Hey remember that time I was a racehorse? - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 2 Old 08-03-2012, 01:25 AM Thread Starter
Join Date: Jun 2012
Location: USA
Posts: 119
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Hey remember that time I was a racehorse?

Cause my horse definitely reminds me of it.

I've had my horse 1 month. Before I got him, he hadn't been ridden in a good year. I've had a lesson with my trainer (only one so far, my work schedule has been crazy!) and we established that he is very out of shape and so I've stuck to walk/trot work so far. We've worked out the little issues in those gaits that I've found and he's getting everything down.

I'm looking to move on to working on the canter. My problem is my trainer is gone for a few weeks so I thought I might come here for advice. Every time I attempt the canter (its been about 3 times) he completely runs into it and then has to slow down and/or break gait in the corners. To me, that is just not being in shape and being a little out of balance, right? Which should come with time. He also is strung out like a string bean, poor guy!

One thing I'm asking about is how much should I expect from him in canter? Is it fair to work on solid transitions at this point? How much collection should I ask for? I definitely don't want him to learn to run around strung out, but I don't want to over do him since he is not too fit yet and does not have the proper muscling.

My next concern, my main concern, is about his work AFTER the canter. The last canter work I did, I went around the arena ONE TIME. I had a hard time getting him to transition downwards to the trot. His trot to walk transition is great, a simple sit from posting and he's happily walking. So I started walking him and it was a CONSTANT battle to keep him from trotting. So I put him on a 20m circle and did walk/trot transitions. He was VERY forward and I had to use my spurs to keep his dang shoulder in. When he was walking he'd try to trot, when he was trotting he'd try to canter. It was a mess! Finally I won that battle but it was definitely work. To correct him breaking into a trot from a walk I finally would just stop him, back him a few steps, then continue walking. I would have to do this a good 5x in a row before he was good for a while.

So! Is that a good way to correct the breaking of the walk gait?
What should I do when he tries to canter from the trot? I thought about maybe pushing him on into the gait but I'm afraid because of his lack of fitness he'll learn to canter strung out. OR it just wouldn't work and he'd gogogo. He's the kind of horse that will keep going when he's tired. Should I just bring him back to a walk/halt or maybe just make sure he stays at a good, slow trot?

Sorry if you can't give me much. I know you don't know the horse, me as a rider, etc. But I'd just like something to go off of until my trainer gets back. If you recommend me waiting on my trainer to return to do canter work, you won't offend me! :)

By the way... My horse is an OTTB. I guess that could explain some of the track-like behavior (trot to warm up gallopgallopgallop the done) BUT He's a 10 y/o that has previously been shown in hunters! So I'm thinking that's not a good excuse for him lol

Thanks if you read all that :)
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post #2 of 2 Old 08-03-2012, 02:59 AM
Join Date: Jun 2012
Location: Melbourne, Australia
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Regarding the jig-jogging (breaking the walk) - what we did with my friend's track-trained but unraced horse (who practically didn't walk under saddle when she came in, just jig-jogged, trotted and galloped) was made her walk nice and slowly, with regular verbal reassurance and praise, both on the line and under saddle. As soon as she started to jig-jog, I'd make her stop - in the saddle, this involved the verbal "whoa" cue we'd taught her on the line, plus sitting very deeply and with weight back.

Anyway, the following stuff is what I've learned from instructors and from riding TBs, but not an expert and there are much more knowledgeable HF members out there!

OTTBs are very in tune with weight/seat cues. 50kg jockeys are up in high stirrups on 500kg superfit racehorses without any contact except through the hands, on a horse that has been trained to lean on the bit to balance rather than give to pressure, and has little in the way of a lateral mouth. Shifts in weight, and repetitive but not constant hand cues, is how they control them - if you watch, they aren't just legged on as decoration, they are there to guide the horse through the field and control the speeds. A little drop into the left stirrup and the horse will shift left, lean forward with forward hands and they the horse will stretch out and increase their speed. Weight pushed back with the shoulders on the line of the ankle and the ankle-knee line perpendicular to the ground, hands closed and drawn inward and toward the navel, and the horse will begin to slow - most young TBs are not particularly well balanced with a rider aboard, so need to shift their weight back under the rider's centre of gravity to regain that balance, which of course means a shortening of stride and decrease in speed.

If I were you, I would use this training they come with, along with voice cues taught on the ground, to your advantage. Make sure you are sitting super straight with shoulders back, but don't get into a tug of war with the reins. When you want to transition down, think "stop", sit still and deep, shoulders back and open and squeeze and release your hands until you get the desired result. Same with when he breaks the trot - as soon as he breaks without you asking (make sure you're not accidentally asking by putting your weight forward or providing any pressure with your lower leg, some of them are pretty sensitive to leg cues as they're not used to them) bring him back to walk. He's been taught to go unless asked NOT to, now you have to teach him not to go unless you ASK him It's probably easier for your trainer to show you how to get a canter happening when you want, however - I'm not sure how much of a 3-beat gait your horse has. Star has learned to canter finally but will still break into a gallop or a disunited canter sometimes if not asked correctly or if she feels unbalanced.

You may have to support his front end for a while, til he develops balance under saddle, but do spend some time each session (best if it's towards the end when your horse is a little less excited) getting a nice walk on a loose rein. At the moment, Star will go nicely on a loose rein at the walk, although she's still learning balance at the faster gaits so we're working (with great tips from HF peeps!) on getting her to hold herself up there.

Anyway, hope that helps!
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