Can we talk basic schooling please? - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 18 Old 03-23-2019, 02:23 AM Thread Starter
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Can we talk basic schooling please?

I have an instructor but time is spent more on critiquing in the moment (just as important) and less able to ask ALL sorts of questions I have plus don't wanna be that person that they can't escape, if you know what I mean ;) From a variety of people I've been given so much advice when it comes to improving topline, hind end weakness and flexion etc that my mind is BLOWN. I've taken what I think are the good bits and will just list them out below. If any are wrong, incorrect or misunderstood etc please point them out as it really is just my unprofessional interpretation <3

Disclaimer: vet is coming out Tuesday to reassess Katie's hind end weakness/xmas unsoundness. She's been in light walk/trot school work, plenty short-distance hilly hand-walks and hacking. Chiro is involved as well, saddle fit great, teeth done and feet solid...

GOALS: fix hind end weakness, improve topline and self-carriage - well aware this can take years of steady and consistent training


1. I was taught that to achieve straightness you first had to have a nice warmed-up-toasty-bendy horse and the best way to achieve that was by warming up on a loose rein in both walk and trot before gathering reins up for "real stuff"? By straightness I mean actual, physical straightness, not "behavioural crookedness" due to sourness, spooking or napping etc.

2. No sitting trot until the back is sufficiently warmed up. For the longest time I never even thought of this but for so many lessons we started off with lots of sitting trot in times past at riding schools... it seems to make sense to me now that I heard this but I don't see anyone else sufficiently warm up their horses either and been told it's no big deal? Dunno what to think about this really... :S

3. That to help a horse be less stiff and more flexible you need to help them learn how to work relaxed, long and low FIRST? So more stretched out work to open up their spine and over their withers... remember I'm used to riding schoolies so I feel like I've got this big hole in my training (duh) for stuff like this. I ride on the buckle for FUN but maybe I need to actively introduce it during warm up??!?!?

4. Just to confirm - transitions definitely ARE tough on the hinds as I was advised to do a ton of them to help build up her topline. But I've been under the impression that they are quite taxing to the limb esp if weak to begin with?


So yeah.. these are the points I'm scratching my head over as I get different opinions. Are there any other things anyone can think of I need to bear in mind? I am starting to ride schoolmasters so I can better focus on my own riding ability, too, to better help Katie...
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post #2 of 18 Old 03-23-2019, 08:36 AM
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As a lesson-taker (rather than a lesson-giver), I can confirm much of what you stated, especially the warm-up bit. It's in the bottom of the training scale, after all: relaxation and rhythm. The goal of the warm-up is to get the horse relaxed and walking with a swagger, then you gently pick up contact - without losing the relaxation and rhythm at the walk. Then all the other stuff follows.

This, in my mind, also makes sense in connection to what you said about the sitting trot: A horse that is not relaxed will go with a hollow and stiff back, so a sitting trot would be especially uncomfortable.

A caveat: The horse I'm taking on lessons now is still rather young, so coach told me that "he'd need some more guidance from you". So I don't put him on the buckle, but barely take the slack out of the reins with his head at his preferred position.

I also like to put them on the buckle (or generous rein) between bouts of focused exercise. Just think about interval training for people: Between rounds, you kind of hop around and shake out your limbs, maybe do a toe-touchy or two, before getting ready for the next strength bit.

Anyway, I responded mostly so I could follow the thread - but I didn't see anything in your post that would contradict any of my observations from my own lessons.
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post #3 of 18 Old 03-23-2019, 09:33 AM
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You are on the right tract questioning procedures and realizing that the warmup is also part of the training, and needs focus and planning.

A effective warm up will put your horse's mind and body into a positive workout.


However, one cannot make blanket statements about any aspect of training horses, and this includes the warmup.


Most horses do start at walk, especially if coming out of a stall instead of a pasture. However, a focused, individualized warm up means that the rider must adjust to the individual horse's needs.


For example, a friend who owned a herd of 7/8 Lipizzaner/Arab horses would have to ride his horses around the fields at canter and trot for 30 minutes before he could begin the Dressage portion of their ride.

If I had done that on my QH cross we would be finished for the day! (my friend rode those horses FAST)

My competition horse (at that time) had to warm up with walk/canter transitions and canter & counter-canter. No trot work until he was warmed up, or he would be strung out.


