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post #21 of 28 Old 11-15-2009, 02:02 PM
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A thought: My horse has sensitive withers (seems less comfortable when I post than sit the trot) and a sheepskin half-pad, direct on her back (not over a saddle pad) made a huge difference in her attitude. I kind of think a lot of it is "memories"-- she isn't really sore now, but she was once, and that's what she's afraid of.
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post #22 of 28 Old 11-15-2009, 08:04 PM Thread Starter
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I use a sheepskin half-pad without a saddle pad underneath. I do think he's most comfortable in that. Going out to lunge him tomorrow and maybe ride him bareback to see if it is his saddle bothering him. Hopefully he was just having a weird week and he'll be back to normal tomorrow. Fingers crossed, he had the weekend off to chill too, so we shall see.

I give myself very good advice, But I very seldom follow it
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post #23 of 28 Old 11-17-2009, 09:31 AM
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Sounds like saddle doesn't fit (with you in it) - so a saddle fitter then a chiropractor is the way to go. Until then if the front of the saddle is too low take a dish towel and fold it in half then take that folded part and fold it again so that you end up with 2 thickness of layers. Place the thickest part under the pommel so it raises the pommel up a bit. Gel pads are not very good - when you put pressure on a gel pad the gel is squeezed out so you loose the padding where you most need it.

In the interim try riding horse this way to get a better whoa. After you warm him up at the walk (bending, getting him off BOTH legs (leg yield), ... start trotting asking him to "arch" his neck but allowing him to place his head low if he wants. The minute you feel him try to pull on the reins, lean on your hands, and/or stiffen his neck and/or poll - HALT. Make sure when you ask for a halt your legs maintain a connection with his barrel so you get him to step underneath himself.

If at first he ignores halt - it won't be pretty but demand a halt (no matter what - hauling on his mouth is OK as you want him to understand when you ask for). When you ask for whoa he is to stop.... then pat him/good boy for halting. From halt go back into trot BUT don't stay in trot more than 5 steps before asking for halt again.

The reason you make the trot steps so few is because the longer he stays in the trot the heavier he will get on the reins (think freight train). This time halt should be easier - if not get VERY strong and ask for halt again.

Repeat MANY times (trot/halt/trot) with the idea that when you ask for the halt it SHOULD get easier.

Common reason the halt might not work:
1.) When you halt sit straight up and down - do NOT lean forward OR back.
2.) Push straight down (NOT forward) with stirrups when asking for halt.
3.) Lock elbows on your waist and brace entire body during halt to discourage forward movement.
4.) Keep legs against horses sides - this is to keep him in front of your legs and to keep him straight. If he can "bend" his body during the halt he can get out of doing the halt.

Think of your body position mimicing your "standing" in the stirrups - legs pointing straight down and body position the same as you walk - shoulders back, head looking forward, elbows on waist.

So when you can get a trot/halt without pulling his mouth super hard go back to the same exercise with a slightly different twist - just as he starts to halt soften your elbows and LIGHTLY squeeze you legs so he "hesitates" at trot but doesn't stop.

This is a Half-Halt and makes horse sit on his butt and off the reins. You should practice doing this MANY MANY times throughout the ride - before every corner, before you ask for a transition, etc... at every gait, before every jump (2-3 strides out). When he starts listening to the HH you'll be able to ditch strong bits and go back to a snaffle.

If your trainer never taught you this to teach you about the half halt you might consider taking some dressage lessons from a GOOD instructor. Dressage allows you to adjust any part of the horse at any time (when done correctly), even between jumps, etc. It makes you a better rider and the horse a better trained more responsive animal.

Hope this helps.

Last edited by Valentina; 11-17-2009 at 09:34 AM.
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post #24 of 28 Old 11-17-2009, 07:39 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks Valentina! I am taking dressage lessons, and it has helped TONS already. We still have a long way to go through. I do think that we need to practice our woah, and that I can't keep letting him get away with ignoring it (even if that means having to shut him down to get it). I'm always careful about hauling, but really, he needs to quit, and when he ignores my seat, AND rein aids to stop, it has to be made clear that it's not acceptable for him to do that.

I rode him bareback today, and while he was still kinda stiff to the left, I'm starting to think that it's more of a training problem than a physical problem. However, I'm going to have my trainer ride him Friday, and if she thinks it's something other than that I'll get a vet out, just in case. I think I'm going to convince my parents that I need a new saddle, particularly a dressage saddle. I've been wanting to get one anyway. Zu's walk has been FANTASTIC lately as we've been doing lots of exercises at it. Soon I'll move these same things up to the trot. Glad we're making progress, even if we had to take some steps back to fix the issues.

I give myself very good advice, But I very seldom follow it
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post #25 of 28 Old 11-17-2009, 09:29 PM
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I spent the last few days watching numerous dressage clinics. The number one common thread between all the riders I watched was, they were letting their horses off the hook before they got the responses they were asking for. I totally agree with Valentina. No matter how much he fusses, do not give up or give away the reins until he does what you ask of him.

