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Exercises for heavy horses

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  • Exercises for heavy horses

    What are your favorite exercises to help teach a horse to carry itself? He's big, heavy in the bridle and pretty quiet, so creating and maintaining adequate energy with balance is a challenge.
    Trinity Hill Farm

  • #2
    There's a really great exercise that Geoff Teall describes in on of his books to get the horse lighter off your leg and carrying themselves. My horse can get heavy and slow too and it's helped a LOT!

    Scanned it into my computer, here it is:

    1. At the halt, look ahead. Choose a point to ride toward.
    2. Relax pressure on the horse's mouth and allow him to go forward. Lightly close your leg on his side.
    3. As soon as the horse responds and moves forward, relax and reward him. He is doing the right thing.
    4. If the horse doesn't react to a light leg, immediately use your stick and voice to reinforce your leg. Use cluck + stick together. When the horse responds and goes forward, stop clucking, stop using the stick and relax your leg.
    5. After a few strides, bring the horse back to a halt.
    6. Repeat the exercise.
    Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did. Explore. Dream. Discover.
    ~Mark Twain


    • Original Poster

      Thanks, he isn't dull (there is a halt-canter transition in there) to the leg, he is heavy in the hand. Wants to be (and may have been told it was OK) held up by the rider. My favorite lightening exercise, trot-halt-back-trot did not seem to make an impression on him.
      Trinity Hill Farm


      • #4
        Pick up a canter next to arena fence. For example, tracking left - arena fence on your right. Canter a few strides. Halt. IMMEDIATELY turn toward the fence - not allowing him to step backward at all - and as soon as you have completed the turn pick up the canter again. Now you'll be tracking right - fence on your left. Canter a few strides. Halt. IMMEDIATELY turn left toward the fence. Repeat several times. Within a few minutes, he'll start lightening up off your hand and start moving off his rear end.

        I sometimes use this to lighten my guy up and get him listening to me before going into the ring for a jumper round. Once you've "got it" down you don't have to use the fence -

        Caution: Make the halt quietly - but promptly.
        Be sure that you are using LOTS of leg to make the turn and not just swinging him around with your hand. Done properly, it's basically a turn on the haunches -


        • #5
          Originally posted by Rosie View Post

          Caution: Make the halt quietly - but promptly.
          Be sure that you are using LOTS of leg to make the turn and not just swinging him around with your hand. Done properly, it's basically a turn on the haunches -
          This is what I was going to suggest...turn on the haunches and then immediately into a canter as well as lots of transitions. This exercise helped tremendously with a very heavy, stiff in the jaw draftX I rode.
          WHY am I such a sucker for cute ponies??!!!


          • #6
            It's called a "roll back" in the Western world.

            You need to ride just off the arena wall to start. The important part is that you ride the first half of the turn and let the horse do the rest himself. He will choose to rock back on his hind end-- without you hand, in order to keep from hitting his little nose on the way. Half way through the turn, ask for forward and canter off. This is hard work for the hocks, FYI.

            Your horse might also benefit from frequent transitions, changes of direction, and counter canter. Since he has a quiet mind, if he accepts training well, you can give him a "quicker ride" that will mentally sharpen him up. That might help him realize he ought to carry himself... you never know what's coming next!

            Otherwise, some of this might just be a strength issue. From the original post, it surprises me that this horse can do a good quality canter-halt and not support himself otherwise.

            Hope this helps!
            The armchair saddler
            Politically Pro-Cat


            • Original Poster

              Originally posted by mvp View Post
              From the original post, it surprises me that this horse can do a good quality canter-halt and not support himself otherwise.
              I said halt-canter, not canter-halt. The canter-halt still equates to 1500lbs collapsing onto his big head. Horse is a catch ride that I have limited access to fix. I appreciate the tips and will give it a try this weekend.
              Trinity Hill Farm


              • #8
                Mel can get a little heavy. I use the same canter, turn, canter, exercise as described above for him. I also do a lot of slow-fast-slow-fast transitions within the trot or canter. I also do a lot of squarish turns, which are sort of rough turns on the forehand.
                Rest in peace Claudius, we will miss you.


                • #9
                  Rio Tex,
                  He sounds a lot like my guy - who's totally capable/strong of carrying himself and knows that he should do so - but loves to truck around on his forehand given the opportunity. I'm sure his physical build is part of the reason.....a big boy ( 17.3) with a large head and shoulder - and long back.
                  I try and use a variety of exercises when flatting that reminds him of the need to engage his butt without making it "an issue".

                  Transitions are good, but you have to use LOTS of leg, not much hand - or as you said, you end up with 1500lbs of horse using little ol' you to lean on.
                  Also, circles with alternate bending from inside to outside.

                  good luck!


                  • Original Poster

                    Rosie, I think this one is ONLY 17.2 , but same concept. I appreciate everyone's input. Trainer did say the other day that she is pretty sure that elephants CAN canter and that THIS is what they would look like if they did.

                    Nines, I don't know if you remember the BIG horse I showed last summer, but this is the same one.
                    Trinity Hill Farm


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by RioTex View Post
                      What are your favorite exercises to help teach a horse to carry itself? He's big, heavy in the bridle and pretty quiet, so creating and maintaining adequate energy with balance is a challenge.
                      First off, let me tell you how sorry I am! haha My horse is exactly as you described. I do a ton of counter cantering, lateral work, transitions, counter bending, and pole work with him. He's a 16 year old, made hunter, and I still have to do these things with him regularly.


                      • #12
                        Alrighty, here it comes. So you are on the short end of the ring at A, trotting. Cut short, turn at the quarterline, and leg yield over, slight inside bend. As soon as you hit the rail, counter bend to just before the next corner, straighten, halt at C. Do not let him pull on you in the downward transition. Use a quick, 'hey you' pop on the heavy rein if he tries. Trot on, repeat exercise for that side.

                        Also, put him a 20 meter circle. Practice your counter bend and remember that you've got to stay light. That is the thing I struggle with my boy. You have to stay light so he has nothing to lean on! Okay, so trot on the 20 meter circle, don't fiddle with him too much. The *moment* he becomes heavy, halt without using leg so you let SIT and do your "hey you!" thing again. This gets him to sit on his HQs and get himself underneath himself. The key is that he is a big boy now---he should be able to carry himself. Repeat.

                        None of this is going to happen overnight. Lots of patience!