Won't curve neck anymore, grrrrr
I have been practicing natural horsemanship with my mare for 2 years now, and would really like to progress further, if it weren't for one thing.
When doing the exercise of pulling the head to the side by halter or bridle that is considered the "brakes" by Parelli and CA, she won't fully go into it. Ideally, she should by now willingly turn her head all the way around till her nose touches her body or stirrup, but she goes only halfway then gets stiff.
I practice it almost every time I work with her and it has hit a road block. I try holding it with pressure but she just leans against it and doesn't move. I try applying rythmic pressure but she just endures it until eventually she throws her head up and shifts her body to face me. I keep at it and keep at it, but there hasn't been any progress for over a YEAR now. GRRRRRR
I could really use her getting this right, as she likes to be barn sour and do a little rear when riding, so brakes are important.
Any tips are appreciated. I really want to get more comfortable riding her, but it's hard when there arent' dependable brakes, if you know what I mean :?
Unfortunately your problem is common one with some NH methods (especially CA who really pushes the one rein stop a lot) it's just that many people never notice because it doesn't exhibit itself in the same way it has with your horse.
Quote simply you have done too much 1 rein flexion exercises.
Though the principle sounds great, it takes little consideration for the physiological impact on the horse. At best this creates a horse who's neck and poll effectivey becomes disjointed from the rest of his body. At worst you see increased stiffness in the poll, issues in the trapezius and templar muscles and problems with the TMJ including locking or compression.
From there it can continue to the shoulders (scapula) and even cause issues with the legs. That's not mentioning the impact on the rib cage and lateral flexion.
Unfortunately you may not like the solution but it's the only way. You have to drop the one reining for a start. If the two of you you lack brakes then go back to a true foundation and work from there. It's much safer and better for your horse. Secondly work on true flexion, not forced stretches. This will pay off longer term with improved vertical flexion and true collection possibilities.
Please be aware that the issues created in your horse will not resolve overnight. Given how long this has been an issue, I would expect a good 18 months to 2 years to see full recovery. 12 months absolute minimum.
What you say makes since, but I doubt that is my problem. When I say I do it most times I work with her, I guess I should be honest and say that I don't work with her very often. I work with her usually an hour at a time, several times a month, weather permitting. And I live in Oklahoma, so weather is many times not permitting. I barely ride her because of her being barn sour. It's pretty impossible that I have done the rein flexing enough to have caused this problem, but I certainly will keep what you said in mind as I progress with her training. I want to keep a well balanced horse, and I can see how one rein stops would make her unbalanced. Most of the time that I work on her flexion it is at a stand still from the ground. I'm thinking her issue is more likely a stubborness that I can't get past.
I guess that is what I can't figure out. She has been pretty responsive to all her other training, so it could be you are right and she is trying to tell me "No, that is not the way my neck should bend, you stupid human". I'm just as stubborn as her and keep telling her "I know you can touch your side, and it helps me be sure you will stop if you start darting for the barn again"
I never thought about it that way, but why are all the other horses okay with doing it? I just thought she didn't like the feeling of being powerless with her head so close to her side, and wanted to remain in control.
I would not solely rely on the one rein stop for brakes. Not only can it be dangerous at higher speeds, but if this is the only way you can stop your horse, I think that there are holes in the foundation of your training that should be addressed. You wouldn't see a dressage horse being stopped by a one rein stop, or a reining horse for that matter, so why should it be necessary all the time? I would probably let this matter rest for a while, and work on getting her to stop from rein, then seat, and finally by just voice.
If she tries to bolt back to the barn, you could try making her work in small circles, back up, etc. until she listens. Basically, make her work really hard when she disobeys, and make her life nice and easy when she is good. Also, consistency is your best friend hen horse training, so just trying to get out and work her more often would likely make a huge difference.
Hope this helps!
What Doe said is pretty much what I was gna say lol but I'll add too. When a horse does reach round of its own accord to scratch at something they often do it in short bursts, but here it is a long continuous stretch. We might be able to touch our toes if we do one sudden burst, but if you try and hold it (depending on your athleticism of course) it hurts and you may find yourself gradually rising due to a lot of ouch in the back of your legs. No matter how hard you try to push down, it still hurts and the hurting gets worse. Perhaps why she will suddenly pull out of it?
It may be simmilar for your horse. Yes she can touch her sides, but in one short motion, not a gradual one. The one rein stops must also make horses lopsided..? Stretching one side more than the other? And stopping by pulling the head round? That just dont sound safe to me!!!
There is a place for the ORS, and for yielding to bit pressure, etc., however, once it's taught, there's not a whole lot of need to harp on the skill. There are also alternative 'emergency brake' techniques out there worth understanding.
Whether the flexion exercises are the cause of your mare's problem or not, I would take the focus off of the neck flexion, and work more on correct full body lateral flexion. True and correct lateral flexion involves the entire length of the horse, and begins with the hind end, not the reins. I will agree with CA's assertion that lateral flexion is the foundation for vertical (here I mean longitudinal, down the entire topline; NOT vertical flexion of the face/poll alone as CA presents it), but to focus the lateral/longitudinal position of the neck without paying any attention to the rest of the horse is useless at best, and detrimental to the horse at worst. Flexion and suppleness involve the entire horse, not the head and neck alone.
To get TRUE and COMPLETE lateral flexion, practice riding correct circles, serpentines, figure-8's, etc. The curves of these figures, when ridden and set up properly, allow the horse to laterally flex her entire length, not simply isolating the face's position. Use your weight and leg aids to position her entire body around curves and corners - use your reins to support the total curve, not to create it. As she becomes more flexible down her entire length on both sides, she will be better able to stretch longitudinally, from tail to muzzle.
As far as laterally flexing the neck at a standstill goes - what does it accomplish? Not an ORS, since there isn't any motion to stop. All you're doing is turning her face one way or another, something that can be accomplished with much more meaningful and helpful exercises that supple the entire body.
Hope that was somewhat helpful to you. Good luck! :D
To me, it sounds like you are not doing enough and/or doing it incorrectly. Several hours of training over a month is simply not enough time to ingrain something in your horse's mind.
Secondly, after a year or so of having a barn sour horse, it tells me that your methods are either ineffective or not being applied properly. It seems to me, based on what I am reading, that your horse is training you rather then the other way around. You are approaching a barn sour horse looking for brakes instead of curing the problem.
Thanks everybody, this is all very helpful. I think I will focus on the regular way of stopping for awhile and only use the one rein in an emergency when regular stopping doesn't seem to work. I know my next step for her being barn sour, but that's a whole other problem entirely. I was just focusing on the one rein stop for this thread.
xBustie and Alliex I never thought about the fact that they don't maintain that position for long (Duh!). I will keep that in mind when I every work on it in the future. But I certainly won't focus on it for awhile. I'll check the "regular brakes" first.
I most definitely agree that I should be working her more, and I am doing that, but I wanted more tips on this problem before working her too hard, because her barn sourness makes me kinda nervous. But I am already making big strides for just getting back in the saddle and getting her focused. I am upping her schedule to 4-5 times a week. I got on her yesterday, and she did pretty good. It's a process, but I am making changes.
Thank you all!
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