Not liking work?

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Not liking work?

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    06-23-2011, 07:10 PM
Unhappy Not liking work?

Hi, as some of you might recall my gelding has atrial fibrillation (no underlying heart defect) but I've been told I can still do lower level dressage with him and really haven't noticed any symptoms.

I've had him for a year and a bit and really haven't put him through too much work but he was very, very green and trained wrong, as in he thought legs only meant go and rein contact meant stop (ending up very hollow and muscled incorrectly).

This is our fourth week of getting back into work after a winter/spring off due to his health. He has an iron mouth and it takes ages for him to accept lateral flexion and become supple. Anyways I hired a lovely coach who rode him the other day with great difficultly. I've never seen him fighting so much. Bucking, kicking out and refusing to go forward. Finally at the end he was starting to 'get' it.

The next day I took him to our first show just to get him out. We only did two walk/trot classes and his suppleness and relaxed demeanour were amazing. Then a day off. Then another (more intense) workout with the trainer, whom he fought even harder. Then a day off.

Then I went to take him out yesterday and he was incredibly anxious. When it came to lunging he was very speedy (not himself) and then when I rode him he was mini-rearing and bucking, which he never does to me.

I'm wondering if his workouts are too much and have turned him a tad arena sour or if he doesn't 'like' to work. It's mostly all walk trot at this point but the energy he puts into fighting the trainer puts him in a lather. Either way it's not fun for either of us when he's like that. I'm going again today and might just walk him around the arena (in hand) so he doesn't associate the arena with intensity? It wouldn't be too much of an issue but a rearing 17.3 hh horse makes me very nervous. And I'm suspicious of such a drastic change in his demeanour.

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    06-23-2011, 08:48 PM
Any time a horse's personality changes this quickly, I think Lyme disease. Are you in a tick prone area? Is your horse ouchy when being groomed? If it's not that, maybe he tweaked something at the show and is just a little sore? Maybe the bit is hurting him? Sharp points on his teeth. Yes, some horses get the idea that they were retired and become resistant to getting back to work, but this doesn't sound like a training issue.
    06-23-2011, 09:07 PM
I've been over him with a fine toothed brush so to speak - no ticks that I could see (not really a ticky area, thankfully). His teeth were floated a couple months ago and I only use the same bit (eggbut snaffle) that I've always used. He wasn't lame but whenever I asked him to bend left he acted up worse, which leads me to think he might've tweaked something.

I wondered if the 'hey, I'm retired' mentality could be a possibility. He's never, ever been put into proper work and wasn't started until the age of 5 (he's now 11). He's okay with carting me around without much asked but ask him to do something new and he gets very frustrated and pitches a fit. I know in the past with his previous owner he won the battle because of his size.

Also the first time I rode after the trainer was at a new arena (the show). The second time was in the same arena as the coach trains in, and I'm thinking maybe he anticipates a fight in 'that' arena. Is that possible after only a couple rides?
    06-23-2011, 09:21 PM
Maybe your trainer is pushing him too quickly? I would think a horse with that little training would need a very slow, easy to understand training approach. Clear communication, lots of patience, and nothing aggressive. If he's working himself into a lather, he's feeling unsafe or more likely frustrated and not understanding what's being asked of him. It's hard to say without seeing video to show what creates his blowups.
    06-23-2011, 09:49 PM
I agree, he's definitely frustrated, even though she's clear and patient about what she is asking for. He's having a hard time realizing he can go forward into a supple contact. To him, we're asking him to stop and go. His reaction is to fight.

The trainer is out of province for a show, so I have until early next week to see to see if mixing up the work (ie lunging one day, walk/trot the next, free lunge, etc) helps diffuse his anticipation, or if there is another issue altogether going on. I really want it to work with this trainer, but I don't want to end up with a horse that's so frustrated I can't ride him anymore. He can definitely be sore, afterall, he's using new muscles and really having to work over his back.

Thanks, MyBoyPuck.
    06-23-2011, 10:12 PM
He's probably getting frustrated because you're asking him to both stop and then go. Next time you do the exercise, just keep moving forward. If he gets stuck, walk him in a circle and then try forward again. Be very consistent with the outside rein contact but don't worry about his head. Just let him find the bit himself. Keeping him on a large circle will help loads. I recently changed my horse's bit and did this same exercise with him to help him get used to the new contact. Even as fit as he is, he still put up a bit of a drama queen fit a few times not wanting to use his back muscles. Just be really patient with him. Never let him stop or take a step backwards. Anytime he starts to get stuck, circle. Praise him heaps when he starts to take good steps so he knows that's what you want. Hope that helps.
    06-24-2011, 04:28 AM
Three questions I always ask, in the order I ask them.

1 Am I certain The horse is not in pain or physical discomfort?
2 Am I certain that the horse is capable of what I am asking him, is it a natural progression from what he has shown he can already do?
3 Am I certain that the horse understands what I am asking?

