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Horatio 02-24-2013 07:57 AM

1 month along
Almost 1 month into bringing this sweet Arab guy back into work :-)
Now I understand I'm doing A LOT wrong in this video. My trainer's been away the last month, so it's just me and him- I don't by any means depend on my trainer but hey she's great! In the canter it looks like I am just hanging on the inside rein, looks awful, I was trying to get his head down but he wasn't about to give. I was concerned that if I did release, even an inch, he'd grab the bit and run. Any tips? He was broken in in such a way that made him highly sensitive to the bit... So it's been a lot of work but his trotting is certainly coming along! Now if we could just get that canter...

gottatrot 02-24-2013 08:21 AM

The horse is not accepting the bit in any form but is evading it in every way possible. You said you are afraid that he would grab the bit and run. Well, he doesn't need to because he is just racing around willy nilly anyway.
You said he was broken in such a way that it made him very sensitive to the bit. I'm not sure what that means to you, but I see a horse that has not yet been trained to accept the bit.
The one point where his head was low was when he was trying to duck behind the bit. The other times he was trying to go above it.
A horse has to learn to walk before he can run. He should not be cantering yet because he hasn't yet learned to carry the bit at the trot or walk.
First you better make sure his bit fits and is comfortable for him. What kind of mouthpiece are you using?
Next think about your seat. To stop the horse you rely either on making both reins very short and pulling his head up high, or else leaning way forward and putting your hands down by his shoulder. Either way you are relying on your arm strength against the horse rather than using your core and a deep seat. Not to mention pulling on both reins gives the horse something to brace against.
Realize this horse does not understand cues to slow down, stop, or how to relax. He will need to understand those cues thoroughly at a walk, and be completely relaxed and carrying the bit before he should trot. Then he should know them at the trot thoroughly before he ever canters. You are also asking him to go from a walk into a canter which is too advanced for him. He is still too green to transition in a relaxed manner from a trot to a canter.

Horatio 02-24-2013 09:44 AM

I understand entirely. I've never ridden such a green horse as him, and I do realize the importance of taking things slowly! I don't want to push the little guy too much. Would you suggest shorter rides, asking only a little of him but ending on a good note, or longer rides that require him to settle down and relax?

PreciousPony 02-24-2013 11:33 AM

I agree that you should not be doing walk to canter transitions just yet. Go back to working on smooth trot to canter transitions. That being said, I don't think you need to stop all canter work. I had an OTTB whose walk and trot work was great, but the canter took much longer to work out. The only way to address the issue is to work on it. I DO think that you need to focus the majority of your ride and walk/trot work, but you definitely should spend some time on the canter too.

Also keep in mind that slower does not necessarily mean more relaxed. When you had short reins with a tight contact, your horse was trotting slow but was not relaxed at all. Though he was still evading the bit with the longer reins, he did seem more relaxed and had a better rhythm. The objective of all your training is get the horse to accept contact with your reins. When your horse relaxes his head and neck, reward him by softening your contact, but do not drop contact. Also, riding with your hands low out by your knees isn't doing you or the horse any favors! That is improper training that you're only going to have to fix later. Get your hands in front of the pommel and keep them less than 4-6 inches apart, thumbs on top. Shorten your reins and keep a steady, soft contact at all times; this is the only way he will ever learn to accept hand to mouth contact.

Right now I think you're too focused on getting a "headset" and not focused about getting your horse relaxed and straight. At the canter, don't even worry about his head. Stay in a circle and work on getting a steady, balanced pace. When he gives you a nice rhythm and isn't charging off, soften immediately. He may only hold this nice pace for a stride or two, but the key is repetition and baby steps. For example, if you start a ride and he is only giving you one stride of relaxed canter, stop once you can get five or six strides, and gradually increase. Take it day by day too; just because you end on five good strides one day, don't expect him to give you five nice strides right of the bat on the next day.

The most important thing is to always reward progress (this doesn't always mean stop and give him pats; softening your hand is also a reward!) and always end on a good note.

