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Gillian 08-15-2009 09:25 AM

Kind of conflicted...
So. As most of you have seen in pictures and know, I've been riding Zeus in his gag bit. It's big, fat, and rubber. But it's still a gag bit. When he first came home I rode him in his rubber d snaffle for a while. We were still getting used to each other and I couldn't read him or ride him as well as I can now. So I switched him back to his gag for a while. He's been happily ridden in this bit for basically his whole career. He used to be a 4' jumper. And he's always been a hot, hot horse. He has a tendency to get heavy in your hands and he is VERY strong. It takes some good riding to get him to rock back and lighten up. In dressage the gag the way i'm using it is not accepted, I know. When I ride him, I'm VERY light on his mouth. the MOST I ever do is keep up a conversating with light sponging of the reins, and the occasional half halt to remind him to listen to me. Not including his occasional buck or when he gets into 'go mode'. I'm not going to tolerate that and when gentle aids and cues from my seat don't work i'm not just going to sit there and let him blast around with me. He IS going to woah, back, and than get an on the buckle walk until he chills out.

Even though I know i'm not harsh on him with this bit I do know it's potential to be harmful. I am riding with a great trainer who knows what she's doing. At the same time I don't just blindly follow whatever she says, I do take my other experiences and opinions into consideration. She's seen how strong Zeus can be and she's fine with me riding in it for now while we're working on all the basics. We're not even practicing tests or anything yet. Basics basics basics. Which I completley agree with. Until I fix my flaws and bad habits how can we expect my horse to do the same.

I really want to switch him back to the snaffle and see how he does. But i'm afraid he'll go back to being super strong and running through my rein aids. I do try to ride mostly with my seat and when aids from my seat do not work I add the rein aid to it to get the result. I know you guys can't completley understand because you've never ridden him or seen him go in real life, but i'm just worried that when he does get strong and build up at the canter like he does, that the snaffle won't be enough to bring him back. The first stride can be really nice and calm, and the next he he lengenthen and speed up double what he last stride was. He just has a LOT of power. We've been doing lots of transitions. Lots of walk/canter/walk stuff and they'll work for a while but than he works him self up so much that we have to call it a day or he'll turn into a time bomb. I always put him before myself and if he is too up one day I won't canter him or i'll make sure he's completley calm on a nice loose rein before trying again.

I guess i'm just looking for opinions? Or advice? Anyone got a horse like Zeus? He really is perfect for me and when we're having a good day, we're awesome. I don't ever get frustrated or feel out of control on him, and always feel totally safe. But i'd like to figure this out. He has calmed down and improved a lot since i've had him but occasionally he'll get into his 'go mode' and get all kinds of excited. Push button, school master type horses are just not for me, and i'm an effective rider. It's all about perfecting thigns right now. He is an honest horse, and we have loads of potential together. i'm very excited for our future and hope to maybe event with him one day.

Thanks for reading my novel and I'd love to hear opinions and advice.
And sorry for my random throught process. I kinda just let it flow.

EDIT: A video of him in his prime as a jumper. Shows just how strong and powerful he is.

FlitterBug 08-15-2009 10:02 AM

My goodness, that boy does look like a handful and a half. I have replied to your other critique posts, and love Zeus. A little background on me..... I work problem horses, physical and mental. Dangerous, rushing, fearful, withdrawn, hurt, panicked, you name it. I have known and ridden plenty of horses like Zeus.

You say that you want to switch him back to a snaffle, but you are fearful because you don't want him to start blowing through the aids. My first question is always why. Why would he blow through the aids? Blowing through the aids is a sign of lack of respect for the aids, lack of lightness to the touch. All of those horses I have worked with, I have yet to find one that is "just that way" only those who have had a little bit of confusion in their training. This is a learned behavior of Zeus from his days as a jumper. He learned to lay on the hard aid and only respond when it got harder. His rider and physical condition put him heavy in the front and balancing on the bit, which is why it takes a lot now to get him light and balanced. He doesn't run through the soft bit because of hyper forward energy, he does it because that is basically what he was taught to do. He is not going to learn otherwise until he is in the right frame of mind.

You may disagree completely, but this is what I would do if Zeus was my horse. I would start with the mind, no horse wants to be hyper, unnattentive, and panicked, but any horse will take that role if they need the security. The more insecure the horse, the harder it is to teach that horse to relinquish that role. I would start by perfecting basic skills, not just the act of doing them, but being able to shape the mind into what would make the horse most comfortable. The horse must be in this state before he will be willing to make big changes with his body and self carriage, he must let down those defenses.

To put him straight in a snaffle now would be asking for problems, because we have not addressed that main issue of respect for the aids and proper self carriage, but we must remember that we have to attack these things in order to make them effective. He must be soft and connected through the slow exercises rather than teaching through a harsh bit. Its not a matter of control, its a matter of educating. I don't want a horse I have to hold back, I want one asking me what to do next. I can go further into detail if you would like, just let me know.

Also, what part of FL are you in? I know a trainer that does clinics up near Ocala that could give you some wonderful insight into this. I would be happy to help, but I'm in South FL and from any pics I've seen, it doesn't look like you are in this neck of the woods.

