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helping the horse develop the elusive roundness

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  • helping the horse develop the elusive roundness

    Hi, I'm getting frustrated, and I thought I would see if COTH had any insight or exercises to offer. I DO HAVE A (very knowledgabe) TRAINER Anyways, my horse has issues coming round. I will push him into the foreward movement, but when I use a steady pressure with a touch of "chattering" with my ring finger, he comes round for about 3 strides or so. The rest of the time, he hollowes out his back and "breaks" at the pole. this carraige has gotten so bad he has developed a dip in front of his whithers from incorrect muscling. I have trid the serpentiene/circle path, but my boy has this great skill... he can exicute those exercises perfectly wit his head in the air. anyways, do you guys have any ideas/exercises/thoughts on this matter? thanks!!

  • #2
    he sounds like a master at evading the contact- I presume that when you say "breaks at the poll" that you mean he goes behind the vertical...

    It takes a fair amount of effort to get and keep the contact correctly - which in turn will make the horse more round and lifting in his back. You might want to think about taking him to a dressage trainer for first some training for the horse, then with you/horse once the trainer has had a chance to see and correct what's missing.
    We don't get less brave; we get a bigger sense of self-preservation........


    • #3
      Add the leg but "forget" the hand for now. He is not strong enough behind to hold the frame you are looking for.

      Instead, the procedure is to ask him to reach for the bit; lengthen your reins a little bit at a time. As he reaches forward (and down), once he makes and maintains contact, slowly feed him a little more rein until his neck is almost straight with his nose out.

      If he starts to walk (then trot) faster, do a half halt to keep him coming through but not getting quicker.

      Only when he learns to reach for the bit and ask for contact should you ask him to come back into a frame. My jumper's DQ says that she is trying to "make his neck 2" longer right in front of the withers". So, as soon as she feels him shortening his neck (I call it "turtling) she immediately feeds out the reins again to get him to lengthen it.

      I recommend you have a dressage pro ride him for long enough that he understands this cause and effect. Then she can teach you how to do it.

      Huter/Jumper trainers are da Bomb and know a lot, but you are asking a dressage question, not a H/J question.

      Not that all hunters and jumpers shouldn't learn to go in a round frame, it's just that we do not specialize in teaching it.
      "He lives in a cocoon of solipsism"

      Charles Krauthammer speaking about Trump


      • #4
        Teaching your horse to step under himself through lateral work might help. Once my trainer had me working on leg yielding, my horse's roundness improved a lot. We started by working on the leg yield around the circle.

        Now, we leg yield towards and away from the walls, and have worked on controlling the haunches and shoulder independently at all the gaits. At any rate, increasing lateral suppleness has really helped my horse in terms of his roundness through the body, too. Maybe it will also help yours!


        • #5
          My first thought was that maybe he's not a fan of the bit and is evading. Or the saddle could be bothering him. Worth ruling out if it doesnt seem like a training issue.
          Born under a rock and owned by beasts!


          • #6
            Make sure your horse is comfortable first. Horses that try hard to evade the contact could be hurting.
            Next arm yourself with some tools. A dressage whip and spurs or one of the above depending on your horse. If your horse can only tolerate one artificial aid choose the dressage whip. Your horse needs to respond forward with a tap of the whip.

            The other poster that talked about lateral flexion and movement is spot on. You need to be able to disingage the hind end and move the shoulders. You can master these skills at the walk. Insist that your horse do turn on the haunches both ways, turn on the fore hand and leg yield in and out of circles.
            Your job is to ask him, then SOFTEN immediately if he responds or even thinks about responding. If he doesn't respond, you need to insist with the whip with gentle taps. SOFTEN immediately when he thinks about it then repeat. He will eventually move his body latterally if you get the timing of your softening right.
            He needs to know there is a safe place to go and to be where he gets lack of pressure from you.
            Forward is your friend, he should never feel stuck behind your leg.
            When you have mastered your timeing and his response at the walk, move into trot on a circle. You have to be good enough to feel and be aware of his evasions. He probably has several. My guess from your description is that he is behind your leg, and falls in with his shoulders, possible falls out with them as well. He might change up the evations second by second just to dominate you.
            Your job is to prevent each evasion from happening by insisting that he keep is body in front of your leg and straight. Your biggest job as his trainer is to SOFTEN when he does it right and correct quickly when he is not.
            If you don't have those skills, find a Trainer that can teach you them or have a Trainer with those skills work with him.
            Good luck!


