Half-halt mistakes? Re-teaching rein cues?
We're going basic as blue, and while my mare's good with extension, she's not so good on collection. Her theme is to stretch out; her favorite gaits are the gallop and walk, when she really gets long and has her farthest-reaching strides. However, she responds poorly to stretch-down cues in trot and a little better in canter. I figure we should be able to have both basic collection and basic extension in one gait, not trying to get one or the other in all the gaits. If I don't block her with my seat often, she gets a tense and fast gait when asked for transitions. So I wanted to master the half halt in walk. On the ground, she can keep her nose low and almost give a Spanish trot over 3ft spaced poles. She responds quick to verbal cues but has a tendency to run in trot (someone told me she looks like she runs away from her hind legs in order to not use them). When I close my legs, she changes speed, and if I add hand, she sticks her tongue out and extends the stride and increases the pace. I practiced in trot and walk, from the tiniest pressure until she responded, and once I reached the pressure that she responded at, it was her sticking her nose up. Should I continue giving the cue until she yields? Currently I've been giving up when I meet resistance longer than 3 seconds, I didn't want to be aggravating her if I was asking something she didn't understand.
I'd love, love, love, to re-teach her response to the reins, but I really don't know where to start, all the articles I've read are for Western horses... she's English now. She's responsive to light aid, but sometimes not correctly. Our latest barrier is that while I try to keep her straight, she drifts away from the fence, so I bring her back, and she might try drifting again or rubbing me on the fence, and after I correct that she bites the bit and goes dead to the aids for about 10 seconds. I don't use a lot of pressure, only enough to break one horse hair, and I don't like a constant pull because she leans on me if I do so.
I would honestly find an instructor to help you.. it's more of a feel than anything. And you have to be consistent..
What kind of bit did she ride with when she rode western- what bit do you ride with now?
I had basically outgrown the trainer of the time of this post and got some input from a new trainer who specializes in Dressage. She REALLY helped in the short demo lesson I took from her with my mare. Right off the bat she pointed out that my mare was naturally extended in her gaits and had good suspension, unexpected for a Paint. She let me know that I WAS being a good rider and riding my horse correctly, but I was doubting myself too much and limiting both of us that way. So, for a month now I've been going entirely solo and working on what the new trainer told me, and I see improvement :) My mare is still sucking on the bit though, but now I know that it isn't abnormal to have to tell her to go into the position I want again and again at this stage. Any tips at this point would be useful, or further info, but I'm definitely going back to the new T for a full lesson once my trailer is repaired and I'm relieved I'm actually on the right track :D
Just gotta keep at it, keep the goal of the sessions simple, varied, and a bit shorter, and thus not get either of us disappointed or frustrated. I started picking up free-lunging again, in pasture; it seems to help my mare's recurring back muscle spasms by letting her balance and run around without my weight. She has mild bone spavin at 12yo, and as a result developed a spasm in the back muscles that varies in severity from nothing to nasty. Vets say that she is fit to work with treatments, I've just gotta go along gradually with her and give her special attention on the days her arthritis acts up.
Hmm.. cricket or roller bits sometimes make them play with it in their mouth more than usual.. I would definitely concider using a mullen mouth bit. My mare absolutely despises a broken mouth bit no matter the bit-- she does enough tongue rolling on her own to use one with a roller or cricket-- ive got her now in a regular curb bit, but if i was gonna ride English would ride her in a mullen mouth snaffle.. besides it doesnt hurt to try it out and see if your horse likes it. :-P
Not sure about the mouth opening-- maybe her back is making her stiff, and shes not wanting to flex properly? Maybe youre pulling a little too hard? Maybe she doesnt like the current bit? Could be a few things-- id have her checked by a chiropractor and definitely get her a deep muscle horsey message.. i know the vet said it was okay- but back spasm and riding dont sound good together.
I am confused as to what is the base question you are asking. Is it how to reteach rein aids? Can you kind of synthesize that to a more focussed question, it would help me if I have any ideas to offer.
How are you half-halting? Does your horse have rhythm, suppleness, and relaxation before you try to collect?
Yeah, how to reteach the rein aids, so that her primary response isn't flighty. Real improvement with her arthritic pain and consequent other soreness spots happened fairly recently, I think the habit of over-using her back muscle sometimes or twitching her muscles is still there though the pain is not, so I think when I add rein pressure she is tensing because she anticipates pain or a loss of balance. I know it's not the arthritis, which his in her hocks, because I started jumping her over schooling heights 3ft and under and her back is so much better the next day, as of right now there is no spasm on the left side but a slight sinking on the right when tested. Chiropractor doesn't help a lot, but does help a bit--- I had her done yesterday, her neck popped twice and the withers, half of the back, and a foreleg needed it. I'm thinking about acupuncture. Added a magnet blanket last week. Originally I thought I would have to add hock injections but she's having no problem jumping and immediately stopping after the jump, the other supplements are taking care of her joints. Her trotting work is good but the canter is messy.
I was told to chase her into the lead I wanted when she was sore (see why I switched?) and I gave it an honest try but it obviously made matters worse. I think she expects to be stressed in canter, so tends to get excited and starts straining her back. I was practicing "half-go's" one day and she actually gave me a terrific (accidental) canter with relaxation and focus. So.... maybe not so much reteaching the rein aid to her, but finding new ways for me to ask her? The rein aids I am staring at are the ones that block her motion more than a little. Bending is fine. I can "play" with her mouth and close my hand to recycle the energy back to the hind legs by a bit, but when I slowly lay my leg on her side and close my hands, she either ignores it or speeds. A little more rein equals more tension. It isn't the stopping or downshifting itself--- she knows her "whoa" and "that'll do" without a fuss. I can go around saying "eeeaassyy" every few strides doing nothing with the reins and end up with some more collection, but really, I can't exactly do that all the time, in competition or out hacking... I thought changing the bit would change her response to make the sensation different, since it seems like she's paired the jointed mouth piece with discomfort. I'll go out in a halter today to see what happens.
1) Accept the bit. Will she carry it without fuss? (no rider)
2) Accept contact. While riding, can you take up the reins and keep a steady contact--just enough that the reins aren't looping? Will she move without throwing her head up or bending it down? You must be very careful in keeping your contact, following with your arm/hand.
3) Yielding sideways--that is, will she direct rein to the left and right without shortening her neck, or otherwise resisting?
That's the simplified START. After that, the effects of your seat, legs, weight etc. have to work along with your horse's understanding of allowing his energy to be regulated by you, the rider.
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