Dressage to Western
My boy Gunny is 15, and seems to have had most of his training in dressage...he has a beautiful headset, rounds his back, tucks up under at a trot, and is extremely sensitive to leg. Just the shift from a turn makes him think I'm asking for a trot.
The problem is, I ride Western trail. The Western saddle seems to make him want to move out more although it fits him like a dream, and he wants pressure on the bit rather than a loose one hand Western grip. He is improving on this and now doesn't take off into a trot when I drop the pressure, but but still speeds up the trot without it. He also has whoa problems. He will slow but doesn't like to stop.
Anyone have any tips on getting him used to Western?
Maybe I should move this to Western riding? How do I do that?
Changing a 15yo horse's basic riding style from English to Western presents the horse with some serious problems of readjustment. If he has been schooled to ride "on the bit" then he is carrying his weight on his hind quarters. You are asking him to ride long and low - on the forehand. He'll not be comfortable.
He is used to being ridden collected on a short rein, then he will seek the bit
whenever allowed a long rein. He will be used to having his neck and head controlled by the rider - you would be giving him back control - it is a different
style of riding. Under the English system the rider decides where he puts his feet - under the Western, the horse decides.
You have two horses why not ride one Western and use Gunny to learn to ride English?
The only other option in my mind is to ride him in Western tack all bar the bit:
don't use a levered curb bit use an English snaffle and hold the rein short and keep a light but constant contact with the mouth. You can ride one handed and teach him neck reining but don't expect him to be balanced when long and low, he is used to carrying his weight largely on his hind quarters. On the forehand and especially at the lope he might trip over on uneven ground.
English schooled horses are not taught the one reined sliding stop - to come to a halt the English way is a more complex move. (That is why English ride with permanent contact with the mouth - they control the neck at all times)
I'd suggest you went along to an English riding centre and learned more about the differences in the two systems - including the theory. If Gunny is already schooled to be "on the bit" you are discarding his earlier training
and for trail riding this would be a loss to you. If you were herding steers . barrel racing or playing polo then stay Western but for close control over uneven terrain at speed especially jumping logs and ditches then stay with English.
My Irish mare is only 8 but she was schooled to go "on the bit". Whenever on a long rein, allowed her head, she is confused and she fidgets. I'll have to change my style - not her.
This is a deep subject for the internet - I'd put a Western trainer and an English trainer and the horse in the schooling ring and let them fight it out.
PS read the thread "Western to English" up at the back,
'Changing a 15yo horse's basic riding style from English to Western presents the horse with some serious problems of readjustment. If he has been schooled to ride "on the bit" then he is carrying his weight on his hind quarters. You are asking him to ride long and low - on the forehand. He'll not be comfortable.'
Completely disagree. You can train a horse however you want.
Case in point--I have a very hot, quick-to-get-nervous english horse. Retraining him western.
He does just fine. Spins (slow, of course.), walks on a looser rein then my APHA western paint, neck-reins awesome.
He's 15-20 years old... up until this year, he's been ridden english.
I've maybe put about five-ten rides to train him western on him so far.
Nothing is hard for them as long as you TEACH them and not REPRIMAND them. There's a video floating around on the forum with a guy training spins--if you watch, he's not 'teaching'. He's asking the horse something the horse isn't sure about, and then spurring/kicking/bumping hard to get the response. The horse then moves quick and 'sensitive' so he's not hurt--NOT because he's been taught the proper response.
Always make it his responsibility to keep his gait. If he wants to trot, pull him softly into a tight circle until he walks again--just continue on. Keep your work in circles, and avoid a lot of straight lines until he's keeping the pace you want. Keep the reins loose when you do this--shorten to fix, then immediately give him the slack again. Obviously you won't start out with a 'big western pleasure drape' in the reins, but you'll work up to it. ;)
Honestly ; I don't think it's that big of a deal. Just slowly start with him. First walk him around on the lead rope with his western saddle on. Do that for a few days. Then after that, put the western bridle on and walk him around on that for a few days. Finally, Walk him around with the saddle and bridle on. Not ride! Just walk him around. When you feel he is used to that, You may ride. But remember, Western horses have a looser rein. I'm going from Western Horse to English Horse. xD He's only 8, so it will probably be easier for him.
I wish you the best of luck!
Barry- Hoover is handicapped and has been retired as a rider. He was born with a leg deformity, low pasterns.
