I need tips on how to change MY habits. - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 9 Old 07-02-2011, 01:01 PM Thread Starter
Join Date: Apr 2011
Location: Grand Lake, Oklahoma
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I need tips on how to change MY habits.

My last horse was tough old mare who could get up and go like she was a young rascal, but fought like the old hag she was. Because of this, I'm used to using a bit of a firm hand and all rein because that's what it took to ride her.

My possible future horse is incredibly different from what I'm used to. Besides my old girl, I often was put on horses who hadn't been touched, were nervous, or just bully headed. This little sweet girl who wasn't touched in almost a year was ridden by me yesterday and she was amazing for a green broke horse. For the first bit, all I had to do was put a little leg pressure on her and she'd turn or go. The area that I messed up most was cantering. Not only am I a few months out of practice, but I'm a bit afraid I might teach her a bad habit.

Fancy Pants has had only good experiences under saddle, so that wonderful news to me. However, I was hoping I could get help on how to teach myself to be extra light in the rein and to have more leg control when cantering/loping. Fancy Pants is a really, really soft mouth horse - I'd like to keep it that way by retraining my own habits.


Big City

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post #2 of 9 Old 07-02-2011, 02:47 PM
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Firstly, the biggest tip I can give to change bad habits is to take a few riding lessons with a good instructor, or even have a more accomplished horsey acquaintance watch you ride a few times. They will be able to see a lot more in person than we can online, even with pics and video, and that will really fast-track your improvement.

Barring that, something that you can do yourself is get a few pictures of yourself riding several different horses and compare them to what you know is correct. Use several pics, to eliminate "odd moments" and pick out issues that are truly poor habits. From there, make a list of what you would most like to change, and work down the list, tweaking as you go. It's really a mind thing - choose a few checkpoints around your arena or trails at which to ask yourself how you're riding. Is your weight in your heels? Are your ears, shoulders, elbows, hips, and heels aligned? Are you asking for every movement with your seat and weight first, and your hands last? Just a few common problems that many riders struggle to break habits with.

You commented specifically on learning how to be lighter with your hands, so I will make a few general comments about that. I just want to point out that that means different things in different disciplines. For example, in western disciplines, light hands on a finished rarely touch the bit. Conversely, a dressage rider must learn to have light hands in contact with the horse's mouth, and light hands equate to educated hands that are steadily there, allowing the horse to seek contact, as well as effectively communicating with the horse about the balance and carriage of his entire body. Although the goals are the same (an educated horse and rider who are working together in harmony with lightness in the aids), the external visual appearance of that lightness is very different in some cases. Just a few things to keep in mind.

One book I can recommend is Sally Swift's Centered Riding. There are some phenomenal exercises and ways to cue yourself into forming good riding habits.

Good luck!!

A stubborn horse walks behind you, an impatient one in front of you, but a noble companion walks beside you ~ Unknown
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post #3 of 9 Old 07-02-2011, 04:18 PM Thread Starter
Join Date: Apr 2011
Location: Grand Lake, Oklahoma
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I can't afford the lessons at this ranch, and I ride western so I'd be out of luck in the long run (though English sometimes helps with the other in the regions of balance and control). The woman who taught Fancy Pants a year ago informed me that Nancy wishes her to ride her again. With that, she also stated she'd then be able to tell me everything she did. I also got her phone number in case I had questions since she knows the horse better than anyone.

Random picture moment: http://i52.tinypic.com/m58jc.jpg

Big City

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post #4 of 9 Old 07-02-2011, 04:35 PM
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Ok, this may or may not work for you, but it is something very simple.
Hold the reins with your other hand. (Obviously only works western)
That's it.
I was self taught to ride, and picked up a few bad habits. For years I was a trail guide, and spent half my time looking back at the riders behind me. To this day I tend to not face completely forward when I ride, but at an angle, ready to watch the riders behind me (who aren't there, lol). I tend to hold the reins in my right hand, my dominant one. This is incorrect, I know, my good hand should be free to rope or shoot, etc, but this is how I learned on my own, and old habits die hard.
So when I want to be sure that my posture is correct and that my brain is engaged, I hold the reins in my other hand. It feels strange, so I am constantly thinking, and no longer in autopilot.
You may find the same works for you. Good luck!
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post #5 of 9 Old 07-02-2011, 04:40 PM Thread Starter
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I was taught to ride with my dominate hand, so I know your pain, haha. Will definitely try this when she's a little better at understanding neck rein. Right now she's thinks she knows what it means, but sometimes has an unsure look.

Big City

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post #6 of 9 Old 07-02-2011, 07:28 PM
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If you will be direct reining her, as a starter, when you pick up the rein, think of it as picking up a connection to her brain. How much pull would you need to direect a "thought"?
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post #7 of 9 Old 07-02-2011, 08:03 PM
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Nice picture; she's a pretty girl!! It sounds like you are definately on the right track, and of course she is trying to follow your cues as well. Everyone had some good advise! Good Luck!

"If you talk to the animals they will talk with you and you will know each other. If you do not talk to them you will not know them and what you do not know, you will fear. What one fears, one destroys." - Chief Dan George
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post #8 of 9 Old 07-03-2011, 02:36 AM
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Ok, I've never had a lesson in my life (Don't kill me for that lol) and I learnt to ride on a mare who can be described the same as yours was. I recently (In December) brought a big gelding who is the complete opposite, you can gallop with no reins (If you can get him to gallop) and pull him up with a flick of the reins.

I actually just got used to it, because he is the sort of horse that won't go if you've got a tight hold on the reins, because he knows that means slow down. I was riding both each day over a few months and I found I just adjusted to their feel and rode them for who they were, not who the other horse was (If that makes sense)

R.I.P ~ Bubbles - 25yo tb mare - 13.04.2011 ~ 8:30am ~ passed away naturally and peacefully in my arms
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post #9 of 9 Old 07-03-2011, 10:59 AM Thread Starter
Join Date: Apr 2011
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tinyliny - Good advice, thank you. :)

jdw - Thank you

HollyBubbles - Good advice, but I'm into a habit or riding rough horses. I find myself trying to ride her like I ride the hard headed horses.

Luckily, though, the woman who trained her is going to ride her again so she can tell me what I can do.

Big City

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