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ahearn 02-17-2008 06:28 PM

Tie Downs...Lunging.... and flexing
OK guys! You all have given me great advice in the past but this one I really can't wrap my head around. We acquired a horse the has ALWAYS ridden in a tie down. ALL OF HIS 14 years of LIFE!!!! When he's in the tie down, he does not throw his head or even attempt it. His head stays nice and low. BUT as soon as that tie down comes off and you try to ride him his head could almost touch your chin!! It's like Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde! I really don't want him in the tie down anymore. How do you slowly wean him off of the tie down at the ripe old age of 17?

I have also started his ground work. He doesn't even know how to flex or lunge. (ALthough he is very well trained.....for a ranch) I started with side flexions today. I probably walked a mile before he ever got the hint to give and bend! Once he got the hang of it he did fine. MANY MANY more hours of this and he'll do fine. Lunging was a different story. I just kept confusing him! Back to my training videos I go! I haven't had one like htis in A LONG TIME!! :?

Any advice on my current project horse would be greatly appreciated!

JustDressageIt 02-17-2008 06:43 PM

- remember your horse knows what you're looking at, and your eyes are a driving force for your horse. Where do you ask the horse to go forward from when you're riding him? You use your legs around the girth/cinch area, right? So keep your eyes on that area of his body and drive him forwards with this. When you look at his face, the "pressure" is on his face, which drives him to stop.
- Keep sending the horse forwards, no matter what. I just taught this 6 year old how to lunge, and it took a LONG time, but eventually she got it. Use your voice - ask the horse to "walk on" and send him forwards with your eyes and body, and whatever else you are using as an extension of the body - lunge whips (used as an extension of your arm, NOT to hit him!) are an excellent tool for a horse that doesn't know how to lunge.
- You might have to walk beside him to get started... ask him to walk on, and keep driving him forwards while you slowly back off further and further until he's walking around you in a circle.

It is very confusing for a horse, but you'll get it eventually!! Hope this helps! Feel free to ask about anything you don't understand.. I know my "explanations" are sometimes more confusing than the original question!

Flipping the head up: whenever he flips his head up, drive him forwards, make him work for his mistake. Can you slowly start lengthening the tie down? You might want to think about checking his teeth out as well if you haven't recently, as head-flipping is common in horses that are in pain from the bit sitting improperly in their mouth.

ahearn 02-17-2008 06:54 PM

Thanks for your rapid response!! Your explanation about lunging makes perfect sense.

The tie down...another issue! We have tried to slowly lengthen the tie down. We thought we had the answer to our problem, but after a few short passes slowly realized we didn't. Now he's getting his head so high it's a little intimidating.(Which I'm sure he can sense as well!)

JustDressageIt 02-17-2008 06:58 PM

No problem, glad to help! And I'm very glad that I made sense - it doesn't happen too often!

As for the head-flipping (it is flipping, right? not just him having his head in the air?), just push him forwards whenever he does that.. again, make him work for the head-flipping stunt.

ahearn 02-17-2008 07:07 PM flips straight up!! We just recently had his teeth done so that's not an issue either.

I'll try the moving him forward thing and see how that works. I think he's been able to get away with a lot over the years as he is being very pushy and trying to see what he can get away with. He's slowly figuring out that it's not much!

JustDressageIt 02-17-2008 07:17 PM

Good!! Let me know how it goes next time you ride!

Spirithorse 02-17-2008 07:35 PM

Mmmmm......I have a different view on this :lol:

One, get that tie down off him. My horse was ridden in a tie down for years before I got him and I had SO MANY issues to work out! Tie downs, IMO, give the horse something to brace against, plus it forces a horse to carry his head in a position that he isn't WILLING to do. A tie down is a band aid for a much deeper cause of pain and/or unconfidence.

So here is what I would do. Make sure you saddle fits. Triple check it! Make sure it's in the correct position, behind the horse's scapula at MAXIMUM extension and make sure your saddle is then shimmed appropriately to make your saddle level. You dont' want it putting pressure on his withers. If your saddle is blocking his shoulder movement that will cause him to hollow his back and stick his head way up in the air.