            • #7
              Dressage rider creeping over....
              I actually suspect a rider balance/ focus issue first and foremost as its the most common. Instead of concentrating on the action with your hand, focus on the sensation of the hind leg coming through and landing right below your bum. Think of stepping on each hind leg with the corresponding heel as it lands beneath you. Keep your abdominal wall as a wall, your glutes soft, and your chest open but not force/flexed open.
              Keep your ear on the rhythm, keep it constant, see how quiet you can get those hoof steps.
              chaque pas est fait ensemble


              • #8
                Above answers are spot on.

                But there is another possibility, especially if he is going inverted/dropping his back right behind the withers....or 2 possibilities actually. One you can fix. One you can't.

                First is pain. Saddle has already come up. But he may stress something when he rounds and he cannot hold it because it hurts. Might be his back, sacro, hocks, stifles, old previously unknown soft tissue injuries...whatever. Usually if a horse can do something for a few strides but will not hold it? It hurts.

                Conditioning carefully can help-a full vet exam will help alot more.

                The other thing may be he simply cannot do it due to his physical build, especially the angles behind. When you ask them to come "through" from the back end? They can't. He could also have something like kissing spines that is notorious for manifesting as all sorts of things and defying diagnosis...couple of well known posters on here have battled it.

                Not trying to panic you or anything but you have to be sure they can do it pain free before you push the issue.
                When opportunity knocks it's wearing overalls and looks like work.

                The horse world. Two people. Three opinions.


                • #9
                  I've found that with horses that evade the contact by either curling or hollowing are usually not traveling straight, with their hindquarters behind the shoulders. If they tend to travel with haunches slightly out or in, that will break the connection and result in either a false frame or a hollow one.

                  I disagree with trying to get the horse to stretch down with very light contact. Often, if you try to push into a very light contact, you will end up running the horse on the forehand. You need to give the horse something to push INTO and OFF. I would first start at the walk and do a mental check to see if the horse is traveling straight into your hands. Take a soft contact, concentrate on riding the horse from your leg and see where all the body parts are. Concentrate on getting a swingy, FORWARD, marching walk that's even between your leg and hand. Walk a very large square and focus on getting the turn from your outside leg and rein - not pulling them into it. Once you feel the horse start to push from behind and really come into your hand (and you'll know this because the horse will be easy to ride in a straight line and start to reach for the contact down), you can pick up a trot (again, getting them to trot off STRAIGHT and push into it) and do the same exercise. I find that the majority of horses will tend to travel at the trot with the haunches one way or another, and figuring out which leg you need to use to push that body part back in is the key. For example, the two that I'm riding right now (one is mine, the other is my friend's), are both outside leg rides. Once I focus on using my outside leg to get them to push straight, I find that I need to squeeze with my outside hand to keep them from breaking into a canter, and that's when the back really comes up and the head comes down. The inside rein has very little to do with it, especially at this point. You will know when you've got the true push from behind because if you feed them a little more rein, they will take it down. You do have to concentrate on which leg they are pushing against - when I first started my gelding, he would bounce between legs. Now, he's more of an outside leg ride, especially around turns when he wants to swing his haunches out. if you do the exercise correctly, you can swing them through the turn and then apply both legs to push into straightness, and you'll get a very steady head and a soft back and a lovely, swinging stride.

                  Yes, I know I'm an eventer, but I train with a dressage coach and my primary coach is a HUNTER coach, and this is what she taught me, and it works miracles. PM if you have any questions.
                  "Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work." - Thomas Edison

                  So, the Zen Buddhist says to the hotdog vendor, "Make me one with everything."


                  • #10
                    It is actually less about pushing him forward than it is about pushing him FORWARD AND OVER into the outside rein. The horse should feel like he is "standing up" perpendicular to the ground in the corners, not leaning in. Lots and lots of legyielding AWAY from the inside leg, drifting WIDE on curves, turning into the corner early and finishing legyielding OUT.

                    If you are "chattering" with your hands (even if just with the ring figer) you are pulling him round, not pushing him. Ride from your leg.

                    There are a lot of "very knowledgable" hunter trainers who unfortunately can not (or just don't) teach the basics of contact to their students. Personally, I disagree that this is a "dressage" question. It is just a basic contact question. I suspect if you trailer out to a good dressage trainer they will have you far exceeding your own expectations in no time.

