Breaking bad habits - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 7 Old 04-15-2009, 12:56 AM Thread Starter
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Breaking bad habits

Hey, I need some advice on breaking some bad habits in my 11yr old gelding. I trail ride a good bit and my horse acts as if he has to be in the front of the line. If release all rein pressure(drop the reins) he will just get faster and faster until you in a full run. He wants to trot all the time. I've tried stopping him and and backing him up every time but that doesn't seem to work either. I was thinking of changing bits but I'm not sure what to go to. I'm running a basic curb bit right now. Does anyone have any ideas?
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post #2 of 7 Old 04-15-2009, 07:44 AM
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You can do a circle (if trail is wide enough) every time he tries to speed up. Other approach is to let him go to the beginning of the line, turn and make him go again in back of the line. (for 2nd one you need other riders to be patient and cooperative though, which is not ALWAYS a case).
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post #3 of 7 Old 04-15-2009, 09:27 AM
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Serpentines. Millions of serpentines. Make the idea of him wanting to speed up harder for him by riding shallow serpentines all the way down the trail.
You want to move him right to left, yes. But you want to ride the serpentines with quality. Try not to just let him swing his hind quarters around, really ride the serpentine to the best of your ability.
So when you're bending him right, use your legs to keep him under himself and coming through. If he is one to get curled in his neck there will have to be moments where you let the reins go and push him through the serpentines. If he cannot uncurl his neck, he cannot relax.
The more animated he gets, the more animated your serpentine. Once you feel him make an effort to be slower, keep going for a while so you can help keep the behavior affirmed.
Work on riding in a loose rein, and if he speeds up and you feel like you need to pull, serpentine. Don't serpentine with any energy that your horse feels like he is in trouble. Just sit quietly and keep encouraging him slower is the answer.
You can give him breaks when you feel you are getting somwehere, but just keep in mind sometimes with certain horses it takes the whole trail ride and then some. :)
If your horse can be in front, but walking on a loose rein, accept that for now. Little by little he'll get with you and you can start to work on teaching him he doesn't have to be in front.

In riding, a horse's energy is like a river- guided by the banks but not stopped by them.
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post #4 of 7 Old 04-15-2009, 09:51 AM
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Koomy56, good advice. That's what I have done in the past and it works very well. I give them a job. Serpentines, circles where the trail allows. And you're absolutely correct about the amount of "energy" you are asking with in order not to get an excitable horse more so.

JMADDOX, my Walka has a very ground covering walk which is wonderful, unless we are not in front of the herd. I think it's important for a horse to be comfortable in front, in the middle and in back so we did a lot of circles and serpentines while in the middle and back positions until Walka realized it was a lot of work to try to get in front. He adjusted his walk to keep the position I put him in in relation to the group.

Not being a stupid horse it also helped once when he was a bit too curious about my friends older gelding that was in front of us and Apollo "warned" Walka to "stay back youngster (!)". One swish of Apollos tail and Walka immmediately got the message. (I made sure we were not too close to start with, but some horses , especially with a new horse, will require more space between. Sorry, kinda off subject here. )
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post #5 of 7 Old 04-15-2009, 10:15 AM
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Being from down Under, and have rehabilitated several badly abused horses (2 badly abused by curb bits) I cannot understand why you are still using a curb bit? Your horse obviously hates it, and that is why he goes faster when you release the rein.
A curb can be very painful in a horses mouth. Please give this a try.
Buy a fixed or loose ring medium jointed snaffle bit. This bit give the horse something to play with, therfore encouraging saliva, which keeps the mouth moist. (don't get me wrong, my horses have them, they don't play all the time as they used to it, and I can ride them all paces, turning on loose rein).
Longe,lead or work in a yard until he gets used to it, then start walk, stand, until he gets used to it, then trot, walk, turn etc, then move up. He may want to be up front, but he is not listening to you. Please try this bit out, and do some work on him at home before going out. He will still neck rein - mine do! You can also get a jointed Fullmer, it has long thin side bars, just helps the horse turn the head, but I thnk just a plain snaffle, get your fella used to it, and you will be fine.
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post #6 of 7 Old 04-15-2009, 05:51 PM
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Don't use a curb bit for now, but switch to a jointed snaffle. Preferrably a Full Cheek or a D ring. Why? Because your horse has basically learned to run through your bit AND a curb does not allow for proper application of Lateral movement, which is what you'll need to go back to in order to change this habit.