My Percheron/Arab gelding, on the other hand, was warmed up in a long walk, trot and suppling exercises on light contact as I encouraged him to reach for the contact. If I tried to warm him up at canter, he would get very excited and HOT not relaxed and supple. He was most likely the most "traditional warm-up" horse I have ever owned.

The goal of warm-up is to physically warm up the muscles, tendons and joints; while encouraging the mind to focus and listen. This will produce a horse that is thinking, responding, and focused on the job at hand. AKA relaxed and moving freely forward.


Warm-up must be individualized to the horse's physical and emotional state to be effective. There is no one right method that fits every horse.


One last example: I knew a family that bred Arabians and showed them in western pleasure. They would lunge some of the horses for EIGHT HOURS before a class to obtain the desired WP shuffling gaits. I would love to have worked with these horses and found a better method for them, but they were not the type of people that were open to change or new ideas. IMO anyone who needs to lunge a horse for that long has no idea how to train a horse's mind. Their plan was just to tire out the horse...really hard to tire out an Arabian and of course the horses would just get fitter and fitter

But that was the time where those horses sold for a lot of money, 40-60K so they were not about to change anything!
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post #4 of 18 Old 03-23-2019, 09:47 AM
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Transitions are a whole other issue. They are used for several purposes especially when combined with suppling exercises.

Transitions done correctly will strengthen the hind end, and load the back legs which is the way to develop engagement and collection.


But the rider must be careful not to over work the joints as that can lead to breakdown.


Riding is a journey, and some mistakes will be made, but one always needs to focus on what is best for the horse, and take as much time as needed to develop a willing partner.


From what you have shared about Katie, and her general form and breed type, IMO transitions within the gait (walk and trot) and between the gaits of walk/trot, serpentines, leg yields and shoulder-in would be best to use for warm-up. Of course effective half-halts through out and gently asking for the contact. (no loose floppy reins )

Do not ask her for canter until she is effectively working off the hind leg and can do a clean canter depart.

Hilda Gurney once said: "Practice does not make perfect, only perfect practice makes perfect."
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post #5 of 18 Old 03-23-2019, 10:12 AM
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Originally Posted by Kalraii View Post
...GOALS: fix hind end weakness, improve topline and self-carriage - well aware this can take years of steady and consistent training - well aware this can take years of steady and consistent training...
What is the hind end weakness you wish to fix? In what sense does the "topline" need to be improved? Self-carriage...what is wrong?

I have the legs of a jogger. From the perspective of a sprinter, my legs look horrible. Way too weak, No muscle mass, etc. From the perspective of a jogger, they are fine. But if I had an injury to overcome, then specific exercises might help.

Same with "topline". I think of "topline" as needing to be strong enough to allow the horse to use its back while ridden. That takes a few months to get. Or less. For both hind end and topline development, all it takes for the horse's health while being ridden is...riding. Gradually increasing the duration and challenge of the ride. Good shoeing or trimming. Good food. Exercise involving riding.

Self-carriage (while ridden) simply requires some time riding while the horse learns to control his own emotions and movement while the rider doesn't "help". Give 'em some slack and let them make mistakes and figure it out. From my journal last night:

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Originally Posted by bsms View Post
...The new hoof boots had him a little out of sorts the other day. He stumbled a few times at a canter. Didn't today, although we did a number of short walk to canter and canter to walk transitions. But he needs more arena time in his boots before I try him and them out in the desert.

On another forum, I saw a thread where they discussed using half-halts to rebalance their horse. If I think things are getting too out of hand, we'll stop and start over. But as long as things aren't going to be catastrophic, I prefer to let my horse figure out how to balance himself - be it new hoof boots or transitions. Or just calming down. The ride a couple days ago included a lot of work crossing back and forth between the sides of our little arena, which is only 70-80 feet across at the maximum. That kept his speed down and the turns kept him working and focusing more. Naturally. But I wasn't going to try to hold him together. That is HIS job. And he did fine today. No stumbles and carried his weight further back in the canters, getting his front up more and getting his front feet further out in front. He's going to get it. He needs me to give him opportunities to learn, not control.
The hoof boots change how his feet feel. Before I expect him to cover very rocky or uneven terrain, he needs to get comfortable moving on his own while wearing the boots. All I can give him is the opportunity to learn on simple terrain before moving to more challenging terrain in boots.

