Help, no topline
I am new to this forum and I had written up a new posting this A.M. & somehow lost it in cyber space. Now you know I am no computer wizard as my introduction.
I am having problems with a gelding I purchased two years ago as a level headed seasoned trail riding horse. Gabe was trained and owed by someone who trail rode him in a full cheek snaffle & a tie down. Said he liked the look of the tie down. The rider was also a larger gentleman weighing (by his own admission) about 350 lbs. Needless to say Gabe never developed a topline as he was always hollowed out while being ridden. Gabe is very rough to ride and is so busy pushing and rooting on the bit that he breaks gate and tics the ground pole I started using to help him round up & watch where he is going. I do not ride with a tie down. I started out riding him with a Mylar 1 Billy Allen eggbutt which worked for a couple of dozen rides. I then tried a coppermouth eggbutt and he started out for several rides OK then started the rooting business agian until he ultimately loses his forward all together. I recently started riding him with just a halter in the round pen & he seemed OK with more freedom to move forward. I have ordered a side pull with a smooth leather noseband & am awaiting it now thinking that might work .
I ride western with a circle Y flex two & have addressed saddle bridge issues as at one point he was sore from that. With the help of a saddle maker I found a special pad to support where he is hollow and have bee riding him with that for a month or two. I have had his teeth checked by two vets & they are fine though they will be floated this fall. I have had a complete lameness exam & veterenary chiropractic evaluation & x-rays from poll to withers. No problems found.
I really just want a pleasure/ trail horse that I can enjoy.... and for two years now I cant get past a trot or out of the arena & round pen as he is so resistant and distracted by bit pressure. He just doesnt want to lift his back at all, just raises his head and hollows out at any thing faster than a walk. Riding him is exausting and discouraging as in two years we have made almost no progress twords getting out and just enjoying the great outdoors together which is the whole point.:cry:
Gabe is complete gentleman in every other way. I have two other horses ...one pant mare who is retired at 28 due to arthritis and a 21 year old QH gelding who is lame from an injury a year ago. Any other suggestions on getting Gabe over this hurdle would be helpful.
I'd go with bitless for a start. Whether it started due to this 'heavier' guy's riding, due to mouth or bit soreness, etc, it's obvious he has a bad association with bits, and 'arguing' with them will only reinforce his attitude & behaviour. Removing that from the equation will be a start.
I would also go back to square 1 with his training & ensure he's good at yielding to soft rein & other pressure. See what holes there may be in his training, or what foundation lessons he could be better at.
Regardless of saddlefit, saddles are restrictive and can cause muscle damage with hard use. If a horse isn't in good physical shape to begin with, - because he had a heavyweight riding him badly(I'll bet) - fitting the saddle to the shape of the horse will mean that changes in shape will be difficult or impossible. Therefore I'd be doing lots of groundwork with him and riding him bareback, until his topline muscles recover, before considering fitting a saddle to him.
Two years is a long time not to have him collecting and giving to the bit, so I don't the weight of the old owner is still an issue for him. I feel either he must be so ingrained with traveling hollowed out that he knows no other way to travel OR maybe he has a physical issue that doesn't allow him to round his back.
Will he collect at the walk? If he does, and you can practice that at the walk, then maybe eventually you can carry that training over into faster gaits. He's going to be working muscles he's not used to working, so just do it a little at a time. If you can't get him to give to the bit and collect at the walk, I'm not sure what to suggest.
I know a lot of folks swear by equine chiropractors, but I have never used one on my horses. But this could be a case where a chiropractor might be of use. Either the muscles and brain aren't trained to move properly, or maybe something is physically out of alignment.
Could it be that the horse was always ridden on a loose rein and never was ridden with bit pressure, period? Just throwing out some random ideas.
What about this horse's forward? Is he willing to move forward off your leg, Imean with the reins looping? If you rode him in the round pen, basically dropped the reins onto his whithers and asked for forwrad, a good trot, maybe a canter even withZERO rein contact , would he go willingly? Do you have a round pen where you can safe work on just having him move forwar freely and let him put his head where he wants to . First with him naked, then under an empty saddle then you aon him and NO brakes at all. Or will he buck or throw up his head or root?
