How can you tell when a horse is heavy on the forehand? - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 7 Old 02-17-2013, 09:56 PM Thread Starter
Join Date: Apr 2012
Location: Minnesota
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How can you tell when a horse is heavy on the forehand?

First off, a bit of background so you know where I'm coming from. I'm a totally on-my-own rider. My horse was bought on a whim, greenbroke, when I didn't even know how to bridle a horse. (I do not recommend that). I don't have a trainer, I don't have lessons - I can't spare the money for them. So please none of the 'go find a trainer' business. I've been doing well learning mostly on my own - with TONS of research, videos, books, and the HF has helped me a ton. We make progress. It's just slow.

That being said, as much as I now advocate "green horse + green rider = black and blue" we work well together. We are making constant progress, it's just slower than most people's. Was a bit hairy at first, but it's so much better now than it was before. She has moved barns a lot to be with me going to school, etc, which I think has actually helped out a lot with her trusting me. Of all the greenbroke horses I could have bought, I think she was the best option.

This brings me to my question. I see a lot of people talk about a horse being heavy on the forehand and not 'working from behind' - it seems that a lot of people can even tell from just a picture. I'm just going to go out on a limb and assume my horse rides heavy on the forehand, partly because she's a half draft and partly because it seems that most horses do until you learn to collect them.

When I'm riding, is there any way to tell when Clementine is heavy on the forehand? And how can I get her working from behind and collecting herself? You want the horse to reach under more with the back legs and be lighter with the fronts, yes? Would this be doable on my own, or would I need a video camera or something to record myself? (Totally can't afford that) :P I'd like to be able to have a nice collected horse, but I'm not sure if some of these things can be achieved by myself.

Also... HOW can you tell just from pictures? When people comment 'oh, she looks a bit heavy on the front' as much as I stare I just can't see it. Anyone have some video or something of the difference? :p
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post #2 of 7 Old 02-17-2013, 11:26 PM
Join Date: Dec 2010
Location: southern Arizona
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I'll tell you how it works for me. I'm not a trainer, competitor, or great rider, and I haven't had lots of lessons.

Although I'm more western in my approach, I like to practice riding two point (kind of standing in my stirrups, but with most of my weight going to my thighs). To be balanced in that position, you need your center of gravity to match the horse's. So if the horse is 'forward', you will be too.

Another exercise is one I got in my first riding lesson. She had me ride around a barrel, trying to keep the circle round. It wasn't pretty. Then she had me start a circle that way, and then settle back 'on my pockets' and bring my heels back, shifting MY weight to the rear. As I did so, the circle immediately became rounder as the horse also shifted to follow my weight. Doing it in mid circle made it very obvious.

You don't need lessons. It might help to have someone watch you and comment on how round your circles are, or your position. You can be back and still have a horse leaning mare is big on shifting her weight forward, probably because she loves running and straight lines, and hates circles and pivots.

I can't give advice on looking at pictures, because I'm wrong as often as right when I try it.

Good luck!

Off topic - the lady I took lessons from had no heartburn with someone asking to take 2-4 lessons so they could learn what they needed to practice on. Not all instructors are like that, but she gave my oldest daughter 2 lessons - one to assess, and one to give her things to work on.

The lady who trained our horses has also done that with me sometimes...I'd take 2-3 lessons when she had a regular student take a vacation. On a couple, she had me ride bareback with the horse on a lunge line - very interesting! A good instructor can teach you a lot in 2 lessons. For me, that was $60 well spent.

BTW - When I took up riding, I bought a horse that was advertised as "perfect for a beginner". If I had known more, the fact that they only allowed her to be ridden in a 30' round pen , and wouldn't let me lead her anywhere , SHOULD have been a huge warning! So for 4.5 years, the two of us have been learning together. NOT a good idea, but the struggle has been a great teacher. Just wish I didn't still have pain in my back from a tumble 4 years ago...

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

Last edited by bsms; 02-17-2013 at 11:30 PM.
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post #3 of 7 Old 02-17-2013, 11:30 PM
Join Date: Jun 2011
Location: Cariboo, British Columbia
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I can tell right away, the horse's back doesn't meet my seat and the muscles on his sides are not coming into contact with the muscles in my legs.
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post #4 of 7 Old 02-18-2013, 12:02 AM
Join Date: Aug 2011
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A trainer I know put it like this, and I found it to be a useful visual image. When you ride, imagine that you and your horse are in the dark and need a flashlight to point the way, and that that flashlight is attached to your belly button. Of course you also want to be looking up and forward when you ride at the same time. This automatically puts your weight more to the outside in a turn and the horse is more easily able to stay elevated and light in front. The opposite would be to ride by leaning into the turns as you would on a motorcycle or bicycle, which will put the horse moreso on the forehand. That flashlight image deal really helped me and my horses.
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post #5 of 7 Old 02-18-2013, 10:33 AM Thread Starter
Join Date: Apr 2012
Location: Minnesota
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Bsms and Ian - Thank you! I do tend to lean forward I think. My saddle is too big, so I tend to slide around a bit - and the flashlight visual is great. I do lean into my turns, I didn't know I wasn't really supposed to. I try to sit fairly vertical and not slouch, at least.

Wares - That's great, but as a relatively inexperienced rider I don't know how to feel things like that. I don't know how to feel the difference between a collected horse and one that's not. So when I try to ride and feel how she is it's not obvious to me. (Which is the reason I'm asking). I don't think I know enough to tell anything based on specific muscles like you said - I guess I'm looking for an overall feel that would be more obvious to someone like me.
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post #6 of 7 Old 02-18-2013, 12:35 PM
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Hmmmm THAT feeling.......just to give you an idea, do you wear spurs? JUST to give you an idea, while you're trotting, squeeze your horse forward and slowly raise your hands, she should come UP and off the bit, keep squeezing and holding until you feel her really soft in the face, you should feel her front end come up or see her shoulders lift. Do this while your trotting circles, ask for it, get it, then gently release.....if she doesn't give to your hands, squeeze and roll your spurs should feel her back make contact under the saddle and push up this all gets more complicated, BUT this little trick should give you a feel of what coming OFF the forehand is like.....just play with it a little:) good luck:)
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post #7 of 7 Old 02-18-2013, 12:44 PM
Join Date: Jun 2011
Location: Cariboo, British Columbia
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Once you get the balance, the aids with legs, seat and hands, and making your horse go steady, this is where you begin. When you feel your horse is going good, in rhythm with you, light & squishy in your hand and really listening to your legs, maybe an ear cocked back towards you, pay attention to how all that feels, even if is just for a few seconds. Once you feel that, you will know and you won't forget that feeling.
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