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Too fit--Help me not get killed

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  • Too fit--Help me not get killed

    I'm back, visiting from Hunter World. A while back, I came over here and got some faboo conditioning advice from you guys. It worked, for much better and at little worse.

    Now Freakshow is plenty fit. His a$$ is bulging and lined. His suspensories, upon palpation, say "What you got, man? Bring It-- anywhere, anytime."

    So when we got outside to party, he makes it clear that you may get killed if you canter. He's otherwise quite broke, lazy, but outside in God's country, he thinks the rules should not apply.

    Do you Eventers actually teach your horses to use themselves for Good rather than Evil? As in, "The hind end is meant for going forward, not bucking the rider off"? Or do you just manage the fit monster you have created as you go along? Freakshow is a middle-aged WB, so while he is kind, he has his share of Free Will. Opinions and a sense of entitlement sometimes arise.

    I already know that he's happier and I'm safer trotting or cantering along on a mowed path or trail through the woods and in a field. He doesn't see why his rider should ask to turn or do shapes at all if the land doesn't warrant. He takes those gratuitous requests as a personal affront.

    I ride him in my hard-to-fall-out-of western equitation bucket. You keep your hands high if he squeals like a happy pig or shakes his head. That means he's ready to put his head between his knees if you don't pay attention or he finds an excuse. The soft, stable bit that's plenty in the ring now isn't quite enough outside. The thinner unstable bit I have used so far is starting to piss him off. I don't want him to learn to curl up behind it. Death would come sooner and with less warning if he learned to carry himself too collected, just poised for bucking.

    Perhaps the western bucket, trotting only, high hands at times and a Waterford is the right recipe?

    Other ideas?

    TIA-- while I'm still vertical and can type.
    The armchair saddler
    Politically Pro-Cat

  • #2
    I am headed into class right now, so no time to really help you out, but had to say your post absolutely cracked me up. I love your wordings. Too funny!

    But on the topic, I haven't dealt with this firsthand, but I do retrain TBs from the track, and everyone always recommends turning them out (for several reasons) but one of the arguing points is just for the simple matter of them loosing some race horse "fitness" that way you have the upper hand when you get on them in later months/days.

    So while they are hardly your spunky WB, I am always glad I turn them out because HOLY COW are they fit and hyped up coming from the track.

    Good luck, hope you get some good advice!


    • #3
      You already have your answer, you just need to train the fire breathing dragon that he still has to work and listen. Easier said that done I know, since he is good in the ring and quiet, I would recommend starting in there for a short period of time just to see where your at, and then outside you go! Do dressage outside, have a small canter, trot serpentines through fields changing bend and keeping his attention. Just because he's fit doesn't mean he needs to be rude. I have had my fair share of nutty fit horses, and trust me they still have there moments of taking over (I own a bucker now, and he isn't even THAT fit yet). Also make sure now that he is fit he is getting out enough whether that is turn out, or long rides (even at just a walk). They can in fact be fit and polite!


      • #4
        MVP - Thank you for your post, I loved it! And, I got quite a giggle from your narrative.

        My soon-to-be 7 year old Canadian Sport Horse/Dutch cross is going into his first year of a program and competing Training level. He is fit and ready to go - to the point that he'll try to leave without me. So, I've taken to lunging him before I get in the tack. Part of me is upset to admit that 29 is not the immortal 16 I used to be, but I do love watching him move when he's all fired-up. Although lunging does not get out all the bucks and bounces, it does soften his exertion. On the other hand, I am complimented that he feels so good and full of himself. We all need good self esteem and the confidence to "express ourselves". Good luck and enjoy!

        Follow us on FACEBOOK


        • #5
          Thanks for the post! What a hoot!

          As for your problem, I find that cantering in the presence of other well-behaved horses works well. Once they see that their "peers" can act like gentlemen (or ladies) while cantering along, they more often than not get the picture and play along.

          Another alternative is to introduce cantering stretches up the biggest hill you can find. It is hard for them to drop their head and buck when they are struggling to heft themselves up a hill. Then, once you are at the top, continue cantering whether it be in a circle at the top or along the ridge. Keep extending these "flat" canter sessions until he stops associating cantering with "WHEEE!!! Bucking time!!"

          Good luck!


          • #6

            I missed your first post - but does he need to be this fit? If no, I would back off the conditioning a little!

