inexperienced rider vs unresponsive horse - Page 2 - The Horse Forum
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post #11 of 31 Old 08-14-2012, 03:33 PM
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getting back

I had a year off riding when I was waiting to see if my horse would go sound again and I then I decided to buy another one and tried 3 horses one after the other on my first search trip. None of them were as forward going as I'm used to in fact they all needed a lot of work and my legs felt like cotton wool afterwards - and I wasn't unfit, just using different muscles in a different position. I actually carried on riding there through the winter just to get back in shape and it was amazing how easier it got to get them moving as the weeks went by. Its not just using your body, seat & legs though, I dont know how to explain it but its some sort of an inner energy that you seem to develop as well that seems to connect with the horse.
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post #12 of 31 Old 08-14-2012, 03:51 PM
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Having taught lessons in the past, I will tell you that Mercedes sounds like my dream beginner's lesson mount. When you're new to riding, you need a mount that is steady and slow as you learn to find your balance, learn cues, etc. The good thing about a horse like Mercedes is that as a new rider, your cues are likely muddled somewhat. You want a horse that doesn't respond to every leg movement or squeeze... if that happened you might find yourself on the ground and your horse at the other end of the arena!

Once you have some of those basics down, your instructor will likely move you to another more challenging mount.

As far as her acting up at the show, just remember: You have been riding for only six weeks! Just being in a show period is a huge accomplishment. Also, shows are a whole different kind of atmosphere than your typical day at the barn. It is not unusual for a horse to act different on a show day.
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post #13 of 31 Old 08-14-2012, 10:00 PM Thread Starter
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@Corporal Please don't get me wrong. I am really not complaining about the show. And participation was not required. The instructor simply said anyone should be able to complete it, I got excited, and then my husband told me I should just take it as yet another opportunity to get on a horse. So I did it. And under different circumstances (had Mercedes cooperated), I would have done better. I would still place last--all the other riders were simply more experienced--but at least I would not have made a fool out of myself. But that was really just an off topic. My main concern is my ability to communicate with the mare.

You guys make a lot of sense. I guess what you are suggesting is to stick with Mercedes; hopefully, one day she and I will click. I will also raise my concerns with the instructor and see what he has to say. After all, Mercedes is his mare.
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post #14 of 31 Old 08-14-2012, 10:09 PM
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I've just glanced through the other responses but here is my two cents...

1) Most lesson horses are stubborn, lazy, and sometimes flat out don't listen. Don't take it personal! They put up with A LOT of crap. Imagine you got a new boss (or 4) everyday... you get the point. It just becomes very frustrating for the horse!! They start to take advantage of their riders to get out of work. Some horses just aren't ment to be school horses. It sounds like she needs a some nice hard whacks and a firm and consistent hand. This brings me to my next point...

2) as a beginner rider your having a hard enough time learning about YOUR body. Hands up/down, elbows, heels, looking up, posting rhythm, etc. When your focusing so hard on working on the horse your riding isn't going to benefit. Now once your comfortable with yourself THEN you can work on "riding the horse".

I do agree that riding different horse makes you a stronger rider. But it should be a challenge, not impossible! There is one pony at my barn I would NEVER put a beginner, I *might* put an advanced beginner, an intermediate rider would find a little challenging and an advanced rider would find a breeze.

Make sense? I would take to your trainer about switching horses.
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post #15 of 31 Old 08-16-2012, 09:00 AM Thread Starter
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So my next lesson is on Saturday. I have been studying like crazy--I actually drew a diagram of a bridle and practiced (in my mind) putting the bridle on; I even looked up tips on getting a horse to open her mouth. I also found out all of the steps on picking up the horse's hoofs (I had thought I had this task down pretty solidly, but last time, Mercedes was reluctant to pick up her hind hoofs and I ended up not cleaning one of them). Today, I am going to read up everything I can on sitting the trot. By the way, I do not yet know how to post; my instructor does not let beginners use the stirrups. Is it even possible to post the trot without the stirrups?
Anyway, I decided I will give Mercedes (and myself) one more chance. I feel I need to be stronger, more of a leader. Everyone says that like it's a no brainer. But how is that accomplished? I mean can you give me some specific examples? One time, a girl who was helping me tack Mercedes smacked her on her face real hard (at least it sounded hard) when Mercedes started jerking her head to avoid taking the bit. Is that what they mean by being firm? Hitting a horse? My instructor--Mercedes' owner, is so gentle with her. I think he would prefer me to be gentle around his horses.

