When ground work doesn't translate to undersaddle - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 32 Old 05-20-2012, 03:15 AM Thread Starter
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When ground work doesn't translate to undersaddle

I will try to keep this relatively vague in an attempt to be respectful to the people who were involved...

My feeling is that if your horse is a polite and respectful animal on the ground, then your work and the respect you've obtained should translate properly under saddle.

So today i went to spend some time with friends at another barn. This lady offered her horse to me for the day. She's been through some "stuff" and struggles with her confidence and her trust in her horse.
He didn't concern me in the least. He was rude and there were things that, were he my horse, i would address them IMMEDIATELY. But i worked him on the ground before i got in the saddle, and he was decent to ride around the property and in the arena.

The trouble happens when the owner decides that she wants to get on. She was so happy with how he was with me, that she thought (after 2 months of not riding) that she would be able to get on and go. That lasted about 4 seconds. She mounted from the block, he wheeled around, and bolted for his stall. She had to jump off to avoid being decapitated by the stall roofing!!

So here's my question:
This horse in particular was trained in a specific form of NH and has been since birth. However, my feeling is that although he's been very well ground trained, he was never properly under saddle trained. But wouldn't you suppose that a horse that has a solid foundation of ground training, should be much more polite and respectful under saddle as well?! I'm at a loss here.

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post #2 of 32 Old 05-20-2012, 03:19 AM
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Hmm, I would have someone experienced (and with a good seat) on the horse and someone giving that person pony rides.

I would continue to do this until the horse felt comfortable. Keeping sessions short and keeping bareback so the rider can bail asap.

Then when the horse could do that, I'd put a saddle on and do the same thing. Then I'd try lunging the person on the horse.

Do you see where this is going? Start at the basics. Pony rides, just as you would for a horse that has never had a person on its back. Then you slowly take away the "crutch" of a person leading the horse so he progresses to listen and be comfortable with someone on his back.

Be careful. If you do lunge, make sure the horse can handle this before you put a person ontop.

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post #3 of 32 Old 05-20-2012, 03:38 AM Thread Starter
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my struggle is that i don't want to be involved with this. She has asked that i come out and ride him... i believe in some kind of an attempt to get him trained better under saddle. However, i'm not a trainer. Nor do i want to be. She's had this horse since he was foaled, and now he's something around 10 years old.
To me, this shouldn't be an issue. Why the heck is this horse still green?? How can you possibly put that much work in to your ground work, but do NOTHING with your under saddle work... so much so that the horse is literally dangerous under saddle! I just can't wrap my mind around it.

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post #4 of 32 Old 05-20-2012, 03:41 AM
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Yeah I don't think you should be involved either. She needs a trainer.

You could get seriously hurt, this is definitely not something for amateurs (like me) or even experiences horsemen. It's too dangerous and a lot can go wrong.

Tell her to phone a trainer, pay the money to get it done right.. so she can enjoy her horse. It's just not worth hurting yourself to save some bucks :/

Oxer I have nooo clue, my horse is still green but that's cause he didn't know jack squat on the ground OR saddle but yeah.. maybe she spent too long on groundwork and now the horse can get away with being a pest under saddle. It happens, you know horses

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post #5 of 32 Old 05-20-2012, 05:28 AM
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The reason a horse can be very responsive to cues on the ground, but completely "ignorant" when ridden is because the cues we use for ground work are mostly not the cues we use when we ride the horse. For example, when we want a horse to move forward when we lead it, we apply pressure on their poll from a halter and then they move forward we release the pressure and its the release that rewards the horse for moving forward. In contrast, when we want the horse to move forward under saddle we apply pressure on its sides with our heels and when it moves forward we release the pressure on its sides to reward it for making the correct response. The poll and the sides are two separate areas of the horse's body and we have to train the responses to pressure on these areas individually. The horse can't generalise between a pressure on its poll meaning walk forward and pressure on its sides meaning the same thing without being taught to respond that way.

When starting horses I often teach them to walk forward from a whip tap on their sides in the same place as I will put my heels once they are ridden. Even though this makes the process of them learning to move forward from heel pressure a bit quicker, they are usually still confused the first few times they feel my heels on their sides, until they learn that moving forward is what makes my heels go away.

Good ground work is essential to ensure the horse is safe to handle and has practiced responding to pressure cues in order to obtain the reward of pressure release. This does enhance their learning under saddle, however the specific responses we want from cues we deliver when we ride them have to be trained one by one irrespective of the training method or approach that we follow.
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post #6 of 32 Old 05-20-2012, 06:37 AM
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I also wonder how much of the ground manners is respect and how much is being missed. If the horse was fine with you obviously the issue is the owner.
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post #7 of 32 Old 05-20-2012, 06:41 AM
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I think ground driving would be beneficial but I still stand by saying she needs to pay to get this fixed.
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post #8 of 32 Old 05-20-2012, 07:46 AM
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Horses are very psychic at reading peoples minds!
You had no worries or fears of riding this horse - he sensed it and went well. The owner has worries and he knows he can take advantage of this and behaves as he does.

Owner needs lessons on how to deal with the matter.

I am all for training in a 'nice' way but there are times when a horse needs to know that there are methods of making him comply with what is wanted.

Many times I have been asked to help a rider with similar problems. I get on the horse and act like a total novice. I also force my self to be tense and think worried. The big difference is that I am ready for him to take advantage and then I will respond with a hard correction. Once the horse is going I will ride the same way as I started giving him the chance to play up again.
This helps the owner (along with lessons) as the horse is never sure if the rider is going to correct hard for misbehaviour or get away with it.
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post #9 of 32 Old 05-20-2012, 12:18 PM Thread Starter
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great responses everyone!

I worry about a trainer coming in from the outside and the owner shutting down to any of the ideas that the trainer might have. This horse is at a very critical point where someone needs to correct the behavior in a much more forceful, and not so nice way! This is sometimes too much for people to handle. I worry that this person has anthropomorphized her horse so much as her little friend, that if someone took a whip to that horse, she'd lose it.

I told her very seriously and very clearly that, were this my horse he would NOT be allowed to do this, or that. She just nervously laughed and agreed with me.
By the end of the whole thing i was giving her the "don't be a hero" speech, and i don't think she appreciated it. haha!

You know what i really think too... i believe that the method of "ground training" that was implemented here was little more than trick training. This horse realized if he backs up, turns, comes forward, yeidls, blah blah blah... then he gets a treat. To me, that's trick training.

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post #10 of 32 Old 05-20-2012, 01:01 PM
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I agree with Sky, this woman needs a trainer. However, I suspect that she'll never get along with this horse because she's scared of him and she'll always be scared of him. She likely won't be able to gain enough confidence to handle him the way that he needs to be handled.

What I think, she has a decently trained horse that has figured her out completely and knows what he needs to do to her to get out of work.

What solidifies that opinion, in my mind, is the fact that he went well for you.
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