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No brakes

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  • No brakes

    Does anyone have any experience with a horse that won't stop? I bought a pony who's a real sweetheart. He goes bareback in a halter and lead, swims, stands tied, good for the farrier, etc. He's a nice pony! But he's got one BIG issue. He doesn't stop when you're riding him. I got his teeth done and have had him checked out by my vet to try to see if it's a pain issue. All I know is that if I try to stop him using both reins, he ends up looking me in the eye! Goes totally inverted and runs through the bit. I slowed everything down and have taught him the one-rein stop and he seems to be fine with that, but I can't seem to get over the instant and automatic reaction when I use both reins. I've tried draw reins, simply to keep him from going way above the bit, and that seems to help, but it's not really fixing the problem.

    The pony is 11 years old and has done pony club. I've taken him out and about on the road, through fields, and he's really sensible, so it seems odd that I get such an adamant reaction when I try to stop.

    Any ideas?

  • #2
    don't stop by pulling on both reins.....

    I would go back to dressage, dressage and more dressage. No, you shouldn't need a one rein stop (everytime)...but I don't stop my horses ever by pulling back on both reins. Put him on a circle or bend and halt off the outside rein.
    ** Tact is the ability to tell someone to go to hell in such a way that they look forward to the trip. ~Winston Churchill? **


    • #3
      I bought one 2 yrs ago who must have never been taught to stop on the racetrack. Lord that was fun times but now we are in a snaffle and he stops fairly well. He will never have a soft mouth but at least he is semi broke on the flat now.

      Like BFEN said it is all about the flatwork. Find a good dressage trainer and start there but I like to do lots of transitions really focusing on using my core to teach the horse to stop at the slightest aids but it will be a while before they figure it out. Mine started out needing a one rein stop which then graduated down to a hard tug on one rein and me using my voice and seat. He didn't seem to "get it" for a really long time. I was using a pelham because he was 16.3 h of racehorse fit and out in the open he does still need something stronger but it allows me to be super light and just whisper my aids instead of fighting with him. Once he became rideable on the flat everything else fell into place.

      Things to look at before are teeth, saddle fit and any lameness issues. Also some horses prefer some bits over others.


      • #4
        I haven't had this exact problem, but the following was suggested to me, and it worked.

        Give him a different cue to stop (voice or seat).

        Get a round-penning lesson of some sort (in person or a video) - make sure it's a well-recommended person!

        Teach your horse to stop in the round-pen and to associate it with the voice command 'whoa.'

        Maybe try a different bridle (different bit, noseband, or even a hackamore) - what worked for one of mine was to lunge with a chain over the nose - and then leave the chain on with a separate set of reins as a back-up if he decided to buck or run.

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


        • #5
          Teaching "whoa" is good, but please don't lunge with a chain over the nose. That is recipe for disaster and probably the easiest way to do some serious damage to your horses muzzle.
          My TB used to have a very similar problem. I would try LOTS of canter to halts. Teach him to respect the rein and that he can't evade the bit simply by inverting.
          The real problem, explained-


          • #6
            Thanks for bringing that up. I should have qualified that by saying it was a different set-up than a regular lunge-line with a chain. It was a separate chain threaded through the halter which was self-releasing - basically a lunging version of "when the chain is present I behave" for OTTBs.

            As for canter-halts, it is good in theory but it sounds like this horse is evading her, already not respecting the rein and inverting. She needs different tools until he respects something and halts, then she can work on respect for the reins in a normal set-up.

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


            • #7
              I had a horse with this problem. Didnt start with this problem, came back from a trainers with it... Found nothing wrong with teeth, he knew whoa before, trainer was a well known trainer...

              Had the chiropractor check him. Had a vertibrae out of place in his wither area. Downward transitions were hurting, and in pain, would have his nose straight in the air. It was bizarre. Vet never saw it. Chiro worked on it for about 6 months, 2 sessions a month to get it back in place. Took a lot of retraining to get him to realize it wouldnt hurt and develop those muscles to keep it in place...

              Cant say he was 100% perfect when he went to his new home and that was about 4yrs later. We heard after he was sold from one of the trainers grooms that the horse flipped over on the ties. We always wondered if that might have done it. We'll never know.

              But i wouldnt rule out pain just because a vet checked. Have the chiro look if you've got a good one somewhere close.
              Your Horse's Home On The Road!


              • #8
                If you're looking him in the eye... you need a running martingale. (or maybe a standing to do just flat work in) If he's being good, it does nothing... However if he tries to throw his head up beyond the point of contact, it catches him.

                I rarely jump without one.
                Yes, I ride a pony. No, he would not be ideal for your child. No, he is not a re-sale project...


