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Too forward...what do you do?

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  • Too forward...what do you do?

    Yesterday we had a really rowdy, forward ride. And it seems that just because I'm western that too forward is a worse problem. But, too forward and not listening is too forward and not listening whether it's in a dressage test, stadium jumping, driving...whatever the discipline.

    He didn't do anything really wrong...we had a walk, jog and lope. But they were all too fast, too jolting, and when it came time to lope I put my hand on the saddle horn, just in case. He's never bucked or bolted but it did feel like yesterday could have been the day. Actually the lope was his best gait as far as being WP. The footing was such that we loped just a few straight lines. I had him do circles and serpentines, at the jog, which seemed to redirect some of his focus...I made his work harder so he had to think about that instead. During the course of doing THAT, I realized that I don't focus very much MENTALLY myself...kind of let him be whatever he's going to be. (This is why I think riding the patterns in *western* dressage will benefit me.) So I started riding a box instead of an oval; I was determining definite destinations and lines of travel. I think that helped a bit...either that or I was concentrating so much on me that I didn't notice him as much. But as soon as we went back on the oval, he was forward again.

    Normally, he's not like this...or at least not this much. More likely to be like this at shows, the LAST place I want to have to deal with an eager, excited and HAPPY horse! I decided not to pick at him about it. It was snowy and our ride was just to determine whether he's continuing to improve on the Adequan...which he is. This behavior predates his soreness issues. It's part of his breeding and personality.

    So, do you discipline? Like: does a crack from the bat do any good? Do you just ride it out? That's what I tend to do and hope for a better ride next time. Do you get off and lunge?

    Let me reemphasize...he is not doing anything that is dangerous to me or himself. I'm just not sure that being so passive is the right way for me to handle it. I'm just wondering what I should be working on when we really get back to work. That will be in the spring...we don't have an indoor.
    Ride like you mean it.

  • #2
    I don't punish it but add lateral work, transitions, turns on the forehand in motion, etc. Even ground poles, cavalettis... Put that forwardness to good use!
    "When life gives you scurvy, make lemonade."


    • #3
      A horse with a big motor is just that, a horse that will be more forward than others.
      That is great when you have a work intense job for your horse, not so good when you want other than what your horse is.
      This weather brings that out on all horses, even the pokey ones, so maybe that was part of his lack of real focus?

      Are you addressing that with management, turn out situation, feed, etc., since you don't seem to be able to put the kind of more extensive work that he thrives in?

      Just be careful, as you seem to be, until the situation is more in your favor than riding a horse that is feeling over the top full of himself.


      • Original Poster

        I AM management, Bluey. He's at home with our other 2. Turned out for about 8-10 hours a day, depending on the weather.

        Ya, I'm thinking that other than mixing up the work, adding REAL work instead of just round and round, there's not much I can do. Just deal with it.

        BUT, maybe if I handle this with additional brain challenges at home, then when he does it at a show I'll have a program to fall back on to get him thinking right again. Disciplining himself. Or at least paying better attention.

        He's a real sweetie and doesn't have a mean bone in his body but he's a horse!
        Ride like you mean it.


        • #5
          I had a trainer who used to sing "If he's happy and you know it make him work!"

          I also agree with those who say to add lateral work, poles, and especially transitions to help him come back to easy work. OR you can take a more aggressive tactic and if he wants to be forward you push him forward. If he wants to trot... well then he'll get to trot his little heart out and then he gets to trot some more. Sometimes forward is your friend. If he's just coming back from a layup, he'll need to get the wiggles out someway or another.

          Also... when he gets forward, what does your position look like? I see a lot of people curl up over the horn like it's a life raft. Remember to sit back and deep in your seat, because that will be a great help in asking him to slow down and come back to you. More often than not if you can slow your hip motion, you will slow his motion as well. It's hard sometimes when you feel like your on a runaway train, but I'm sure that you can do it.


          • #6
            Originally posted by ezduzit View Post
            I AM management, Bluey. He's at home with our other 2. Turned out for about 8-10 hours a day, depending on the weather.

