Looking for exercises to slow and lengthen stride

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Looking for exercises to slow and lengthen stride

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  • My horse is shortening his stride and seems tense
  • Teaching a horse to lengthen stride

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    03-28-2014, 10:23 AM
Green Broke
Looking for exercises to slow and lengthen stride

Now that Cinny's body and brain is finally developing a bit more and his physical issues have been addressed, things are really moving forward. He is starting to experiment with where to put his back and raises his shoulders a lot during our rides. But then he seems to get a little confused and loose confidence with himself and starts to get rushy. I know he is still learning how to control his body and legs while moving in these new ways but it's almost like he goes into a "fight or flight" response despite my calm "good boy's" and "yes that's rights" that I tell him along with frequent free walks and pats. His brain just shuts down, he stops listening and he gets rushy and anxious about the new way of moving.

For instanced in a trot we will start out in our old way of going, so I give him a slight tickle with the inside rein to remind him what to do with his neck and head which he immediately responds to in the correct way now by raising his shoulders and using those muscles at the top of his neck (vs throwing his head up and arching his back as he did before) and then gently ask him to lift with my heels which results in more neck/back raising and bit more elevation in his stride (feels like he's coming up off the ground a few inches higher). But then his ears start darting forward and back anxiously, he grinds his teeth and he starts over exaggerating his shoulder movement until I'm afraid he is going to hit his chin on hid knees and begins to really rush forward. It feels the way my old saddle seat horse moved.

I've tried a few half halts but that results in him just shortening his stride and he feels like he starts "sucking back" and "bracing" a bit. It feels like he is trying to trot forward but his chest is against a fence and we go the same speed of a WP trot but with a much faster and higher stride. If that makes sense.

Is this just part of him figuring it out still? Does anybody know how I can get him to just lengthen his stride and slow down his step instead of doing the opposite.
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    03-28-2014, 09:49 PM
I've seen some trainers use trot poles to get them to loosen their back and swing through more, you could try that. Like do a string of trot poles, go into a leg yield after using that loose trot, etc.

When my horse sucks back (part thoroughbred, it seems like his first response), the answer is always more forward even if it does become rushing, and really push him into the bit(especially when you describe him as coming back too close to his chest). When he stops sucking back and is really pushing into the bit with good forward energy, then I can go back to what we were working on. It seems a little counter intuitive, because when they get bunched up, it feels like you want to 'slow' down their energy, but often its the opposite. I tend to run into that problem with canter to trot transitions, he wants to get into an overly collected canter before the down transition, and we have to abort, do an extended canter, and then reattempt when in nice contact.

For your reins, honestly I think the outside rein is much more important, to 'push him into the outside rein' rather than bending using the inside. But maybe that's just something I read into the way you worded it.

Also, are you sitting the trot or posting? I think from another post, you are showing him training level, right? If you're at a level that allows it, I think posting really helps them relax the back and work forward; whereas sitting too early in the training, or doing so sloppily can make them get bunchy like you describe.

Hope that helps some :)
tinyliny likes this.
    03-29-2014, 12:51 AM
I think it's a matter of keep asking the same question until he finds the correct answer. What I did was make predictable at first. I would start at working trot. I would ask for a shorter stride going into the first corner of the short side and then go back to working trot at the other end of the short side. At first my horse would just get stiff, brace and jig along the short side, but quickly started to figure out the part where he goes back to working trot was relaxing, so he started seeking it out. Once I felt him starting to get it, I changed it to shortening the stride until he gave me one relaxed step and then immediately go back the working trot. Once we had working/shorten down, I added the lengthen to it. Now we can alter between collected, working and lengthen with the slightest change of seat and softening or lack thereof of the reins. I really enjoyed the process of figuring it out, and he seemed to like the challenge too.
Cinnys Whinny likes this.
    03-29-2014, 10:18 PM
Green Broke
Thank you so much for the great ideas!

Sarah we are working mostly on posting trot, but mainly because HE HATES IT WITH A PASSION. He relaxes much much more when I sit the trot and his stride says even and he swings nicely. Once I start posting he starts getting anxious and rushy. If I go in to two point he goes nearly insane and may even buck.

I've had the saddle professionally fitted, he's had chiro and he also gets muscle release therapy (which is helping). He is just ultra sensitive to everything which is a good thing for dressage but its a big learning curve for both of us.

Tonight we had a much much better ride. I started him on a joint supplement about a week ago and today I noticed a difference just lunging him. I also bought the front shims for my Thinline pad as I felt a little tilted forward. BIG BIG difference in tonights ride. I don't know if it's the joint supplement, the shims or a combination and the fact that I was more balanced but he had a completely different and longer stride for the most part. A little rushy but I was actually able to stand up a little in my stirrups and use my ankles and knees as springs so as not to jar him and he actually accepted it tonight.

