side reins and control struggle
 
 

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side reins and control struggle

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  • Good head control for english riding

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    01-13-2014, 02:49 PM
  #1
Foal
side reins and control struggle

Summer before (NH) my trainer who works mainly on therapeutical riding ended up in a dire need for any at least halfway suitable horse to continue working (two old bombproof sweeties just succumbing to old age in spring, season change was just too much) and got hold on a 17yo gelding in decent shape apart from some minor coughing issues (thanks God, they are well under control, all he needs is avoiding dusty hay)

He had been used as a lesson horse for basic jumping and considered not difficult, maybe somewhat headstrong, but reliable.

At that time I was riding on regular basis and was one of the first to ride him. I honestly loved him at that point. Yes, he was somewhat of a horse who needed stronger cues (no yanking or anything, just more pressure or stronger weight shifting and a bit of dressage whip, but not excesive) and wasn't keen on trot in general (more willing to cooperate in canter than in trot).

However he wasn't one who would keep his head in a very good position by himself while walking on lunge with a therapy kid with no reins on the back, also, with smaller (think 10-12), less stable kids riding independently, there was this issue of not '' tunelling'' well and weird jumpy side movements when recieving a cue that was noticeable, bus weak enough for him to consider resisting, so in came the sidereins. At that moment we hoped it would be just a temporary thing and at least for independent riding they would come off as soon as we figured out his kinks.

I happened to get off riding for a while and come back just a few months ago. In a years time that thing has turned into something so hard to ride it has scared off at least two or three of the trainers regular students. He has realized, that most of his riders are a lot weaker than him (ok, technically every human being is, but you know what I mean) and if he does not want to do stuff there is literally no way how someone from top can make him, and he has very firm stance against trotting. (Haven't cantered him yet this year)

There is this weird unresponsiveness in him. I do understand I'm pretty rusty too, but I did get on Dancy, the other horse a few times, and I'm pretty sure I'm getting at least very basics right, I can get Dancy more or less on the bit, and get him to turn his hind on enough to carry me.

This is not the case with this beast. Even in walk it literally feels like I'm pushing the horse every single step. Head low and limp, tries to pull reins out as long as possible, when I take them in shorter, simply puts all his weight into bit in a passive manner and if it does not work, just yanks out, Usual tricks of getting him at least aware of the bit (short rein activations with tightening-releasing fist around rein) seem to have very little effect, I just don't feel contact with the head, not even talking about head giving in to my hands. Also, very little reaction to back and leg cues in picking up pace department, I'm embarrassed, but as I'm in a really out of shape at the moment, I have to choose between getting off horse from exhaustion after five minutes of pushing every single step with my back and legs, or routinely use whip while walking.

Trot is getting downright unsafe. He resists (stomps with hind legs, turns sideways, and what's my biggest worry, pushes into arena walls) and as the head isn't really in my control even in walk, I honestly feel this might end bad. To actually get from walk to trot, so far there are two options, either someone with a lunging whip in the middle of arena, or taking both reins one handed and whip in the other hand and giving a rather strong strike or two while forcing forwards with back and legs as hard as you can. Reins in one hand do not help with head issue obviously, so I'm kinda reluctant to do it.

I'm not really sure weather side reins have anything to do with the issue, or has he just learned to outsmart most riders, but riding a horse that only listens to whip is a pain in the neck, especially as I'm back from a long break and just lack the muscle strength/endurance to fight him down.

