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

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        06-17-2010, 08:12 PM

    My horse has always been one who likes to really go, so recently my instructor put us in a new bit. It's still a snaffle, but has a chain under her chin to provide a bit more leverage (I'm useless, but I don't know what it's called so don't ask..). It worked really well and she slowed right down...for a while. Now she tries to just pull right through the bit, and when she does slow down and I give her release of pressure, she just speeds up again, almost instantly. So naturally her trot is really fast and because of the constant pressure-release of the bit, her head's up in the air and she isn't relaxed. Now I can honestly say that I sit far back and deep in the saddle, and when she's going at a nice slow-ish trot I do give her a loose rein so it's not constant pressure that will p*ss her off. I try and do lots of circles and patterns or whatever, but she just tries to use turning in a circle as an excuse to go faster. And it doesn't even matter how tired she is-she gets sweated up every ride and still would run another 50 miles if I asked her to. She's got heart, you have to give her that, but that's not really the point.

    I don't know what I'm doing wrong. My instructor said that often it's not me that's doing it wrong-Tango is just being stubborn about it and refusing to work with me. If I just keep at it will she eventually even out? How can I relax her and slow her down? I'm thinking of calling my instructor to ask her advice, but I thought I'd ask here first.
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        06-17-2010, 08:43 PM
    It honestly sounds to me like you have two problems. One being that she is not working correctly and is thus strung out, and the other is that she has not really been conditioned to respond to your aids properly. I know with Ice, circles actually "rev his engine" when we do them whilst trying to calm him in they only make him more tense and excited. We have to do lots of different things, not just one repetitive thing, in order for him to actually have to think about where his feet are moving and that gets him to calm down and re-focus. So instead of continually doing 10 or 20 m circles, create sort of an obstacle course in your brain that she has to go through, though not in any particular order, until she's come back down to a normal level. This could be anything that just requires her to have to pay attention...maybe stopping in a square and then backing up, going over poles (as mentioned below), weaving through cones, etc.

    Do you have space available to set up trot poles, and keep them set up? Going over these might help regulate her trot speed because she can't rush through them, or she'll trip. They'll also help build up her back muscles and get her butt working, so she won't be so head high and hollowed out.
        06-17-2010, 09:16 PM
    Mm-hm, I do. Circles, serpentines, trotting the barrel pattern, around various objects...nothing seems to work. We don't have trot there anything I can use as a substitute? And it seems to be only at trot and the faster gaits that she has a problem...I'll ask her to slow to a walk and she's totally relaxed, her head is down, she responds to every cue..Well, needless to say I'm not going to canter 'til we're fine at the trot, but that's where the problem is.
        06-17-2010, 09:21 PM

    I wouldn't be attempting to control her by adding more pain to the equation. Ditch the chain bit & either put her in a double jointed snaffle(or something 'light'), or - my preference - get her reliable without a bit first. It is normal & understandable that she has reacted in this way to harsher treatment. She is reacting without thought *because* of it, rather than being able to relax & *respond*, which may well have been the basic problem to begin with. When they're reactive, they literally can't think clearly.

    So first & foremost I would be ruling out any source of potential pain, as that is such a common cause of 'fast' horses. She is NOT "just being stubborn about it" for the hell of it - there is good reason behind her behaviour, whether you find it or not. Make absolutely sure she's comfortable in her saddle & see if she behaves differently bareback or in a treeless. Make sure her girth is not too tight. (Balance International have some good info on their site if you need more about saddle fit) Make absolutely sure her mouth is in good order, not hurting & the bit is right for her. Google Dr Cook bitless for some more info on not-so-obvious effects the bit may be having. Other potential pain issues include back generally - aside from saddle, sore, sick feet, neck issues & rider balance.

    Make sure she has been taught well & is reliable about responding on the ground & to rein cues without a bit first, so you've at least got a foundation to begin with, rather than having nothing but force & pain to control her. Lack of trust/fear is a big issue for these prey animals, and again, adding pain/punishment to the equation doesn't help with that. Teaching her respectFULLY and clearly that she can trust & rely on you is important. Fear is another emotion that blocks rational thought & leads to an animal just reacting.

    Perhaps all of the above is basically in good order, but she has been well 'programmed' by prior training/previous owners just to run everywhere - it is habit & she doesn't know how to do anything differently. Perhaps that's what your instructor sees as 'just stubborn'. I agree that lots of repetition & consistency is a big key, but it is still important to do it in a gentle, clear & respectFUL way. Therefore...

