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How do I get off of the forehand?

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  • How do I get off of the forehand?

    Hello!
    I need a bit of help. The horse I am currently leasing is extremely lazy, and so far on the forehand that I'm afraid he's going to trip over himself. He is completely dead to my leg, so I tried to school him with a crop. All I did was completely desensitize him to my crop, and my leg. I have no idea what I did wrong. He is constantly pulling me over his shoulders, and he is so light in his hindquarters that he sort of pops up his butt when he canters. Its awful, and his shoulders are obviously more developed that his back end! He used to be an A circuit hunter, and is a huge warmblood, but seems to have forgotten all of his training. He has never done dressage, and knows nothing of collecting etc. I have a theory that he is bored and therefore not trying, because he is much more active on trail and perks up when we are jumping over 2'3, or oxers. I would think about using a bit that could lift his head up, or some spurs, but that would not be fair as I am not very steady on him because of his bouncy, uneven gaits. I really need help getting him to wake up and carry himself, without having to buy equipment etc. because I do not own him. I am currently riding him in a french link snaffle. He is sensitive to his mouth and will stop with the lightest pressure, but keeps his head practically below his withers!!! He is perfectly sound, though he is a bit underweight. He has been gaining though since I started leasing him, and is doing much better. But I just can't get him to listen to me and wake up! Transitions don't help, circles make it worse, and he is awful to lunge (Kicking out, bucking, wrong back legs in leads, ignores my cues). Any ideas?

    Thank you to anyone who read this! I know it was a pretty thick block of text...

    And thank you in advance to anyone who replies! Please, if you can, any little piece of advice will help!

  • #2
    I find that when they do get bored they will drop their heads low. If he is desensitized to your legs and whip he will eventually do the same with spurs. He may need a tune up from a trainer, or work with a trainer and start using spurs. Circles and serpentines will help. That book 101 dressage exercises is good.

    I would also make sure he doesn't have something else going on, like back pain, hock pain, or ulcers. He could present sound and still have pain somewhere.
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    • #3
      Without seeing the horse it's impossible to tell what is really going on. Depending on the horse I have had success with something as simple as ground poles, also cavaletti and gymnastics exercises. I'll probably get flamed for this but I like to use a lunging rig. The Pessoa one is way over priced, non name brand ones are just as good and cheaper.
      It does sounds like he doesn't have much respect for you, as was said before a tune up with a trainer would be helpful, followed of course with lessons so he doesn't revert back.

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      • #4
        I would take some dressage lessons and train the horse to go forward…from behind.

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        • #5
          Depending on how good of a rider you are, the working walk up and down some hills. Do you have a truly independent seat where you can use your hands in an educated manner?

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          • #6
            Are your reins too long? Are you just letting him go around on a long rein? And are you really sitting up or do you go into two point or lean forward?

            Keeping shorter reins so you can keep him carrying his own head and neck more up can help. Position, as well.

            And a pro tune-up/lesson.
            Born under a rock and owned by beasts!

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            • #7
              If he acts like that on the lunge I would first make sure he isn't in pain somewhere. Some horses just won't tell you under saddle because they know better than to buck with a rider on when broke really well but sometimes will show on the lunge. If no pain issues and if you can get a dressage trainer out to help. If you can't do that then I'd suggest ground poles and cavaletti work also. Hill work is great to strengthen the back end and stifles if he is weak behind and can not actually carry himself. You said he was under weight so he is probably out of shape and hill work may help some. I wouldn't go to spurs just because if you have made him dead to the crop also I'd be worried you will deaden him to them and if you can get a trainer out that uses them correctly they may not work anymore. Start off with hills and cavalettis or ground poles. Uses your seat to push him forward with the leg. If no respond an immediate pop with the crop. If still no response try a good whack with the crop. Once a horse is so dead sided it's hard to get them back. A good trainer would be your best bet.
              Horses aren't our whole life, but makes our life whole

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              • #8
                Really when you are experiences problems at all ends, problems with the forward, problems with the carriage, problems with the transitions, problems with your ability to ride the gaits, it's not fixable via text box.

