Young, uncoordinated Draft X

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Young, uncoordinated Draft X

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    01-13-2010, 12:51 PM
Young, uncoordinated Draft X

Hello all, I'm new to the forum and sought it out because I have a few questions.

First of all, I'm 22 and have been riding since I was 9 or 10. I have done lots of work with young horses and with retraining older ones. Recently, I came across a lady who was looking to find a trainer to work with her three year old Draft/Paint X. Needing a project since my sister just sold her horse whom I was schooling cross country and over fences (he was previously strictly a dressage horse) I thought it would be the perfect solution to keep me busy.

I went and met this new project of mine this past Monday and the facility is great, the people are great but I'm not convinced I will be able to do much more than walk and trot with this guy. His knees are not closed up properly because he is so young and he is in the middle of a growth spurt. Right now, his croup is at least 3 if not 4 inches higher than his wither so, not only is he ridiculously downhill but he is gangly and uncoordinated, as one would expect him to be while in the process of shooting up another four inches.

I am going to stick to easy, gentle stuff with him because I have no interest in harming his knees or pushing his little green baby brain too far too fast. I am pretty familiar with drafts and know that they usually mature, both physically and mentally, more slowly than smaller horses. Obviously, my best route is going to be lots of circles and serpentines and figure eights and hour glass drills with lots of bending and transitions. I also want to work on his balance and rhythm but am concerned that his ungainliness and inability to coordinate and understand where is own limbs are is going to make things difficult, particularly at the canter, which is going to make things even more difficult with the horse's owner. Giving the horse a balanced rythmical canter is one of her biggest goals and, given that he is growing so much right now, I don't know how well I will be able to get him to that point.

Does anyone have any suggestions as to what else I can do to encourage balance and rhythm in a young, growing draft? He is already over 16.2hh and I wouldn't be surprised if he eventually tops out at a whopping 18hh. I want to get him thinking about his balance and being careful before he weighs 2000 pounds. I have been reading a website entitled, The Art of Classical Riding, suggested by someone else on another thread and it's giving me lots of ideas, but I thought I would ask and see if anyone has been in a similar situation and, if so, what they did to help both themselves and their horse.

Thanks again!
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    01-13-2010, 01:01 PM
Well it does certiantly sound like this will keep you busy, I would say that you are right by going easy on him while his knees are still open. Draft horses or draft crosses don't do well if they have leg inguries early on in alot of cases it will be unfixable later in life. I would say to keep doing what you are doing and as far as getting him to have a nice ceterned lope it is going to be difficult but I would say that the more sure footed he gets in a walk trot the easier it will be in a canter or lope once he is out of his growth spurt. GOOD LUCK
    01-13-2010, 01:06 PM
Lots of circles are not terribly good for young horses if your concerned about thier legs.
    01-13-2010, 02:06 PM
Originally Posted by kevinshorses    
Lots of circles are not terribly good for young horses if your concerned about thier legs.
You're right so I was going to mix it up and not just keep him constantly on a circle. :) I guess what I meant was that I will keep him guessing as to what he is going to be doing by doing things like circling, serpentines, figure eights and things of that ilk. If there's one thing I want to be careful of it's those knees of his. I think he looks like he could turn into a great eventing horse with the right patience, time and training and I would never forgive myself if I ever caused him to be unable to fulfill life to his greatest potential.
    01-13-2010, 02:37 PM
Green Broke
I think you're on the right track. However, I would have a serious discussion with the owners, because I personally would not be doing any canter work whatsoever on a horse that hasn't closed his joints yet and is also so uneven. He will be putting so much uncoordinated balance on those tender joints, I would be greatly concerned about the risk of injury. Has he been officially checked by the vet to confirm the knee joints haven't closed? I would work on getting him light and supple, as you stated, at the walk and maybe some light jog until hopefully you can confirm the joints have closed and he's evened out a bit. It's not so much the open joints that concern me, as the open joints combined with him being so severely croup high. A canter with a rider is hard enough for a youngster to learn without suffering such extreme balance issues at this point.

That being said, thank you for being such a responsible trainer and taking the time to make sure he's brought up the way he needs to be. It seems so rare to find, and it's quite refreshing. I wouldn't doubt if only another six months or so closes up those joints and evens him out - even for a Draft, 3 years old is quite late for fusion of the knee joints, with such unlevelness. Just proof that you cannot place a standard on every breed and expect them to conform to it!
    01-13-2010, 03:19 PM
Thank you for saying so. I have to admit, I have suffered as a trainer for my opinions and my time taking methods. Unfortunately, people want a horse trained and they want it done NOW. I don't work well that way and dislike it. My main concern is to create a trusting, confident horse. Once you have that base, I've found that more often than not, you can do almost anything with little to no trouble. Rushing things only makes a nervous horse that doesn't understand what you want and that's where you run into a lot of problems.