            Ya, I'm thinking that other than mixing up the work, adding REAL work instead of just round and round, there's not much I can do. Just deal with it.

            BUT, maybe if I handle this with additional brain challenges at home, then when he does it at a show I'll have a program to fall back on to get him thinking right again. Disciplining himself. Or at least paying better attention.

            He's a real sweetie and doesn't have a mean bone in his body but he's a horse!
            One problem is that, if he is coming out of layout, he may need a refresher in calm and quiet and you are already addressing that with interesting work, since you can't pile on more work too fast when it seems he is not that fit yet.

            A friend that trains roping horses will not get on a horse without first turning him loose in a small area and see how he goes and so he gets any kinks out, mental or physical ones.
            No, can't do that if the horse is coming back from an injury, but most any other time, that is what he does.
            I have never done that, just ask for a bit of work on the ground on hand, so I can see where we are and then step on and ease out, if I need talking one out of any hijinks.

            The reason I do that is because most that will ride the horses later will do that also, so I have to train the horses to get used to that, have good manners right off, even when they don't feel like it.

            My friend sells mostly to cowboys and, well, he figures they take care what they step up their own way.
            One horse I got from him was nicknamed Hoppy, for good reason.

            Sounds like you have a good plan, a sensible horse and a good program to keep him that way.
            Those "real sweet" horses are worth their weight in gold, are they.


            • #7
              I think the most common problem between horse and rider out there is expectations.
              Which is rider error.
              It's not a *bad* thing.

              We rarely remember that our horses are also animals with their own expectations. And personalities. And neither are static. No horse or human is the same all the time. There will be days when the rider is feeling frisky and days when the horse is, etc.

              We can't tack up, hop on and then wonder why our horse didn't read our minds and know that today we wanted to work on _____ and expected a ______ personality from the horse that day.

              For a reminder smack with a bat/crop vs redirection...save the smacks for the equine versions of the middle finger. Or to redirect attention during destructive behavior. (like bolting towards a cliff, high rears, backing into objects, tying you to train tracks, etc)

              Spooking and worrying and just excess energy...redirect attention back to you with changing things up. Engage their brains. Not a "if you're going to do this you butthead, then I'll MAKE you do that!" but a more relaxed "Hey dude, let's serpentine"

              Dragging you around, ignoring cues/aids, rooting and just general "I'm gonna ignore you" or "you can't make me do that" or "I don't wanna" behavior gets work increased in both effort and time. Redirect if necessary (change things up) and ramp up the intensity. Blowing through aids at the trot/jog? Serious working trot to tire you out a bit and remind you who's boss. People often will skip this one or do it half-arsed because it also means more work/less fun for the rider too. But we can't concentrate on our own riding and work on our own expectations until our horses are ready for that. A total "not fair" thing, but such is life.

              Very few horses are automatons and always ready, willing and able to give us the rides we want or need for our own pleasure or experience. And every ride teaches the horse something. Pay attention and think over each saddle session before the next ride to make sure you haven't accidentally taught them whatever new, annoying habit they're showing off. (we're all guilty of that, LOL)

              And almost all rider error and horse issue can be solved with proper conditioning of both. So few people do that these days and then wonder why they improve slowly, or why they can't build solid positions/leg/core or why the horse gets soft tissue soreness or stays flabby or has too much energy or is so darned bored they invent games we're not overly fond of. Get outta the rings, folks, and go for a nice, long working walk/working trot at least 2-3 times per week. Not ambling. It will vastly improve the health and strength (mental and physical) on both of you and contrary to popular belief in certain disciplines...a fit horse is actually a behaved horse. Being fit does not equal being a jerk. That only happens when the rider or trainer allows bad behavior or corrects it in a non-constructive way, no matter the condition of the horse.
              You jump in the saddle,
              Hold onto the bridle!
              Jump in the line!


              • Original Poster

                Superminion, I work every ride on giving up the fetal position. I had no idea what SIT UP meant until I had an instructor keep saying more...more...more...MORE...MORE...until I got it. OMG, felt like I was leaning backwards! And SIT DOWN is a problem for me too. Thankfully, I'm a quick learn and it's getting better. HOWEVER, I'm pretty sure yesterday I was in more of a survival position than a help-him-thru-it position.

