Lazy horse- give up on dressage with him?
I've had my horse for about a year and a half now, and I've shown him in intro and training level dressage. Now that I'm looking at first level, I'm really finding his lack of "forward" is holding him back from being able to really do the tests- he's simply not doing well on the required lengthenings and leg yields, and the level of impulsion that got him OK scores at training level isn't good enough for 1st level.
I know he can do it, physically. It's gorgeous how well he sits down and engages his hind end when he's tearing around the field. But I can't seem to get that from him under saddle.
The other day, DH suggested that I should stop trying to force it and just enjoy him for what he is. This has really got me thinking about it, and wondering if he's right. I don't compete a lot, so that part of it isn't really a problem, but it almost feels like if I'm not working towards some goal then I don't really know what to do.
I have a dressage clinic next weekend that I've really been looking forward to, but now I'm wondering if I'm kind of wasting my time and taking a spot from someone else who has a better suited horse. At this point, I'm kind of thinking that this clinic will make or break whether I continue on trying to bring him along in dressage, or if I back off and just enjoy him as a trail horse.
Honestly, I'm hoping that the lack of 'go' is can be fixed with nutrition or training, but I'm not all that hopeful. My vet suggested I try adding a selenium and vitamin E supplement, which I've ordered, but there really doesn't seem to be any glaring deficiency in his current diet. Unless the dressage clinician has some really good recommendations, I think I'm all tapped out on training ideas, too.
Sorry this is really more of a story than a question, but I'd love to hear others' thoughts and experiences with similar horses.
Do you hack him out often? I'd start looking at re-motivating him. Brock is super-lazy. You'd think he was slow until you yell "dinner!" and watch him gallop up to the fence! He was very sluggish when I started schooling him, but with the right motivation is very very forward. Out on the trail he likes to be at the front, especially if there's a mare to impress and other geldings to show up. I started schooling him every other time with another horse in the arena, making him travel behind them then overtake (politely) - his natural competitive edge came out and after a while he realised that schooling was actually fun (so long as it didn't get repetitive) with or without company, and he started pulling his huge, fancy trot out whenever I asked.
Sometimes you have to figure out what makes a horse tick, and just changing up your routine a little bit can bring around a whole new outlook regarding something you've done a thousand times in the past. So maybe your horse is super lazy if you keep to your 'typical' warm up and ride, change it up a bit. Don't JUST work on dressage when you're working on Dressage, do some pole work, cross rails, short gallops, different patterns, whatever your horse 'likes' to do to get their attention and perk them up and maybe they'll be happier to move forward in the Dressage and get rid of that lazy kick.
That's just what I've found has worked for MYSELF, obviously it's not a fix for all the lazy horses out there though :wink:
I have to ride my horse very, very forward in the warmup. She has to continue going forward with big energy without my calves on her for at least once around at trot and once a canter.
If I don't, the rest of the ride I feel like I'm nagging her for even the tiniest bit of energy. Then I feel guilty and hate myself.
If I do impress on her that the lightest aid for forward really means forward, then she's a dream the rest of the ride.
My issue with my horse is I beg her for forward instead of demanding it once and being done with the nagging. If I put my calves on she has to jump forward immediately at the lightest touch, and taking my calves off does not mean she can stop. She used to require that I continuously drive her forward nearly every step. I had one clinic with a top notch trainer that pointed that out, and I've spent the last 4 months fixing it. It is such a different ride from what I was used to with my horse. Now she's got some real power behind her. Her lengthens (which were utterly non-existent before the clinic) are tremendously big and floaty now.
My point being... it's not the horse in most cases. It's us riders creating the problems. (Assuming your vet has ruled out health issues).
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I also wouldn't give up on the clinic..it is possible the clinic instructor can give you ideas on how to re-engage the horse's enthusiasm..for lack of a better term. Never turn down a chance to learn from another instructor as long as the instructor is capable.
My last horse would get bored pretty quickly and at that his attitude was horrible. I found, however, that he enjoyed learning new things or just being able to change up the "old" things. For example, instead of doing simple leg yields I started working on shoulder and haunches in..he could barely manage them and they were very ugly and unbalanced but he liked trying and it would settle his attitude. He also really enjoyed the lengthened trot down the long sides and collected on the short side exercise.
