of the box ideas? I have tried all the IN box things. And conventional - and all the long and low - to stay round on the bit - to lots of shoulderin - to transitions and transitions and transitions.... He just is not getting the idea to stop gaining speed all the time. TWO years I have been working with him. I put other people on him and he just runs away with them.

    I want an easy horse to ride. God are you listening to me? LOL

  • #2
    Hate to say it, but you may just have to suck it up and half halt half halt half halt. Yes, do all the things you said (transitions, lateral work, long and low, blah blah blah), but he sounds like he has a BIG engine and a very forward thinking mind (both VERY good things in my book!), and you may have to learn to direct it....or, maybe more accurately, learn to accept that that's what you have to do. Frankly, I wouldn't mind a horse like this, especially if he ALLOWS you to half halt. I much rather ride a horse I don't have to constantly create energy on....I rather contain it and redirect it to my liking

    Do try not to "hang" on him, though. When you half halt and he responds correctly GIVE to him for a beat or two, one rein or the other or both, as a reward for responding correctly. You may lose him immediately, but keep responding to proper answers with a little give EVERY TIME. I bet he'll figure out that if he stays soft and listening and waiting for you, instead of going off on his own agenda, that you will stay soft for him. Also, if he DOESN'T respond to a polite half halt, there is NO HARM in halting him to "reinstall" that half halt, then proceeding. Don't just keep going around half halting without a good response.

    I feel you. Toby is a (usually) a very forward thinking horse and has a powerful motor. His conformation and breeding (TB) work against him just a little in the dressage department, so I spend a lot of my time repackaging and redirecting all that great energy he has. It's a lot of work, but I actually prefer it like that. Also, even though he is a little powerhouse of a horse, he isn't STRONG in the dressage sense of the word. That level of strength is years away (if we ever achieve it because, after all, he is an event horse). Dressage is a long, long process, when done right.
    Amanda

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    • #3
      From your post, you sound a bit impatient. You need to RELAX! I know its hard but it is the most crucial thing in dressage.

      Take your time. Do big slow motion movements when you ask for something. It is not because the horse is going faster (trot or canter) that you need to ask thing via the reins in a faster manner. You need to have quick reactions of course but try doing so in a slow motion way. Ex. Instead of : pull here, there, wiggle, open, raise, pull again in two strides. Do : Pull, wait steady here I want you to be, relax, horse gives, hand back in original position, wiggle a tad, open back and pull a bit, wait, horse gives, hand back in neutral position in 10 strides.

      Also, relax your forearms and elbows (not opening your fingers off the reins) anytime you feel your horse becoming tight in its neck or back. Then do your half halt and WAIT for an answer before doing another one.

      Learn to use your core/abs/thight more than your rein and stay supple in your knees. When riding Xc or stadium, you're in half seat, so your horse might not be too responsive to seat cue (or maybe he just understand the 'go' and not the 'wait' seat cue!)

      Believe in the fact that dressage will help improve your ride over fences. It does.
      I do jumpers. and dressage. My turns, approches and my mare roundness over the jumps have truly improved.

      My dressage trainer is the trainer of an Olympic eventers so she knows about what is important in jumping and how to translate the feelings the rider gets from a jumping saddle to a dressage saddle. And she knows about the speedy gonzalez eventing horses!
      ~ 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

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      • #4
        How are his hocks and SI?
        Unrepentant carb eater

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        • #5
          Something that Becca Vick said to me at camp was to think/visualize that I was rising out of molasses, to help slow me down.

          Jimmy Wofford had a rider count her rising out loud, every other stride. " One" (up), "two" (down), skip counting for this up/down, then repeat out loud for "one" (up), "two" (down), skip the next, rinse and repeat. Say it in the rhythm that you want for your horse. Keep saying it out loud, until your horse conforms to your rhythm. Saying it out loud makes you work on your breathing, too.
          When in Doubt, let your horse do the Thinking!