"That to help a horse be less stiff and more flexible you need to help them learn how to work relaxed, long and low FIRST?"

Nope. Bandit (800-850 lbs) was ridden in informal endurance racing in northern Arizona. 5-15 mile legs of relay races. Carrying riders who weighed over "265 lbs in his socks"! Understandably, he arrived here very stiff and instinctively tightening his back into an I-beam at any work.

But he already KNEW how to move well without a rider! "The French say, when speaking of a horse that shows restiveness, "il se defend" - he defends himself...(1868)" All he needed to display impressive flexibility under saddle - maybe more than I sometimes want! - was for me to stay out of his way until he learned he could trust me with his back.

"No sitting trot until the back is sufficiently warmed up." For me, almost no sitting trot, ever. Why?

The sitting trot increases peak impact forces on a horse's back by 20%. Posting trot doesn't significantly reduce the peak impacts. Just makes the peak impacts happen half as often. Standing in the stirrups, or two point, or whatever someone wants to call it, allows the human to spread out the duration of the forces by using the human's legs as shock absorbers, thus reducing peak impact. So for short distances, and certainly with Bandit, my goal was to spend as little time in a sitting trot as possible, and spend as much time in two point.

"The significantly highest load on the horse’s back was at the sitting trot (2112 N), followed by the rising trot (2056 N) and the two-point seat (1688 N). The rider was most stable in the two-point seat while transferring the lowest load on the horse’s back. The rising trot was found to be more stable and less stressful for the horse’s back compared to the sitting trot."

https://www.sciencedirect.com/scienc...90023309001488

The theory behind "long and low" is bogus. The back muscle doesn't get stretched or the back lifted by 'long and low'. The change in the horse's posture from long and low is all at the withers and forward. It puts a horse more on the front. It does not do anything for the horse's back. The muscles along the spine do not act like a rope. Although it is one muscle, it is a segmented muscle. Pulling it on the front end has no impact on the rear.

Stretching the Neck

Apart from lack of exercise, horses are stiff due to past mistreatment (injuries) or because they don't trust the rider with their backs. You gain that trust by not abusing the back. By riding in synch with the horse's balance, giving it freedom, and by putting the least possible peak pressure on the horse's back.

Bandit had a long way to go. This was when I got him. For reference, I'm 60-100 lbs lighter than the guys who rode him before:



Bandit now:

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post #6 of 18 Old 03-23-2019, 12:42 PM
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I can't get past the EIGHT HOURS OF LUNGING bit. Makes my heart hurt. Maybe Arabs are not meant for Western Pleasure. It's like buying a standard poodle, then chopping off his lower legs to make him a mini, since you wanted to show your poodle in the mini classes.


. . . anyway . . . I think you have a reasonably good handle on the standard approach. I do vaguely remember some videos you posted that showed Katie to have a slight 'offness'. But, is this 'weakness' something really pronounced? Becuase usually just the kind of riding your describe, and hill work, is enough to develop the hind end to a 'normal' level (if indeed it is sub-normal now).




my lease horse (X) hasn't been ridden in the arena in years. But, I trail ride regularly and I make sure to do some hills. Just mainly walking, with those hills, for 1.5 hours non-stop, 4 days a week has brought his condition up remarkably . Also, a good fitting saddle is super important. X finally has a really good fit, and he has really filled out behind the withers!
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post #7 of 18 Old 03-23-2019, 02:08 PM
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Originally Posted by Kalraii View Post
1. I was taught that to achieve straightness you first had to have a nice warmed-up-toasty-bendy horse and the best way to achieve that was by warming up on a loose rein in both walk and trot before gathering reins up for "real stuff"? By straightness I mean actual, physical straightness, not "behavioural crookedness" due to sourness, spooking or napping etc.

Correct. You have to bend before you can go straight. I disagree on a loose rein. Warming up on a long rein is beneficial. The difference is the contact and connection. Walk on a loose rein, let them walk forwards and freely and get their selves in order. Then pick up the reins with a feel, make a connections. You want them forward and relaxed into contact, give them a chance to warm up their muscles and brains. Then pick them up more.



You should also be utilizing lateral work to aid in warming up. LY, SI, adding those for a few steps here and there as needed can go a long way towards a supple, relaxed horse.