The first thing I did with my horse when I got home from the clinics is to attempt to supple him by doing leg yields and shoulder-fore. More than once, he'd get a little sticky and start tossing his head around. I did what I saw at the clinics. I didn't pull on the reins, but didn't release the contact either. At one point during leg yield, my horse tried walking backwards to get out of cooperating. He backed up 15 steps or more before he realized it was just easier to go forward and leg yield. He ended up softer and lighter up front than he's been in weeks. Once he realized I wasn't giving in, he was a saint. I actually think he appreciated the guidance.

Long story short, I'm sure a better fitting saddle will help a lot, but regardless, use as much pressure as necessary and as little as possible to get a proper response. It's as simple as that.
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post #26 of 28 Old 11-17-2009, 09:51 PM
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Great post Valentina! Thanks for sharing!

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post #27 of 28 Old 11-22-2009, 08:38 AM Thread Starter
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I was supposed to have a lesson yesterday but Joan never showed up. Wouldn't have done much anyway, but I was gonna ask her to hop on and see if she feels what I feel. We just walked/trotted today. Worked on our whoa, and after a few times when I'd ask for him to stop he'd stop dead and step under himself while doing so. What a good boy. Still not wanting to bend at all to the left. I may be wrong but I do think there's something up. It's not like he's fighting me or being stubborn, it's like somethings bothering him. I'm still thinking left front, but like I said, I can't be sure. I've checked his legs after and before every ride and there's no obvious problem. He was listening really well to me yesterday though and I felt like he was really trying. I was hoping that giving him some time off and riding lightly would solve whatever's going on but it appears not. Poor boy. He is very happy at his new barn though, gets to socialize with the neighbor's little colt, donkeys, flirt with the BO's mare over the fence. And he always neighs and trots over when I come out there. <3

It's just very frustrating because I don't know what to think. Everyone's telling me his stride looks fine but I know what I feel when I'm riding. We've been doing lots of back to the basics work, and he is responding to it really well, but still not bending, or wanting to turn to the left and that's what worries me. When I ask him to turn to the left he stiffens up and is like a board. To the right he falls in and leans no matter how much support I give him and no matter how I ask. He's only fine on the straight lines and even than I still feel it. I asked the BO's daughter Ali (who's a good rider and does dressage with her horse too) to hop on Zu and trot him for me, ask him to bend or turn, so I can see for myself what's up. She's at a show today so I'm thinking Monday or Tuesday. Until then I'm just not gonna ride. I'll go hang out with him and maybe hand walk him down the road. Do some groundwork. Ah, forgot to mention, but I really felt something was off when I asked for a turn on the forehand. He did NOT want to shift his weight to the front to turn at ALL.

I know it sounds like it could be a training issue, but I really don't think it is. It is not like him to feel stiff at all, and I really do feel like something (and it may be minor) is wrong. I trust my gut and what I'm feeling in the saddle. I know what his normal stride feels like, and it's not normal. I found that my saddle fits fine if I ditch the gel pad and just use the half-pad. And have felt his back for sore spots each day, nothing. I'm hoping it's not his left front as that's where he's had issues before, but I do think it is.

The vet is definitely coming out, though I'm not sure when because his owner is coming to visit sometime this week so I'm thinking I'll try to get the vet out when she can be here. I could hop on bareback and do stuff at the walk, but nothing more than that. Poor boy, I hate thinking that he's hurting.


I give myself very good advice, But I very seldom follow it

Last edited by Gillian; 11-22-2009 at 08:40 AM.
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post #28 of 28 Old 11-25-2009, 06:05 PM Thread Starter
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So we figured it out... ha ha.

Liz (his owner) came out today and we lunged him, and rode him. Figured out why he felt weird. His whole life he was ridden on the inside rein. This is the way Liz was taught and this is the way I was taught. Since we have both recently started dressage lessons we have learned that it is far better, more effective, and more correct to ride the horse inside leg to outside rein. I started riding him this way. He's having to relearn that he doesn't need all that inside rein, and since he's so used to it it's really throwing him for a loop. He's starting to understand, and he'll give and bend correctly for a moment, but than lose it. And that's okay. He's relearning and he's trying. It'll take time for him to have the muscle to carry himself properly. The solutions to our problems: Some good private lessons, and having my trainer ride him like once a month or more for me to watch and her to explain how to help him learn all this. I am SO glad that it was simply a training/communication issue. Which is why I didn't have the vet out. I felt like something was up but at the same time I had a nagging suspicion that I should keep working him through it. We were making progress, just tiny baby steps.

Liz was very happy with how is walk has come and how much better his straightness is. I hadn't noticed since I ride him every day but after she said it, I really did notice. We have come a long way and we still have a long way to go but I'm very happy.

I give myself very good advice, But I very seldom follow it
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