Slowing down an OTTB - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 7 Old 11-25-2011, 08:39 AM Thread Starter
Join Date: Aug 2011
Location: St. Louis, Missouri
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Slowing down an OTTB

Looking for any advice... the OTTB that I lease will give me a nice slow trot 50% of the time, and is a speedster 50% of the time. Lunging him first just seems to make him more excited. Sometimes he just wants to Go Go Go and no matter how much I try to slow my posting, half halt, saying "easy", he just wants to run. It's starting to make me feel unsafe on him.

I've been leasing this horse since August and haven't even cantered on him yet. I want to make sure I can control his trot before I ask him to go even faster.

He's seven years old and has been off the track for over two years. He had a few months of "relax" time right after he retired from racing and has been consistantly ridden ever since.

I'm just leasing so sending him to a trainer is not an option for me.

Any thoughts?
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post #2 of 7 Old 11-25-2011, 08:50 AM
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Blunt but - I think you should give him back to the owner. There's no point in you having a horse that you're scared of and that is beyond your level of riding capability. Particularly if the horse does not belong to you. In the end, you don't get much out of riding the horse unless you have option to buy after a period of time.

If you're desperate to keep him, I think you would greatly benefit from some good, solid lessons with someone that will focus on your seat to hold him together, as opposed to your reins.

I would also presume that because you are nervous on this horse, you may be subconsciously be giving him mixed aids. I know the feeling, as I have gone through a similar period with a young horse a few years ago. She scared me as I knew she had a very nasty buck in her, and as a result, I found it incredibly difficult to let myself go and give her the benefit of the doubt.
I'd would not be surprised if you are gripping with your knees/thighs, tightening your seat, tipping forward and grabbing the rein - a natural fear reflex in humans.

OTTB's are funny critters, and they do usually take a gutsy rider to get through to them. I've had my fair share of 'battles' with them. Having to make that decision when they start getting fired up, to either stop and call it quits to settle their brain, or put your leg on, get off their back, and let them run it out.
I have found that usually getting off their back and allowing them to canter early in the ride settles them down quite easily and their brain comes back quickly. If you try to hold them back constantly, they become more and more agitated.
Sometimes it is just a matter of 'closing your eyes', reins up their neck, and hoping they don't dump you!

~Horse & Hound Artistry~.

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post #3 of 7 Old 11-25-2011, 09:19 AM Thread Starter
Join Date: Aug 2011
Location: St. Louis, Missouri
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kayty, I appreciate your bluntness. Unfortunately there isn't an abundance of horses for lease in my area....I've been seeking a quieter one. I do love this horse, but the way that I love *ALL* horses. He is probably just above my skill level. Anyone else have any ideas?
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post #4 of 7 Old 11-25-2011, 09:25 AM
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Are you riding in an enclosed arena, or open space?

If you're not confident enough to put able to put your leg on and ride him forward, try circling him every time he tries to rush off with you. Constantly change direction and speed, get him thinking about what you're going to ask next. If you're just riding around on straight lines and 20m circles at the same pace for more than 20m at a time, it's likely he's using the rushing away from you as an evasion to work, because of boredom. When riding, we need to keep a horse's mind active as well as its body, don't give them a chance to think about what they can do to avoid work!

~Horse & Hound Artistry~.

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post #5 of 7 Old 11-25-2011, 10:14 AM
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I read a story somewhere about Ray Hunt riding a thoroughbred stallion who not only wanted to run off but also started the day by trying to buck Ray off in the corral. As the story goes, what he did every time the horse tried to take off was to lope a big circle out in the pasture. According to the guy telling the story, by the time they got to where the cows were they must've loped 10 miles in circles. Ray then took his rope down and caught a yearling, and the stud behaved like a regular old well-mannered ranch horse.

I reckon the moral of the story is to do a lot of transitions, circle the horse to get control but don't stop him from moving forward. Some horses need to go faster before they can go slower, but that doesn't mean you have to let them run away with you. As long as you can make a circle, you have control.
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post #6 of 7 Old 11-25-2011, 11:22 AM Thread Starter
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I'm riding in the indoor....due to another issue we were having. The outdoor is literraly right next to his pasture and he is a little buddy sour. A few times when I asked him to trot he would just trot right out of the indoor and try to get back to his pasture, no matter how many times and how hard I objected. After experiencing that we decided to do some inside work and he calmed down and started paying attention. At that point he had just moved from a different stable to his home now, and he was probably a little too happy to have a view of his buddy when he was suppose to be working. We've been in the indoor ever since.

The cirlces is a great idea! I never thought of it that way, but since he has a tendancy to be naughty I always want to master one step before doing other things. He is probably just getting bored with me. Ill start going around the jumps/ figure 8s, circles, etc. immediately before I try to keep him on the rail and see if he listens better.

Another thing is that the the past two weeks I've asked his owner to start cantering him on a regular basis (she does not ride him very often, once a week or once every other week) so when I want to start cantering he has the endurance/ strength/ transitions/ correct leads/ manners, etc. He probably just wants to keep cantering because he thinks its fun, and now he thinks every time someone gets on his back he gets go canter. But I still want him to listen! I think the circles will help.

