The Basics....ground work plan for retraining from English to Western Pleasure/Trail - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 5 Old 03-16-2012, 09:19 AM Thread Starter
Join Date: Feb 2012
Location: AZ
Posts: 265
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The Basics....ground work plan for retraining from English to Western Pleasure/Trail

Gang, i ask you for a little guidance and wisdom here, as I begin the process of retraining my horse to western from english.
A little background information.....
I have had her under saddle twice. Both times, she really wanted to speed up, and it played horribly into the plan of the day. I suspect two separate issues at hand...poorly fitted saddle, and an inexperienced rider at the reins.
the result was a horse that was flustered and agitated, and a rider equally so.
But, each time, we went back to the round pen to finish the day with a win for both of us.
After discussing things with my trainer/girlfriend (extremely talented horsewoman), we decided to go back to basics, and essentially start from scratch.
Our logic being that my horse is about 9 years old. This gives me about 18 years or so of good riding ahead of us, and i want those years to be as pleasureable for us both as i can make them. She's an amazing horse, and deserves it, as do I.
On top of that, what we're doing isn't working, so its time to change the plan to something that does.
What we know: Makana is trained as an English/Dressage horse as best we know. Her walk is very fast, as she's enormous (16.2h), and her temperament is wonderful. We did a join up last weekend that went flawlessly like a textbook definition, and i definitely have her attention and respect.
So, back to basics, and into the round pen we go, and this is where my issue lies....
I need knowledge and skills in this department.
Do you know of any books, dvd's, youtube channels, websites, that I can seek out to help me get the information i need to essentially start from scratch on training both myself and my horse?
We're already doing the forward and back, and working on whoa all over again, but like i said, starting from the very beginning is the fundamental concept.
Thanks in advance!

azwantapaint is offline  
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post #2 of 5 Old 03-17-2012, 12:35 PM
Join Date: Jun 2009
Location: the barn
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Book/clinician wise, I'd say Monty Roberts (since you like join-up) and Buck Brannaman. There was a documentary recently about Buck, but he was also the inspiration for the book and movie The Horse Whisperer. He is an amazing horseman and I have learned a lot about training from him.

Book: One of my favorite books has always been, There are No Problem Horses, Only Problem Riders by Mary Twelveponies. She is able to give good insight on many of the average issues riders have.

What kind of western would you like to do with your mare? Trail riding, plain western riding or western pleasure? Dressage does lend itself to western in general so you have a nice start there.

Other than woah, i would also work on turning. Walking in a straight line comes after walking in a circle in my book. It's great if your horse can go straight, but turning can be a lifesaver, even on a trail.

You can start with groundwork, leading her around and making her comfortable. When I started my horse, I had someone leading me around on her for a few days so she would be comfortable, but she was unbroke at 16.

What was so bad about your 2 times under saddle? Did she take off or did you both just get figity and uncomfortable?

Hope something helps.
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post #3 of 5 Old 03-17-2012, 01:21 PM Thread Starter
Join Date: Feb 2012
Location: AZ
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I'm thinking it was a combination of both of us being frustrated by each other, saddle fit, and her not having been ridden much in the past 6 months.
It's nothing major, just an absence of good communication and mutual trust.
So, in an endeavor to create good communication, and mutual respect, we're going back to basics, to build our relationship on a base of stone, as opposed to a base of sand.
This week is time for me to get educated, as we have a huge storm coming through, so that after it passes, we can get started.
Our style of riding is western trail, though i was very impressed with a couple videos i saw illustrating the similarities between dressage and western pleasure i think.
Most impressive was the western horse spinning in place. That was amazing!
Regardless, my objective is to build the relationship of a lifetime with my horse, so we can feel and think each other's thoughts and feelings, becoming one with each other.
I appreciate your input, and will look into all of your suggestions shortly!

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post #4 of 5 Old 03-17-2012, 02:00 PM
Join Date: Nov 2009
Location: Maui
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I feel horses should all start the same way.

1) Relax, feel safe.

2) Learn to learn: that is, I like my horses to know that I'm presenting opportunities for a right answer. They can do everything wrong, that's okay, but when they're right, they get "cookies and caresses."

From there, you just tailor for your needs, developing more communication and finer responses. You can do this unmounted or in the saddle. I usually start with slow-fast-slow walk, for example. I do a lot of flexing, and turning. Some horses are very wiggly, though, and I probably would do less bending with them, until I felt they went straight in a stronger manner.

3) And I like to take lessons, so that I know what my needs are!

Sometimes, Step One will take the longest. Be patient.
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post #5 of 5 Old 03-17-2012, 02:40 PM
Join Date: Dec 2010
Location: southern Arizona
Posts: 9,534
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One of the differences between English and western is the amount of contact with the bit. An English horse is taught to seek contact. Most western riding is done with slack in the reins. If the horse is trained for English, she may be seeking something western riding doesn't normally give.

My mare tends to be spooky, and one of the best 'relationship' exercises I've found is to lead her on a lead line by herself out and away from the other horses. We then find things that are harder for her to deal with, and face them. I watch her to make sure I'm not pushing her too far too fast, and she learns to accept that I'll take her someplace and bring her home safely. I find it much more productive and less boring than round pen work.

I'm in Arizona too. If the winds aren't TOO bad, I'll probably walk her a bit in them. Walking her has given me a chance to get to know her, what frightens her, what her individual signs of stress are, and what works best for dealing with them. From her back, I have a harder time seeing her reaction and how she responds to things.

"Make the right thing easy and the wrong thing...well, ignore it mostly."
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