caught in the middle.....
So this stems off of one of Riosdad's posts, about spurs, whips, crops.....basically aids in addition to your legs and your seat. so heres the story.
MY gelding is an 11 year old OTTB. He was on the track from early 2000 to April of '08....thats a long time for any horse, considering the other OTTB's i've run in to that were on the track for one year or two. I know he has certain behaviors hardwired into his system, since thats what he was trained to do, thats what he knows how to do. He is very gate sour in our arena, which is rodeo sized so its quite large. If I want to work with him without a fuss, we can only work in the back half of the arena, which is also where our small jump course is located. Anything closer and he gets it in to his head that we're really supposed to be going towards the gate, and the fighting ensues. He tosses his head, we spin, we back up, we side pass....but he never rears or anything like that. If I give him what he wants and we go to the gate, I can usually detour him to under the awning where our mounting blocks are, and then back out into the arena.
Because I had been using a crop this past week as kind of a "shoo stick" to get his respect, mostly in his stall when there was hay on the ground, I decided that I would just try it and see if he was as responsive to it in the saddle. Well, he was. I tapped him on the shoulder a few times when he was being stubborn and he would go without question, which was so exciting for me after having an unruly horse! He was also much more willing to get up into a trot with me sitting (usually I have to shift my weight out of the saddle for him to start trotting), but then he didn't necessarily want to stop, and I could feel him preparing to break into a canter. I of course slowed him down, but he still felt antsy, I had to actually say "walk" for him to relax, when previously just shifting my weight deep into the saddle would work to slow him down. He also started tossing his head when I would ask him to whoa.
So my question is, do I keep the crop and the responsiveness it brings, or will that just send him back to his days at the track? I'm wondering if what I felt as him moving into a canter was actually him extending his trot---since we usually only trot for a short time, his strides are short. Should I let him go and see what happens? Keep in mind I ride him in a hackamore, trying to ride him in a bit is absolute murder.
If i were you, i would leave the crop out of the situation because in my personal opinion, i think it could send him back to the days of the track. Since he was a race horse, it's no doubt he was trying to break into a canter. Honestly, i would let him go and see what happens. lol Race horses will never get racing out of their head.
I am not sure what I would do in that particular situation, as I can't see the horse myself to see just HOW he is acting in both situations.
Perhaps try both ways next time, and see how he does...say use the crop for the first half of the ride, and drop it for the last half. If it gets him to utilize the entire arena, perhaps it could be beneficial...it's not like you 'have' to use it every step of the way, just enough to get him to 'wake up'. You could keep it 'quiet' for the most part.
Like I said, I'm not sure what I would do, as I can't judge for myself how he is really reacting; he sounds like he may have been calmer WITH it, than without it, but that's just speculation, given what you gave. It's up to you what you choose to do, really, and how you feel he is reacting to it.
He is sort of better behaved.....he is more willing to go, but he wants to GO, versus when there is no crop he kind of just wants to mosey along. Either way we still have to stay at the back half, as soon as he passes a certain point, he just starts to make a beeline for the gate. I may or may not take a video, it depends on if I can get my friend to come out with me tomorrow.
If it works, by all means carry it. Nothing says you have to use it. When you do get a positive response by using it, you should always go back and re-ask without using it. If he doesn't answer, then use the crop again to re-enforce your aids. Ideally the crop should only be used behind your leg.
When you do get him going, I'd say keep him trotting as long as it's a nice quality trot. I would not let him pick the gait or the speed on his own. If you say trot, it needs to be trot. I'm sure that's easier said than done with him. My OTTB also gets fussy if he can't travel at the gait he wants. The trick for us seems to be getting him to commit to the gait I choose. We don't move onto another gait or spped until he stops fussing. Even if it's only a stride or two of nice trot, I reward him by either walking or cantering. Anything to let him know he was a good boy. Good luck. He sounds like a good challenge.
Well, I guess I should say that I also ride Western, so my leg position and my seat is a little different than English riders, lol. I like using it on his shoulder for a command because its much closer to me, I have short arms and he's sorta long, lol. I only had to use it once or twice, and then he kind of got the idea "oh, she's serious about this stuff" and got a move on.
