*Sigh* I have officially had Mr. Diddly for four months.
But I simply do not feel like I've made any progress.... I've had dressage lessons every week since I got him... But no progress. My goal is to get Diddly on the bit... Yes I know. You've all heard it a million times, but I'm a little down about it lately. I've tried everything... Jane Savoie's method of getting them to engage their hind quarters. I've tried long and low (which he refuses to do what so ever), and inside leg to outside hand. It just gets me down how so many other people can do it, but I can't. I know it's me... but I can't seem to do something :( I'm going to put up a video soon, for critique, to see where I'm going wrong. But in the mean time... Have you ANY tips at all...? I want to event, but I can't until I can get him to raise his back, engage his hind quarters, and drop his head.
So there it is. That's all I wanted to say.
Four months? It took me four months to reteach/retrain my guy that leg pressure might just mean something other than 'go faster' and twice that long to teach him how to trot with a rider and anything resembling balance and rhythm. I know there are others out there who can do better and faster, but if you're having fun, enjoying yourself and your horse, what does it matter how long it is taking?
What you're asking for- balance, engagement, collection even is NOT something to expect in four months unless both you and the horse are already very fit and well trained. Don't rush it. Keep working on balance, rhythm and suppleness. Collection and engagement will come in time. You probably will do better and more quickly than I, but at two years and change, we're just starting to get there. How is his suppleness? Is he soft and flexible at all gaits and directions? If no, go back and work on those for a while until you can say yes. Stiffness is a huge road block to further progress as I see it, though I know very little myself.
Glad you did eventually make progress with your guy... I wish you all the best. :)
See my problem is he holds his head extremely high. It's unnatural and he actually can't see when he holds it that high. If I slack my reins off completely, you would expect him to drop, even just a tad, but nothing.
He's ridden in a french link snaffle bit, which is extremely kind.
I can certainly see how that could be very frustrating! Do you two do any riding just for fun, or are you always working on improving? I only ask because it seems like you're feeling a lot of pressure both for him and for you to improve, which can be admirable, but seems to be making you unhappy when it doesn't go according to plan. Maybe take a couple weeks off from 'work' and go out for a trail hack or two instead and see how it goes? Maybe it might be enough to help both of you relax?
My guy did a heck of a giraffe impression for a while too. I rode him on a loose rein and eventually (months) he relaxed, but for him it was fear and tension from previous riders being all up in his mouth and a bit he disliked that was causing him to be reactive/tense. I hope some pros with good advice come along to help. I just hate to hear that it sounds as though you're not enjoying your rides at all.
I've only actually just got my arena done a week ago. So it was always hacking out, with some schooling as best I could whilst I was there. As in trying to keep him straight, and also flexing his poll to the left, then straightening up, then to the right....etc. Just to keep him supple and even. Now that I finally have the arena finished, I'm hoping for more progress, as I can do circles and what not. I'm planning to do hacking twice a week now, a lesson once a week one day off a week, and the rest of the time in my arena.
Thanks so much for the kind words :)
CC, if I remember correctly, Diddley was pictured in a double bridle in the ad when you found him, right? And he is young, isn't he? Like 5 or 6? Riding in a double certainly did not help teach him correct contact, and you must be feeling the effects from that poor start - I'm sorry :(
I'm wondering if you are compressing/condensing your aids with enough intensity when you ask for contact. Meaning the application of leg (calf) and squeezing/holding of hand-rein for more than a moment--applying those aids in slightly increasing intensity (but NOT pulling backwards) until he connects (rounds), at which time you soften your hand (but keep leg on ;)) Perhaps try MORE leg and MORE rein (increase tension on reins)on a 30 M circle?
^ I agree with what Weez said! Squeeze, squeeze, squeeze the rein (not in a "pulling" fashion but a vibrating, increasing intensity) and the moment he relaxes his poll/gives to the rein, reward by softening the reins. The idea is to let the horse know that you will meet him halfway and that your hands can be fair (IMHO). I feel that it is critical to establish that trust between the horse and your hand. Now, this isn't a technique you'll take down the road with you... it's more of a stepping-stone. In the future, the goal is obviously accepting the contact and certainly not evading it. But sometimes when horses toss their nose into the air, and you give that contact--they'll remember the lesson, come back to earth, you release to provide a reward, and you move on.
Although it may feel as though you haven't made any progress, I'm sure you have made a little bit. It's hard to tell when you are riding him every day and focusing so much on it- like watching a plant grow. Maybe try getting video footage then coming back to it in a few months to compare.
Even if it's only a few strides more of what you are asking for- that's progress! Keep your head up, we have all been in your shoes and things will move forward, promise! Good luck!
^Also, really like the way Existential described the squeeze and vibrate- it is spot on to what might help!
Weezilla has beaten me to the double bridle thing - I can remember commenting on that thread that I thought it made him look very stiff and tense as if he was being held in frame rather than ridden into it and the problems you're having now maybe go back to that
Are you maybe trying to force his head and neck into what looks like a collected position and his stiffness and high neck are coming from resistance to that?
I know the French link is mild but not all horses go well in them and when I get one that doesn't I put them in a mullen mouthed shaped Happy Mouth bit because they're happier to 'chew' down on it and lower their necks and heads and lose the tension
I would forget about asking for too much collection and rather work on a more relaxed carriage that you can then play about with as you progress into riding small circles, spirals and lots of direction changes to get his focus back
If others can do it, and you, in same tack and all, cannot, then it must be in your riding. Could be your hand is either too hard, or not firm enough, or timing, or that you are gripping up with your heels, or bumping down on his back, or leaning forward, or any number of things that are just different from the other rider to be ineffective.
I can get short moments of decent engagement and lateral movement, for one or two steps, while my trainer, in same tack on same horse can have him do this consistently. It's most certainly that I am not balanced enough, am too busy with my hands, miss the correct timing for a release, or, "throw" the horse away, and on and on. The only time I improve is through lessons. Otherwise, I simply keep repeating what feels right to me, but is NOT.