My instructor passed away the year before, so I just want to make sure I'm not going about teaching Gun wrong. Gun is a good horse, eager to please, so I don't figure he'll have a difficult time, I just don't want to mess him up. My instructor taught Hoover and I, but I'm teaching Gunner basically myself.
May- I'll try the circles next time I work with him...it makes sense. We train usually by teaching the horse it's less work if they do what we ask, never use spurs/whips/sticks. In fact, I promised Hoover (he was beat with a two-by-four by his previous owner) that I would never use anything but my hand.
Hoover is handicapped and has been retired as a rider. He was born with a leg deformity, low pasterns. It sounds as though he is in caring hands.
My instructor passed away the year before, so I just want to make sure I'm not going about teaching Gun wrong. Gun is a good horse, eager to please, so I don't figure he'll have a difficult time, I just don't want to mess him up. My instructor taught Hoover and I, but I'm teaching Gunner basically myself. If already his head comes down as you say - my guess is that he will teach you - all you will have to do is listen to him.
May- I'll try the circles next time I work with him...it makes sense.
I find in hand work with a new horse helps form the bond. The horse can see the handler at head height as well as hear and feel the handler. Once he follows at the shoulder on a very loose lead rein you'll know you are getting through to him
We train usually by teaching the horse it's less work if they do what we ask, never use spurs/whips/sticks. Good
In fact, I promised Hoover (he was beat with a two-by-four by his previous owner) that I would never use anything but my hand.
Sounds as though you have the gentle touch
Some owners having acquired a new horse rush into things but horses coming both from good homes and bad homes need time to settle. They have to find their place in the herd, then they have to adjust to a new routine, then they have to learn about their new owner/rider.
This chap also has to move to Western.
But my opinion is that if he has been taught over 15 years to work "on the bit" - then he will continue to seek it. So you'll have to learn how to maintain contact with the mouth without jerking it - it will take a few months to get the hang of it. As I wrote - you can still fit a western saddle and all the gear. But the Western levered curb bit with a chain is not the bit to learn on - you might inadvertently hurt him if you lose your position and jerk his mouth. At the beginning the milder the bit the better. Use both hands - move over to one handed riding later. Soft but giving hands is the most important skill to acquire.
Make sure the saddle fits - it will have a bigger footprint than he is used to - watch from rub marks towards the rump. Check the shoulder is free.
You can soon teach him neck reining but if he is well schooled already he will turn off your calf anyway.
Stopping is the more difficult issue. If you have him permanently on the bit then as he starts to speed up you can resist the movement of his neck by resisting on the reins - effectively you prevent him extending his neck.
You also resist by putting pressure down onto the stirrup bars - that's too subtle to describe in words. Watch other English riders.
Do you know if he was ridden in a running martingale? This device puts leverage and pulls the head down in times of need but other wise leaves the head/neck free at normal paces. If he tends to rush or bolt in company - you might need a stronger bit and a martingale (which can be fitted to a Western girth strap) - but you only need to use them when you anticipate mischief. At the beginning try not to hype him up.
We've debated several times "How to stop a bolting horse" on the Forum.
Best practice is until you are ready to gallop, don't put yourself in a position where he might gallop. Be careful who you ride out with.
Practice changes of pace in the arena
Work with him in the arena over poles - initially lying flat on the ground.
See if he steps or hops. Then over weeks raise the poles off the ground in 3 inch intervals. You never know he might come ready to jump those ditches.
Whatever, enjoy your new companion.
My Puddy - the Palomino - would swop from Western to English and back
according to which hat I wore. But in truth with the benefit of hindsight I was riding neither Western nor English. Back in those days 'control' was more important than 'style'. Happy days.
Agree with Barry on this one.
Switching a horse from English to Western is fairly easy if the English style included stabilization on loose reins and the horse moving forward independently off the leg - most hunters and jumpers, some eventers.
However, a dressage horse who's really confirmed in going on the aids? And 15? I think retraining this horse to go forward on loose reins is not likely to be successful or enjoyable.
Barry's suggestion of riding in a western saddle with a snaffle bridle and allowing the horse to seek the contact in a long and low frame seems like the best possible compromise.
Thank you all. : ) As we have 15"+ of snow, I have not gotten to work with Gun as of yet. I am going to be putting him on a full cheek, which was Hoover's until he went to a hackamore two years ago (before his retirement. I should have thrown him an 'old fart' party ; P )
I'll also be attending Equine Affair here in Ohio in April, and plan to attend a clinic on "whoa," which I think is being given by Stacy Westfall. Hopefully I'll learn another option or two besides throwing an anchor down. ; P
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