Horatio 02-24-2013 05:42 PM

Thank you,this is all so helpful! I guess I am more concerned than I should be about his head; however I rode him today and really focused on him keeping relaxed and on the bit through transitions. He was a super boy and I know with time we'll settle into more of a rythym.
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MyBoyPuck 02-24-2013 07:19 PM

The thing I noticed at the canter, is that your elbows don't seem to follow his head. They just kind of lock up and give him a reason to want to avoid them. Since this horse seems to respond better to a more giving contact, maybe try really overdoing the following motion until he learns that he's not going to be punished by accepting the contact.

ponypile 02-26-2013 01:47 PM

Have you ever tried asking for long and low at the canter? Instead of pull on his mouth to get him to slow down (since he just evades all contact at the canter), give him a soft rein, and ask for long and low. Don't worry about how fast you're going. Don't even worry about steering too much. Just sit quiet and if he wants to run around like a fool, let him, just try for long and low. Once he's going long and low at a canter, he's then in a place where you can start to ask him to slow down.

Work on it at the trot a lot first, and like others have said, work on walk/trot transitions. Have you ever tried going from a long and low trot into canter? Get him into a really soft, relaxed place at the trot, and then as for the canter, and stay feather soft in your hand.

Foxhunter 02-26-2013 03:31 PM

I agree with gottatrot.

A lot of the problem is that you are very erratic with your hands and stiff in the wrist, often setting against him.
At the start your wrists are very rounded and looks as if you are bearing down on the reins to get him to lower.
When he does lower your reins are slack and then tight which, in effect is jerking him in the mouth.
You need to think of your upper arm as elastic, giving and taking with his natural head movement.

Several things about the canter. First if a horse is getting strong then do not get out of the saddle but sit heavy to make it harder work for them.
I would not be attempting to canter this horse around the arena. I would work o a large circle and as soon as one stride of canter is there ask for the trot. This means they never get going and are soon anticipating the trot - then you can go for two strides of canter.
Another exercise I would have you do is to have you canter down one long side of the arena (having cleared the stuff from the corners) and when you get to the other end ride him into the wall so he has to halt. Then turn him to the outside and as soon as he has his front legs on the track, canter to the other end and do the same. This stops them getting strong and soon they are listening to the aids to stop as they get to the corners.

It isn't easy but persevere and you will get there!

existentialpony 03-04-2013 04:48 PM

What kind of bit is in this boy's mouth?

Disclaimer: I'm no trainer or professional, just a horse momma. :)

I just wanted to say-- if I had your horse and I was going to canter him, I would sit deep and give him a loose (soft) rein to say "go ahead, relax." I'd ride out what he gave me with the deepest seat I could manage, even if that meant grabbing the cantle to keep my butt in the saddle and taking deep breaths. I'd bring him under control with my seat, not the reins.

That being said, I agree with everyone else about waiting to canter. I think that you need to have better seat control of his trot (slow it or speed it up with only your seat and leg) and more relaxation before you can get him moving through a canter the way you'd like.

I see a few things in this video: a few yanking competitions-- you apply pressure, he throws his head up, you apply more pressure to bring it down, he throws his head... and also, a horse who is very sensitive to your posture. You'll note that the "nicest" canter moments were when you sat deep, and every time that you leaned forward (even an inch!) he fell apart and ran away with you, so-to-speak.

Teaching a horse to accept contact is largely a matter of trust--the horse's trust that your hands are steady, for one. I am only getting to consistent long-and-low & contact after 3 months of riding my gelding. Before that, I practiced getting his gaits to be consistent and relaxed on a soft rein, and lots of seat control! Not saying that this is right (I'm no trainer!) but you're in your horse's mouth the whole ride. Every time I get on my horse, I make it my goal to talk more through my legs and seat than with my hands.

I hope this helps! :) He does look like a sweet boy. Just talk more with a trainer about how to help him relax and how to help you sit secure.

existentialpony 03-04-2013 04:56 PM

Also, however you managed to allow him to stretch down a little at the trot-- it looks like all he needed was a loose rein --give that to him! I wouldn't call it long-and-low, but I would call it more relaxed and a precursor to long-and-low.

If he speeds up, ride it out and resist taking up the rein from fear that he'll take off, and just sit deeper. Out loud, count the beat that you're asking for. He needs to learn to relax and that you won't pop him in the mouth at every inconsistency.

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