Pole work, even playing barrel racer on occasions around the cones or jump standards that happened to be set up in the arena also helped.
Did your vet do a blood test? Usually Selenium is not used unless you know for a fact that the horse is lacking it. It is poisonous.
Have you tried red blood cell? That can give horses lots of energy.
Thanks for all the responses. I've been feeling a bit down about this lately, and it's good to get some encouragement.
I have been taking him out on trails every week since getting the trailer, but haven't noticed any difference in attitude. He does seem to enjoy the trail rides, but is not any faster on them. If he's in back he walks slowly until he's reached a certain distance from the other horses, then trots to catch up. If he's in front I get lots of complaints from the people behind me ;-) Last weekend I led a ride with 5 people behind me and ended up having to stop and break a switch off a plant (makeshift dressage whip) just to keep him at a respectable walk. When we go out alone, he's still slow, but I don't mind as much since we're not trying to keep anyone else's pace!
I've also recently had his teeth done, his saddle fit checked by a professional saddle fitter, chiropractic done, etc. I'm fairly confident that it's not an issue of discomfort or pain. His hooves were not great when I got him a year and a half ago, and they're still not where I want them to be, so that is one possibility. When I switched to my current farrier, he did immediately stride out better, but has not shown any real improvement since then. I'm planning on talking to my farrier about trying barefoot and seeing what he thinks.
My pony would move at the pace of backwards if there were such a thing :lol: . He's done an average 4th level (60%-62% his first year out at 4th, now aiming for PSG actually). His lengthenings/extensions/impulsion marks etc. are certainly lacking compared to some but darn do we ride a precise test - that's how we pick up the marks.
I have to school forward like there is no tomorrow! Everyday keeping him sharp off my aids and encouraging forward. I know with him it will be a forever thing to be uber-lazy but with correct riding you can kind of train the lazy out of them. Others who aren't as strong as I am or as direct with my "get-up-and-go!" cues can barely get him to move. An 11 y/o gal rode my pony for a while and whooo boy did all his forward training go out the window. Now that I've been riding him again it is coming back. Consistency with requiring forward is key with the lazies. I will admit that a self-propelled horse at upper levels is much easier to ride. Don't give up on your horse because he's lazy! Be persistent with your asking and don't take anything less than what you want.
Remember not to clamp with your legs when asking for more forward. Apply the aid and take it off, back it up with a stick or a kick if needed. The more you clamp on the more likely he is to be lazy and end up ignoring your leg aids. The less aids the better on the lazy horses I find.
Some horses have a thyroid problem. I know one who took medication for it for about a year, then got so lively she was tapered off it, and she's now normal and fine.
I also have a lazy horse, and some of it IS my fault. But what I find works well is exercises requiring short bursts of energy. Transitions from walk to "big trot" for example. If she's been very sluggish, like when it's hot, I use a short crop instead of a whip. Giving a light slap on the neck seems to work best. She likes to know the effort will not last too long; but we've increased the amounts, and will continue to build her stamina.
Right now, recovering from a broken arm, I'm working on "less is more" and really concentrating on getting responses from minimal aids. So far, so good!
Change of routine is a good plan - sharpens a horse up, especially some trail riding
I find that horses that are able to have some turnout where they can really move around are physically and mentally fitter than ones stabled a lot of the time. Exercise improves blood circulation and muscle fitness and all movement is exercise
Some horses do need a higher protein feed. In the UK our (fox) hunters and competition horses all got micronized oats, peas, soya and beans in their daily ration but I've never seen them here
I never find that nagging with your heels is much use - they just get dead to it - Willow is my one that's likely to go lazy on me and one sharp crack with the schooling whip behind my legs is enough to tell her to wake herself up - doesn't need it very often!!!
Get the blood tests done if only to rule out any health issues
I don't think that pulling shoes will make any difference at all. I do like mine to be barefoot if possible but never found they went any better and a horse that's sore footed will not perform well at all
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