Questions:
1) Can sidereins themselves reduce the bit responsivenss so much over the time (he really probably hasn't worked or in general moved much without them for a year)

2) Can sore back be one of the causes (he has had bad saddle fit problems before, hollow withers, the saddle is sub optimal at the moment, trainer has tried her best to solve it with a gel pad and sheepskin nummah, seems to be somewhat ok, but I'm not 100% sure he's not sore to some extent)

3)Should I even be attempting to trot before I have sufficient control on his body in walk? Trainer says the decision is up to me at this point, she does work in trot with younger kids while being in the center with lunging whip, but I really don't feel comfortable with the idea of ''push-kick-whip-repeat'' trot with horse not yielding to my body.
With him resisting as much as he does I'm too tired to continue before I have really managed to make him work properly. I really don't want to reinforce the idea that he can ''win'' me by resisting. So for the last few times we have attempted trotting we end up fighting for good 3-4 minutes and once I get neat trot, trotting up to middle of the far side arena wall or other logical spot and doing a neat halt (thank's God I learned the seat halt the year before, and he does respond to that well) so we end with him doing what I have asked.

4)What are things we could do in walk to work on the responsiveness and any other general ideas how to deal with the situation?
     
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    01-13-2014, 03:01 PM
  #2
Weanling
I'm a little confused, but are you still riding this horse in side reins?
     
    01-13-2014, 03:26 PM
  #3
Green Broke
Quote:
Originally Posted by yidete    
...Questions:
1) Can sidereins themselves reduce the bit responsivenss so much over the time (he really probably hasn't worked or in general moved much without them for a year)

Yes they can dull his mouth particularly if they are not adjusted to the correct length and (as I think is happening here) he is not being actively ridden forward.

2) Can sore back be one of the causes (he has had bad saddle fit problems before, hollow withers, the saddle is sub optimal at the moment, trainer has tried her best to solve it with a gel pad and sheepskin nummah, seems to be somewhat ok, but I'm not 100% sure he's not sore to some extent)

Yes to this one as well and it could also explain why he is reluctant to trot as the way his body moves in the trot may cause rubbing, pinching, pressure, etc., from the saddle and girth.

3)Should I even be attempting to trot before I have sufficient control on his body in walk? Trainer says the decision is up to me at this point, she does work in trot with younger kids while being in the center with lunging whip, but I really don't feel comfortable with the idea of ''push-kick-whip-repeat'' trot with horse not yielding to my body.

I think you've answered your own question here.

4)What are things we could do in walk to work on the responsiveness and any other general ideas how to deal with the situation?
I would have to say start any exercises you plan on the ground first then move to the saddle. The type of exercises you want involve circling, working on giving the hindquarters, etc. Check out some of Clinton Anderson's exercises in his program if you like. These exercises will work to help get his body limbered up and to get him listening to you.

I know some folks here will talk about his getting his respect as well (which comes when the exercises are done right).

If you can, get him outside on the trail and places like that. It is entirely possible he is ring sour if that is all he has been doing this past while. Finally, I think you'll be challenged by this in that any success you achieve with him is tempered by continued use in the program. It is not that I am against the program, rather it is that he may be in a place in his 'career' where he needs focused training over general use.
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    01-13-2014, 05:48 PM
  #4
Foal
Quote:
Originally Posted by updownrider    
I'm a little confused, but are you still riding this horse in side reins?
Yes, side reins it is, I have a feeling trainer fears he might go into total frenzy when let out of them.
[MENTION=34628]Chevaux[/MENTION]

That's what I also feel, is what is lacking, but I honestly have never done any concious groundwork in my life, and the fact that I'm not even leasing gives me very little right to actually try and muck around when I'm not very sure what I'm doing. Even less, taking into account that formally I ride as a part of a partially government paid physiotherapy program, only the fact I have been around on and off for the last 14 years and proved I could actually do stuff on my good times gives me a little freedom of ''expressing myself'' in form of grooming, tacking up and down, and deciding what do I wanna do in my time on horseback.
Technically I could probably steal a little bit of us two time, but that would be after his day's work (him being under saddle with therapy kiddos for a hour and half to two hours and me for 20-30 minutes) and I really doubt he's ready to take anything seriously at that state.

Getting outdoors probably would help a lot, but...

Well, I guess a little background info would explain the situation better, but I'm really afraid of the ''Animal abuse, this should be shut down/reported/burned down'' sorta responses about a situation that I have no control whatsoever on. I can only agree it's bad, but that's what we have and I haven't found a more agreeable option.