    I would be starting off in a safe area, such as a small arena/paddock, so you can *teach* her persistently without having to force her for your safety. Eg. If you ask her to walk & she starts trotting, you can apply your gentle aids and just quietly persist, escalating gradually only to a level of *mild discomfort*, until she responds. She can't run off with you, so there is no need to be impatient & resort to force & pain which will cause her to react. BUT depending on her previous experiences & how ingrained her attitude, it might take quite a bit of patient persistence on your part to begin with, to convince her there is no need for defensive reactions. Be prepared to take as long as it takes.

    Once you've established that she is reliably responsive to gentle pressure & cues on the ground, then I'd start riding her, pref. In a bitless/bosal/halter. Get her going reliably slowly first, before 'upping the ante' with speed; Teach her to stand patiently & calmly. Teach her to halt & turn from a walk with gentle seat, leg & rein cues. Teach her to back up & go sideways. Once she can do all that reliably & calmly from a standstill & walk, then teach her to do it at a trot. Don't attempt to canter until she's well under control at slower paces, but again, if she does break into a canter when you don't want, you're in a controlled environment, so can *ask* her & persist, rather than having to *force* her to slow.

    Once you decide to take her out of the small enclosure, If possible I would stay in a safe environment such as a medium sized paddock, teach her to be reliable there before going out in the open. Remember, horses don't generalise well, so just because you've taught her reliably in one environment/situation doesn't mean she 'knows' what to do elsewhere. So be prepared to start at the beginning in a range of environments - tho once the basics are well established it will generally take far less time & effort elsewhere.
        06-17-2010, 10:21 PM
    Loosie, I don't think she meant a bit with a chain--I believe she's referring to a curb chain, which in a snaffle bit really only prevents it from slipping through.
        06-17-2010, 10:23 PM
    I thought she meant a curb chain.......
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        06-17-2010, 11:04 PM
    I am the owner of a 'goer' who has calmed down considerably. Here are a few things that have helped.

    Changing his feed: He was getting loads of straight sweet feed and I think this was a major factor in his attitude. We have switched to a low starch/sugar feed and the difference is obvious. He is still reactive, training will take that away in time, but he is no longer a time bomb.

    Finding one bit and sticking it out: I tried tons of bits before I settled on one. He would run right through any snaffle and would slam on the brakes for anything with a gag action. He went best in a plain old curb bit but I know they are not socially acceptable. All the changing in bit and tack was making him more nervous and less pliable.

    Lunging before (and sometimes after) working: It started off as letting him get a lil steam off before I got on. Now it is all about getting his attention and keeping it. When he is in the round pen, his only choice is to listen to me. I change it up on him everytime. Sometimes ill kick a few trot poles in there, sometimes he has to canter trot canter walk. Sometimes he has to do what seems like 1000 turns. All I look for is his focus on me. No lagging behind, no anticipating.

    Catch it before it gets out of hand: The turning thing is a great suggestion but its more than just a simple turn. As is everything to do with horses, its about timing. If you turn her when she's already started to get fast on you, your too late. If you catch her in the first stride that is faster than the last, you got it. You have to draw a line and hold her to it. One step over and bore her to death with circles.

    Diagnose the problem: Is she hyper? Is she nervous? Is she responding to aids that you don't even know your giving her? Is she herd bound? Is she in pain? Is she bored? Frustrated? You need to find the root cause of the speed before you can really get a handle on it.
        06-17-2010, 11:56 PM
    If she is pushing through the bit and it is losing its effectiveness then the problem lies in the rider. I would guess you are not timing your release right or you're not waiting until her feet get slow enough. You can try changing direction or doing a half-pass when she starts getting fast. If she speeds up in the circle just hold it until she slows back down then go on. If she speeds back up go in a circle the other direction until she slows down again. It's almost a certainty that when a horse is having a problem in one gait it has the same problem in all the other gaits. I would guess that your horse walks one speed and you couldn't speed the walk up or slow it down without alot of pulling on her. If you can get her to change speeds at a walk it will help alot at the trot.
        06-18-2010, 04:08 AM
    Originally Posted by justsambam08    
    loosie, I don't think she meant a bit with a chain--I believe she's referring to a curb chain, which in a snaffle bit really only prevents it from slipping through.
    Yep, that's what I took it to mean. Surely no one uses chains & the likes for bits these days?? But if it has changed her behaviour, it is obviously a harsher action. My point was that basically, *assuming she is being ridden well* it sounds like there is either a pain issue elsewhere, or she lacks the training to be ridden comfortably with a bit. Any bit can be painful to the horse when used with force - eg the horse &/or rider is not well trained enough to use it.

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