Asking and getting more forward energy, stretch and motion - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 20 Old 07-10-2013, 12:40 PM Thread Starter
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Asking and getting more forward energy, stretch and motion

*chants I love my Arab...I love my Arab...*

The Arab has now decided to suck back as an evasion. He sucks back when he wants to avoid my aids so be can gawk at something or because he wants to spook etc. When he does this, it gets hard to keep his energy moving forward since he sucks back and up comes the head. I don't want him to escalate this into his head coming at my face. On a good note, its like a little alarm as to when the big dash-spook is coming.

What happens is something like this : we're going along the trail or arena, light but steady contact, poll is the highest point, back lifted a bit. An invisible-to-me gnome enters his line of sight and he wants to gawk at it. Back drops, chest lifts, neck and head come up, muzzle raises up and sometimes cocks to one side. Horse gets off balance and starts rushing with stabby choppy strides. I've tried circling and changing direction but he is easily frazzled as some hot horses are. He kind of ends up going with just legs everywhere and trips over himself because he can't get out of his own way since at that point he is unbalanced and is trying to use speed to compensate.. He will maintain the sucked back position for some time and it gets hard to send him forward - I get more energy but it stays balled up and choppy.

Any suggestions on how to better ask for forward energy/movement and how to best re-engage contact? My hands are soft, so I know I'm not yanking him back causing him to react that way. I try to keep my hands in the same position when his head comes up and back but then he ends up just flailing about and rushing. I try to make him work with direction changes and such to bring his brain back to me because I think that is part of the overall issue but its very ungraceful so I am assuming I'm not doing something right or perhaps not in the best way for him.

He's not in pain. Worked regularly. No change in feed, no change in tack. All the basics are covered - this is a training issue. Groundwork is stellar - his full attention is on me when in hand. Need to translate that more to under saddle.
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post #2 of 20 Old 07-10-2013, 12:46 PM
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I'm not sure about arabs but my mare is super sensitive and when she tries to suck back, I gently squeeze with my calves/knees and push her into a doubling circle making her cross her legs and get her attention back to me. I don't kick and use just enough pressure to get her forward and working for me again without making her crazy. Keep an outside rein and make sure the circle keeps going forward without drifting, push him straight up into your hands.

I hope this helps, I did my best to explain it! haha
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post #3 of 20 Old 07-10-2013, 12:55 PM
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Arabs are very intelligent - so can be more challenging to ride. Sounds like he may be getting bored - so the second he indicates he's gonna spook - immediately do a small circle (10 meter for trot or canter, smaller for walk - like 6 meters).

Other things to help prevent the spook - after a few strides of a straight line do a 10 meter circle and come out in shoulder fore. Once you have that end shoulder fore with across the short diagnol.

A whip to get forward (a single pop should be enough) will also help.
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post #4 of 20 Old 07-10-2013, 01:42 PM
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Oh man, I do NOT miss my arab! I can deal with hot thoroughbreds all day but those catty little Arabs who get out from under you in a second? No thanks!!

I agree with the above in that if you keep his mind working he won't have time to imagine things to spook at. When he starts to look at stuff apply some leg and keep him working. Ride forward an relaxed.. Try to prevent the big spook the moment he starts to spook.. Get his mind back. IMO, some hotter horses are worsened by a million transitions, they just get more worked up.

Once again I agree with the above, circles are good but adding the shoulder fore or something a bit newer or challenging is going to be good for your type of horse.

Good luck!
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post #5 of 20 Old 07-10-2013, 01:57 PM
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**sniffle** I miss my catty little Arab ("Corporal", 1982-2009, RIP, owned since he was a 4yo.)
Collection is physically demanding. I think you need to cross train and get your Arab in really great shape. Corporal loved to trail ride, race like a QH and we mixed it up. HE had an excuse to be bored bc he was one of my lesson horses.
You might try small obstacles and look for interesting terrain. Corporal avoided the switchback part of one the Shawnee National Forest trails and we just went straight up the hill. My other horses didn't have his nerve.
Have you considered horse soccer? Once they lose their fear of the big ball certain horses can get really aggressive at the game. You will need the ball and 3 other players.
IMHO Arabs think they can do EVERYTHING. So...let him think so and you can privately laugh when he isn't as good at some things as he thinks he is!

