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This is a discussion on Frustrated within the Horse Training forums, part of the Training Horses category

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    08-23-2013, 12:00 PM

Hello, I'm looking for some advice. I'm finally able to ride all I want. March, April, May, I rode her darn near every day, since then about 3-4 times a week. I started her at 3 and been the only one of her back. She turned 8 in Feb. I started rein training her earlier this year also. I would say she's trained fairly well western style. I'm to the point of trying to speed things up and when I ask her, because I know for a fact she knows what I am asking, I expect her to do it NOW, not when she gets around to it but when I ask. (There is my frustration!) I have to take it to a place I don't like when I have to keep nagging at her to respond when I ask. She will sure do it when I take it there but I hate doing that.
Is this just another step in her training process? Will she eventually give it up and respond when I ask her without me taking it to that other place?
Just this year, I finally seen a lot more maturity in her. I really think in a couple years I could take her straight up in the bridle if I can get this worked out.
I also know that earlier this year I was pushing too hard for results and have since backed off a bit but I do still expect her to respond quicker.

Thank you, Shadow
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    08-23-2013, 01:18 PM
There is an exercise that will help with your problem, it is called cruising and works best in an arena or large area with no trees, or things to get run into, I prefer an arena. The goal is to make the horse responsible for their own feet and maintain the requested gait until told to stop. This is great for horses with sticky feet. Start off at a walk, loose rein and just be a passenger. Do not steer, lean or guide the horse in any way. While your going along just let the horse go where he wants to go, rub on his butt, neck move around in the saddle but no steering. If the horse gets stuck in a corner squeeze, cluck, spank let the horse figure out he is to keep walking. When you get good at a walk ask for a trot, same thing just be a passenger, and then canter. Do not nag the horse to keep going, if he breaks gait let him commit to the mistake for two strides so he knows what he did to get pressured back up then squeeze, cluck, spank, spank, spank until he gets the gait them leave him alone. If your horse gets to close to a fence and rubs you foot or leg that is the only time to touch him, pick up the inside rein and pull his face into the fence and let him bump his nose on the fence.

In my experience broke horses have a more difficult with this exercise because they are used to following the fence. When your horse realizes he can go anywhere he will start circling, diving left or right, cutting across the arena and really have fun. Hope this helps.
jannette and Elizabeth Bowers like this.
    08-23-2013, 01:48 PM
Green Broke
I assume she is not immediately responding to leg pressure to pick up the speed or move up to the next gait? After 5 years of riding this horse should be spot on when asked.

I use spurs and a dressage whip. Squeeze with your calves and then bump with the spurs and at the same time use the dressage whip immediately behind your leg. The trick in this is using that whip at the same time you squeeze.

Nagging is what makes a horse dead sided. They just do not respond.. and you have to kick harder and harder and over and over. Phooey on THAT. Nagging an animal is not fair to the animal. Make your request CLEAR and DEFINITIVE and NON NEGOTIABLE.

Ask and use the whip. Do NOT use it across the butt.. that can create bucking.

In very short order (a couple of weeks) most horses will very quickly "develop" sensitive sides and move up in speed when you squeeze your calf on them.

Don't forget to release with your hands when the horse responds. I have seen a lot of people make a horse non responsive to their leg by whacking them in the mouth when the horse moves out and they lose balance.. and then regain balance with the reins. That is unfair too.. ask the horse to move out and then punish him by hitting his mouth.
    08-23-2013, 04:21 PM
Thank you both and I will give it all a try.

    08-23-2013, 04:50 PM
Subbing, because I want to read this later. I'll need it :)
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    08-23-2013, 06:46 PM
Something else I should mention is that I am currently using split reins and after I've squeezed with my legs and she doesn't immediately do what I am asking I lift the rein like I am going to wack her and she will pick up for a few seconds then go right back down. So kinda what I am hearing from you all is that if she doesn't listen to my leg immediately, then I should be wacking her?