                Find a trainer who will systematically and progressively turn the ship around in the right direction.

                It is not a bad thing to be having these problems, because everyone has to start somewhere, but the way to FIX them is with a real life trainer.
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                • #9
                  I would do tons of transitions, serpentines, get out of the ring as much as possible and just in general keep him on his toes. Make sure your transitions as prompt and starting from his hind end through to the front. for serpentines and circles make sure that your horse is really balancing himself not falling into the turn.
                  The other thing I would do is not try to get his head totally on the vertical and instead just focus on sending him forward and getting his head/neck in the right spot. once you have that you can start going back to head on the vertical
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                  • #10
                    1. Get his back and hocks checked out by a vet, he may be due for injections in his hocks, stifles, neck, etc.
                    2. What bit does he go in? I find that a waterford helps a lot with forehandy horses as will a gag, or he may be over bitted and is rooting down to escape it.
                    3. Sit way far back and lift your hands up not bringing them down.
                    4. Do lots of work to get him engaged and lots of transitions.
                    5. Get a pro on him for a couple of rides.
                    Mendokuse

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                    • #11
                      What you described could mean hock pain, so getting that checked out first is a good idea. My old warmblood got very heavy in front when he needed his hocks done.

                      Once that's ruled out, taking a few lessons with a dressage trainer or having a few pro rides on him would probably be helpful. You need to learn how to get him to shift his weight back and step under with his hind legs.

                      Some of that can be accomplished by doing some shoulder-fore or shoulder in exercises . . . Some of it can be done by doing lots and lots of transitions (think about riding on a 20 m circle and transitioning every 10 steps/strides both in between gaits and within gaits).

                      At the same time he needs to learn how to hold himself up. It takes two to pull. You need to learn how to sit up, drive him forward and if he gets too heavy, learn when to release. All of this needs eyes on the ground.

                      How is he if you hack out? Hill work is very good at strengthening the hind end and sometimes getting out of the ring can perk a bored horse up.

                      He's not likely to have forgotten what he knew but if he's decided that it's easier to pull himself around on the forehand and he thinks that you're not serious about making him work correctly, he won't.

                      Keep in mind that it will be hard for him to carry himself without the right muscles, so when he does start to carry himself better, give him lots of breaks.

                      Good luck!
                      Equine Ink - My soapbox for equestrian writings & reviews.
                      EquestrianHow2 - Operating instructions for your horse.

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by zigzagz View Post
                        Transitions don't help, circles make it worse, and he is awful to lunge (Kicking out, bucking, wrong back legs in leads, ignores my cues). Any ideas?
                        The quoted text above makes me think this is a physical problem, especially his behavior on the lunge. My horse has some physical challenges that don't actually make him lame (usually) but that manifest on bad days as an inability to engage the hind end properly and sometimes go off in huge bucking fits (the bucking usually only happens on the lungeline and is an obvious physical problem...he will be short striding all around and looking like garbage...I will encourage him forward and he will blow up...it happens less often when ridden just because I think he tries to be a good boy). He eventually works out of his stiffness and then looks totally normal.

                        With mine, it seems to be a muscle thing. If I warm up VERY slowly (walk on a loose rein for at least 20 minutes before asking for actual work), ride in a Back on Track quarter sheet, and am understanding about what he can give me and when, we do pretty well. His problem is also much worse in winter, so I don't know if that could be a factor for you as well.

                        Are the horse's muscles really tight and hard? Could be EPSM, PSSM, RER, or a related myopathy. There is lots of info out there on these conditions, though some of it is contradictory or confusing. Most research indicates that a high fat (like, 2 or more cups of oil per day)/low starch diet is helpful for all three conditions.

                        One of my vets once told me this (this is the gist of it, anyway): "Horses are, in general, pretty willing to do what we ask. They may not get it right, but they will almost always try, even if they have a physical limitation, they will usually try anyway. If they really say NO, there is almost always a physical reason, even if it is not obvious."