Quote:
2. No sitting trot until the back is sufficiently warmed up. For the longest time I never even thought of this but for so many lessons we started off with lots of sitting trot in times past at riding schools... it seems to make sense to me now that I heard this but I don't see anyone else sufficiently warm up their horses either and been told it's no big deal? Dunno what to think about this really... :S
Yes, you can't properly sit on a horse who isn't giving you their back. You need as much of a physical warmup as a mental one. As far as sufficiently warming up, most people don't. Their warmup is their workout. When working at the lower levels and stuff, that's fine, really. Remember, there's a reason the sitting trot isn't expected until second level work.





Quote:

3. That to help a horse be less stiff and more flexible you need to help them learn how to work relaxed, long and low FIRST? So more stretched out work to open up their spine and over their withers... remember I'm used to riding schoolies so I feel like I've got this big hole in my training (duh) for stuff like this. I ride on the buckle for FUN but maybe I need to actively introduce it during warm up??!?!?
Long and low is not riding on the buckle. You need a connection with the bit, the horse will be taking the bit down and out in a stretch over the top line. Being able to ride long and low is partly a test of connection, rhythm, and relaxation. Those are all essential pieces of a flexible, pliable horse. Look at dressage tests, a stretched circle at the trot is required in Training Level. It's a foundational skill.



Quote:

4. Just to confirm - transitions definitely ARE tough on the hinds as I was advised to do a ton of them to help build up her topline. But I've been under the impression that they are quite taxing to the limb esp if weak to begin with?
Transitions from the hindend are beneficial. You aren't helping anything if they are throwing their head up and hopping through transitions.



Transitions between and within gaits, rapid transitions, hillwork, cavaletti work. All help build strength in the hind end.


I don't remember Katie's story fully. Did you ever ultrasound for potential injury causing the hind end lameness/weakness?
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post #8 of 18 Old 03-23-2019, 03:48 PM Thread Starter
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especially the warm-up bit. It's in the bottom of the training scale, after all: relaxation and rhythm. The goal of the warm-up is to get the horse relaxed and walking with a swagger, then you gently pick up contact - without losing the relaxation and rhythm at the walk. Then all the other stuff follows.

This, in my mind, also makes sense in connection to what you said about the sitting trot: A horse that is not relaxed will go with a hollow and stiff back, so a sitting trot would be especially uncomfortable.

A caveat: The horse I'm taking on lessons now is still rather young, so coach told me that "he'd need some more guidance from you". So I don't put him on the buckle, but barely take the slack out of the reins with his head at his preferred position.

I also like to put them on the buckle (or generous rein) between bouts of focused exercise. Just think about interval training for people: Between rounds, you kind of hop around and shake out your limbs, maybe do a toe-touchy or two, before getting ready for the next strength bit.
Thanks - what you say makes sense. I like the part about contact. I taught Katie to neck rein out of sheer laziness tbh but when I gather the contact she does stiffen a little in anticipation. Yet another thing I can work on! I feel like just reading this thread that I need to maybe do more homework. I just looked up the training scale THANK YOU FOR THIS. It's let me down a rabbit hole.

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@AnitaAnne those examples are extremely helpful. When I see great riders school, compared to me heh, it's hard for me still to work out what they are trying to achieve and why. The 8 hour lunge... whyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy :< Poor horses! My warm ups have been rather textbook school-type and only recently began to think about WHY I am warming up and to what end. Literally the only thing I'd consider would be if she's fresh and distracted to get the wellies out her system before asking anything of her which, at times, can take literally half an hour. Woo one point for me. No floppy reins here, not in that sense, so far just literally been either on the buckle or gathered. I remember the first hack where she was asking for more contact and it was a bit of a special moment for me to feel so connected with her. I occasionally played around with how loose/soft I could go and if she would maintain pressure/contact on her own and she will keep a firm contact but not heavy like I'm trying to lift her or anything or pull me out the saddle. In fact, she will maintain contact all the way until too much slack. I would also play around gathering contact up as gently as I could with least resistance but again I did it for FUN and out of curiosity only. I only just realised in this thread that I should be utilising this more .... wow. As for transitions her downward transitions are truly horrendous. I want to practice it but I just worry about overdoing her joints. Thank you anyway for the brain food!

Quote:
Originally Posted by AnitaAnne View Post
Hilda Gurney once said: "Practice does not make perfect, only perfect practice makes perfect."
I really need more self discipline lol. Yikes.