                I used to lunge my dressage horse before every ride because I couldn't ride well enough (post stroke) to really work him under saddle. He got most of his work on the lunge and then my riding was a little walk/trot and basically cooling him out. What I loved about that, in retrospect, was that by the time I got on him, he had 'gone to work' mentally and physically. AND so had I in that I was observing, training him to come under himself better, to flex and to engage all his different trots. I didn't just hold the end of the lunge line...we schooled on the lunge. Since that worked then, I think maybe that is the way I should work now. I tend to be undisciplined in EVERYTHING. So much has come easily to me that I never really developed a work ethic. I can play classical piano at nearly a performance level with very little work. Why work when so much comes without work. With horses, however, you get out what you put in...if you're lucky. Many times much more has to be put in than what is gotten out.

                So, my conclusion is that I really need to find out how to work at this...not in a demoralizing way but in a way that makes me a better horseman, a better rider. And if lunging first gets MY brain going to work as well as his, then it's all for the good!

                And what a great way to gradually increase his work load so that we're ready, right out of the box, in the spring!
                Ride like you mean it.


                • Original Poster

                  Mistyblue, were you hiding in the bushes watching our ride yesterday? You hit so many nails on heads that you could have a new barn built!

                  I have had Harry for almost 4 years. ALL OF THE TIME, I have been in passenger mode due to health issues/recovery. Now, I'm ready to ride but during those 4 years I let him make the decisions. Oh, he let me choose the direction and the gait but that was about all I chose. He did his thing, for the most part, and I went along for the ride. I was learning to ride (after 14 years of showing carriage driving) and learning to show. The only thing that made us right for each other is that he is very patient, very safe and never tries to get dangerous. That just not in his nature, because if it was, he could be doing a lot worse things by now.

                  I want to assert myself NOW and I need to learn how to do that and still be fair about that fact that he is the way he is because, over the last 4 years, I taught him to be that way. Now, I want to change course and have him be spot on for me. I have no doubt he will get there because that's what he was when I bought him. Since I've muddied the waters so much, I'm looking for the fair, honest way to find our way together on this. We have never come together as a horse and rider. How I would love to be a partner with him instead of just a passenger!

                  After 35+ years with Morgans, I find this period of time to be the most exciting time in my journey with horses.
                  Ride like you mean it.


                  • #10


                    • #11
                      I second everything Misty said. And be willing to be flexible on your expectations if the situation calls for it.

                      I spent 30 minutes the other day on my 4yo, trotting BIG and FORWARD. I asked for some contact and directed her in big figure-8's and loopy circles and serpentines, but spent most of that 30 minutes in two point just letting her stretttccchhhhh. Here in MA we've had slippery snow for about a week now, and she's in a small turnout area to begin with, so she had energy to burn. If my little baby horse does nothing worse than ask to trot for a while when she's got energy to burn, then I'm fine with that.

                      Even on my older gelding, sometimes we just need to trot for a good 15 minutes at the beginning of the ride, so that he's warmed up and gets into the right mindset. Not every ride has to be a drilling of exercises.


                      • #12
                        He is missing a piece of his basic training = RHYTHM. It is your job to explain and establish this, starting with the basic working gaits. Find a rhythm that suits his working gait and is comfortable for him to maintain, use legs, seat and half halts to police it, and he will eventually relax in to this rhythm. It's actually easier to do this out on the trails. This app might help.

                        ... _. ._ .._. .._


                        • #13
                          I call it horsey ADD. When they're looky and "up" and bouncy, make 'em do something they have to think about.
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                          • #14
                            If I get on one that is too up I usually canter/hand gallop large circles until they settle, then reverse and repeat. Once they relax, I'll walk for 5 min or so on a longer rein to let the adrenaline settle, then do my regular workout. I've found it easier not to try to fight them. I've also found that lots of transitions tends to make my horse even more reactive/hot, so I just want to go forward, and take the edge off.