To be honest, I would almost tell these people to leave him for another year and wait for his brain to catch up to his body and let his body mature and get through this big growth spurt ... and I don't mean just leave him in a field. I mean work on his ground manners. He doesn't tie very well and has become herd bound over the winter because he hasn't been worked. Those two things alone I'm going to have to spend hours and hours on, never mind anything else.

As far as his knees ... I'm about 95% certain that they aren't closed because you can feel the gap when you touch his knees and probe around there gently. Even just feeling the knees of an older horse and feeling his knees, there's a marked gap in his. Like you said, there's no way to be certain unless we get an x-ray but I am really leary of doing anything before I don't feel that gap anymore. I think you're right in that another six months would likely do it for his joints but you can just tell by looking at him that his brain isn't mature either. That doesn't mean that I can't work with him, it just means that I have got to be darn careful to be clear, concise and firm with him until he matures mentally before asking more complicated things.

I tried talking to his owners, but they are convinced that, at three and a half, it is high time he get to work and start working hard. I want to stick with him because, if it's not me, it'll be someone else and that person may not take the care and time that I plan to and may wreck him.
    01-13-2010, 03:30 PM
Green Broke
Well good for you. I know it's so hard sometimes when our moral compasses are pulled so strongly, but you're absolutely right - I think sometimes we need to compromise ourselves for the better of the animal. As opposed as we may be to him being ridden right now, if the end result of your refusal is to have him sent to someone who'll be racing him around in the next four weeks, have we really stayed true to our own moral compasses?

I would do the best you can, and go as slow as you feel you can safely do so without the owners pulling the plug. I tip my hat to you for being so responsible and respectful of equine growth, and I'm sorry you have to be placed in this position.

Anyway, on the original point of balance and rhythem, possibly some ground poles once he's in the riding stage of walk and trot? I find it really helps horses find their feet and pay attention to where they're putting them - even lunging over ground poles. I would also advise possibly some loose side rein work to encourage him to bring his head down and give him a better shot at balance then running around high headed and ungainly. I think you're on the right track with big looping circles once he's in the riding stage, I'm working on them now with my Paint filly to teach her balance and giving to the bit.

Best of luck in your endeavour!
    01-13-2010, 07:53 PM
I agree that he should be given another year "off", and kept in a larger paddock, where he finds his own feet, but still gets out everyday, and works on his ground manners. Horses in general, but especially the slower maturing breeds shouldn't have much done with them until they reach 4 or 5 years of age. There's a trainer in my area who has horses jumping as early as 3 years of age, and has advertised a couple of horses for sale who are 4 and already jumping 2'6" - 3' consistantly, and being shown in some of the local shows. Makes me shudder to think of what their legs are going to be like in a few years. I have a 4 year old Arabian mare that hasn't had much done with her at all, and I'm in no hurry to jump on and go. She's also croup tall at the moment, as she's in the middle of a growth spurt too. She is learning lots of ground manners, and socialization, and I have had the saddle on a couple of times, and been on her once, but I'm letting her pick the pace, as she's also very much got the mind of a 2 year old that some days is wonderful, and others pretends like she has no idea what I'm asking. Taking time is always better for the horses. I always applaud the trainers who have horses that are 4 or 5 and just being started undersaddle, and who are in no rush to start showing the horse, and moving it up through the ranks as fast as possible. Congrats on wanting to take your time and do it right in spite of what the owners think. I would stick with it, because the owner probably will find someone else who doesn't have such good morals who will take the horse and do a "wham bam thank you maam" training session, and hurt the horse in the long run.
    01-14-2010, 12:03 PM
Thanks Dressagebelle. I'm glad I'm not the only one who thinks he should have some more time. He's a sweety, but you can tell he's still a baby in that brain of his.

I go out to do another training session tonight so we'll see what happens. I'm planning on some attitude retuning in the tie stalls, getting him to stand still while being tacked up and some light, brief lunge work to see what voice commands he knows. I will also likely hop up and do some work at the walk ... he seems to know to move off of leg but it takes an awful lot of pressure to get him to move away so I'm going to see what I can do about readjusting that too ...
    01-14-2010, 12:16 PM
If you have another quiet, solid horse available to you - Pony your big baby! It makes his life interesting, getting to get out of the arena and head out on trails, roads, wherever - and allows him to balance himself up and down hills, work on his own muscling and rhythm, without the interference of a rider. I find it is 100x easier to work a young horse when they have already developed their own sense of where they are. Of course just make sure you practice lots in the arena before heading out anywhere "exciting"!

Also I do like a lot of the excercises by TTEAM and Linda Tellington Jones - they do a lot of work on balance and posture related to performance. My fav book is called "The ultimate horse training and behaviour guide" - if you google it you'll find lots of links on this type of work, which is very young horse friendly.

Good luck - it definitely sucks when the horse isn't yours, you have to please the owners too - hope you're able to find a happy medium with them, so you and the horsie are safe and happy!

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