She pretty much is slow to respond to most things I ask and I'm sure it is my fault. Side passing, haunches in or out. Spinning, pretty much all of it and she definitely knows how to do it because when I have finally had enough and am beyond frustrated I wake her up and man she will do it like I want but then she's kinda wired and not as smooth as I would like.

    08-23-2013, 06:57 PM
Yup, you need to be more consistent.

I personally cluck, squeeze then whack. You don't want that first whack to be real hard, build up in intensity to make sure she can deal with the pressure without acting out.

Unfortunately, you've taught her to be lazy by never being consistent. It's the same with any cue, if she doesn't respond, build pressure. Sometimes carrying a dressage whip is more convenient, for the side passing and other lateral work.

She gets wired about it because she is confused, sometimes you're a leader and sometimes you're not. Once you get consistent she will calm down.
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    08-23-2013, 10:09 PM
Originally Posted by Shadow    
Something else I should mention is that I am currently using split reins and after I've squeezed with my legs and she doesn't immediately do what I am asking I lift the rein like I am going to wack her and she will pick up for a few seconds then go right back down. So kinda what I am hearing from you all is that if she doesn't listen to my leg immediately, then I should be wacking her?

She pretty much is slow to respond to most things I ask and I'm sure it is my fault. Side passing, haunches in or out. Spinning, pretty much all of it and she definitely knows how to do it because when I have finally had enough and am beyond frustrated I wake her up and man she will do it like I want but then she's kinda wired and not as smooth as I would like.

It is very difficult to do any exercise without impulsion, get the impulsion and the rest will be easy. Since she knows what you want I would squeeze give her one second then spank, she is beyond the teaching stage, and has just learned to ignore you until you go to whack her. I prefer to carry a crop, or use mecate reins any time you mess with the reins they feel it in their mouth so she anticipates when she feels you lifting the reins to whack her moves like you said and then stops, with a slapper, or crop she will not know its coming until she is whacked. Don't let her ignore you, stay consistent once you know she is able to do an exercise well never let her do less then she is able.

I suggested the cruising exercise in the first post it will work. I do it with all my horses. Lazy horses it un-sticks their feet, hot horses it teaches them to relax but instead of keeping them moving its a lot of shutting down until they figure out what you want. Which ever the case it teaches them to be responsible for their own impulsion so you can work on other things.
    08-24-2013, 12:46 AM
Super Moderator
What I am going to try to describe is how I used to get horses so light that all I needed to do was 'tighten' the upper calf of my leg and not move my lower leg even 1 inch. If a horse is irritated by a fly landing on his lower rib-cage, I know darn well he can lope of collected and smooth on the exactly where I want him to lope off.

Before I start, I want everyone to know that these methods are for very well started horse -- horses that most people would call 'finished horses'. I am talking horses that know walk, trot, lope off on a correct lead. I am talking about horses that are soft and responsive in the bridle, lope a straight line without a fence and lope a round circle in the correct lead. If a horse is not very well broke -- don't use these methods. They are for 'fine-tuning' a broke horses -- not developing green ones.

First, I find that carrying a crop and raising it is completely unacceptable to me. Threatening a horse with rein ends or crop tells me that the rider has never had a horse that responded to the lightest of aids. Never, never, NEVER threaten a horse.

Nagging at a horse always makes a horse more resistant and less and less obedient. If you are satisfied with begging and nagging a horse 3 or 4 times to get a lope-off in the correct lead, then that is what your horse is always going to require. It also means that the horse will keep requiring more and more pressure get a response.

Getting a horse to respond to the lightest of aids is about ALL mental for the rider. Horses get no more responsive than the worst response that you accept.

Most people just keep upping the pressure until they 'finally' get the correct result. This only teaches a horse to wait for that final amount of heavy pressure and they never learn to respond to the light 'first request'. I have heard many times that "A rider should keep upping the pressure until they reach the point where the horse responds. A rider should use the least amount of pressure that get the wanted result."