                        This has turned out to be true for my horse Every. Single. Time. And, honestly, I think it is true of most horses I have seen with "behavioral" problems. Sometimes a trainer or very strong rider can "fix" the "behavioral" problem just because they are strong enough to force the issue, but it will still show up with a more complacent rider. I still think those horses have a physical issue.

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                        • #13
                          If the horse perks up instead of acting up when jumping why would anyone
                          think this is a physical issue? I could be wrong but wouldn't the horse be at his worst when faced with a jump?

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by SunNSand View Post
                            If the horse perks up instead of acting up when jumping why would anyone
                            think this is a physical issue? I could be wrong but wouldn't the horse be at his worst when faced with a jump?
                            Not necessarily...I've seen many horses with pain issues that would be lazy in going forward on the flat, but when presented with a jump get all worked up, rushy and forward - BECAUSE they were anticipating more pain while jumping, and wanted to just get it over with.
                            Blog chronicling our new eventing adventures: Riding With Scissors

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by FineAlready View Post
                              With mine, it seems to be a muscle thing. If I warm up VERY slowly (walk on a loose rein for at least 20 minutes before asking for actual work), ride in a Back on Track quarter sheet, and am understanding about what he can give me and when, we do pretty well. His problem is also much worse in winter, so I don't know if that could be a factor for you as well.
                              conditions.

                              Sounds EXACTLY like my horse...

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                Originally posted by PaintedHunter View Post
                                Not necessarily...I've seen many horses with pain issues that would be lazy in going forward on the flat, but when presented with a jump get all worked up, rushy and forward - BECAUSE they were anticipating more pain while jumping, and wanted to just get it over with.
                                Exactly, but her description was "perks up" nothing about rushing or getting worked up. If she left that out then yes you could be right but the rest of her description was pretty detailed. Could be an oversight on her part, we will have to wait till she posts again.

                                ETA What I meant by worst was bad behavior not laziness.
                                Last edited by SunNSand; Feb. 6, 2013, 04:57 PM.

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                                • #17
                                  Originally posted by SunNSand View Post
                                  If the horse perks up instead of acting up when jumping why would anyone
                                  think this is a physical issue? I could be wrong but wouldn't the horse be at his worst when faced with a jump?
                                  Mine jumps around like a champ. He's usually warmed up by that time, plus I think the excitment about jumping helps re-focus him off of his discomfort. It's not just me that thinks something is wrong with him either, my vets agree. Just no one knows exactly what, and he is still plenty sound enough to keep in work so long as we are careful and understanding with him.

                                  ETA: And he jumps around like a hunter, which is what he is. He isn't rushy or uncomfortable, or unwilling when jumping.

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    Originally posted by myalter1 View Post
                                    Sounds EXACTLY like my horse...
                                    Do you have any kind of diagnosis on your horse?

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                                    • #19
                                      Originally posted by SunNSand View Post
                                      If the horse perks up instead of acting up when jumping why would anyone
                                      think this is a physical issue? I could be wrong but wouldn't the horse be at his worst when faced with a jump?
                                      Not always. She said this horse use to Be an A circuit hunter. He knows his job and it's more fun probably to him to jump than plod around a ring bored. My old barrel horse had horrible knee arthritis that i didn't know about. He never was lame, but he was a spitfire and ready to run when he saw a barrel. Never would have guessed he was in pain until we did some xrays of knees because one day he was a little off. His knee was so bad the university vet said he should have been dead lame years ago. Some horses just enjoy something that they can hide a problem or ignore it sometimes but when they get bored they can show it in other ways hence not going forward or using himself. It's all in their personality and what type they have.
                                      Horses aren't our whole life, but makes our life whole

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                                      • #20
                                        well everyone has mentioned pain so I'll skip that part...

                                        You are not going to get any engagement until you get him forward. Nothing you do with your hands will solve this, this is an engine problem.

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