Next, I would get a double jointed snaffle bit. I would suggest getting the JP by Korsteel Oval Mouth Copper Loose Ring snaffle. You could also use a KK snaffle. With this snaffle you then want to teach him to reach for the bit. Your horse sounds exactly like my horse used to be. Once I tought him the following exercise he COMPLETELY changed. I do not believe this is a "bad habit" or something he is doing out of snotty behavior, I believe this is a physical issue (might want to get a chiro out), along with saddle fit, and a confidence issue. A horse who is comfortable and confident WILL NOT hollow out like that.

So once you have the snaffle get on and start this from a halt. Start "combing" the reins through your hands with contact in his mouth. Use a flowing, rhythmic feel and allow the reins to slide easily through your hands. DO NOT block him. If he starts backing up hang with him and even put his butt up against a fence. This is a hand-over-hand motion. What you want him to do is to reach for the bit and stretch down. When he does release the reins completely and rub him. HERE IS THE KEY......the higher he puts his head up the more drag you put in the reins! You are insisting that he keep his head lower. What I mean by more drag is that you don't allow the reins to slide as easily through your hands BUT YOU DO NOT PULL ON HIS MOUTH. If you pull, his head will come up. Once he is okay at the halt then go to a walk, and then a trot. DO NOT do this at the canter. Your goal is to have him stretch waaaaaay down. Make sure you don't block him or pull on his mouth! If you are confused by this let me know and I will explain better.

With my horse this changed his body physically. His topline improved dramatically. And the more you do that exercise the more you will see your horse carry himself differently. Even on a loose rein my horse will stretch and carry himself SO MUCH BETTER b/c that exercise teaches a horse to use his body and not be afraid of contact on the bit. He rarely lifts his head real high anymore and if he does I go right back to combing the reins with drag to tell him "Hey, wrong door."

One thing you need to be ready for is the fact that you may lose your back up when doing this exercise. But this is okay! Pick your battles wisely. Once your horse is consistantly relaxed and soft with that exercise then you can move onto shaping his body and asking him to carry himself in an actual frame. And actually you shouldn't have to use your reins to back up :wink: He should go off your seat.

I'm going to disagree with driving him forward when he puts his head up. I dont' believe it's a stunt. I believe it's an unconfidence issue. If anything that might cause him to become more emotional.

One other improtant factor.........your riding. Make sure you are fluid in your body. NO BRACE. Don't jam your heels down, don't hollow your back. Move everything. If you are braced in your body then he will be braced in his body. Be fluid, keep your weight back, not on his forehand.

Equina 02-17-2008 09:00 PM

JDI and Spirithorse are both on the right track here. Basically, the tie down has forced your horse to keep his head low. When you remove it, he stops keeping his head low. You want to train him to lift his back, use those back and rear-end muscles! This will naturally cause his head to lower.

I highly agree with Spirithorse's recommendation to use a double-joined snaffle. Won't allow him any excuses or reasons to try to avoid the bit.

I personally have used JDI's method of encouraging forward movement to get my horse to lower his head. Maybe it's an English-rider thing. :wink: I tried futzing with the reins to resolve the issue, and it worked slightly, but also made him feel very stiff. By encouraging more forward movement, he began to develop those back muscles and it was physically easier for him to carry himself properly. I also did a lot of circling at the trot. It was pretty hard for him to keep his head high while bending.

Try both methods (and maybe others will suggest more) and see what starts to work for your horse.

ahearn 02-17-2008 09:44 PM

Thanks Spirit Horse!! That's an interesting take on it. I like it! We follow a lot of Clinton Anderson/ Lyons/ Parelli methods all rolled up into one so this sounds like something similar. I'm going to print it off to really look at and study tomorrow. Great advice!

I like the double jointed snaffle. I've felt like we haven't had him in the right bit. It's just a full cheek snaffle with a single break and rolls on either side. He doesn't take that too well. (That's what him came with) Does anyone have a pic of it? I could always google it though!

Equina 02-17-2008 09:54 PM

Oval Mouth

French Link

Of course, they all come either loose ring, eggbutt, D-ring, or Full cheek. I personally didn't notice a difference in my horse with the oval mouth vs french link.

Stay away from Dr Bristol bits though! They can sometimes look sneekily similar to French Links. The center piece is angled differently so it doesn't lie flat with the tongue.

Dr Bristol

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