Just remember, don't always look to fix your immediate problem, look to understand what caused that problem in the first place, that is the only way to truly solve it.

Gillian 08-15-2009 10:20 AM

Thanks for the advice. I'm more in central FL, the Clearwater/Tampa Bay area.

We are taking things very slow with him so far. One of the reasons why I'm not jumping with him at this point. Like I said, whenever he gets worked up I let him take a break, get his head back on straight before continuing. I understand that this will take lots of time, and I've only had him for... almost three months I think.

I understand what you're saying, the concept anyway, but what exercises would you recommend for us to start working on? Continuing what we're doing? When he gets 'up' it's not so much that he's panicked or hyper. I do think it's just because for a long time his canter was not schooled. His trot can be absolutely amazing. But so far i've only had one canter that was completely calm, collected, and forward without rushing. His owner is an amazing rider and she rides him with more ease than I do right now, simply because she has been his trainer/rider for so long. She bought him as a green, green, horse and has done all the training/riding since. But he had never had any dressage training, and was ridden as a jumper for most of his career. Not to mention that he's only been back under saddle after a year or so off for about 8 months.

I wouldn't say that i'm fearful of him running through his aids, i'm always calm and cool when i'm on him. I just have a feeling, or know, that he would once back in the other bit right now. I just get crap from people sometimes because he's ridden in the gag. But I know that switching him tot he snaffle right now wouldn't do us much good, and I say over and over again that I am as soft and gentle as can be. At the same time when a strong aid is needed I don't hesitate to remind him who exactly is in charge. My trainer says that soemtimes I'm too soft and forgiving, with my seat and my hands. I can understand that as all the horses i've leased before him have been green and needed and soft and defensive rider.

I'm rambling. Ha ha. I'd love to hear more advice about what type of exercises you think would be benefitial.

Spyder 08-15-2009 10:52 AM


Originally Posted by Gillian (Post 378453)
I'm rambling. Ha ha. I'd love to hear more advice about what type of exercises you think would be benefitial.

It isn't so much the exercises as the positioning of the horse to do the job.

I am teaching someone on my horse right now and I can get whatever canter I wish. I an also settle him easily when he gets excited ( mares...LOL) and it hardly ever use the bit. Certainly it is the seat but it is more than the seat. My new rider learned very quickly that the position she placed him in, determined if the steps got quicker or settled into a more relaxed gait.

When a horse gets strong it is as Flitterbug stated...a lack of respect for the aids and bit. With a stallion you MUST have their respect or you are doomed for failure. I don't get it by using a stronger bit or hitting the horse but by establishing that I am in charge.

How to?

By putting him in positions he cannot do what he would like to do. Turns are your best friend and straight lines are your horses best friend. Any horse can do pretty much whatever they want to on a straight line and this also includes circles that are too large.

Basic dressage is putting to horse on the outside rein and freeing up the inside and there is no better positioning than figure eights. But they must be done properly. The video I put up in the other thread with Phillippe Karl working the horse in bend leg yields and small circles and half circles is exactly what I am referring to and is what I do with my horse for 10 to 20 minutes before I even start a trot and will go back to them until he is settled. He found out soon enough that he got absolutely nowhere but realized that it really is me that is in charge.

Gillian 08-15-2009 11:35 AM

Thank you for the advice and the video Spyder. That kind of riding and response from the horse is what i'm striving for. I saw that other thread, Phillippe Karl is amazing. I think I should do some reading about him and his way of riding. I'll definitely keep working on it. That would be really good for us too because another thing Zeus has never had to do is carry himself properly at the walk. So that's really where we should begin, before even attempting to be balenced and collected at the canter.

FlitterBug 08-15-2009 02:03 PM

Yes, that is right. As the old saying goes, you need to learn to walk before you can run. Any holes that are left in foundation training will always show to the extreme as the horse is asked to do more. It would be like asking you to do algebra without conquering basic addition. The basic walk is something that I rarely see mastered in horses, yet then people wonder why their horse is having problems in the trot and canter.

I am about 3 hours away from you, the person I know that does a lot of traveling does travel to Sarasota occasionally if you are ever interested in attending a clinic.

Gillian 08-15-2009 03:01 PM

Alright than I have a goal now. Before even trotting when i'm riding from now on I'm going to make sure that at the walk he is attentive to all my aids, bending, and stopping properly. Another question. Somedays he can be a real boat and acts like he doesn't feel my leg at all, and other days, like my ride yesterday, he's super responsive. I've been thinking about getting some itty baby spurs just to be able to refine my leg aids, especially at the walk. Another thing we're working on is straightness. He is a chronic bulger, again, not something that was schooled since he was restarted. He's so much better about it but every once in a while he'll bulge in or out of the ring. Even with my leg on. Once again, it falls into the category of being a little too forgiving with my body. When he bulges I unconsciously bulge with him I guess through my hips or something? It's hard to explain. How can I break myself of this habit? Sometimes i'm TOO much with the horse. Eh, like I said, hard to explain. I need to get a good video of us schooling. :/

I am getting help from my trainer with all of this but can only do one lesson a week right now.

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