I've fallen off this horse when he was suppose to be trotting and started cantering, which is why Im extra cautious. It hurt. ha. I'll canter all day on my lesson horse, but this guy is another story.
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post #7 of 7 Old 11-25-2011, 05:06 PM
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Yep MelissaAnn, TB are interesting creatures and you do sometimes need to change how you would train another horse, to fit them. Horses are all very different, we can't train them all in the same manner. And though I would usually recommend trying to perfect one thing before moving onto the next, it sounds like the things you're trying to perfect are the smaller, 'nitty gritty' details.
Even if you're not into dressage, it's worth looking up the German Training Scale. This will show you the order in which training should progress to give a horse the best chance of development and success in any under saddle work.
The base of this pyramid of training, is occupied by 'rhythm', followed by 'relaxation'. Forget 'on the bit' and doing schooling figures, trying to make them perfect shapes etc.

Until you have rhythm, you're not going to have much luck with anything else. To get rhythm on an ottb, sometimes you do need to be a little unorthadox in your riding, as opposed to riding say a warmblood. But the key is forward. And the mistake people make in riding ottb's, is that they believe that the horse IS forward, because it runs off all the time.
This does not constitute forward - forward is when the horse reacts and responds positively to a rider's driving aids, by moving the hind legs further under the horse's centre of gravity, and pushing off the ground with increased energy - controllable energy.

So may I suggest this. (and if he is feeling fresh and toey, though usual warmup is to walk for 15 minutes, go straight to canter, get off his back and let him canter it off for 5 minutes. Go large around the arena, put in 20m circles, increase and decrease the size of the canter, until you feel his brain is coming back between his ears and he's starting to focus on you).

Start at halt. Will he move immediately off your leg with a very light tough of your calf? If not, ask him nicely with your calf, then back up that aid with a flick of a dressage whip on his hind quarters, or a bit of a kick.Grab a chunk of mane so you don't pull on his mouth if he jumps forward - if he does leap forward and take off, that is ok, let him because he moved forward from your aid. Just give your reins, let him for for a few meters and bring him back in on a circle to slow him down. Repeat a few times, until he doesn't jump and run so far. Don't expect perfection in the first session, if you keep working on the same thing for 40minutes straight, he'll think of evasion tactics and you've then wasted your time.

Same goes for walk - trot, trot - canter. Expect him to give you a forward reaction every time you put your leg on. Without a go button, you cannot have a stop button.

Now for for stop button, there are various methods you could try, I'll give you one that works best for me.
Start at walk, completely relax your body, let your legs hang and go floppy. Now 'breathe' your weight down into your seat bones, and block the walk motion with your hips. Your horse will feel this resistance to it's movement, and will usually slow down. As soon as it slows down, even if not a complete stop, that is a positive reaction, so reward it by allowing yourself to move with the walk again. Go for a few strides, then repeat the aid. When you are consistently getting an immediate slowing reaction, then you know you've done the right thing and your seat has influence over the horse.
For the full stop, repeat the aid, but you may need to ask just a little with the rein. So first use your seat aid, when the horse slows, keep the aid on, and ask with the rein, using a little closure of your first to block the forward motion. Keep the aid on, until you get a stop, then release immediately.
I have usually taught this over a number of lessons, again, because you don't want the horse getting bored. You can throw them in all over the place in your ride, there's no need to work soley on the stop button. But the goal is to get a slowing reaction purely from your seat.
The same thing at trot, relax, deepen your seat and hold your core until the horse feels the resistance and slows, then add a little rein if need be to get the transition back to walk.
Now, I may get my head bitten off for this, BUT, no, it will not ruin a horse's mouth. If your horse is extremely persistent on running through your hands and taking off, sometimes it pays to 'take their back teeth out'. Lift your hands up and towards his poll (not back towards your body) and give him a 'Hey you, bloomin' listen to me ok! I said STOP and I mean it!!'. The second he comes back to you, completely release the pressure and ride on like nothing happened. You're not going to ruin his mouth with the occasional check on the rein like that, as much as people may tell you that. I've used it on a number of difficult horses with zero stop button training, and you know what? I've never had someone tell me that a horse's mouth has been bad when they've ridden my horses. They've all ended up being very willing to work up into a contact, and just a squeeze of my finger can get the desired result in flexion and submission if need be.
Its the people that constantly haul on their horse's face that create a hard mouth.

Ok, so you've got 'go' and 'stop' buttons installed. NOW you can start working on rhythm. Rhythm is the speed and tempo at which the horse will relax its body, mind and swing its back. The good tempo for walk is around 95 beats per minute, 150 bpm for trot, and 98bpm for canter. Give or take a little on each to allow for individual horses, but this is roughly what you need to be aiming for.

TEMPO = Speed
RHYTHM = regularity of that speed

Find the appropriate tempo for your horse, and work to maintain that tempo with your body. The tempo should not change for extended or collected work.
It may help to compile some songs that fit the horse's walk, trot and canter tempo, and ride to those songs, to help you maintain the tempo and rhythm. Sometimes it is easy to allow the horse to get a little away from us without noticing, and soon we're back out of control going a million miles an hour down the long side! So you really need to be aware of your tempo. Thoroughbreds generally aren't horses with a natural rhythm, so you as a rider needs to dictate this.

When the horse finds its rhythm, I guarantee, it will start to relax its body, and be far more willing to comply with you. THEN you can start moving on to developing the more 'fun stuff' :)

Hope that helps you!
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