If I let him speed up into the canter and then half halt him back down to the trot consistently, will that work? If I keep constant pressure on his nose he tosses his head or throws his head down to escape it, so trying to "prevent" him from speeding up by initiating contact like you would with a bit doesn't necessarily work.
Haha, thank you! I knew he'd be fun to work with as soon as I looked at him, I'm a sucker for a challenge!
I would half halt whenever you feel his trot speeding up. He shouldn't be allowed to break into the canter whenever he wants. That's your decision, not his. I've never ridden in a hackamore, so I'm not entirely sure how the pressure works. Race horses are trained to speed up when pressure is applied to the bit, so the best way to untrain that is to ride more from your seat and never keep constant pressure on the reins. Always give and take. When he starts getting fussy, soften your posting or sit deep and tall if you're sitting the trot. (I'm guessing you're posting if it's a TB!) Anyway, soften your posting and massage the outside rein each stride as his outside front leg is coming forward. The reins should have a wobbly feel to them so he has nothing to brace against. Always praise him when he settles down to the pace you picked.
It's best to teach him seat responses at the walk. On a loose rein, alternate between following his motion with your seat to encourage a free walk, and then stop following with your seat to teach him to shorten his stride. It's the same basic concept as a half halt at least as far as your seat is concerned. The first few times you ask him to shorten his stride, you'll probably have to give a little tug on the reins to get him to understand what you're asking for. TB's are wicked smart. He should get the idea of the game quickly enough. Then you can move back up to the trot.
If you rode western, you're already used to sitting more upright with open hips. It should help a lot with training this guy.
I don't think riding in a hack is THAT much different than a bit, you just have to KNOW where your horse's nose is and have light hands. Same as a bit you have to feel for where you pick up contact and if he's actually thrusting his head to his knees to avoid it, I was actually taught something this week to fix that. set your reins in your hands and hang onto the front of your saddle pad tight. Our reflexes just aren't fast enough to catch them in the act of the thrust...but if you're holding tight to your saddle pad, he corrects himself halfway down by giving HIMSELF a good jab to pick his head back up. I've been using it on one of our ponies and she's doing wonderful keeping her noodle steady now!
With the crop, just know that in order for it to actually reinforce your leg cue, it does need to be behind the leg. Tapping the shoulder may "work" for him, but it's not reinforcing your leg, it's become it own individual cue altogether IMO. Don't get me wrong, I tap on the shoulder when I use one also, but I'm not carrying it for the purpose of backing up my leg...I use it as a reprimand for blatant disobedience or when I do use it for leg backup, I tap behind my leg. As long as you know what the purpose you want it for is, then you're fine.
Are you able to lunge him in the gate portion of your arena? Obviously you could continue to cater to him, or you can teach him what is acceptable. He's been on the track longer than most so some things are going to take more work, but it's never too late to learn new tricks. Sounds like you need to do ALOT of ground work near that gate and in that half of the arena before riding him in it because you're not getting the results you're looking for. Not trying to rain on your parade, just saying if your method isn't working, try another.
Good luck and keep us posted, I hope you're able to get your friend out to video you as it would give us something to base our opinions off of!
I usually keep a little bit of pressure on the reins, moreso from where I keep my hands, which are on top of the horn, than from intentionally keeping them taught. They still have plenty of dangle room though, and I always end up having to shorten them anyway by the end of the session because he wants to continue going rather than just stand still. He mostly gets fussy about slowing down and/or stopping. He works very well with a seat/voice/rein combo, but if I drop something he gets bratty.
Ironically, he lunges perfectly in front of the gate. He prefers it.....the round pen shares the fence line with our arena, and if we lunge him over there (not in the round pen, he turns into a crazy TB and throws his chest at the gate) he pulls and pulls out until he's dragged us in that general direction.
I'll see if I can reach back comfortably or not--He's still direct reined for the most part (he has the idea to the right, but he's stiff on the left when I try to neck rein), so its just more of an instant thing to be able to get him on his shoulder than put my reins in one hand, turn around and tap him.
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