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          • #6
            If he gets fast and runs through the aids, halt. Stand a few seconds. Back up a step. Try again. Repeat as often as he accelerates without permission. Repeat 5,000 times until it clicks for him that it is your decision, not his.

            I don't back every time...mix it up to keep him guessing. Be patient. This is not punishment, it is correction.

            Comment


            • #7
              There is also the cowboy way, may help since you have tried everything else. Take him to as big an arena as you can find. Put him on trot on the buckle. Let him go. Do not apply leg or rein, just keep him from running into the walls or out the gate. Did I mention on the buckle? He will eventually regulate his speed to a nice trot. Did I mention on the buckle? Once he get the right pace, let him go a couple more laps, praise him. Rinse, repeat. You can also do this at the canter. Be sure to listen to him breathing. You have to do this everyday for a while for him to get the picture. Be sure to do it at both gaits.

              Comment


              • #8
                maybe my horse isn't the same as yours but I also ride a speed demon. He likes to get quick and speed along, strong in the hand so he doesn't have to step under and work as hard w/ big pushing steps and carrying himself.

                You've gotten some great advice up above so I'll just add my two cents (especially about the hanging on part because I do it too and all I end up is w/ a quick horse very tight in the neck and not over his back). but please realize i'm not an expert - just a AA.

                My goal is to get the half halt to come through and then try to redirect his energy into bigger slower steps w/ his balance over his hind feet. He tends to push quick off of them. Lots of 10 m circles, shoulder in/shoulder out. flex, half halt, let the neck out, half halt, flex, half halt, let the neck out, half halt. Always pushing his energy bigger and slower through the exercise. No leaning on hands allowed, soft in the neck and out. It takes him a lot of strength to do this so right now, coming off a lay up and winter he can only do correct work for 20 minutes or so. Then we have to either quit or go for a walk. Patience is key because it takes a lot of muscle building and strength to carry themselves correctly.

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                • #9
                  Just a guess, but I'd bet you don't ride with your leg on him. If I'm right, the first step is to teach him to accept your leg.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Can you describe what is involved in your half halt? And as I ask this, I can remember horses that I have come back from riding feeling as though I rode in continuous half halt. The difference being that my half halts held. No hands, or not strong ones. This left my fingers and hands free to deal with roundness, and flexion.

                    My seat and legs dealt with body placement and stride length.
                    Some riders change their horse, they change their saddle, they change their teacher; they never change themselves.

                    Remember the horse does all the work, we just sit there and look pretty.

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                    • #11
                      I agree that he does need to learn to accept your leg. Go is not neccessarily bad, he just needs to use it for good not evil, which I'm sure you know. Let him go -- laterally. Never go in a straight line. String a bunch of figures and movements together where he has to bend and go sideways and transition. He will rush, but give him time to relax into a repetitive exercise. Yes, you will be working your butt off, I have so been there. You just want to scream and jump off. If your shoulders don't get ripped out.
                      Life doesn't have perfect footing.

                      Bloggily entertain yourself with our adventures (and disasters):
                      We Are Flying Solo

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by LaraNSpeedy View Post

                        But after 2 years I am like - he still is trying to gain speed EVERY step.

                        I put other people on him and he just runs away with them.
                        You need the right trainer (I know, easy for me to say, but they ARE out there) - put him in training for 2-4 weeks, then you ride every ride with the trainer for 2-4 weeks: you should now have a horse that is actually listening (& you will also have some new habits )

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          A friend of mine had a high energy appendix (body QH mind TB lol) who hated dressage, or really flatwork of any kind. She used to take him out to a hilly field for schooling dressage & then when they both got frustrated they'd go for a gallop. Completely unconventional and probably exactly the opposite of what most trainers say, but it seemed to work. Though dressage was never going to be this horse's strong point, it was good enough for LL eventing (through Training), and they did well enough.
                          "Choose to chance the rapids, and dare to dance the tides" - Garth Brooks
                          "With your permission, dear, I'll take my fences one at a time" - Maggie Smith, Downton Abbey