I would say it's a no to all of these and there's you're problem.
Firstly just like if we suddenly went to the gym every other day, we'd be sore or at last feel weaker in some muscles and stiffer in others.
Secondly he is very likely not capable of what you are asking him at present.
Thirdly like most horses 'pulled into a shape' he has no concept of why or what the purpose is and therefore it feels like torture.
This is not aimed at anyone here or the OP but being from the UK I actually moved from my last yard because it was all dressage. High level dressage at that. I couldn't see it everyday, too many horses being tortured day in and day out. It's not beautiful it's horrible. Sorry rant over! My point is that dressage movements should be q thing of beauty. They should be the horse at his most powerful and graceful. Instead modern riding is often like a loaf of White bread. It looks like a loaf but really it has no substance. ( I think it was Chris Irwin who used that analogy)
Show your horse how to move in balance and collection on the ground first. That way the horse will become more flexible and powerful, and more importntly feel the difference himself. Then he will understand what is being asked from his back, without pain or soreness, and more importantly he will have a reason to do it.
Too often trainers squeeze the horse between the legs onto the bit contact, and it's like driving with the accelerator and brake on at the same time. Even at a high level 9 out of 10 dressage horses are NOT collected. Don't believe me? Then a simple test. Release the bit pressure and see if the horse holds it. He won't, he can't because he has never learned to balance and hold himself up. The reins become a crutch, and the horse is still predominantly weighted on the forehand.
So in summary - try some passive work with the horse. Stomach lifts, croup and shoulder presses. Get HIM to stretch and hold it, (ie using a carrot or whatever if necessary) Then try lunging him in a restricted area. Somewhere that is smaller than the diameter of your line, and try to get him so that he is not leaning on the line, so there is a considerable slack in the line. The line should be used to communicate subtle signals, ideally to reinforce those or your own body, not to keep the horse on a circle. Then he has a chance to find that lower elongated position firstly, then from there bringing in the hindquarters underneath, where his neck will begin to shape into ramener too.
Work with the horse and he will most likely work with you if what you do makes him feel stronger, more confident and powerful.
    06-24-2011, 05:41 AM
MyBoyPuck, thank you for the advice - that's exactly what I did the other day. And only at the walk. I still am unsure if he's in discomfort, so I didn't want to push the matter at a trot. I always try and leave things on a positive note, so him going forward with slight flexion at a walk was good enough for me. I'm thinking of trying a french link snaffle?

Doe, I've definitely asked, and keep asking, those three questions myself. Yes, he is capable of doing it (I think) and it is a natural progression to his training, but I am unsure if he's sore. He's not lame, just speedy and not himself (normally laid back and lazy versus him being anxious and hot). To be clear though, we're not asking him for collection. We're just trying to get him to accept lateral flexion. His head could he high or low, behind the vertical or in front, as long as he accepts laterally and moves forward we're very happy. But yes, I am riding with more contact than before, so I see how it's a brake to him. It's a matter of re-educating him on proper aids with minimal frustration to him.
    06-24-2011, 06:39 AM
Hi again Writer. Sorry it's a personal argument I have with current English riding teaching/training, I wasn't suggesting you were pushing collection.

In terms of lateral flexion the way I liken it is this. There is a major difference between passive and active stretches which most people do not consider when training horses. For example if you were to drop into the splits that is effectively a passive stretch. Weight and gravity do the work for you, you have to relax and allow it. Now standing up try lifting/kicking your leg up. Many people who might be able to do the splits cannot do the latter anywhere near as high, because it takes muscles to push the leg up.

Now imagine bending over to touch your toes. You go as far as you can comfortably, then someone without your consent comes over and pushes your head down. Two things happen, firstly your are likely to fee discomfort and brace, secondly you will need to find your new balance point or else you will feel like you are going to fall over.

Lateral flexion for the horse is similar. Most commonly we have no feel for what the horse can do. Secondly we do not teach or allow the horse to do it without rein pressure. Thirdly our own bodies or legs often get in the way.

Try this - stand at his side ( in a restricted space like the stable if he's safe) with your back pressed against his ribcage in the middle of his back. Bend over and ask him to reach around with his head and down to reach say a carrot which you hold at your knee height. Ideally you want him to be able to reach around to just below your knee, between your legs, but he may not be able to at first. Keeping your back pressed into his means he has not bend fully rather than releasing through his legs or neck alone. If you do that regularly (and also reaching straight down between his legs and under his belly) you will see definate improvements until he can stretch and hold it without issue. Then when you know he can do it simply tie that into your ridden cue, and suddenly no pressure is needed.

As for a bit yes a french link would reduce the crushing pressure on the Tongue, and also some of the pressure on the roof of the mouth.

Incidentally in lateral flexion I personally find that certainly on the ground it's easier to introduce it at the trot often, rather than the walk. The natural momentum often allows them to find the flow more easily for shoulder in first. Just a few steps at a time.

    06-24-2011, 10:06 PM
Thanks, Doe. No worries about the collection issue, just wanted to be clear.

I've done the carrot stretches (specifically like you described) with him since I got him about 16 months ago before and after work but stopped a couple weeks ago (I ran out of carrots and hate the supermarket!). However I did the carrot stretches today and heard two LOUD cracks. I'll keep it up religiously again. I should mention that since I got him he has an abnormal sweat patch on his neck and has always been stiff to one side and slow to warm up (however since the last training session he's terrible to the other side and good to his stiff side, if that makes sense). The sweat patch hasn't been too bad this year though.

Thank you for taking the time to explain things. I really appreciate the advice.

Today I led him down the road to the arena and he's still very nervous and anxious - not himself. Tomorrow I'll take him in the arena and free lunge him, then lunge. I think the key to 'this' horse is taking new things sloooowly, which has worked until this point. I also think a more aggressive rider with spurs (which I don't have issue with) might've brought up bad memories from his past. Because of his size and his reaction to men and whips I think he was conditioned to fight. When I got him the lady was scared to halter him. It took three days of pen work to get him to halter without issue and loads of lunging and ground work (him bolting, bucking and rearing) before I could ride him. I've taken things really slowly and had him going forward with decent impulsion, fairly regular rhythm with into a mild contact so I agreed with the trainer that suppleness would be a logical next step. Since the first three months he's been dead quiet other than with men.

I am still wondering why after the first ride he was great and the second ride he's changed for the worse overnight. I tend to think he's tweaked something. To me the first and second ride looked the same, perhaps more intense in the second but not by a lot.

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