NEED advice: training a young uneducated horse? *long description
Basically my mare and I were doing so well. She's ayoungin', and she is such a hardworking mare. We were working on the basics of dressage, and she was getting fairly consistent at rounding, lifting, getting on the bit... she was learning, and was doing really well. But then things went downhill really fast when random lameness started to happen, vet bills galore, diagnostic testing... and then we found out she has osteoarthritis at such a young age. So we did routine handwalking, switched to a special low starch diet which has helped her lose and maintain weight, and she is doing very well. Last week we were able to put her back under saddle after a period of long rest from riding.
So, I've been through the whole "green horse training stage" before, although I'm not sure you would use the term "green" because she definitely is familiar with the saddle/bit, just not comfortable and educated with necessary aids yet. I'm not a particularly experienced rider. I've been riding since I was younger, and I've taken lessons with several different professionals within the past couple of years, but I'm not very experienced where I am knowledgable enough to handle a young horse by myself. I'm very blessed to have a trainer who is always so helpful. He's also my BM so I know him really well, but I've only taken one formal lesson (in addition to all of the mini lessons we've had).
When he rides my horse, she looks fantastic. She is resistant to him but he can control it, and when she has her frustrated exuberances, he quickly stops them. I, on the other hand, have a ton of trouble. I might just be being very hard on myself because 1) I might be selling my skills short 2) it was our, what, fourth ride since she's been off for several months and 3) she still has to develop that work ethic. This mare is fantastic, she is so willing and hardworking... it isn't her fault that no one had trained her well prior to our purchase. I have no doubt that she will be fantastic once she is well trained. The problem is, how do I get there? I feel bad because me being slightly inexperienced, I am prone to frustration. Plus, my trainer is re-teaching me techniques that I was previously taught incorrectly or in a different manner, so he has to start with me from the bottom up, as I'm training my horse and as he is working with her as well. So, it's completely confusing. I'm willing to work hard, but the problem is, I don't know where the line is where I can work as hard as I possibly can and just not get a result. I could work my hardest and try my best but I don't know when I'll be able to achieve a result. Lunging is a dream for us. I mean, she is so fantastic on the lunge, we have been using side reins and wow they have made such a difference! Once she builds up strength she will be much more comfortable! But riding is very difficult. I know she is trying so hard, I know she means well, I know she just has these little habits because she doesn't know any better. She is amazing, I'm not mad at her, I'm just frustrated that I can't do anything about it sometimes. Or maybe I can but I get caught in these little divits and I don't know where to go from there.
I don't want to be ungrateful especially when I haven't been able to ride in months. And I want to be patient with her, especially since she is so patient with me. Little things I have trouble with are... simple. Keeping her going, leg aids, keeping her away from the wall. I try to use my outside leg/outside rein to "bump" her away from the wall but I must not be doing it right because there is really not a result.
Clarifying. I am not interested in selling my mare, or moving up to another horse. I just need a solution for our benefit... mostly her well-being. So what do you think? Thank you. God bless you, and kudos to you if you read all of that.
You need a trainer to work with you.
Your horse is unfit... and was young and green before her extended break... you are expecting WAY too much from her.
My breaker is currently 'on spell', but sound, just very very young [2 1/2, has had 11 or 12 rides now]. I pull her out about once a week, if that often, for a short walking trail ride, because otherwise she gets so bored in the pasture she starts destroying things - rugs, buckets, fences, you name it [she is in a herd environment, but is too smart to just sit and not be learning new things and there's not a lot else I can do with her on the ground].
When I bring her back in properly, when she's 3 [wow, not long now! 6 months 2 days], I'll be starting her over again from the very beginning.
Even an older educated horse, like my 17 1/2 year old gelding, needs to be brought back in slowly. With my boy his first few rides in work are always on a long rein, often just a relaxed trail ride. Tons of walking. First week should be JUST walk. No trot at all. I'm not that patient LOL and he's half Arab so when we're on the trail we walk but if something is getting in the way [his mood usually] we trot at home. Week two you start introducing trotting. By week three you should be able to do a good ten minute stretch of trot, then back to walk. It takes twelve weeks to bring a horse up to full fitness 'adequately' and we're just talking straight lines - forget roundness and laterals!
If your mare has only been back in for a week, you should JUST be beginning to introduce your trot. By now you should have reminded her about being off the wall in walk [the 1/4 and 3/4 lines are WONDERFUL for that]. The one thing I'm not seeing that you -could- do is open your rein. The rein you want the horse to move into needs to move away from her neck. She's young, chances are she's 'forgotten' [they do pretend to forget and the youngsters actually DO forget] and needs the aids to be super-clear.
Treat her like a breaker. Teach her again what it is you want from her. My gelding's laterals were shocking up until about this time last month when I had a lesson with a super coach who showed me that I wasn't being clear enough. He knows - he isn't great in leg yield but is getting there and will hold canter travers down the entire 3/4 line if I ask him to, shoulder fore, head to wall, turns on the forehand and if I really push him turns on the hind [aka walk pirouette]. What he isn't perfect in... is fitness. And my lack of dressage knowledge.
BUT what I find is that he gets INCREDIBLY heavy in the hand when he's tired. He dumps onto the forehand and pulls. He has a very big neck for his breeding and not a heck of a lot of hind, and quite a long back, so he's sort of built to dump onto the forehand and pull. Someone taught him very well when he was young but if I'm not riding well enough, or he simply isn't fit enough, he won't/can't work from behind for long.
Remember - FITNESS. Be patient. She's arthritic, so needs a longer warmup and cooldown, and won't yet be fit enough to do any real work because all her fitness can manage at the moment is maybe half the warmup and half the cooldown she needs. Your trainer gets the results because a; he is male and therefore is likely to have more weight with which to influence your horse, and b; he has been riding for longer than you, or you wouldn't be taking lessons with him. Chances are his position is stronger and he has a lot more lower leg strength to MAKE your mare listen. I have always found men get better results from horses with less effort. The few experienced men I have seen ride my horse have gotten him going amazingly [well... one had him ducking behind the contact, but he WAS being a brat that day - horse not experienced man - and experienced man is an incredible rider and a stickler for correctness].
Remember I said my lad is 17 1/2? I'm pretty sure he has arthritis in both his knees, he's started refusing his fences [which is NOT him] and is stumbling more than usual... plus is unfit at the moment and coming back from spell, I get lazy in summer [Aus, it's fall here now]. SO I'm dealing with both those issues too, in an older horse. Luckily he's not the green one!
Thanks for all your advice, everyone.
I think I was being unreasonable and you're right, expecting too much. My girl is actually working very hard and I don't feel the same way I did when I posted this. Things are going quite well. She actually was trotting from week 1, but nothing unreasonable. Now she is having a trainer work with her twice a week, and then I ride twice a week. Each ride starts with 10 minutes of lunging (5 each way w/ side reins) and then when I ride, it's anywhere from 15-20 minutes of walking, and when my trainer rides, it's a nice upbeat workout with a lot of trotting. Thank you for all your advice, I think I needed a place to vent my frustrations and I'm feeling a lot better now! Plus my girl is working hard, wants to please, and I don't blame her that the work is difficult! and the fact she has arthritis, I'm hoping this working out is helping her! ... i've got to get back in riding shape too:)
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