Taking an awkward gelding over ground poles
So, to clarify, he is a standardbred x percheron cross. 17.3 hh, and narrow like a SB. His conformation leaves something to be desired - his trot is so rocky theres no way you can ride it without posting for fear you'll be launched out of the saddle. I would like him to pick up his big ol' feet a little more, and he seems to like the idea of going over ground poles (his ears perk up and he actually aims for them) We started last week with just one pole. Where we had to bend around a cone and then head straight to the ground pole.
We are still mastering the trot and collection before we go at higher speeds, Its been a while since I have done ground poles on a green horse for a while and I would like to learn more before I advance him or myself any further.
1. should I go into half seat/two point? Would this make it easier for him to move under me, balance it out a little bit? To clarify, we aren't stumbling over them, but I would like to give him the opportunity to freely move if needed.
2. What is the correct position, how do I know when I am in it? I fear that by doing to wrong it will hinder more than help.
3. When and what should we do to advance our skills, add more poles, add higher poles, switch it up ect?
Sorry for the major specific questions - but I have found in the past on this forum that if I don't specify, all is fair game.
My highland gelding can be really clumsy at times and before I got him going forwards more I swear he would trip over daisies! lol.
Based on my work with him I would say not to think about collection at this point. It's more important that you get him going forwards, otherwise you will stunt his progress. Get him going more forwards first and get yourself comfortable with the trot before you start thinking about pole work - although it wouldn't do any hard to get him walking over them.
In order to get him picking his legs up more I would put a few poles out in a straight line but raise the opposite end of each - ie, the right end of the first one, left end of the second one etc. This will ensure each leg is worked equally.
I have to say I think you're very brave to ride a horse that big. Gone are the days when I could climb aboard a 17+hh horse from the ground. lol. You may be interested to know there's a place called 'The Heavy Horse Centre' based in Cumbria (UK) where people can go and ride shires and clydesdales and take them for a good gallop along the beach. If you ever visit the UK I think that's where you should go. lol.
Best of luck.
Just a couple of things about your situation:
Trotting poles are hard work for a young/green horse as you are asking him to avoid obstacles on the ground, without jumping them.
As for posting or sitting to the trot, just do what is comfortable for you AND your horse.
Good luck with him and let us know how you get on!
just some advice, lateral work might help your horse, it reeeaalllyy helped my horse in almost every aspect of riding him!!!
Thanks for all the great advice everyone.
We rode yesterday, I set up cones to weave on the long end, a cone at each corner to tuck the big fellow into the bends a little more, and then a ground pole off the ground a bit (like 4").
He was pretty nervous about the pole, you know, it might eat him... such a baby.
but we got the routine down and he was definitely thinking about where his feet were going, which is roughly what we were aiming for.
In regards to his size, my usual steed is a 14hh fat haflinger mare. Its quite a change, but the gelding is one of my favorite horses to work with (besides my own) because he offers such a different outlook on things.
Don't disregard lunging him over a few poles. It may be hard for him while you're on his back while he's still very unbalanced and unsure about the poles. It'd help with under saddle work too. I'd do it without gear, then work in saddle, stirrups down, etc.
As for two-point, the correct position to my belief is when your seat is off and saddle but your weight is still distributed over the horse's back. your upper leg has close contact on the saddle and your calf is off (not hugging the horse's barrel..!) If you aren't used to it, it'll be difficult at first so try it at the walk, etc.
But I think once you get him more balanced on the ground with the poles, two point won't be necessary.
As for advancing your skills.. do you mean in general or just with poles?
But I DO agree about the pole spacing.. space them out at first. Only shorten the distance between poles with more advancement.
If you're trotting over poles, spacing each pole 4-5 feet will help lift those feet up but I would not do this until your horse is okay with handling one or two poles without stumbling and with such imbalance.. it can be dangerous if he trips for both of you!!!!
Be careful not to overload him otherwise you could end up with one very confused horse who starts misbehaving and throwing tantrums because he doesn't understand what he's supposed to do. I've seen it happen and result in a battle of wills between horse and handler.
To be honest I would split the exercises and do a bit of cone work one day, some circling, serpentines and basic leg yielding another day and then pole work the third day. Varying things will keep him interested as he won't know what to expect when you take him out to work him.
I'd start with one pole. A good idea is to have him on the lunge and just allow him to look and sniff at the pole before gently encouraging him to step over. If he already works on the lunge you could then build up to trotting him over one and then if you work him on a 20m circle, place one pole on opposite sides of the circle rather than close to each other. Remember that that's a lot of work for him too and he may need time to go away and think about what he's done. :-)
An unbalanced horse who's basic paces remain unestablished should never be asked to start working on collection. It takes a good year or so of training before a horse is capable of engaging it's hindquarters, flexing it's abdominals, arching it's spine, working with an elevated head and neck and a flexed poll - all of which are required to achieve true collection.
'Collection' is something that all dressage riders aspire to and most of us never will achieve. It is indeed an advanced movement for both horse and rider and at lower levels it's very easy to let a change of speed fool us into thinking we've actually mastered the movement.
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