                    Also, if you ever decide to progress your horse's training past the bare basics required for hunters, you will have way too much to do to keep up a "chattering" contact.
                    Riding down the long side while "chattering"? Inelegant, but possible.
                    A line of tempis or a half-pass zig zag? Yeah, no.
                    Your current trainer is not teaching you to develop the kind of contact you can actually do anything with.
                    Last edited by meupatdoes; Jun. 4, 2012, 04:13 PM.
                    The Noodlehttp://tiny.cc/NGKmT&http://tiny.cc/gioSA
                    Boy Wonderhttp://tiny.cc/G9290
                    The Hana is nuts! NUTS!!http://tinyurl.com/SOCRAZY


                    • #11
                      Not all horses like the "chattering"... I'd always been taught like that, and the new trainer figured out it was just annoying the horse. My mare seems to prefer a steady, fairly strong contact that we've been working on making lighter.
                      "Adulthood? You're playing with ponies. That is, like, every 9 year old girl's dream. Adulthood?? You're rocking the HELL out of grade 6, girl."


                      • #12
                        Chattering = chucking them in the teeth. Find a different trainer.
                        "Kindness is free" ~ Eurofoal
                        The CoTH CYA - please consult w/your veterinarian under any and all circumstances.


                        • #13
                          ground work; tack and vet check

                          I would check him out rom mouth to tail for discomfort; have the saddle checked for fit, also the bit; then, if all fits do groundwork; the method I follow is Tellington Touch; the labyrinth will "chunk down" the basics forward halt, turn right, turn left; raised cavaletti will strengthen his top line and hind end; teach him all these exercises from the ground first; I have seen amazing changes come from these exercises! you can also move his hind end/ forehand from the ground; be certain the bit fits, not only in size but, also matching his mouth shape, bars, tongue, upper pallet.
                          breeder of Mercury!

                          remember to enjoy the moment, and take a moment to enjoy and give God the glory for these wonderful horses in our lives.BECAUSE: LIFE is What Happens While Making Other Plans


                          • #14
                            First thought is the bit, What are you using? Sounds too harsh.

                            Next do not jiggle the bit, open and close your hands in a half halt, it is completely improper to slide, wag or jiggle the bit, research the proper way to do a half halt if you are unsure. IE. it comes from the leg.

                            Your horse is evading, therefore has muscled the wrong muscles, therefor the best way to build the correct muscles is proper walk work until he is strong enough to go to the higher gates, the program I would use would be walk for 2 weeks correctly, add spurts of trotting, just a few steps Correctly, then walk, until he can carry you without evading.
                            Good luck.


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Lord Helpus View Post
                              Add the leg but "forget" the hand for now. He is not strong enough behind to hold the frame you are looking for.

                              Instead, the procedure is to ask him to reach for the bit; lengthen your reins a little bit at a time. As he reaches forward (and down), once he makes and maintains contact, slowly feed him a little more rein until his neck is almost straight with his nose out.

                              If he starts to walk (then trot) faster, do a half halt to keep him coming through but not getting quicker.

                              Only when he learns to reach for the bit and ask for contact should you ask him to come back into a frame. My jumper's DQ says that she is trying to "make his neck 2" longer right in front of the withers". So, as soon as she feels him shortening his neck (I call it "turtling) she immediately feeds out the reins again to get him to lengthen it.

                              I recommend you have a dressage pro ride him for long enough that he understands this cause and effect. Then she can teach you how to do it.

                              Huter/Jumper trainers are da Bomb and know a lot, but you are asking a dressage question, not a H/J question.

                              Not that all hunters and jumpers shouldn't learn to go in a round frame, it's just that we do not specialize in teaching it.
                              I love this post.

                              I also love all the mentions of not using "chatter." To me, that's the quickest way to get a horse behind the vertical. We don't know how basic you need to get fixing this, but chances are work with a really good dressage trainer are your best bet.
                              If Kim Kardashian wants to set up a gofundme to purchase the Wu Tang album from Martin Shkreli, guess what people you DON'T HAVE TO DONATE.


                              • #16
                                OP can you tell us a little more about your horse? The reason i ask is that based on the GREAT information you got here, and the advice not to "chatter" I wonder if your horse is like mine, an OTTB. Once I taught him to accept my h and, he is so MUCH more comfortable, soft and rideable with a consistent feel (not pulling, not hard) of his mouth. He gets so soft but you can still FEEL him in your hand. The other day I had a friend ride my guy, who I don't think needs tons of leg.. she was DYING and thought she was pulling on his mouth because she just wasn't used to that type of feel.

                                My first thought when i read your post was 'ride with another trainer". I'm glad others thought along these lines too.. and it's NOTHING bad about your trainer. Some people are good at somethings. NOt everyone is good at everything...