Diving to Escape the Bit and other problems
Okay, I'm a little new here but thought I would post up somethings I want to hear others opinions about.
Background : I have a 20 year old Grade Paint, is sound with his back/neck/legs/teeth everything. I've had it checked. We have done western most of our lives, recently picked up working english. I ride western in a broken Tom Thumb, and english in a dog bone snaffle (Three piece). Jake is extremely high strung and wouldn't think twice about doing something that would hurt himself. He's the type of horse that I have to make sure I'm putting his feet in a correct spot at all times cause he won't make that decision for himself. He's the type of horse that trips over change in elevation if I don't keep him up. I have been having a good friend of mine work on my english, so my eq is something to be desired but it is satisfactory.
Okay Jake can be both extremely soft on the snaffle and extremely hard depending on his mood. At a walk and trot he is light on the bit, and behaves the best on warm up. Soon as I canter its another story, he holds his head above his pole and bounces around like a rabbit on crack. It takes me either holding my hands hard as I can in on his neck in the two point or completely breaking my position and sitting on my butt and not holding on with my calves. Which only works 50% of the time.
Problem I'm asking for help on : Okay when I start doing transition work Jake goes to extreme diving for going into slower gaits. For example if I ask for a canter to trot transition he gets extremely heavy on the bit, rolkers himself and moves into an extended trot. Half the time he is hitting his nose on his own knees. To get him to slow down from there is like trying to stop a freight train. He just powers through the bit and flys around the arena like that. Typically I have to one rein stop him once this starts and his head is so low that it takes a lot more strength than it should to do a one rein stop. Every now and then he does this at a canter as well, and I have little control. He seems to go into a trance and has no idea where he is going, I figured this out as I tried to run him into the fence once when I couldn't stop him, and he ran right into it without slowing.....so I won't do that again.
Anyone else have a horse that does this? If so how did you cope, work out of it? I've tried pulling his head up, bending to the inside....bleh.
flex him.. untill he gets really soft and supple. You want him to bring his head to your leg that will help teach him not to lay on the bit thus he wont drag you around. Once he's flexing to both sides really well work on flexing his poll. You want him to drop his neck and bend his head; this will help him work his back muscles too. He wont be able to keep this collectedness for very long, so when he goes to straighten back out let him go a few strides then ask for him to "collect" again. The more you do it the longer he will be able to hold it and his gaits will be easier on him and you. Also you can teach him leg cues: shoulder in and out. moving the hindquarter this will help you have more control over his body and help to keep him "awake".
I would stop riding him with a bit and I would use a rope halter. I would also do ground work since it sounds like the relationship is weak since "he goes into a trance" which speaks volumes to me - he is shutting you out.
I think that he is accostomed to riding this way, and it may have something to do with him being ridden in a Tom Thumb for a long time.
In any case, you will ultimately be trying to get the bit ti be associated with moving his legs. What I mean is when you ask him to bend or do anything, you want to be using one rein primarily, and you are actually talking to his feet when you talk to the bit. So, you want to lift the inside rein (say left) and as you come with more contact, he should first bend then go to where he is thinking of stepping his inside leg (left) under his body. In such a way you are talking to his hind end through the bit.
Right now, you aren't getting past his jaw, which he either braces up against the bit, or throws up his head to avoid it, either way you cna't get past his neck.
I would go into doing a lot of disengaing of his hind end and then starting immediately off into whatever forward gait you were in. Ask for a bend/cirlce when he braces, lift the inside rein, disengage getting that inside hind to step under then move off again. Pretty soon, I would think that just lifting the inside rein will get him to soften on that side and start to put his inside leg under his body.
Also, when you do halt him, make sure he comes to a complete halt and even takes one step back. I ask the hrose to stop, I look for a bit of give to the rein in both jaw and some in the body too, which you can feel as the horse shifts his weight onto his hind quarters. might even ask for a step back or two, When you get it, give a total release, if you can.
I apologize if this explanation is vague. I am a little under the weather today and not sharp in the noggin.
jwells84 - I always start my riding with flexing, now as he is getting older. He can bend left an right with little effort from me. I can also bring his nose in with little effort as well while I'm still. He collects well at a walk and a trot when asked, this is both with bend or without bend. This problem tends to happen at the canter and downward transitions. Wish I could get someone to video tape it. >.>
TheLovedOne - I don't think taking a bit out would solve my problems, and I can ride in a rope halter but it is 10x harder to get his attention. And sense he is very high strung and strong I wouldn't be able to focus on the problem I want to fix and the problem is with the bit. Its like trying to fix riding problems with ground work. Doesn't work. Which we have a great bond on the ground. I don't need a halter walking him around, he walks, trots, canters and stops on verbal commands, he lays down for me and chooses to be with me when turned out.
tinyliny - Your explanation is not too vague no worries. He just started doing this within the past 3 months. I have owned him for around 7 years (with limited riding due to divorced parents). Its an improvement from what he used to do (Throw his head up, even if I sat deep in my seat before I touched the reins) But he's done a 180. I finally get him to stop without him throwing his head up but now he's heavy on it downward. I am worried about disengaging because I used it so much when I first starting riding him that he has gotten into a heavy habit of swinging his butt when I ask him to turn. My trainer has told me to not use it anymore. I am finally to a stage where he is starting to put his body underneath himself that I don't want him to start swinging again. I could work on putting more of a bend into it when he is diving though, see if that gives him something he can't lean on. Then when stopping he doesn't get a release until he is soft on the bit, ever. If he is hard he backs up until he is soft, then I release.
I appreciate the replies, don't get me wrong. But I just am letting everyone know what I have tried and what hasn't worked.
What about having him canter over some poles, or some really small jumps? That might help him get his head out of the air, since he'd have to pay closer attention to where he is going. The only other suggestion I can think of for the diving would be to try another bit. Most of my horses I break in a snaffle,but I've had a few who didn't like a snaffle,they'd dive, sling their head. keep their mouth open that kind of thing. and once i found a big they liked all of that stopped. Now I know your not working in a snaffle it's a tom thumb(western),but it might be something to think about. Does he do it in your english bit?
My 3yo did something similar and I had to tighten up the bridle. He was driving his head down because the bit was too loose...just an idea. We are also lunging with the bit in his mouth now but using verbal commands so that he is used to the bit and listening to my words. It sounds like he needs a lot more groundwork, Just a thought. The rope halter idea sounds good too.
Jwells84 - I forgot to clarify, this problem is with the snaffle. I've wanted to not have upgrade to anything with a chin strap as I want him riding differently from english to western and sense he already rides well in the tom thumb for western I'll keep that. I have been using a double jointed small o-ring snaffle, and I changed it to a single jointed D-ring snaffle and see if its the double jointed thats the problem. He worked better in it yesterday, we'll see if it continues. But by now I'm sure the diving is a habit. I'll try more ground pole work though and see if that helps.
Momo3boys - I'll have to look into that and double check his bit placement. Like I said to Thelovedone his ground work is fine, he's soft and works very well on the ground. Its a riding problem. I'm sorry but I don't see how a rope halter would change my problem. Its a contact on the bit thing and riding in a halter needs to be treated like western riding, so its different.
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