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coffeeaddict 12-14-2010 12:07 AM

Must we really have a fit on every halt?
So it seems my horse has decided tossing her head and pulling at the bit when I ask for a halt is a good way to have a fit.

I suspect this is because she knows I'm going to ask her to back up after the halt and she's not a fan of backing up. She will do it if I continue to gently insist, but she usually spends a few seconds refusing first.

My riding routine with her as of late has been to do a lot of transitions. So trot, halt, back. Walk, halt, back. and so on.

Before I started to incorporate a lot of backing she was very good about her halts, at least in the sense that she wouldn't pull on the bit.

So, my guess is that she's pitching a fit because she disagrees with my choice to do downward transitions. I've been bracing one rein and letting her bump it all she wants and then releasing when she stops. So far, not so much progress there.

Any suggestions? And yes, it does seem like we have a new issue every couple weeks. Ah the fun of an untrained horse!

smrobs 12-14-2010 12:24 AM

You might try working her in tiny circles whenever she decides to fling her head around. Ask for the stop and back and the second she braces or flings her head, immediately take her nose to one side and push her into tiny circles until she is relaxed and soft on your hand. Then stop spinning, take up your reins, and ask for the back again. If she goes to flinging her head again, do the same thing to the other side. Make her associate head slinging with hard work.

And, because it will end up being asked anyway, when was the last time you had her teeth checked? Have you inspected your bit to ensure that there are no sharp edges or areas that can pinch her?

kevinshorses 12-14-2010 12:30 AM

Why do you make her back up every time you stop her? Backing is not easy for a horse and if you are doing too much it is possible she is a little sore and a little tired of backing up.

coffeeaddict 12-14-2010 12:32 AM

She had her teeth floated a couple months ago. She's all good in that area. The bit looks ok too.

I'll give the tiny circles a try. Thank you!

coffeeaddict 12-14-2010 12:36 AM

Kevin, I ask her to back two or three steps each time I stop because she was extremely forward when I first got her. Stop was not in her vocabulary and she was always a half second away from trying to run away with me.

I wanted her to start thinking "back" instead of "go". And in that regard it's worked very well.

It's also been helping her to work off her butt a little more. She is so naturally high headed and hallow that I find if I ask her to back before trotting she gets her butt up under her more and its easier to get her soft instead of being hallow and strung out.

We do back a lot. But it's never for more than a couple of strides at a time. And in an hour long ride, it's broken up with a lot of trotting and cantering. Do you really think this is a bad idea? I don't want to make her sore from too much backing, I didn't even think that would be a problem.

PumpkinzMyBaby22 12-14-2010 12:45 AM

Are you rewarding her each time after she backs? After one step of backing up, release the pressure and pat her. Then do another step and repeat.
And as you said she is anticipating the backing, I suggest mixing up the halts with just a halt or halt and back. Do it randomly so she is kept listening to you and she might stop the head issue. As Kevin said, backing is not a horses most favourite task in the world.
Hope this helps and good luck!

tinyliny 12-14-2010 12:47 AM

When she throughs her head up, do you try to pull it back down by lowering your hands? This is only natural, but it can put a lot of downward pressure on the bars of the horse's mouth. You might try if she throws her head up, you too raise your hands to maintain the straight line of elbow to bit and put enough tension on the bit that it says '" no, not there, that's not the release point". She will go higher, left, right and eventually put her head or just tip her nose down, YOU RELEASE PRONTO. Of she puts her head downish and doesn't walk forward, call that a day and go on forward again.

Kevin has a point, it was on my mind too, in that too much backing associated with each and every stop will irritate her and eventually, ruin her forward.

It's important that when there are circumstances that require you to put on a fair amount of contact (and it might take a lot, but it takes what it takes), that you also try to find places to let the horse have just as much release as you can trust them with. Like on the buckle if you can do it. If the know that the rein won't always be tight, they are more willing to not think of it as something that is hopeless and all they can do is mindlessly resist.

coffeeaddict 12-14-2010 01:08 AM

Hmmm, I'll have to let her halt more often without the backing and see if that helps. I don't want to irritate her or ruin her forward. My only motivation was to get her to stop wanting to go, go, go all the time and turn the ring into a rack track.

I do let her halt at least twice without backing, but I that's probably not enough. I will admit that part of me is wary about letting up too much on backing because I don't want to loose the speed control I have now. But I guess we can't use this crutch forever.

Tinyliny, I don't pull down when she does this, I hold one rein and brace it until she stops pitching a fit.

tinyliny 12-14-2010 03:04 AM

That sounds reasonable. She sure keeps you hopping, mentally. Would be fun if we could see video sometime. I think you are doing a terrific job with a not so easy horse. Hope that you feel validated and that you give yourself credit where credit is due. So easy to get stuck in the shortcomings that remain and lose sight of the progress made.

coffeeaddict 12-14-2010 03:30 AM

She does keep me on my toes, but on the whole working with her has been a good experience. She's made a lot of progress, even though it often feels like one step forward and two steps back. I guess that's the process sometimes.

She really is a good girl and I'm sure if she wasn't rider impaired she'd be all trained up by now, lol.

It helps a lot to be able to come here and post about our current issues. You guys always have good advice!

I don't have anyone that comes to the barn with me who can take video, but I'll try to set up a camera on the fence sometime so I can post it here.

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