My only complaint is that his "free walk" was non existent. No matter what I did I got more of a WP jog. Seriously, it almost felt like a walk, but was two beat and his poll was the height of his withers and he was relaxed into the bridle. I stopped fighting it eventually and then just asked him for a little more forward in hopes that maybe it's doing something for his top line :)
    03-30-2014, 03:05 PM
Ive seen videos you've posted on here before, how's he doing compared to those? In the older one, he looked very tense and cramped, not really moving forward much. Have you had the opportunity to ride a real trained horse and get the feeling of what you're going for? The image I got from prior videos was that your 'image' of how he should look was skipping steps, like you were watching the collected trot of a grand prix horse and trying to imitate that, but you can't have collected suspenseful strides without first having length and implosion. Again, that's just what I saw, in a few short videos, and it sounds like you're still working on those problems. (and honestly, even if it's fixed, that tension will probably always be his 'go-to' confused or resistant reaction)

I think it sounds like he needs some long and low stretching in all gaits, really teaching him to stretch down and long through his back, almost exaggerated at first, to what probably feels like peanut pusher low to you, just so he understands what you're asking for (you can always tone down the response when he understands what you want). Even if he is rushing through it, post, let him rush and settle into a long frame as long as he's pushing forward.

The jogging through the walk is pretty bad I think, in dressage I don't think you'll ever ask for something like that, if you ask for a free walk he really needs to learn what that is. Its hard to correct tense short strides when you're giving him mixed signals that 'sometimes it's ok to do'. When he jogs, bring him to a walk immediately, really push him forward with your seat, I almost feel like I'm riding a camel, really roll each of yours hips forward with each stride forward, and let yourself sort of 'roll' with the fluid walk. (to feel it, swing each arm forward in a big circle, each arm going forward as the other goes back. If you involve your whole body in the circles, your shoulders and hips swing forward with the corresponding arms' circle. At the free walk, I feel like each half of my body is rolling forward with his long strides forward and down, its ok if its looks a little silly at first, lol.). Same thing with the trot, when he gets short, push him with your seat, post slower with longer air time and make him meet your pace. Work on the long and low stretching circles they have in first level, it needs to be something you can ask and immediately get at any stride, any time.

A new video would be nice to watch if you get the chance at some point, I love seeing progress :)
Cinnys Whinny likes this.
    03-30-2014, 03:36 PM
To be honest, I watched this video on mute, but I think the visual exercises would benefit a horse like yours. From his younger videos, I think he needs exercises that involve lifting his back this way, rather from 'collecting' it falsely without implosion. Like at 1:08-ish, I'd work on teaching him to stretch forward like that when he gets tense, really pushing out to bridle, not coming above the vertical or getting behind the bit.

    03-30-2014, 03:47 PM
Cinny, I am sure that you already know this, BUT, for anybody else who is considering using wooden poles on the ground for training, PLEASE secure them. When your horse knocks a foot on a pole it MUST stay there. One good way is to buy 4 bricks/pole and put them in front and in back of the end of the pole, in pairs. This keeps the pole in place.
If a pole moves bc your horse lands on it, it is like riding on a road with marbles. The best thing to happen is your horse pulls a muscle. The worst is that he goes down while you are riding, maybe on top of you.
If you want to do this and you stable has cavaletti, those are the best to use. They roll to a different setting when hit and can be set up at three levels of height.
You can buy bricks cheap at hardware stores, like Menards, and I buy the clearance ones, which are often 5/$1.00
Cinnys Whinny likes this.
    03-30-2014, 04:31 PM
I sometimes have the same issue with Z sucking back, and getting a little bit cranky when we're trotting. It's usually going left but he has more of an issue with this, and he becomes counter bent and resistant to the reins. I am certain that it is my riding and not him that is causing him to suck back and become irritated. There is something about the way that I post, or the way that I put my leg On ,or twist in my body, that causes him irritation. Without eyes on the ground I'm not sure how I will change this, but I'm fairly certain it's my problem and not his.

My point in mentioning my own issue is that it's possible that there's something in the way that you're riding that causes him to suck back. It could be his own attitude, what with the grinding of teeth and all, but it's almost always rider error. Nobody likes to hear that but it's almost always true. I know that when my trainer gets on Z,he does not suck back with her at all. I do the best I can, and I'm sure you're doing the best you can, but it's always something to consider. And, did you say you were getting lessons these days?
Cinnys Whinny and Corporal like this.
    03-30-2014, 04:47 PM
You know we don't talk much about this, but it occurred to me that it could be the footing. You know how x-country and show jumpers walk the arena before a class? Yes, they are thinking strides, but I've watched plenty of top INTL show jumping to see horses slip on an outside course after a rain. Some horses don't like how parts of the arena feel. Perhaps you could walk your arena and see if any parts are deeper and more slippery?
My QH (right now) just hates to be ridden if the ground is a little bit sloppy. He'll get over it, but right now I work to make sure that the footing suits him.
    03-31-2014, 04:43 PM
Green Broke
Tiny, I know I am off a lot myself. My pelvis is not only tilted but it's rotated as well. I used to have chiro work done every week to put me back so I could be nice and straight for riding. But I have noticed that the more chiro I get, the pickier Cinny gets. I finally realized that I was constantly changing and every time he got used to me and how to compensate for me, I would change on him. I've been going every month now and I have noticed a big difference in Cinny. He is much worse after I myself get adjusted ha ha.

Corporal, we do have an issue with our indoor arena's footing. In fact in a month they are closing the indoor to do a complete overhaul of the footing, yay. Cinny has an issue in the Outdoor as well, he is very nervous in it especially in the far end that is close to the road. I've been lunging him in it on the road end, and riding him in it much more often. I figure the only way he will get used to it is to actually USE the arena. I think part of the nervousness is also causing the sucking back.

Yesterday he was wonderful in it, much more relaxed. Not perfect, but getting better. We had a few people practicing barrels in the middle which Cinny found very exciting. There is always a lot of commotion out there.

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