            Agree with others that turn-out would be a good thing. Also agree that you need to teach him that "outside" doesn't mean "rude" or "no work". If you have to start off with some work in the ring, a lunge, or the Waterford to establish this, then so be it. Even if you don't have a big field to work in, you can still do shoulder-in and haunches-in, transitions, and probably turn on the forehand/haunches to keep him occupied. Maybe give yourself a 2-week timeline to wean him off the Waterford.

            ETA: April MD's hit the nail on the noggin - a BIG hill to canter up will often dampen their enthusiasm for bucking. But the side-effect is that they can become even fitter...

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


            • #7
              Giggle. Snort. Hee hee hee.
              I have a blessedly lazy horse who doesn't get nutty in the great out of doors, but she sure FEELS like more horse when we go outside. I feel your pain. Or rather, I try every day not to feel that particular pain.

              Agree w/ April MD on both of her excellent suggestions. Go outside with a solid citizen, another horse can have an excellent stabilizing effect. The cantering up a hill thing works well too.
              I tolerate all kinds of animal idiosyncrasies.
              I've found that I don't tolerate people idiosyncrasies as well. - Casey09


              • #8
                PS it sounds like you would make a wonderful addition to Eventer-world. Come join us on the dark side! Evidently your horse is trying to tell you something ;-)

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


                • #9
                  Originally posted by mvp View Post
                  Do you Eventers actually teach your horses to use themselves for Good rather than Evil? As in, "The hind end is meant for going forward, not bucking the rider off"? Or do you just manage the fit monster you have created as you go along? Freakshow is a middle-aged WB, so while he is kind, he has his share of Free Will. Opinions and a sense of entitlement sometimes arise.

                  TIA-- while I'm still vertical and can type.

                  Too funny! I have to ask... is his name really Freakshow??

                  I've had several of these types, and I just kept them busy with flatwork when they felt wound up. When out in the field, lots of changes of direction and transitions helps them understand that it is not playtime.

                  And you might find that as soon as it gets a little warmer he settles down. Mine have always been at their most crazy in the spring when the grass is good but the heat and flies aren't bad yet. It's a great time to be a horse!


                  • #10
                    Yee Haw!

                    made me laugh! excellent dialog! I'm still giggling I really got the mental picture of this going right now. I wonder how Bad Boy Billy got named?

                    I had one of these horses back in my younger years. He walked out of a stall looking ripped. Maybe he was in there doing isometrics. Enough to the point that at a BD clinic the first thing that Bruce said was 'is this horse reallllly this fit?'

                    Do you have a place to turn this horse out to 'express himself' first before being ridden? Because I like horses with character I always allow them some expression. He feels good and needs the release.

                    Bitting the horse up will only get him rounder. Forward is the answer to ride him out of the explosion that is building. He needs a breeze so to speak. Do you have something you can use for a gallop track? Not like he needs to get fitter, but he needs to blow off some energy. I had another horse once that would be a real pickle and could not settle down to work unless he had a breeze first. He was considered a rogue for years until I discovered how he wanted to be worked. He'd run and do that running humptey humptey back cracking. I'd just stand in the stirrups and ride it out, letting it go forward until he felt calmer. The forward kept it moving and easy to ride out. Not something that I would recommend to everyone, but it worked for me with this horse. He was a jewel to work with after I took the time to understand him. I had to give him something that no one ever gave him and then he loved me for it. He hated that he'd always been drilled and schooled and controlled all the time. The answer with this horse was that he needed a playtime. Not everyone's cup of tea but he was so talented, but quirky, that I had to find out what he wanted. I trail rode him bareback with a halter and a lead rope, he loved that relaxation outside. A saddle and a bit and he was game.

                    Whatever you do don't grip with your legs and snatch with your hands. Maybe an English saddle and some two point and a more forward ride off his back. You are going to have to try things to find your understanding with him. Maybe some bareback and loose rein stuff in the arena too.

                    Mental mind control with lateral work and transitions whenever he gets frisky too! And probably a feed adjustment. Good luck and write back -- maybe there's a book in your future.
                    Last edited by pony grandma; May. 13, 2009, 08:45 PM. Reason: I like the canter up the BIG hill idea! make him work it off
                    Don't let anyone tell you that your ideas or dreams are foolish. There is a millionaire walking around who invented the pool noodle.


                    • Original Poster

                      Smart and smarter

                      Thanks for the advice, good wishes and enjoyment of the very nice "problem."

                      From a quiet, broke, unambitous aging athlete, I'll happily take "I feel damned good!" So, if you will excuse the horrible un-PC expression, I say "No" but I'm also wearing Marsha Brady's mini skirt.