                • Original Poster

                  Thanks for all the advice. He's such a good pony about everything else, which is why I'm concerned that it might be a pain issue. I purchased him as a resale project, cause he's such a steady eddy about everything, but I certainly can't turn him over to a kid if he doesn't stop!

                  I've backed off and gone back to long and low, stretching and softening. I get the not stopping with both reins, but I can't do a half halt or anything without getting resistance. I've tried a running martingale, but it doesn't seem to help. I've been lunging him in side reins and he has no issue with those.

                  Someone's done some dressage training with him. He's got a BIG trot for such a little horse and I think that may have been part of his problem. I think his last owner might have been afraid to let him go forward, so they hung on his face. I'm going to try a hackamore or bitless bridle on him to see if I can break the response cycle. He's really good outside of the ring. It seems to really be more of mental block than anything else, but I'll definately get the chiropractor to take a look.



                  • #10
                    You might want to try a kineton noseband, in addition to flatwork fixes. It creates pressure when they resist. I've found it to be effective on my little guy. He's not so bad for flatwork, but when I'm galloping or jumping his head is either in my face or he yanks out my shoulders because he gets so excited. He gets pretty pissed with a martingale (running, German, or otherwise) or anything other than a double jointed or mullen mouth snaffle in his mouth, so I've found that playing with nosebands helps me. I use a kineton on "up" days or when I'll do gallop sets and want ultimate control, but I switch it out with a figure 8 too. He is extremely picky with his mouth so I keep a soft bit in (less worrying about my own hands! ) and let slight nose/poll pressure from nosebands help me out.
                    “I always knew I had the ability, I just had to find the horse to get me there.” - Calvin Borel, on riding Street Sense to victory in the 2007 Kentucky Derby


                    • #11
                      One other thing to check

                      Make sure he's not biting himself or putting sores on mouth from the bit...does he do it after you've ridden a while or right away?


                      • Original Poster

                        Thanks for the advice about the noseband! I ride the pony in a KK french link snaffle and I don't think going to a bigger bit is going to do anything. Changing nosebands might help a lot.

                        Usually he's really resistant when I first get on. I do a lot of turns and circles, making sure he's soft and bendy. Then I'll sneak in some transitions on the circle, using a little more inside or outside rein each time, so he doesn't get the idea that I'm using both. I can usually get him to walk, trot, and canter pretty well, and I can stop him if I circle and alternate the inside and outside reins.


                        • #13
                          If you have access to one, I'd suggest having an equine dental specialist look at his mouth. What you describe does sound like a pain reaction more than a training reaction. This horse is eleven and not a fresh off the track TB. Even if the 4Her rode western and didn't use the bit much, horse should be over the "tightening of reins means go faster". If fresh off the track, it sounds like the classic OTTB response.

                          He might have a broken tooth or even broken bars, and I'd want to have the bit seat area checked thoroughly--maybe even radiographed.
                          "I'm a lumberjack, and I'm okay."
                          Thread killer Extraordinaire


                          • #14
                            another thing to look at....does your saddle fit him....or does it sit sort of perched on his back...or on his shoulders?...to engage his hindquarters to stop, he must also raise his back, and if the points of the tree are digging in when he does that, he will invert his back, causing him to invert his whole neck as well, to escape the discomfort.
                            When the saddle sits on his back correctly, the front points of the tree should sit an inch at least from the back edge of his shoulderblade, and viewing a close contact saddle from the side, you shoule have the cantle about an inch higher than the pommel, with an all purpose, more like an inch and a half or more.
                            I agree with the others who feel this is an envasion...he needs to be taught to come from behind in order to stop, but if it hurts, asking him to engage, and raise his back is painful to him.
                            What would you try if you knew you would not fail?


                            • Original Poster

                              I just had his teeth done in Kentucky by one of the vets from Rood and Riddle Equine Hospital. She didn't see any major issues when she did his yearly exam and "clean up".

                              I wanted to see if the saddle was an issue, so I lunged him without one for about a month. I thought maybe it would help to have him get some muscling and remove the rider from the equation altogether. He's really good on the lunge and seems to have no issues with the side reins or the bit.

                              I don't know if it's a "shadow" pain response. Maybe some of his tack used to hurt and he's tensing up because he expects pain. I'm hoping that he'll be able to get over this. A little girl at my barn rode him for a lesson today and she popped him over a couple of low fences. Apparently, he was a superstar. She had no problems stopping him, as long as a jump was involved somewhere. He just seems to get evasive on the flat before they started to jump. Weird.