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by subk View Post
                            Just a guess, but I'd bet you don't ride with your leg on him. If I'm right, the first step is to teach him to accept your leg.
                            Originally posted by wildlifer View Post
                            I agree that he does need to learn to accept your leg. Go is not neccessarily bad, he just needs to use it for good not evil, which I'm sure you know. Let him go -- laterally. Never go in a straight line. String a bunch of figures and movements together where he has to bend and go sideways and transition. He will rush, but give him time to relax into a repetitive exercise. Yes, you will be working your butt off, I have so been there. You just want to scream and jump off. If your shoulders don't get ripped out.
                            This.

                            Put your leg on, and teach your horse that Leg does not mean Fast. Leg means move your hind end; move it under, move it sideways, but running from the leg is not what you want. Use your leg in every transition, in every halt, in every corner, in every change of bend. Leg is part of a half-halt, if your horse does not accept your leg, he does not accept your half-halt. In the beginning you'll have to use more hand than desirable, but as long as you LET GO you can be firm. The horse does not learn from the punishment; he learns from the release.

                            Ever worked with OTTBs? Rocket-powered horses? Instinctively, you want to take your leg off; but you have to work with the horse to teach him leg does not mean Run Away. It takes a lot of consistent practice, but it's necessary.

                            And by "leg on," I don't mean clamping, death-grip knees and calves. It should be a "breathing" leg aid, with a neutral seat and strong core.
                            “A clever person solves a problem. A wise person avoids it.”
                            ? Albert Einstein

                            ~AJ~

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              A great start is turn on forehand and MAKE his hind legs cross beneath him. Carry that into tiny half circles, leg yields, sidepasses, back and forth. And maybe you should change his name to Slowy, LOL.
                              Life doesn't have perfect footing.

                              Bloggily entertain yourself with our adventures (and disasters):
                              We Are Flying Solo

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                Originally posted by pheasantknoll View Post
                                There is also the cowboy way, may help since you have tried everything else. Take him to as big an arena as you can find. Put him on trot on the buckle. Let him go. Do not apply leg or rein, just keep him from running into the walls or out the gate. Did I mention on the buckle? He will eventually regulate his speed to a nice trot. Did I mention on the buckle? Once he get the right pace, let him go a couple more laps, praise him. Rinse, repeat. You can also do this at the canter. Be sure to listen to him breathing. You have to do this everyday for a while for him to get the picture. Be sure to do it at both gaits.
                                I did this with brandy in a sidepull all winter. I never touched the reins unless I had to and taught her to halt off of a neckstrap.

                                Aug of last year: 46 at training
                                Today: 38 at Prelim

                                I had to just wait her out and hope not to die. It worked.
                                Big Idea Eventing

                                Comment

                                • Original Poster

                                  #17
                                  LOL!!!!!

                                  Ok so I have worked with several trainers even though I have trained a lot of horses myself (I love the truth that the more you know - the more you know you don't know) - and a lot of the input is contradicting. But all your input is great!

                                  But its all valid and I have to just keep sorting it out.

                                  At the show this last weekend - the judge came to me and said she LOVED him and she knew his breed which most don't tag right off. And she shook her head and said she had a horse just like him and it took a long time. This was before I had said a word. She did not tell ME to do anything different except to just keep asking him to relax and stretch through his back and be patient.

                                  She then asked if I did long and low with him and YES I do. I actually had done on and off long and low for 2 hours prior to the dressage test. This horse can go and go and go - and it doesn't matter if he is in shape or not - he can go forever. He is the ultimate energizer bunny.

                                  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. Problem is then when I put him on the bit - he pushes against me. So I let him out - its like - on the bit he pushes - long and low - he pushes and settles. SO - Lauren - it is encouraging to hear Brandy was like that. I would not have guessed. I sometimes put him on the buckle and canter him long and low - let him run and settle and go - and wonder sometimes if I am enabling him or helping him (LOL).