                      More on the inside of Freakshow's head-- where the problem really originates. He definitely has gears, expectations, rules, though he can be impressed and modified. You can make a point if you set up the right scenario. Thank God we are just *this much* smarter than they are and can conspire against them.

                      From the very beginning, he has always been told, Dressage-Nazi style, that he must listen anywhere, any time. Since he'd like to give you the behind-the-leg Western Pleasure ride in the ring, you must go outside to set up the training opportunity. Nazi-mom gets all riled up and on her stump about the meaning of the truly broke horse. She wants to make a point, risk to life and limb be damned. Horseboy spent plenty of his adolescence being either trotted and cantered hard when he offered a buck or summarily pulled over for a field dressage school until he said "Yes ma'am."

                      So he does know what the rules and possible consequences are. The Opportunist in a Horse Suit simply weighs the pros and cons and sometimes decides that telling her where to get off is just worth it.

                      The one problem is that after I come off, he is surprised and "the marble falls out." This is the *only* time ever that this horse panics and runs. If I must occasionally come off, (deeply wrong as that is!), then I want him to stop, if not gingerly place me back in the saddle. I should not have to walk home on my own two legs... that's not what I bought his four legs for.

                      But there is a road between outside and the barn, so it's a potential problem for other people as well me and the 1,300# dumb-a$$ who *should have known* he might get run over. He doesn't care about the totaling the soccer mom's minivan.

                      Again, all theoretical and righteous, I'd like to do what I think a cowboy would-- Put a halter, stud chain and 25 foot piece of cotton rope somehow out of they way but tucked into my jeans but not tied to my body. I don't want to jump off him, but So Help Me, I will. He should hit the chain and me anchored to the ground (well clear of his steel-shod weapons/legs) and have a chance to reconsider the wisdom of running off. If you can stop a horse's body at a moment early in panic, you can slow his mind too and he'll stop, think and learn. This one just needs the "reboot" opportunity in this one very rare brainfart scenario.

                      So dressage outside works, but when he's fit, you might produce more collection and a more escalating snit than you can get to the bottom of. Now in his teens, he doesn't go to full rage or escalate quickly and dishonestly. But once the cascade of bucks starts, you had better be able to think about staying in the middle of him, 'cause that's all you have. I have not been asked to count all the way to 8, but I'm not riding this unless there's a big 'ol belt buckle in the offing.

                      Cantering with polite buddies doesn't help. He doesn't care if every other horse is a pansy who is willing to Take It from the Man. He might just tell them so.

                      He would do well foxhunting week after week where he learned to conserve his energy because he might need it for an untold amount of time. This horse is, thank God, self-preserving. I'm too lazy and busy.

                      How about a deliciously passive-aggressive approach? I'd put a loose chambon or degogue-- the one that's like an anti-grazing device-- on him? I'd "invite him to make the mistake"-- hitting his tender lips hard when he throws his head down in preparation for World Domination? Then I'd say "Don't get mad at me. Technically, I didn't touch your face at all. It's between you and the ropes." The piece of equipment, of course, doesn't care and doesn't change if he hits it. He can try as many times as his little heart desires.

                      Otherwise, love cantering up the big hill. Did that. Slacker got tired and trotted near the top. Uh, huh, who's the pansy now? It's a nice exercise to keep track of his strength behind.

                      But it's just as well that he trotted. Being a WB, he used to think it was my fault--warranting punishment-- if his little butt got all worn out. He does have a better work ethic now. Still, I wouldn't put it past him to buck when we got on good flat ground at the top and he had recovered enough to put me in my place.

                      We won't be getting that fit. More walking and trotting might be fine, even if I have to stop bragging about how broke he is. The day before, however, we went on a walking trail ride with just a western pad on. No problem. When the started to slide, we leg-yielded to a log so the Short Chick could just step off, readjust and step back on.

                      Does his price really have to go down if you can't canter SuperBroke outside?

                      I'll be happy for more advice. If any of you guys want to come over and jump off my horse cowboy style, I'll watch from afar.
                      The armchair saddler
                      Politically Pro-Cat


                      • Original Poster

                        Other excuses disposed of

                        This horse is so First World.

                        An easy keeper, he just gets enough Carb-gard (sp?) to keep him happy while the other horses get their better stuff.

                        The horse is turned out 12-16 hours a day. It's in his union contract.

