Well, whenever we go on a trail ride, my mare is really calm and goes really nicely and sensibly. I have more trouble with getting her to move than getting her to stop!
However, when I try to do some dressage stuff in what I call the arena (its actually a very overgrown old hockey field), she gets really fast and I can't get her to stop rushing. This makes it difficult because she hasn't got particularly good balance anyway and she makes it more difficult for herself by rushing. I don't want to be pulling on her mouth all the time so I've tried doing some smaller circles but she rushes these too and fights my hands. Its really not like her as she's more apt to walk idly along than do a really fast trot. I mean, I can't even get this horse to gallop out on the trails! She's that lazy! What is going on with this rushing and how can I stop it?
I think it's either fear or pain. So first rule out pain. Do you use a different saddle? Ride much differently? Ride with contact out on the trail? You may use the same saddle but find that normally she arches away from it & doesn't collect her hq. It may hurt her to do so.
It could be anticipation of pain, if in her past she was made to work in an arena in an uncomfortable saddle, or painful mouth or such. She may fear the feeling of being overconfined with the bridle if she doesn't fully understand what is asked of her. She may fear the 'corrections' she anticipates.... Whatever, I think you need to work her carefully to build her confidence about the arena.
Use approach & retreat tactics to first get her comfortable & relaxed about just being in there. Then start asking for simple, easy stuff & try to quit while you're ahead, before she goes over her threshold & gets reactive. Gradually ask her for more, but let her emotions be your guide as to how much & how long. If you build her confidence, teaching her clearly & easily what you want, you'll find that the fear reactiveness will be replaced by calm responsiveness.
Mow the field, perhaps she's worried about her footing. Perhaps the footing is too rough for what you are asking.
Work her there for short periods of time at a walk for awhile, when she's going great, work up to a trot. Don't try to do too much too fast. Find some simple exercises to work on first, then build on that success and confidence.
Can you tell us a little more about your horse? How old is she? How long have you had her? What was she used for before you got her? What discipline are you riding? What "dressage stuff" are you trying to do? How overgrown is the field you are riding in and how is the footing?
It is very unusual for an older horse to be unbalanced (over 5 years old). Typically it is the rider that is unbalancing the horse by not riding a quite seat. Could that be the problem?
The bottom line is that there is a confidence problem going on. I think we need more information to give you any real advise.
one rein stops, completely release all tension on one rein, pull the other rein up level with your hip and pull back. she'll spin in a circle as soon as she stops you take ALL pressure off. eventually she'll learn that its much harder to threaten to run and run in a circle, than just mosy on at a slower pace.
make sure your relaxed, try not to anticipate her rushing forwards
thanks for your replies everyone
Here is some info about my horse that you asked for:
Loosie - ITs not pain because I can ride her with contact and ask for collection on a trailride without any objection from her. Fear... well I guess its possible but I don't really see how... I'll have to think about that.
iridehorses - shes rising 10 standardbred mare. All I am doing with her is walk, trot and canter in large circles and figure 8s. I don't thikn I am unbalancing her - I'll keep that in mind when I ride her next.
Has she had any dressage training by someone else?
There seems to be an association with an arena and discomfort. Could it have anything to do with her past? Either way, it is a matter of retraining - and that is as I like to say "time and patience".
I am the only person ever to ride her - I even broke her in. She hasn't been raced - she was never fast enough lol
And I can't think of anything I've done in the arena to hurt/scare her...
Sure, always rule out pain, but to me sounds like it might be more of a training issue. I would disagree with iridehorses in that it is quite common for horses over 5 to be unbalanced. Balance comes from training, coordination, and strength. While some horses are more naturally balanced then others, unless your horse has been trained to be balanced, it's not going to be. And a very common reason for rushing. That would be my first thought in what's going on, although it's really hard to tell without actually seeing anything! My second thought is that perhaps your horse doesn't know how to properly move off your leg? Lots of horses learn that leg means go, not necessarily move over, etc. So on some horses when you say move over they just go faster until they're taught otherwise. Just a thought.
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