Basically what's happened is've trained your horse to be a race horse. The way jockeys ride race horses in races is they pick up both reins and hold the horse back (so to speak) and at the last stretch, they let the horse out, release some of the slack. The horse feels less pressure in his mouth so he associates less or no pressure with "must go faster!"

You've been riding with the brakes on for so long that pressure now means nothing = you feel you need to hold onto both reins & hold back even harder. He fights it, goes to the front anyway & ends up aggitated.

Less is definitely more in this case. The less pressure you use the more important it becomes when you use it. Right now, pressure means nothing to the horse, so lack of pressure means "go faster!"

Get a snaffle bit and as Koom said...SERPENTINES!

They don't have to be perfect but they do need to give the horse a moment of release if they're going to work. That means, if you are picking up both reins and just directing his nervous energy without ever offering a release of pressure, they won't work and he'll be just as aggitated as if you used a curb and held him back.

So, serpentines:
You pick up ONE rein only. Let's say the left rein. You run your left hand down the left rein use your right hand to pull more rein through your left hand (don't want to lean forward!).

pick up the one rein and get his head to come around (bend the neck) and his left hip to move slightly (idealy: do this in an open space first, in an arena, then when you can do serpentines proficiently, go to the trail)

you want a BEND in the body. and to feel like he's not pulling against you. if he pulls against you, you can't release. you must hold and wait til he gives to the bit and bends slightly his body around your (left) leg (for the left rein) and then release.

1. drive the horse forward with two legs (squeeze)
2. pick up one rein
3. feel no pull from him as his head comes around (and you see half his face at least) and his hip moves over (back feet cross)

Ideal: he bends around your leg with each time you pick up the rein (be sure to put a slight leg cue to picking up the rein. you don't want to pick up the rein ever...without putting at least a little leg on him always. this keeps him from getting heavy)

Do the above in an arena/open area. Then when you can pick up the rein and get the wanted response every single time, no matter which rein you pick up, then go on the trail.

Ideal trail ride: don't go head to tail. but go around trees, bushes, etc... put his energy to good use. it's when you try to quell that energy "stop stop stop or slow slow slow" that just puts pressure on him and he responds by fighting it. Use the energy he's giving you and he'll relax faster.

Ask him to stop, back up 5 steps, trot up, stop, move the hip over, go forward at a walk, side step once, stop, back, move the shoulder over, trot, back up, etc. etc.....

He's not at the point yet where you can simply throw the reins away and let him go on auto pilot. He needs a job. He's got energy to burn and nothing to do with it. So, put it to good use and practice your moves.

Soon, if you are consistent, then if you can switch to the curb bit (frankly, you're safer in a snaffle because it offers a wider range of control with lateral movement which is what gives you real control).

A curb bit is for a truly finished horse and rider, who work off seat and legs and very very little rein pressure.

You're safer in a snaffle and your horse will relearn to respect bit pressure if you go with something that's less severe. So, if you choose later to ride in a curb (it's ideal to switch back and forth between a snaffle and a curb if you want to ride in a curb)....your horse will respond to it.


curb bit: if you use the bit how it's intended: opening and closing your fingers only. no pulling, no harder pressure, then for ever ounce of pressure, your horse feels several more times as much pressure so that's why you must be light-handed if you use a curb bit.
you must be proficient at using seat and legs and your horse should be very responsive to seat and leg and of course rein. Also, pressure points with curbs are: in the mouth (tongue, bars, pallet maybe), poll, jaw. Also, the longer the shanks the higher the severity (how many pounds of pressure the horse really feels)

snaffle bit: if you need to really put let's say 5 pounds of pressure on one rein then your horse only feels 5 pounds of pressure and using it one rein at a time means that your horse only feels pressure on one part of his face (full cheek or d ring snaffles, which is why they are my favorite)....the pressure is 1 place: against the outside of the mouth. that's it. So, it's easier for the horse to understand and accept. And if you really need to bring his head around to your boot toe, you can, without damaging his mouth or using too much pressure all over his head and none in his mouth. (compared to a ring snaffle or an egg butt. these work on the inside of the mouth. they're fine, I just prefer the fc or d)
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post #7 of 7 Old 04-15-2009, 07:47 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks for the advice. I was thinking about trying a snaffle already.
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