                        Not wearing the Waterford now. Check this: He would like to go bitless indoors. He wears the closest thing to nothing I can find in a bit-- a Nathe mullen mouth D-ring, with still hands. He does know he ought to push into contact, but he asks the philosophical question "WhyForchristsakes?" He has a thin, french link loosering for the great outdoors. Pretty big difference, no? The Waterford was just me getting all techno as a temporary solution. Confusing, unstable bit, but not especially painful in non-see-sawing hands. That oughtta teach him, right? Or teach me because it's my last hardware option used up.

                        Important point-- This behind your leg horse, getting over the childhood trauma of a dressage home always thinks leg means "bring your hiney up." He's right, but he has had to learn that that means "sometimes go faster and longer" too. So breezing must be explained and demoed to him. It's not the obvious answer as a TB would think.

                        I have never done the "lunge-to-make-'em-safe" thing. Slacker has never needed that either physically or mentally. He does get free lunged and time to play, roll and be groomed in the ring so that his head stays in the right space about me as good cop and bad cop, there being no fixed place for work or relaxation.

                        I am such a damned purist about training that I'll almost never give a horse whom I believe can maybe think his way through training an opportunity to get tired so that he can think better or longer. So tough ones that others would lunge first, I immediately put to work on long-lines. I want them, especially the potential serial killers, to be thinking about pleasing me from the moment I bring them out of the stall.

                        This horse really isn't that one, but he does generally take correction well and knows there's some unpredictable training agenda coming. Mentally, he's quite flexible and trusting. Pros like riding him because he'll take all kinds of carp from anyone thinking they have a new set of rules to show him. He just asks for the handbook, uncaps his highlighter pen and shows up for the lecture.

                        Besides, I'm selfish-- If anyone is going to use up my horse's body, it's going to be me. Not him by himself. Not a circle with me watching.

                        The other confession is that I should get fitter. I do want to try letting him breeze just to enlarge his repertoire a little more. But you guys would love watching. He's a not fast, not fancy WB. We're perfect for each other, except he shaped up faster than I did.

                        I think that's his whole portfolio. Have at it.
                        Last edited by mvp; May. 13, 2009, 01:33 PM.
                        The armchair saddler
                        Politically Pro-Cat


                        • #13
                          OMG! TOO FUNNY!!!

                          Sorry no advice to add here...
                          Fox Haven Farm, Inc.
                          Home of 2002 JC Registered stallion Artrageous

                          Artrageous has his own Facebook page!


                          • Original Poster

                            One more feature and the Dark Side

                            Thanks for inviting me to the Dark Side. We'd have fun except...

                            He'd deliver a Platonic-form-of-back-to-front-the-hands-do-nothing dressage test, even rip-roaring fit.

                            We'd give you guys a fluid, Eq picture in the Stadium, showing what Hunter World has to offer.

                            But Cross Country, he'd stop at every fence, get out his survey equipment and start measuring and calculating all kinds of things about the obstacle before he jumped it. Really, it gets old. All the similar-looking black coops on one course, made by the same guy are, in fact, the same.

                            Besides, I tell him, if you'd just get the minimum numbers-- height and width-- you'd know what all you needed. If you don't want to bang your sacrosanct legs, then just jump bigger. Smartypants likes to do engineering problems. He says that's the only reason he's still intact. He can't take my word for the nature of water and jumps, no matter what.
                            The armchair saddler
                            Politically Pro-Cat


                            • #15
                              oh my goodness mvp!

                              I have now spewed diet root beer all over my laptop and I have to host a meeting in 4 minutes.

                              you have an uncanny sense of humor and I REALLY want you to post more so that we can continue to enjoy it!

                              Sadly, no advice but man, your posts are really fun to read!!!!


                              • #16
                                Gotta love the smart ones!

                                Hmmm....it sounds to me as if he has learned that by dropping you he gets to run home. Please correct me if I am wrong.

                                If I am correct, and this was MY horse, I would hit the trails fully armed. I would never leave the barn without a bucking strap (stirrup leather works well), spurs, and a crop. If the horse dropped his head to buck I would start by spurring him forward. If that didn't work I would resort to the crop. And if he STILL managed to get his head down I would at least have something to hold on to!

                                The self-preservation instict we all love so much USUALLY means that once they manage to work their tails off trying to buck us off AND FAIL, they stop trying. It just doesn't pay off to spend all that energy. For some it takes just one. For others it takes several.

                                I think the fact that he is bright and lazy (mostly) will work in your favor this time.


                                • #17
                                  There's some good advice here but...

                                  The simple fact is: a fit horse needs to get out and gallop under saddle.