So basically as many things we have in this end of Europe, this facility (not a barn, a facility) is Soviet heritage. The aim of the whole complex was to provide enough learning opportunities for aspiring riders from a city of 700 000 people that could be reached by public transport. I have never really counted, but I guesstimate the capacity is somewhere close to 100 horses. There is no pasture at all, and about 7-8 dirt pens only, so pretty much we have got horses stalled for 20+hours a day. And in winter we are terribly tight on space (one dressage sized arena, one tiny one 30x15 metres, where I actually work most of the time, and one a little larger than tiny one, that at the moment is barely usable as after the sand changing, apparently it was the wrong type of sand and footing is too unstable to do any work under the saddle).
Don't ask me who designed such facility, apparently soviet horses did not need to graze or even move their feet at all if it wasn't for the good of the Fatherland, but that's where I'm stuck. With a horse who probably hasn't stretched his legs without tack (sidereins included) for last two months since autumn rain turned dirt pens and outdoor fields into mud baths (we have draining problem in the whole territory on top of all this... sight)

Ehh, I would love to move to a decent place, but it really does not seem to be an option at this given moment, as finding anyone willing to deal with someone with my rocky riding history is a pain (ok, I'm the pain, I have gotten up to solid walk/trot/canter at least 3 or 4 times in my life and the first time I did it on the age of 10 or 11 I even manned up for a bit of kiddy dressage, and then force major, something happens, I'm off for a longer time and come back with a physical condition of a soggy noodle and start from beginning again)

Sorry, rant, back to the topic:

*if there is any point on 10-15 minutes of groundwork after hard days work, I would be happy for any pointers where to start. Like even the obvious ones.
     
    01-13-2014, 05:58 PM
  #5
Trained
Forget about the head.

Ride the horse forward. Not nagging every stride. You put your leg on lightly once and if the horse doesn't go - hellfire rains down onto him until he is going as fast as his legs can carry him. Then take all your aids off and expect that the horse carries on trotting with no help from the rider. If not, light aid and if there's no response - repeat the hellfire bit. Most horses take maybe 1-2 times of this and they get it.

He has your number, he has the lesson kids number, he obviously also has the trainers number. He is a horse, a big animal and as much as well all love to say "OH sweet snookums would never hurt me", once the horse is aware of his size - things can get dangerous very quickly (as you are seeing). Treat him like a big animal capable of responding to direction. Side reins off. Big girl pants on. If you had a lesson kid behaving in a similar way (not listening, throwing a tantrum when asked to do something they don't want), there would be consequences. You say jump -the horse should ask "How high?".

And again, don't worry about the head. The head will sort itself out when the rest of the horse is moving forward and responding to your leg. This is why lesson horses need to be schooled by knowledgeable riders at the very least once a week.

And of course, if you are concerned, check for pain issues with a vet. But from how you are describing it - the horse is likely just spoiled.
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    01-13-2014, 07:46 PM
  #6
Weanling
Agree with ~anebel~, ditch the side reins. This is an 18 or 19 year old horse by now that stands around in a stall most of the day and it is cold. Forget about his head and make him go forward. After you rule out pain.
     
    01-13-2014, 08:16 PM
  #7
Foal
Quote:
Originally Posted by ~*~anebel~*~    
Forget about the head.

Ride the horse forward. Not nagging every stride. You put your leg on lightly once and if the horse doesn't go - hellfire rains down onto him until he is going as fast as his legs can carry him. Then take all your aids off and expect that the horse carries on trotting with no help from the rider. If not, light aid and if there's no response - repeat the hellfire bit. Most horses take maybe 1-2 times of this and they get it.

He has your number, he has the lesson kids number, he obviously also has the trainers number. He is a horse, a big animal and as much as well all love to say "OH sweet snookums would never hurt me", once the horse is aware of his size - things can get dangerous very quickly (as you are seeing). Treat him like a big animal capable of responding to direction. Side reins off. Big girl pants on. If you had a lesson kid behaving in a similar way (not listening, throwing a tantrum when asked to do something they don't want), there would be consequences. You say jump -the horse should ask "How high?".

