working over the back - where to start? - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 7 Old 12-11-2012, 01:53 PM Thread Starter
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Red face working over the back - where to start?

hello group! i'm just getting back to riding my horses (one horse had a lot of weight loss and is still putting it back on so no riding for him yet; the other was being brought back from neglect from the previous owner - lack of weight/muscle and horrible hoof care) and am wondering - where do you start?

(as a sidenote - i've taken the recommeded reconditioning schedule as provided by anebel in this thread: Re-Conditioning Schedule)

in particular i'm wondering about my mare who is 17 but i would consider only green broke. how do i get her to start working over her back and reaching for a connection with the bit? at this point we are only doing 30 minutes of walk a day as she hasn't been under saddle in months and hasn't been consistently ridden (to my knowledge) in almost a year. i want to make sure i work her back to front but she's very sensitive about contact with her mouth (i'm thinking the previous people had her in a curb of some fashion as she had quite a ewe neck going on and is VERY sensitive on her bars and lips) and i don't want to inadvertently work her front to back. asking for for activity at the walk gets a faster pace but not necessarily more reach/stretch. what can i do to help her along?

i don't know if any of that makes sense! :/ thanks in advance for your thoughts. :)
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post #2 of 7 Old 12-11-2012, 05:58 PM
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In your case, I think adding a bit of lunging in side reins would help (when she is fit enough for trot).
I like side reins to teach contact because they never get out of balance and pull, if the horse bucks they can't come off, and they are steady, steady.

5 mins or so of trot with the side reins, gradually shorten them over about a week until the horse cannot avoid them. For now continue with the walking, when you have added your trot, switch to lunging after your 45 minutes or so of walk.
You aren't going to teach her about contact, safely, in the walk. Too much opportunity for rearing.
As much as lunging is bad for the joints, done correctly and for the right reasons (ie teaching or groundwork as opposed to exercise) it has great merits especially in teaching young, green or poorly trained horses.

Good luck!
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~*~anebel~*~ is offline  
post #3 of 7 Old 12-11-2012, 06:42 PM Thread Starter
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so just actively walking around without worrying about any contact really for now is ok? maybe i've been reading too many books lately and absorbing perhaps too much of the "right from the start or it's pointless" mentality. :/

again, i tend to over think what i do and worry about ruining my horses so i tend to not ask for enough. *sigh*

thanks anebel! i do appreciate your thoughts and feedback. :)

if it helps any - this is the mare in question on her first day back under saddle:

not me riding (obviously haha)

Last edited by crimsonsky; 12-11-2012 at 06:45 PM.
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post #4 of 7 Old 12-11-2012, 09:50 PM
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I'm more of the attitude of do it right or don't do it at all. Instead of dicking around (pardon my language haha) and half doing it, wait until she has enough condition that if you need to work her to truly get that contact, you can. You don't want to be afraid about overworking her if something doesn't go right. Which as we know nothing ever does with horses!!
On the same token, still keep her focus on you when riding and expect a good reaction to go forward from the leg and steering and such. But it's going to be easier to teach her about a contact on a lunge in one fell swoop kind of thing. It's not going to wreck her or teach her bad habits if you never touch the reins. If you're kind of half in a contact, half not, that's what's going to teach her to duck behind the contact. For a while there will be two "states" - free rein and contact. You never want to encourage a floaty, dangly contact even in the beginning. That's what teaches horses to back off the bit and then you get fun behavior issues when you try to teach a correct contact. And it really shouldn't be more than honestly two weeks from starting with the lunging in side reins to having the horse consistently in your contact. It's really interesting that if you set the horse up for success and have a high standard of expectations, how quickly and easily the horse can "rise up" to meet them.
Good luck!

ETA: in both those pictures, the rider is pulling backwards on the reins. That's why the mare is ducking and really bracing through the back. The hands should be resting on the withers (or the saddle pad if you have stubby arms like me) and the rider should be riding up to meet the contact. That is why I say it's far easier in trot because there is more motion, however it does not mean we chase the horse off it's feet either.

They say money doesn't buy happiness -- well happiness doesn't buy horses!

Last edited by ~*~anebel~*~; 12-11-2012 at 09:53 PM.
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post #5 of 7 Old 12-11-2012, 10:21 PM
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Anebels's much easier in the trot!!!
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post #6 of 7 Old 12-13-2012, 01:49 PM
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Use leg for forward, when she gets faster press down with BOTH stirrups while KEEPING calves on her sides (i.e. keep her in front of your leg) then ask for a halt. Get her so she's:
1.) Always in front of your leg, even if she's running. This is the #1 thying you need to do
2.) Next teach her to halt with her hind legs directly under her body (by keeping your legs on when asking for halt (boot her if her hinds legs are out behind when you ask for the halt). When you ask for halt press down in both stirrups.

Point is to teach her to halt by stepping underneath her self with hind legs not pulling back. When she feels you press down with Both stirrups stop YOUR body from following her movement then close fingers. Last resort (if she hasn't stopped yet) is pull back.

Eventually you want to eliminate the "pull back".

So when you get all that work (i.e. no pull back but horese halts with BOTH hind legs directly underneath her hips, and hopefully "square") then the next step is to introduce the halt halt. This is what you can use to slow her down.

Half halt is asking for a halt and as she steps under her body to perform the halt you STOP pressing down on both stirrups and start following with your body. When done correctly horse shift weight back onto hind end and slows down.

I like to alternate the HH at the walk with alternately pressing down in ONE stirrup (at a time) in the same cadence (of the walk) that I want the horse to maintain - horse will start to follow that cadence (eventually) - add in halt halts and/or full halts as needed to slow horse down.

Note that in all this you are not in the horses mouth (except in the very beginning when you asked horse to halt and she didn't understand). Horse will soon learn to pay attention to more subtle commends with your body so you don't have to get into her mouth. So her being ultr-sensitive in the mouth will help (at least at first).

I'd also suggest getting an equine dentist (or vet) to look at her mouth and "float" her teeth/pull her wolf teeth if that's what she needs done. That will also help mouth issues.

Dressage is for Trainers!
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post #7 of 7 Old 12-13-2012, 05:32 PM Thread Starter
Join Date: Feb 2011
Location: Portland, OR
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thanks valentina! she had her teeth floated this past summer and the dentist said she'd be good for another year but it can't hurt to have them looked at. as a reference, if it makes any difference, she's ridden in a loose ring eggbutt snaffle like this:
crimsonsky is offline  

contact , green horse , stretching , training

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