                                  When doing a dressage test I have a choice - to be on the bit and accurate but tense or stretchy and more relaxed and out of balance a little - enough for things to be a little out of control and inaccurate. And I get discouraged because I am used to working a horse past this a lot quicker than this is taking - I am like - YOU ARE A SMART HORSE - why is this such a big question for you?

                                  One higher level trainer told me to keep him round and on the bit all the time. Another told me to let him be big and over his back no matter what and an eventing trainer told me to keep him slow regardless of what I lose otherwise. SO. I am like - CONFLICTING!

                                  I tend to mix it up - a lot of half halts - long and low - on the bit - let him be tense and push him with my leg round - long and low - half halts - ok, so maybe this is all correct and I just need to know that it will happen and if it takes 5 years - that is ok!

                                  This will be his third year of training. But both first and second were on and off. 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. AND he was just started under saddle and I basically just took him places - and with his previous health and history - I just rode him hacking and letting him get healthy - last year he accepted my seat and I can do leg yields and use my leg a lot more. BUT you all are correct - ACCEPTING of the leg is key - he scoots out from the leg - and we do a lot of shoulder in - leg yields - turn on the fore - and I find that when its over 70 degrees - he is better at accepting the leg (LOL).

                                  SO it is one of those thing - so hyper sensitive to the seat and leg and then I am trying NOT to block him with my hand.

                                  FLIP SIDE - cross country - he jumps anything and his legs are up and square and its so fun. And in stadium I just have to remind him once and a while to remember not to keep gaining speed. Otherwise he just jumps anything and turns in a dime regardless of lead. Mr. Speedy Buttock.

                                  But dressage is important so we need to get this!!!!!!!

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    You have to do your long and low but NOT drop the contact! The long and low needs to come from your half halt and contact. Not from letting the reins go. That is how you will teach him to trust and listen to your seat better.

                                    ETA an article from Jane Savoie : Long and low; how to from Jane Savoie

                                    And there are other good descriptions out there, just the first one I found googleling it!

                                    Because if you are dropping the rein and only riding on the buckle, you are enabling him in his forward motion. Actually, that is what you would do with a lazy slow poke.
                                    ~ 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

                                    Comment


                                    • #19
                                      What helped me with Doc (and ultimately Brandy) was to start thinking about "deeper." Tami was the one who ultimately tapped me into what improved them both. Anytime I asked them to do anything and they came up and resisted, I had to ride them deeper.... this is probably best done with supervision, though, so you don't end up with rollkur!! Any that imagery may not work the same for you as it did me.

                                      It varied from there, though, Brandy is the more forward, stronger horse, and I have to get her kind of deep and then KICK her up into the bridle and she'll let go a little through her back.

                                      I can't kick Doc up like that (even though he's lazier) because he just gets quick and choppy, like a sewing machine.

                                      That said, some of what I saw you do in warmup looked really nice. I was thinking "gosh, what is she so frustrated with?!"
                                      Big Idea Eventing

                                      Comment


                                      • #20
                                        My driving pony is a little dynamo in dressage - sometimes I feel like I am driving a runaway freight train (useful in hazards, not so much in the sandbox). I took a clinic with Olaf Larson recently (highly respected driver who used to work for Chester Weber) and he had me do one simple thing that has absolutely and totally changed this pony in a matter of about two weeks. Walk breaks. Short work periods followed by short walk breaks. It's been a great exercise to hone his working trot to working walk to free walk to on the buckle transitions and I am getting the most wonderful work this coming 17 year old stiff tense tight pony has ever given me. My husband applied the technique to his OTTB in the warm up at a recent horse trial and had the most relaxed and soft test they have ever put in. It may sound counterintuitive, but it allows both of us to re-boot and take a collective breath. In fifteen minutes I have a soft obedient pony who is ready to go to work - what used to take me 30 minutes of "wearing him down".
                                        www.amiddle-agedmadwomantakesthereins.blogspot.com

                                        www.pegasusridge.com

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