Great on the Ground, Fidgety/Attention Deficit Undersaddle
Rascal (four-year-old pony gelding) has come a long way in only about two weeks. I rode him twice before decided that we should take it to the ground for a while. He had issues with the bit -- he had no whoa, no stand, braced/drifted severely through turns, and ran off when you tried to mount. He was incredibly hyper and had no attention span.
After a week of getting use to the routine around the barn and re-learning to tie patiently, bathe, accept fly spray, and pick up feet, he calmed down significantly. He was no longer as hot and high about everything.
This past week we've been doing actual work on the ground. Backing, moving hindquarters, flexing, leading, and lunging. I also would flex him on the ground in his bridle.
Yesterday I tacked him up and ground drove him. He was so different then he is undersaddle. He was constantly paying attention, had a wonderful soft mouth, good whoa, a decent but crooked back.
Most of all, he STOOD without a fight. Undersaddle, he refuses to stand still at all.
What is it about being undersaddle that makes these good things all go away? He's a totally different horse when you're on his back. Or, possibly, what is it about ground driving that makes him feel obliged to behave? :shock:
Also, is all this ground work I'm doing going to help him undersaddle? Will it translate? What else can I do to help my fidgety pony calm down and listen while riding?
Usually you have to teach a horse most things twice, once on the ground, once in the saddle. However, if you use similar or the same technique in both places, it makes saddle training a heck of a lot easier.
He probably listens better on the ground since he is now used to you being on the ground. He knows he needs to pay attention. However, once you get in the saddle he gets a little lost. To bring him back, do the same exercises in the saddle as you do on the ground. Simple stuff, back up, turn, give your head, flex, even just a small amount.
Hope that helps, and good luck!
Have you checked his saddle fit? If he is excellent in all other aspects and then misbehaving begins as soon as a rider and saddle come into play, that would be my first investigation. You mentioned his back was crooked while ground driving, perhaps a chiro could prove useful as well in determining if he has any soreness or out of alignment.
To ask him to stand still on the ground, I just kept pressure on his mouth until he stopped. Once he stopped, he got a huge release. I've been doing something similar undersaddle. Despite the similar technique, he would never stand. (Well, not NEVER. Improvement came in inches.)
It might be me. I do a lot of ground work with a lot of different horses. I'm much more experienced and secure on the ground than mounted.
He does seem lost in translation. I'll try doing similar things mounted and unmounted to tie it together.
I'm going to try a new saddle on him to see if that helps any. I have access to several saddles and can pick around until I find something that fits him. I'll make sure to check him for soreness... If anything is ouchy or our issues continue, I'll try to get someone out to check his back.
... I hardly want to ask, but maybe I'm just too big for him? He's a pony and I'm 150 pounds. 150 very well balanced pounds (if I don't say so myself!), but that may be a little straining on a 13-something hand pony.
Eventually you have to ride a horse to get it used to being ridden. Much like when a person is learning to drive. You can study the book and pass the written test with 100% but still not be a good driver until you get some experience. You have spent a lot of time with him on the ground and next to none in the saddle so your horse won't know what you want in the saddle until you explain it. The first sentence in your first post describes what a lot of young horse are like for the first few rides. Keep plugging along and it will get better.
I doubt you are too heavy for him. How tall are you? If you are extremely tall, he could feel unbalanced.
Thank you, Kevin! I'll mount up tomarrow and see how we do. I'm glad this is just normal green horse behavior and some saddle hours will settle him down.
Celeste: I'm pretty short; 5 ft 1in.
You are not to tall for a 13 hand horse then.
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