Do you do exersizes to flex him side to side.? It's very hard for a horse to flex longitudinally (head/tail) if he is stiff side to side.
What do you think about those ideas?
You might also consider an equine massage therapist if there is one available in your area. It may be his back muscles are atrophied, what is left is tight, and perhaps scarred and could use some direct stimulation to encourage blood flow and then re building. If you tickle his belly does he lift his back?
When I brought my TB off the track, he had typical TB bit issues. He worried about it, stressed out about it a LOT, and was very difficult to ride. He fought me hard. He felt comfort from pressure on his mouth, and pressure on his mouth told him to go faster...so I couldn't get him to slow down, relax, or stop stressing. Since I ride dressage and bitless isn't an option competetively, I had to find a way to get him to stop stressing over the bit. My trainer had a very unorthodox suggestion...something she still uses w/ some of her high level competition horses. She suggested I wrap a fruit rollup around the bit.
IT WORKED! He was so thrilled by the tasty treat that he relaxed! He started to look forward to the bit, and became very realxed. I also found that, for him, a bit about 1/2" too large for him is what he's comfortable in...and he wants to ride in a french link snaffle (it has 2 joints instead of 1). The vet checked his teeth, his teeth are fine...he is just particular. After a few weeks I didn't need to wrap it w/ fruit rollups any more.
Just a thought. Maybe if you can get him to stop stressing about the bit, he'll be able to focus more on the task at hand and you'll find the ride more enjoyable for both. Just a thought.
Sometimes unconventional and creative ideas are the most helpful! I sometimes think we try to fit all horses into a similar mold and without understanding why they have these "issues" it can take some real creativity to fix them. Thanks so much for the fruit roll up idea!
I did take some lessons on this horse (6-8) from an instructor who teaches primarily dressage and jumping (even though I am a western rider) as I feel basic training & riding skills all have some foundational similarities. I felt that some lessons with a new horse during the winter months would put us in a good "parnership " position to carry on for summer trail rides. This instructor also is a big advocate of the the french link & uses it on virtually all her horses. She felt my horses behavior with the bit went beyondthe bit itself & that is why I took him through every possible vet check exam to rule out the physical issues. I just opted to try the side pull first to help in getting him forward again & developing some top line without the distraction of him pushing continuously at a bit. I was then thinking I could add the bit as (or if) needed in the future. I am still wondering if this is a bit issue...or a control of face issue in general. I have to say that I didn't realize how much I would feel like I was giving up "control" when I sarted riding in a halter feeling a little tenative of leaving the round pen.
Thanks again for all you helpful ideas.....I a have done some lunging work with Gabe as well as round pen with & without saddle and he seems very free to move forward w/out rider either way though he carries his head very high at every gate but a walk. I have never loped him while I was riding as the rooting thing was distracting him to not giving to the bit at a trot I felt that adding speed would be adding problems.
At a standstill and walk he gives very nicely side to side though once in awhile he will flip his head back to straight ahead with a bit of attitude or he may hang on the bit for a moment or two before giving.
Interesting theory on the atrophied back as I had taken him to the Chiropractic eveluation and the chiropractor stated Gabe had amazing flex in his back side to side but little or no lift. I have used the method where you take the rounded side of a hoof pick & run it gently but firmly down the center of their belly & watch for the lift. There is no lift.
It has really only been the last year plus that I have worked on these riding issues with Gabe as I purchased him & had a couple of brief introductory rides on him and upon pulling his shoes for the winter found that he was lame. My vet diagnosed him with pre-navicular (inflamed navicular bursa) and we treated him with wedge pads & shoes for 4 months with gradual re-shaping of his feet for an additional 5 months. Gabes feet were shod but very "pancaked out" he was wearing a size 2 shoe & now wears a size one natural balance to allow easier break over. The vet then determined him fully sound again as we caught the problem very early.
As I said ...this has been a long road to have a horse for two years that I can only walk & trot only in a round pen or arena & still not be able to just hop on & go enjoy rides with friends.
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