New horse, not even on "the pyramid" - suggestions please!
I bought myself a pretty little mare just over a week ago and while she is super smart, I would love some suggestions for helping with rhythm!
Right now at the trot and walk she's rushing around like a demon creature is chasing her and spazzes when I apply the teensiest amount of leg pressure (I'm basically riding with my calves completely off :shock:).
Here's what I've been doing with her:
"Milking" the reins when she gets speedy.
Going over ground poles.
Lots and lots and lots and lots and lots of groundwork, including stretches.
She's been responding well to all of these things and has been evening out, but I would love to know if there's anything else I can try. Especially when it comes to calf pressure! When she dances/veers/spins I've been circling her until she calms down, but I don't understand her aversion to it and it's been frustrating me, which doesn't help either of us.
Our current training goal is to participate in a 15-mile trail ride on April 21st (the shortest of the event - the others are 25 and even 50 miles!), but if she's still rushing around and not using her energy efficiently I wouldn't be comfortable asking her to go so far. She's used to being mostly a pasture ornament. Our overall goal is to get into eventing, so this is behavior that absolutely cannot continue.
Thanks in advance for any replies!!
I always want to check saddle fit when there's a horse rushing in that "I'll run right out from under my saddle" way.
Did you try her out? If you did and she didn't respond this way in their tack while you were trying her then definitely check tack fit.
Is she off the track? Sounds like a very typical ottb behaviour.
If its not tack fit or soreness, then you're going to need to get brave, or find someone who is.
By taking your leg off every time she runs off, you are effectively training her to run from the leg.
The approach to this really depends on the type of horse she is, and how good a rider you are.
In some instances it would be appropriate to get up in 2 point, lay your calf on quite firmly, and canter, canter canter until she gets it out of her system.
Other horses will need to start from walk and halt, some through teaching leg yield on the circle, and turn on the forehand, to control the forward motion by replacing it with a sideways motion - making the horse have to slow down to keep balance.
You will also need an effective core, to dictate the speed rather than relying on 'milking' the reins.
Your absolute BEST option is to get yourself a good instructor that has dealt with ottbs or similar type horses.
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I agree with Kayty. She is training you to not use your leg on her. It needs to stay there passively until she runs through her options and figures out the correct response.
If this is an OTTB, back the truck up and work in slow methodical steps. Give her firm, consistent aids and give her time to figure out what you're asking for. If you are not familiar with retraining an OTTB, it might be a good idea to have someone work with you for a few sessions to get you started in the right direction.
She might also just need some plain old down time before her retraining.
Agree with others to rule out/treat pain first & foremost. Aside from saddle fit, could be other back issues, teeth, bit, ulcers, hooves...
Assuming it's 'only training', firstly you've given very little info, so we're left guessing at a lot. But first point I'd guess at is that she's in a new environment, being 'worked' by a new person & she may be generally nervous & stressed by that. I would have given her time to settle in & get to know you first.
Second point I'm guessing is that she's not very well trained generally & perhaps doesn't understand leg aids - perhaps putting legs on only frightens her or means go/go faster. I start with desensitising them to being touched/handled, then teach them how to *yield* to all kinds of pressure on the ground first. How have you gone about the 'ground work' with her & have you worked on her understanding how to softly yield & not react to pressure in various areas?
If when you're riding she's rushing around already, regardless of leg pressure, I would personally work on getting her *comfortable & relaxed* at a stand still & then walk first, before then working on her understanding of leg aids. I'm not exactly sure what you mean by 'milking' the reins, but if I want a horse to slow, I start with a very gentle 'ask', but then firm up if the horse doesn't listen.
Especially as you're wanting to teach her to respond to your legs, I'd be using one rein, rather than 2, to slow/turn, which will help her understand what you're after. Eg. starting at the standstill... after teaching her to yield from pressure on the ground & making sure she's relaxed about you sitting on her in the first place - I'd take up the slack on one rein, start asking her to yield to that & lightly put your leg on to 'back up' the rein cue. That way, you retain control & combining the leg cue with one she already understands well, she'll start to learn that legs mean more than forwards. Once she's doing this reliably, you can start using your seat/legs to turn her first & back up with reins if/when needed.
Considering what you have posted, training for a 15 mile ride three weeks from now might be pushing it. That is a limited distance but you want her a lot more settled and knowing what you are asking, not to mention conditioned.
I would concentrate on retraining...or training, and plan for a ride when she is ready.
Good luck to you.
Indie was like that, she'd speed up and move up a gait whenever she felt my leg on. So, I kept my leg lightly on her throughout our whole ride, and if she sped up, I'd bring her back. It took awhile, but eventually leg pressure no longer startled her and she didn't speed up as soon as it touched her unless she knew I was asking for something. She was the type of horse who if you had her at a whoa and you just put your legs on, she'd jump forward instead of just calmly walking on.
I started out walking a circle, because on our first ride, she was unable to walk a three steps of a circle... she'd try trotting off. After maybe three or four rides, I got a circle at a loose rein walk. She was smart and picked up on things fast, so it's hard to give a timeline on how long until you'd see improvements... but just be consistent and don't get tempted to skip a step in the training. I know I got really bored with all the walk/trot work but it paid off big time in our two and a half months together. Completely different horse undersaddle. :)
Half halts and backing up will be key points for you at this point. I'd stick to the walk until she walks on a loose rein with your legs on her side.
Assuming that when you bought her, you moved her to a new place. It can take a little longer for some horses to settle down. She may not feel safe yet going out/away from her new home.
How much ground work have you done with her? Establishing that you can control her feet on the ground does wonders under saddle. Some horses can go from pasture to work with no issues. Some need a refresher or tuneup.
She may be over-sensitive on her sides. I've had a few that when you put just one leg on, they take off instead of turning. You have to just keep at it with consistency and patience. Practice, practice, practice.
It could be how she was trained or rode before. I knew of a gal and her horse. She loved to run with him. When she got him he was an awesomely trained horse. He would stand still for how ever long if you dropped the lead rope and walked away. After years of go, go, go, he became very fidgety when tied. He wouldn't walk. She had a very difficult time of holding him back all the time.
There are a lot of "It could be's". It could be her new surroundings/new owner. It could be how she was trained or rode before. It could be her lack of training or being out in pasture. It could be pain or discomfort. And more.
Without seeing the horse and her response, it is hard to give advice. I would try by starting out with circles, put one leg on to turn. Get her used to your leg touching her. If she speeds up, don't get excited, just keep her turning. Once she settles down while turning, let her rest. Repeat. Once you can touch her side and she turns instead of taking off, then work on both legs for forward.
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