                              • #16
                                My guy can be a bit strong and bull on a bit. He does one of two things when he gets going. He either inverts like your pony, or his head disappears between his knees (that's more on xc when he's having a ball and can get a head of steam up). He also locks on to the left rein when he's having fun/pissed off/running off with me a bit/etc, and if I try to just hang on his face, I either get a really pissed off Vernon, or just get tanked off with even more. What works best is A) doing like BFNE says and making sure the flatwork is there (and I reinstall the flatwork EVERY time I strike off to go to a jump, and in between jumps). The better I dressage gets, the easier he is between fences and galloping in the open. and B) I MOVE the bit in his mouth, gently rocking it side to side. It helps keep his mouth softer, it breaks him loose of the left rein, and it keeps ME from trying to win tug of war with him (not going to happen). If I try to manhandle him, I am either going to be picking my nose with his ears, or have him completely blow through my ill concieved half halt. If I'm gentle and move the bit GENTLY (this is NOT a seesaw action at all), he softens in his mouth and back and listens.

                                Another thing that helps his just gently flexing his head and neck left and right, which also keeps him from bracing and blowing me off. If you watch some videos of Pippa Funnell, especially on Primmore's Pride, you can get an idea of this...I actually picked it from watching her, and it has come in handy on several horses.


                                • #17
                                  YB- I use simliar exercises on my big guy. Piss him off with to much of anything and you have the head in the face and when you get rock and rolling his head can be on the ground so always a riding challenge. Keeping the bit moving gently keeps him from locking anywhere and I am always thinking about moving his shoulders so he can't brace. It can be as simple as a bit of overbend or counterflexion but maybe some lateral movement as well. If he blows me off over one fence he gets a very sharp reminder to knock it off and then I allow him another chance and ride softly. He has caught on much quicker to the reminders as he has gotten better in his flatwork. If he lands and runs then he gets a transtion down and sometimes even a few steps backwards. Then soft hand and repeat.

                                  It is also helpful to play with different nosebands, martingagles and bits just to see what they go happiest in. Some of them just are that opinionated that changing one thing can make them a happy horse..or one change can make them run away from the evil.


                                  • #18
                                    Are you using a single jointed snaffle? On some horses with low palettes the joint will stab them in the palette when both reins are pulled. A double jointed snaffle or even a straight bit might be more comfortable. Try feeling around in his mouth to see how much clearance he has.
                                    "The mighty oak is a nut who stood its ground"

                                    "...you'll never win Olympic gold by shaking a carrot stick at a warmblood..." see u at x


                                    • #19
                                      It is also helpful to play with different nosebands, martingagles and bits just to see what they go happiest in. Some of them just are that opinionated that changing one thing can make them a happy horse..or one change can make them run away from the evil.
                                      Ditto. Going from a flash to a figure eight has helped a lot with the left rein issue with Vernon. He is better in a loose ring, I think, as it can never be too stable in his mouth. Today I tried a very mild slow twist loose ring and it was really pretty nice. Not too much left rein hang, and the couple of times his head disappeared, he kinda went "hmm, that's not as fun as it could be," and wouldn't continue to bear down on me as he will in just about everything else. Experimentation is a very good thing (and why I LOVE having a gazillion bits to choose from, even if 99% of them hang on the wall collecting dust most of the time).


                                      • #20
                                        When I come across a horse lacking in brakes-after eliminating pain issues, I take it all the way back to the beginning. I have worked with several horses that lacked breaks for various reasons. Some were the result of a child to busy galloping to really train a young horse, some were adults instilling to much fear into training.

                                        Start with the mounting -if the horse stands to be mounted already, incorporate praise into the duration of standing before being asked to walk off.

                                        Get the horse on an approximately 20M figure 8 (each side is 20M). Before the change of direction in the center, ask for the halt. Really work on getting the halt from the seat, with very little rein or preferably no rein. Once the horse gets this exercise, end for the day. Whether that be 5 min or 50 min- end for the day. One or two more days of this - enough that the horse understands and is bored and easily responds to the exercise. Add in halts along the circle and start asking to move through the change in direction instead of halting. When the horse understands to halt easily on the circle, use the entire arena. Do a lot of serpentines,figure 8's and random circles to continue to keep the horse's attention. Throw in a lot of random halts. This is an exercise that should continue for a week or so.

                                        Next, add in the trot -start on the figure 8 and ask for the walk through the change in direction. The horse already anticipates slowing down through the change in direction and thus should catch on to the exercise readily, resulting in tons of praise and a happy horse.

                                        Continue with the trot the same way you did with the walk, except add in trot-walk-halt-walk-trot-halt-trot-walk, etc. Feel free to end sessions early when introducing something new and the horse responds readily.

                                        After the change in gait is understood -you can start working on lengthening and shortening strides. Then add in the canter.

                                        This is my usual method for horses with brake issues and have yet to have it fail me.