Sticks his nose out
So I guess this is really what I've been asking. When we ride, my horse sticks his nose way out most of the time unless we're bending on a circle. And regardless at the canter.
Is that normal for a green-ish horse? I really don't understand all the complex terms everyone uses when they explain stuff about being on the bit, though I know it's necessary.
What signals do I give him?
I understand seat to legs to hands, but I don't know how to DO that. All the "ride the back, ride the ribs, ride the shoulders" I get that, but I don't know how to apply it. Do I squeeze? What do I do with my seat?
It's all very confusing.
Well first off what kind of bit are you using on him? Is it a single jointed bit? Sometimes horses who need more tongue/bar relief will stick their noses out and sometimes will invert because the bit is bothering them. Have you looked in the Myler bits?
How old is this horse? He sounds like he is trying to find his balance.
Do you have any photos?
If he's doing what I -think- you mean, it's normal. Green horses aren't going to look as pretty as a horse that has been in training. Just leave his face alone and let him find balance himself.
How does he look on the lunge line?
If he is green and you have introduced direct contact to quickly or incorrectly, then that will cause him to begin "nosing through the bridle". I would start working him on a loose rein. Work with him at a standstill by applying pressure until he flexes at the poll and tucks his nose. In the beginning, even the smallest movement should be rewarded with release of pressure. Then begin working at a walk and asking for poll flexion for very short periods of time. Just keep working with this and don't move up to the next gait until they have it perfectly at the lower one. You can slowly build up the time that you ask for collection and they should maintain the flexed neck with very few problems. If you start to have an issue, go back to the last place that they were doing good and start again. Good luck.
It could be the bit- a horse I used to ride always did this; it was because his mouth was uncomfortable with the bit he was using. Or, he just wasn't used to the contact & wanted to avoid it. However, I'd get his teeth looked at, & maybe try a different bit? It could be that he's green as well, though.
Today I rode him in a french link loose ring snaffle and I *think* it was a lot better. It was probably poking his palate.
Photos for you. These are from when we were still at my old trainer's and he was in a single jointed full-cheek snaffle. We've improved quite a bit since then, but his nose still does this about half the time, and especially when we're going in a straight line.
Last summer (please excuse my godawful position.. my trainer decided to tell me to have my reins super-tight and my arms almost straight. I don't ride like that anymore, I assure you.)
Also last summer:
I'm betting some of his problem was the bit. I would keep riding him in the double jointed bit, it's probably much more comfortable for him.
It looks like, from the pictures, that he needs a lot of work on stretching his topline and reaching for the bit. In the first photo he looks hollow, back sagging down, not engaging his hind end. Really focus on getting him stretching.
The bit is accepted by the horse as a result of driving the horses rear quarters more underneath himself which causes the pulsations from this forward reach to pass along the spinal column, through the riders driving seat to the poll. This will cause the forehand to rise and the horse adapts to the bit according to its conformation.
Long explanation and easy to do once you understand the mechanics involved.
The biggest problem most people have is that they ride the horse from front to back and all that does is stifle the forward reach of the rear legs. The end result is the horses balance goes off and the horse either leans on the bit or throws their head up. The rear legs in both cases travel behind the horse and it will either run to try to bring it's balance together or just play the "lazy" game.
The other biggest fault is to ride the horse forward but to the point that the horse is running into the bit and is balancing itself on the bit. In this case the rider has failed to ask the horse to balance on the outside rein. A properly trained dressage horse is "caught" between a driving inside leg a supportive outside leg and a soft light inside rein and a communicative and supporting outside rein. Without this the horse has all sorts of evasions such as balking or running out.
I teach all my students to ride the rein forward. To do this the horse is on the outside rein with a little more pressure than the inside rein. The inside foot will prevent the horse from falling in. The outside foot applies enough pressure to turn the forehand 1/4 the width of the horse towards the inside. This ensures correct contact with the outside rein, prevent the falling out of the horse and act as a counter to the inside foot. After the initial hold release ONE rein very slightly only as far as the next step the horse will take and resume contact afterwards. This might appear as a circular almost massaging motion of the hand. Upon resumption of contact a slight vibration of the rein will ensure the horse does not "sit" on the rein. This is repeated on the opposite rein. THIS IS NOT SAWING as proper contact MUST be attained by one rein before the release of the opposite rein is started. DO NOT RELEASE the outside rein to the horse when in training and in a corner or on a curve.
Very shortly you will find that the horse will maintain a headset according to the degree of collection requested with only the slightest touch of the rein. and you can test this by a full release of both reins for a step or two.
Great post Spyder, I couldn't agree more.
My coach is teaching me exactly how you train. Drive inside leg, into outside rein. The outside rein has allot of function.
I atteded a clinic taught by Sarah Hughes. I had no idea who she was at the time, but I saw Prix Saint George Competator so I signed up.
She amazed me! She got on a clinitians horse, never met the animal before. Got on, dropped the inside rein and rode all on the outside rein.
She did 20 meter circles, and she did serpentines and she did half passes and turn on the haunches on this horse - all driving inside leg into outside rein.
I was toally amazed. Shone a whole new light on the situation and how incorrect I was riding all those years under uneducated coaches.
I would also like to point out - that correct saddle fit plays a big part, as well as the riders seat.
If I ride with too heavy of a seat with my TB, he will drop his back and throw his head up.
If I get too stiff with my arms, he will stiffen up as well.
If I ride on all 3 points of my seat *both seat bones and crotch* and allow my heels to take my weight, I can remain effective, but light enough to not effect his back.
Hard to explain. It took my coach to show me, so I am sure it is hard to figure it out via words on a computer screen.
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