I will talk to him about my frustration and start saying that I noticed some communication problems and what can I do to improve the experience for both me and the horse. I was even thinking that I could spend more time around Mercedes (just her for starters) by perhaps just grooming her and helping others with bridling and saddling. Anyway, that's my plan for Saturday. I really am spending too much time thinking of this. I wish I was like those little girls in my class who look like they were born in the saddle
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post #16 of 31 Old 08-16-2012, 09:21 PM
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Pendolino, I really think you should take a hard look at the quality of education that this farm offers. I've never heard of a reputable farm pushing a rider into competing after 6 weeks of lessons. You say you completed a course, so you are jumping? My beginner students are generally starting to jump after about a year of lessons, and I move kids along faster than many of my peers. The likelihood that you have a solid enough foundation of skills to be doing this is slim to none.

BTW, those thigh adductor muscles should NOT be used when riding. Feeling soreness there indicates that you are out of balance and trying to grip to hold yourself on. Those muscles should be completely relaxed while riding.
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post #17 of 31 Old 08-16-2012, 09:54 PM
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Originally Posted by Amanda B View Post
BTW, those thigh adductor muscles should NOT be used when riding. Feeling soreness there indicates that you are out of balance and trying to grip to hold yourself on. Those muscles should be completely relaxed while riding.
I disagree with this statement. Yes, you shouldn't grip with your knees. But I use these muscles and my butt all the time to encourage my horse forward and keep my leg in correct position, such as over fences. And if someone is new to riding and only doing it once per week, then yeah... Those muscles will be sore.

Pendolino, good job on researching! In regards to being a leader, you do not need to hit a horse to accomplish that. You need a steady hand with her, but you can do this gently too. It's not something you can be taught (at least by me, but maybe someone will chime in), but it will come with time, particularly as you become more confident around horses and learn how to handle them.
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post #18 of 31 Old 08-16-2012, 10:20 PM Thread Starter
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No, no, no, no, no!!! Of course I didn't jump. I don't know how to jump yet! I thought I had hinted on that. The were several "classes" to choose from. I picked "walk-trot-halt", "circle and thread barrels," and "trot-jumping position-cavaletties." Sounded pretty easy on the paper, not so much in the real life, partly because Mercedes was acting up. That's the only reason I mentioned the show at all!

The instructor is not pushy at all. In fact, 2 weeks ago he suggested that I start learning the basics of canter, I said that I was not ready yet, and he said fine, we wait until You feel more comfortable.

How is it that I am not supposed to use my thigs? Is that not a primary cue for the horse that I want her to move? And how do I hold onto while trotting? A book I am reading right now says to squeeze the horse with thighs as a cue for trot and keep squeezing until she moves, if she doesn't, squeeze with the calves, then comes clucking and a crop as a last resort. And that's pretty much the instruction i've got from my instructor.
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post #19 of 31 Old 08-16-2012, 11:02 PM
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Yes. Yes to an awful lot of questions you're asking.

Yes, it's too much to expect that six weeks is going to give you what you need to control a horse.

Yes, it's not right of the people at the barn to pressure you into going into a show.

Yes, it's both you and the horse.

Yes, you should probably stick with the horse.

Yes, you are probably over-thinking a lot of this stuff.

Yes, it's probably unnecessary for anyone to hit the horse while tacking it up.

Yes, if you prefer the private lessons, it is your right to ask (and pay) for them instead of a group lesson. Also yes, you may be in a position to learn something more from a group lesson than a private one.

Yes, it is possible to post the trot without stirrups. Yes, there are schools of thought that would consider posting without stirrups to be MORE difficult than posting with them. Yes, you get incredibly valuable things by riding without stirrups and will probably be a better rider in the long run if you can master those skills.

The reason that a horse is successful in a lesson program is because it is able to tune out the vast amounts of totally incorrect stuff that new riders do (including a bunch of stuff that new riders don't even realize they're doing), and respond only to the correct cues. Another reason that the horse is successful in a lesson program is because it's very unlikely to take off and do alarming things. A good lesson horse, for beginners, is going to require both a correct and a relatively assertive cue...a weak cue might just as easily be something the rider isn't intending to ask, so you don't really want the horse to respond to it.