                            • #15
                              My trainer tells me "A million and one half-halts" for my forward horse.


                              • #16
                                I ride western, and have forward horses and have certainly had moments of not being totally comfortable, particularly those in the spring and on nice cool fall days when they have not been out in a while. Also had a bad accident which makes me more attentive. So many variables (love the feedback here). Could not agree more about getting in shape! I also like the "take their idea ("you want to trot? We'll trot, but not necessarily where and for how long YOU think we will!) and do it my way"!

                                This year, I was really introduced to the value of ground work in terms of getting one of my guy's hips to move in a much more effective single rein stop. It does start on the ground, then applies as soon as I get on. I got his attention at the walk with this (he has a fabulous ground eating walk), and then, as Misty said, at the trot. We did great trail rides but if he started aming up more than I wanted, did quick SRS, really engaging his hips. Eventually (not long either) did not have to do that at all because he and I were much more dialed in and while he had plenty of gas, didn't offer to give me more than what I wanted. I also like doing lateral work riding down the road; givesthem some thing focus on and really increases their responsiveness.

                                Also did more work when I got back to the barn rather than before I left, so he did not start thinking, "Ooooooh, barn! Buddies! Grazing!" and instead,"Oh..barn. Work". Forward as he is, I am still a nazi about coming back to the barn on a loose rein at MY choice of speed.

                                Seem to find my self in new messes so always learning something new!!


                                • Original Poster

                                  Lots of great advice. Just for clarification...he has great brakes. Just a "hup" or "okay" and we're downward transition.

                                  After reading, I think when I said forward I should have said cadence in that he wanted to go faster than I wanted to but not that he was hard to stop.

                                  I've gotten so many good ideas from our conversation. Lots to build on!
                                  Ride like you mean it.


                                  • #18
                                    This time of year, in many parts of the country, where it is cold and we tend to ride less, there are two additional items to consider:

                                    1. Too many groceries relative to decline in work (and turnout or other forms of exercise). (Generally in winter, more hay, less grain is the way to go. Well, that's true any time but I don't want to digress!).
                                    2. Heck, it's cold, they are fresh, and all the more inclined to be more forward.

                                    I took that into account back in the day when showing western pleasure, and just lengthened the warmup time before classes. When schooling at home, as Equibrit noted, you need to work on establishing/fine tuning that rhythm. If they truly are goosie-poosie fresh, I would give 'em a good forward warmup, long trots and canters working simply on good circles and other lateral work as mentioned. Once I have the blood flowing well and the goofiness/edginess off doing that, then okay horse, NOW we are going to school western pleasure.

                                    Note one should avoid just 'working 'em down' to being tired enough to 'pleasure' (either on longe or under saddle)- all you end up with there is a fitter horse who takes longer to wear out before a class!


                                    • #19
                                      from what I took from your post ( though I am a dressage rider) and I didn't read the replies.

                                      The FORWARD part is GOOD (yes, even in western) what your horse is being is OVER-Tempo ( not the same thing).

                                      fast/over tempo is the enemy of impulsion (which a good Western pleasure horse must have)

                                      you want your horse to be engaged from the hindend but NOT over-tempo. riding a horse over-tempo causes the horse to just move his legs and lock his back/hollow.

                                      when you feel your horse getting fast is do a big circle or simple figures or go back to something simpler to calm your horse.

                                      some horses get excited or a little bit nervous and start becoming over-tempo, more commonly they are unbalanced.

                                      . the worst thing you can do is MAKE the horse go even more over-tempo in the mindset " if he wants to go I will make him go!" that just tires him out and nothing more, he didn't learn anything. also riding over-tempo is heck on hind suspensories and hocks.

                                      I hope this helps. focus on keeping him relaxed yet forward.
                                      *Member of the Quality Free-Choice Hay/Pasture Feeders Society* Member of the As Much Turnout as Possible Group* FEED by WEIGHT not VOLUME*


                                      • #20
                                        My big lad gets like this once in a while. We go for a good gallop, and everything is good.
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