                                  It can be scary. Your knuckles will turn white. You will become a devout Christian, pagan, Muslim or anything that promises a god that will save you.

                                  But you will survive.

                                  If a galloping horse -- and I mean a horse that is moving forward -- bucks, it's no big deal. You'll ride out those bucks just fine. If the horse isn't moving forward, then happy sailing through the air.

                                  I learned to deal with this while working with an old-school trainer who insisted that lunging and turning out were just stop-gap measures that didn't solve the problem long term. She was right. So I learned to do this on a mare with a buck so lethal, she'd put me on the ground 4 times in half an hour -- and I don't come off easily. But if that mare was moving forward, she couldn't drop her shoulder and twist her hip. This was a hunting-fit mare, BTW. Oh, and I screamed and cried. It was scary.

                                  (The only time I've ever been bucked clear over the horse's ears was at a slow sitting trot. This was a straight shot, right over my mare's head, I flipped in the air and landed on my feet directly in front of her nose. We were both quite surprised. This was a different mare, which tells you something about the horses in my life.)

                                  Hills are good, as others have suggested. Also, if your horse has a favorite take-off point, just let him go but make him go on longer than he planned or turn him around and gallop back to his starting point.

                                  Keep your reins in a low cross/bridge and put your irons up a bit. The leverage will help. Eventually, you'll be having fun.


                                  • #18
                                    JER, I totally respect the value of your advice, and it sounds right. But I am not warrior enough for a horse that requires that kinda ride. Thank heavens I don't need to be.
                                    I tolerate all kinds of animal idiosyncrasies.
                                    I've found that I don't tolerate people idiosyncrasies as well. - Casey09


                                    • #19
                                      Great writing, mvp! And a really good question that you've brought up.

                                      Lots of good advice above. The hill work is highly recommended. I used to ride polo ponies, many of whom were only called that because they'd been purchased for that purpose from another career the day before. SOP on one that was being a smartypants was to boot it forward and keep it going at least a minute, maybe 2 after it was ready to quit. If we reached the top of the hill, we'd walk down quietly and then canter back up again until civility was restored. One horse required 4 repeats of this for two days running before the lightbulb went on.

                                      Once in a while we would apply the circling thing. Horse would begin to hump its back and our orders were to spin it in a tight circle (think horse's nose on rider's knee) until it didn't want to go anymore, add a couple of insurance spins and then continue the ride as if nothing had happened. If the rider can manage to be less dizzy then the horse after this, and is willing to reapply if necessary, this usually results in the horse having an epiphany. It does allow the rider to use a much softer bit, as all you have to get is a turn.

                                      Another back to polo ponies days memory, we always used a bit and bridoon (aka Weymouth, double bridle or full bridle) when schooling these horses. We'd use the bridoon (usually snaffle in those ancient days, but I'd use a KK now) until and unless we needed more oomph, and then the curb would be engaged. The ponies got better and better at minding the bridoon until we could just ride them in snaffles. Not really apropos your horse, although his overreaction to the bit makes me wonder if there isn't something related to his mouth.

                                      I love your horse's mindset. And you're great to derive amusement rather than murderous thoughts from it. Keep it up!
                                      They don't call me frugal for nothing.
                                      Proud and achy member of the Eventing Grannies clique.


                                      • #20
                                        Well, I don't have much to offer that can compete with either the witty repartee or the training advice...
                                        I have a Very Polite German Warmblood who occasionally decides he is All That. At 17.2 and beefy, it's a lot of All That. Plus I buy the big lazy polite guys on purpose -- this is not my kind of ride.

                                        I have found that for him, when he is really fit and decides he is Spunkyman, I have to let him just go for a good gallop -- a nice lonnnnnnggggg uphill gallop -- and really let him crack (which certainly feels faster than it is, poor uphill dressage horse. He had to watch videos to learn how to gallop).
                                        After that he heaves a BIG sigh of relief and is much more polite.

                                        I have a young horse who is marginally smaller in some dimensions that the big horse, but with a shorter fuse. He would rarely buck but he does like to bulge up his neck and use it for Evil rather than Good, and as a draft cross he's got some serious front end muscle.
                                        This horse does better with dressage in the field. Lots of hard (for him) dressage. Shoulder in shoulder out shoulder in shoulder out. On a circle. 10 meter circles, insisting on perfect bend, walk-canter-walk-trot. WHen I feel relaxation, I let him stretch out and over, but it can take a while.

                                        More possible tools to play with. good luck!
                                        The big man -- my lost prince

                                        The little brother, now my main man