A Jack and Three Queens, the latest book by James C. Dedman,
Hope that you fall in love with "Trot", like I did!
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post #6 of 20 Old 07-10-2013, 02:30 PM Thread Starter
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Oh he LOVES playing with his ball. He loves shaking it or throwing it to make other horses spook. Arab humor!

He goes fine if I keep him lifted and collected once I get him there, its just getting there that's an issue at times. Maybe he needs to be let loose for a bit before riding to burn off energy.

I definitely have to agree that be may be getting bored so I now have excuses to buy those riding exercise apps. Once I lose him though what other things should I try to try to bring him back in a more graceful manner? Right now its just like riding a giraffe until he gets back in the game.
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post #7 of 20 Old 07-10-2013, 03:56 PM
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Originally Posted by Valentina View Post
Arabs are very intelligent - so can be more challenging to ride.
A whip to get forward (a single pop should be enough) will also help.
I have two ideas... one is the nicey-nice push him forward and give him rein so he can seek your contact again before you take it. Pat him on the neck, let him know to relax. (The neck pat when seeing something scary actually works with my arab quite frequently, LOL. He's such a sucker for lovin and appreciation.)

But, in all honesty... it sounds like he's being a butt! Arabs *are* very smart. Carry a whip. Pop him one the moment you feel him suck back. He'll probably get offended and throw a tiny fit. Ride it out, pop him again if he gives you anything more than a surprised bunny hop. Let him know that reaction is not okay and the only thing he should be doing is moving forward.

Another thing to keep in mind is that whenever he throws his head up, instead of trying to reinitate contact, think about reinitiating body communication first. Leg yield him to the outside with his nose to the inside and push him into your (gentle but supportive) outside rein-- if he's listening to you, his head won't be up in the air.
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post #8 of 20 Old 07-10-2013, 04:06 PM Thread Starter
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Alright... Raining like heck here so I may not get to ride until Friday or Saturday since tomorrow is dance. I will report my outcomes! Keep the ideas coming!
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post #9 of 20 Old 07-10-2013, 04:17 PM
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My pinto isn't an arab - may have arab blood in her but that's about it and she did exactly the same thing when I bought her - head in frame with no contact and when I applied any pressure to try to feel her mouth her head would come onto her chest. She could also pretend to spook (imaginary monster in the corner of the ménage thing) and no way of stopping her. She would also fling her head up and into my face
The head flinging put her into a running martingale for a while - just enough to keep her ears out of my nose
The head tucking in I sorted by putting her in a mullen mouth shaped Happy mouth bit that she found she was happy to 'lean on' and stretch her neck long and low and gradually into collection where she was using her quarters to push forwards instead of shaking my fillings out
Every time she began to get behind the bit I would lightly swing her head from side to side while pushing her forwards with my lower leg then do lots of changes of direction and small circles. I also use lines of ground poles that she has to reach and stretch over
Taking her out on trails where she had to focus on something other than her boredom made a huge difference to her - and boredom is the biggest issue with this type of horse. If I repeat the same schooling thing more than twice she can do it with no help from me and if she gets really bored she'll try to take over and do a whole routine of different moves. You have to constantly challenge them with something new.
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post #10 of 20 Old 07-11-2013, 07:45 AM Thread Starter
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Well by the time I got out of work it cleared up so off to the barn I went. He was particularly inattentive!

As soon as I felt his focus slip, I would give him a tap and change direction. I really had to be mindful of the force of the tap. A tickle would be ignored, a light tap made him skitter, a firm tap sent him forward but if it was too firm he would either give a mighty kick or launch forward. Took me a bit to figure it out! His forward launchings would have impressed many a horse!

I also brought out some trot poles. Or at least, they were intended to be trot poles. It ended being more "trot the first three and jump the last" poles. I won't get to ride again tomorrow so I am going to try the same thing, maybe with the poles in a different pattern and add in a walking short trail ride.

ETA: He is still slow to mentally come back. I guess this will improve with practice?
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