Training Horse to Bend/Flex? - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 6 Old 02-05-2012, 12:36 PM Thread Starter
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Training Horse to Bend/Flex?

Hello, yesterday I was riding my mare and realized that she does not turn very well. She is coming 7 this year and was originally started as a driving horse when she was 2 and I have been riding her for about 2 years. I think the problem is that she doesn't bend her neck/body. She seems very stiff and won't turn very tight. I use the reins and leg pressure. She moves from pressure but does not bend in. I was also working with her on the ground getting her to do tighter circles and pulling a bit on her head to see if she would bend, but she just doesn't seem to. Any tips or training exercises that would help? Thanks!
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post #2 of 6 Old 02-05-2012, 05:49 PM
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As you've been riding her for 2 years & only just noticed this, is it a recent thing do you think? I'd want to rule out/treat any physical issues that might be causing it; saddlefit, back or neck probs, teeth/mouth/bit, foot probs, etc.

Then I'd start on the ground, teaching her first to bend her neck without moving her body. Assuming you haven't yet, I'd teach her to move different parts of her body from direct pressure - eg. move your shoulder when I signal there. You exaggerate the position, to make it as easy for the horse to work out as possible, but as she gets it, gradually move those signals more towards where your feet will be when riding, so you can easily transfer it to riding. When mounted I'd do the above, so she learns to move different bits of her body for you & you can ask her to 'bend' around your leg & such.
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post #3 of 6 Old 02-05-2012, 06:26 PM
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Where I started with my horse was his jaw. Is your horse soft in his mouth or does he have a tendency to clench or grip or "lock" ?

My horse had all of the above, so a few times I'd encourage him to release his jaw in the same manner I would putting the bit in. Finger in the corner of the mouth, wiggle until they open their mouth, lick and chew. I made sure that he was comfortable doing that. Then I did it with a bit inside. I'd softly "play" with one rein as I would my finger, until he released, licked and chewed. Over time, I upped the anty and encouraged him to keep "soft" by flexing him at his poll when he was standing still. I'd start with his stiffer side first, and once he got that down, I'd go to his easier side.

I did carrot exercises, slowly building him up to where he flexes all the way behind him and can touch his own barrel with his nose. Down between his legs (remember this is over time, and done very very very slowly) and stretch out by holding the carrot piece out far in front but asking him to not move his feet.

Back to under saddle, I'd warm him up on a nice loose rein. First we'd walk around on the rail without any kind of contact or bit interference. Then we'd go into nice loose serpentines, circles, figure eights, and whatnot. I'd keep encouraging him to stretch down and soften that bit in his mouth. Back then I would comb the reins because that's the only way he'd relax. Now I just "sponge" the reins and ask him to move forward and down.

Hope that helps.

"Strength is the ability to use a muscle without tension"
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post #4 of 6 Old 02-13-2012, 09:58 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks guys!

The day after I found this problem, she was totally fine. So I think that the bit of groundwork the day before may have helped or it might have been the saddle of something, or she tends to be lazy lots of times.
But after that, I just do some turning exercises before I get on her and she's good.
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post #5 of 6 Old 02-14-2012, 04:54 AM
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All virtually all horses are stiffer to one side than the other.

All I can add is that lots of warmup and stretching before riding are necessary, and usually do two stretches in the stiff direction for every one you do on the soft side.
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post #6 of 6 Old 02-14-2012, 07:15 AM
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She may need her teeth done.
If her teeth are fine then doing a lot of bend and flex work should help.
Of course she could bracing against you and being stiff because she is not liking the bit or other pain issues.
I would keep and eye on her and take it easy, slow work and really make sure she is placing her body in the correct position for know correct leads and feet placement...make sure she isn't favorong anything or dropping her shoulder or anything like that.
If all is ruled out then I would just work on the basics and give it time....she may have just been having a bad/off day.
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