It takes time, effort, and LOTS of practice to get the cues down properly. You are speaking to your horse with your hands, with your butt, with your reins, with where you put your weight, and with your voice. All of those things need to be delivering the same message (like "please trot") at the same time. The horse knows that language. You don't. And while it's possible to a certain degree to learn that language from a book or a video, it's just the same as any language - when you start trying to actually hold a conversation, you realize just how useful the book or tape is NOT.

The horse may be lazy. I think it is generally considered advisable to put a beginner (and with 6 weeks, you are definitely in that category) on a lazier more mellow horse than on an energetic hot one. Riding a lazy horse means that you can focus on getting YOUR signals to the horse correct, instead of focusing on keeping the horse from running off with you at the same time you're trying to take on a bunch of information about what signals to send, how, when, and why.

When the horse started to move off as you mounted, that was a sign. That horse might just as well have unfurled a 10-foot banner that said "I KNOW YOU ARE A ROOKIE AND I AM TAKING CHARGE". It's like in a war movie, where some green officer right out of college with zero practical experience shows up to command troops, and the NCO who is "under" that office realizes that if the troops follow the commands that officer is giving, everyone is going to die, so the NCO takes charge.

The horses, in a way, are trusting you with their lives. They're at the bottom of the food chain. They eat only plants. They're designed with hair-trigger reflexes and the ability to run really really fast...because they have to, if they want to live to see another day. Think what it means for something like that to submit to all that tack and a rider. It means they can't run that fast, and they're squashing some of those hair-trigger reflexes. If they're going to do that, they have to believe that you will be able to keep them from getting killed and eaten. I know this is a huge simplification, but in general principles, it's there. When people here talk about getting the horse's "respect" it has to do with demonstrating to that horse that YOU are a leader it can trust to take care of IT and that means demonstrating that you are really on the ball, and doing so in a way that horses can understand.

It sounds like this horse does not see you in this light, nor should it,'re like the rookie officer! You haven't seen and done enough, from the horse perspective, to be experienced enough to lead. The goal, then, is for you to learn how to lead, and to demonstrate this consistently to the horse. Then, and only then, will it "respect" you.

This is not a one-shot, either. If you watch horses with each other, you see that this situation (who exactly is going to be in charge here) gets sorted out over, and over, and over. They test each other constantly. It's for their *safety* that they do this, it's a sort of biological imperative. You can expect, as a rider, to get tested over, and over, and over too. It's just part of being a horse person. They don't usually mind losing, just as long as they KNOW.

This would be the case no matter what horse you were riding, and it would be even more the case if you had a more responsive mount. If you had a VERY responsive mount (and the skills to ride that horse, which takes a while to develop) you would be getting tested constantly.

There is no substitute for time spent WITH the horse, and ON the horse.

As far as getting the bridle on, the best way I've found to deal with it - because my horse IS highly responsive, and after a year together and a year of ultra-consistency, he only tests me once a week or so...but when he does, he tends to throw his head in the air, so I've had to deal with that bridle issue before...

There's a trick to it that I tried to describe here, and then realized that would be more confusing than just getting someone at the barn (OTHER than the person who whacked the horse in the face) to show you. IF you are holding the bridle properly as you go to put it on, it is difficult for the horse to raise his head way up, and your left hand is also in a good position to stick your finger into the side of his mouth and get him to open it up for the bit (if that is the problem). It should take someone at the barn no more than 5 minutes to show you how to do it, then it's up to you to practice doing it properly every single time you tack up.
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post #20 of 31 Old 08-16-2012, 11:11 PM
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It isn't that you don't use your thighs, or you do use your do. But the major part of that cue to the horse is coming from lower, towards your feet. Consider how your saddle is built. The thickest part of the saddle is the part under your thighs. How much effort does it take to send a message through the thickest part of the saddle, rather than the thinner part (down on the flaps) or even below the flaps where there is no more saddle? Think of the very advanced riders, who ride with spurs. They're not putting those spurs anywhere on the saddle, that's for sure...

You probably can send that horse into a trot if you squeeze the heck out of it with your thighs, but you shouldn't need to do that. It may help to think about putting your heels to the horse, and squeezing the horse from your heels and lifting the horse's sides UP with your heels (not just a squeeze in, but a squeeze in and up).

My guess is that your trainer has already said something to you about where these cues come from, it just takes a while to actually understand what they mean sometimes, and then more time to actually figure out how to DO that. Understanding what to do is insufficient...doing it is usually much more difficult.
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