And again, don't worry about the head. The head will sort itself out when the rest of the horse is moving forward and responding to your leg. This is why lesson horses need to be schooled by knowledgeable riders at the very least once a week.

And of course, if you are concerned, check for pain issues with a vet. But from how you are describing it - the horse is likely just spoiled.
It should work if I wasn't a limp noodle I'm at the moment. I have sat through my few bucks and bolts in my life and am not excessively easy to throw out, but this would be a helluva buck and with no head control and not honestly simply not enough muscle on at this stage, my chances of not traumatizing at least one of us are slim. And I do think no head control in an enclosed space of ridiculous size is somewhat risk bigger than I would take. If it was outdoors with enough place to work in circles and no walls to be crashed into, I would probably go for it , but indoors... Not up to my skill at this point. He is asking for a heavy hand allright, but I can't execute it in a safe enough manner with what I have got today.

EDIT And about the pain... Well, I guess I should try him on the surcingle next time, cos I'm pretty sure that thing does not rub or pinch anywhere and I'm probably a lot more stable on a blanket than I am on a saddle, and see how he goes, I suppose if I get up to trying to boss him big time, my chances are better in my seat of choice.
     
    01-13-2014, 10:18 PM
  #8
Super Moderator
Is he otherwise generally healthy? Fed enough a d decent food? Feet trimmed regularly, wormed ? Is it ever possible for him to be turned out alone in the arena and allowed to roll in the sand and encouraged to run freely without any tack?
     
    01-14-2014, 01:18 AM
  #9
Trained
As well as all the other really good advice here, I want to add something. Riding with sidereins on is dangerous, and even more so on a horse who is likely to have a tantrum. A horse uses his head as a balance, a counter weight for his body. When they are throwing themselves around like idiots, they need to be able to move their head around to keep balanced, and taking this away from him is dangerous.
     
    01-14-2014, 07:37 AM
  #10
Foal
Quote:
Originally Posted by tinyliny    
Is he otherwise generally healthy? Fed enough a d decent food? Feet trimmed regularly, wormed ? Is it ever possible for him to be turned out alone in the arena and allowed to roll in the sand and encouraged to run freely without any tack?
He is not underfed per se (definately not going skinny) but he's pretty much is on grass hay and oats (diet provided by default in this place, I think with oats cut back a bit) +a few pounds of carrots with an occasional cabbage, apple or beetroot mixed in (we have this unofficial agreement the riders provide some vegetables every time they come in), so I suppose improvements could me possible, but I don't think he's in dire malnutrition, as coat and hooves seem nice enough.

Farrier seems to be doing a decent job, no obvious foot problems and no noticeable asymmetry in gait. Worming on the schedule, poops allright.

I'm pretty sure his back is sore under the saddle at least sometimes as he does pin ears and twitched from rubber curry on those parts after work some days, while on other days he seems to be happy to get his back rubbed. I can't remember what has been different on those days though. Gotta make mental notes on that further on.

We do let him roll as much as he wants at the cooldown and drying off time before we stable after work, but he hasn't gotten much chance to be turned out in arena (normally trainers here in wintertime turn their horses out in the arena at night on the days they are on night watch duty, that means around once a week but I'm afraid he hasn't gotten that chance in a while, as my trainers other boy got a bad leg injury and the last 3 months have pretty much gone working on getting him back on the track, so he obviously got most of the groundwork and turnout time. Also, those two don't really get along well and pick fights when turned out together, so not an option either)

I honestly think I will give no sidereins a shot next time I get on him, see where it gets us.

Thinking back I have caught myself guilty in a pretty unhelpful mistake though, I think I mess up the back work when whip comes in for a step or two, not sure what happens really, but i'm afraid my back isn't exactly ''forward'' for that moment.
     

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