You do not have to analyze this very long and you figure out that you are leaving the question of "How much pressure should be applied?" up to the horse to answer. Not going to happen. He is not going to talk himself into becoming 'light'. He is going to get less and less responsive.

I think that making truly 'finished' horses is what high level trainers do and few amateurs (even those that would be considered expert riders and World Class competitors) ever attain. This is why most (not all) World Champion riders have a trainer that keeps them and their horses 'tuned' and ready.

Amateurs and 'trainer wannabes' just keep applying more and more pressure until they finally get the result. THEN, they take off the pressure. If they are going by the rule of taking off pressure for the correct result, then they are teaching the that responding to a very heavy aid is what is wanted. The horse complies -- requiring 5 or 10 times as much pressure as the rider would like the horse to respond to.

[I am sorry this is dragging out so long. I have never tried to put this concept into words before. It is more difficult than I thought it would be.]

Now, the whole things depends on the rider getting the respect from the horse that the horse WANTS to respond to the lightest 'squeeze' or touch.

Say we want the horse to go into a jog with just a light squeeze of both legs. This is accomplished in this way: The rider applies a tiny squeeze. Of course the horse ignores it. Then, the trainer/rider applies about 10 times more pressure than he/she has to but does NOT LET THE HORSE GO FORWARD. The rider can spur the hard 4 or 5 times or 'over and under the horse several times -- hard, without letting the horse go forward at all. Then, gather the horse back up (he is probably a little wound about this time) and ASK AGAIN WITH THE VERY LIGHTEST SQUEEZE. 9 out of 10 horses will now listen to that squeeze. The 10th one may take 'two' overhauls.

Do you see the difference? The first method the rider pushed on the horse harder and harder and the pressure was taken off when the horse finally, begrudgingly responded. That slow, begrudging response is what was rewarded (and trainer for). The second time he was not allowed to respond to the serious overhaul he got and he was ticked to respond to the light aid immediately after that.

The same is true for a lope departure. Ask the horse very lightly with a 'kiss' and a light squeeze with the outside leg behind the girth. If he does not go instantly into a lope, hold him back, spur or thrash his butt and then, quietly reposition him and ask lightly again. I prefer to lope from a walk and not a standstill, but that is just me. I like really smooth, 'head down' departures where the horse pushes off hind end first rather than 'hopping' into a lope with their front ends. It is easier to teach this from a walk than any other way.

Everything you do, should work the same way. You 'over-correct' the horse, bring him back to 'start' and ask again with the lightest possible aid. Then and only then can to get the opportunity to reward the right thing. Do this consistently and you will have a horse that the most seasoned observer will not be able to see you cue.

Again, this is NOT for green horses but only for horses that know what you want and do it consistently but not quickly enough.

A high level trainer that hauls high level youth and amateurs spends much of their time 'tuning up' their youth and amateur horses to keep them light and honest and performing at a high level. Most trainers will tell you that every reining horse, cutting horse or Equitation horse only has so many tune-ups in them. Then, they figure out the difference between the trainer and the horse's regular exhibitor. Most exhibitors then sell that horse to a lower level rider and get a new one that has only been 'trainer ridden'.

This is all because the amateur rider usually accepts less of a response. It is back to old saying:
The worst performance you accept is the very best performance you have any right to expect!!

So, OP -- If you have been accepting a pitiful response, your horse has figured out just how to give you just that.
    08-24-2013, 10:52 AM
Everything you all have said makes total sense. Definitely my fault. She's the first and only one I've started and She's been waiting on me to catch up and learn myself how to teach her. I've been behind her for quite a while now.

Looking forward to trying this, she is broke enough to take it but man is she going to come alive. I guarantee she will respond when I ask when she is "overhauled" so to speak. She will now after I've nagged on her til I've had enough.

Thank you all again,


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