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Thank you for your input @bsms ! To address points you brought up:

- She had a rather wasted topline and wither pockets with a prominent spine. When I got her, her topline was okay-ish, wither pockets still terrible but saddler said it's gonna take years to undo that sort of damage and it might never fully recover. But she lost condition probably in the middle of summer 2018. I couldn't get there more than twice a week and would say the livery service provided in terms of turnout feed and exercise was unsatisfactory even though I was more than willing to pay for extra attention. They weren't terrible by a long shot and I really love the staff but the more time passes in my care the more I realised she was lacking for too long back then. I don't really agree with lunging PLUS I just don't know what I'm doing and I think the consequences of schooling her wrong in a small circle are more significant due to her size (nearly 1500lbs at last weigh in, probably more now with her extra muscle and good feeding). SO to help build her topline I've just been hand-walking her up and down hills (kill me pls haha) and hacking her out. In the arena the things to help are things I worry that will conflict with her hind end weakness...

-... she was unsound end of 2018. Not majorly but y'know catch things early and all. She significantly dragged her hinds, even when working, had little lift which was much worse in her hind left (and picking out that foot she was snapping it up and resistant). Prior to the vets call-out she'd twice kicked out during a canter transition as if unsticking herself is the best way I can describe it but once in motion was fine? She also buckled twice on only her hind end in the middle of canter. A very renowned equine vet in the city, along with some other vets as well who I saw, all came to the conclusion that her unsoundness was due to muscle wastage at the rear, the fact she was was yoyo-ing between no exercise and then extreme schooling (my instructor would make us trot/canter literally 20-30mins continuously or until the rider essentially died lol) and that her hind heels were under-run. Hope this helps a little more! So months later her heels are up and she's in continuous but light work and no longer resists that leg and is ASKING to canter.

- The long and low aspect as explained to me and from a video that @mmshiro linked about kissing spines and collection I think? That it was about getting them to stretch out their vertebrae and then asking them to carry us correctly. That seems to make sense to me as I have a prominent arch in my back and bending over can really feel good. But that's the best I can understand it at current. Didn't mean that the horse is meant to work long and low 24/7 but she did USED TO ride like a llama. We'd joke about if I was a bit more generous in the front *cough* I could use her head and ears as a support bra. I'm around the 154lbs mark but I'm more muscle (I do lifting, not as much cardio as I should). Katie was around 1500lbs her last weigh in. People often tell me my weight for her is almost negligible but I still would like to preserve her spine where I can. Her hollowness previously was out of sheer anxiety - these days she's more like the lovely pictures you included. I would still like her to carry herself better though as she does brace (related to her arthritic jaw I think more than back). Hm.. got me thinking.

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Originally Posted by tinyliny View Post
I can't get past the EIGHT HOURS OF LUNGING bit. Makes my heart hurt. Maybe Arabs are not meant for Western Pleasure. It's like buying a standard poodle, then chopping off his lower legs to make him a mini, since you wanted to show your poodle in the mini classes.


. . . anyway . . . I think you have a reasonably good handle on the standard approach. I do vaguely remember some videos you posted that showed Katie to have a slight 'offness'. But, is this 'weakness' something really pronounced? Becuase usually just the kind of riding your describe, and hill work, is enough to develop the hind end to a 'normal' level (if indeed it is sub-normal now).




my lease horse (X) hasn't been ridden in the arena in years. But, I trail ride regularly and I make sure to do some hills. Just mainly walking, with those hills, for 1.5 hours non-stop, 4 days a week has brought his condition up remarkably . Also, a good fitting saddle is super important. X finally has a really good fit, and he has really filled out behind the withers!
It did look like offness but there were other subtle signs and we came to the conclusion, the vets and I, that the times she'd buckled her butt end and SAT on the ground mid canter was connected. Muscle wasted, tendon strain due to dropped heels etc. Been aggressively working on all that since xmas. It's nice to read your last sentence as I've been the butt of a lot of jokes about how I don't run her into the ground. I should be cantering and trotting 24/7 according to some and they always giggle when I walk her like a dog. But I insist that the hills are good for us both! Her saddle fits great - I've been correct during the times it's needed adjusting which is great for my esteem. But her wither pockets.. HOW? Coz the saddle is contoured to her. It is a heavy leather bates so maybe I should just get a lighter saddle to help? I do ride her bareback at least once a week and she gets both ridden and dog walked in one day at least 4x a week when not in turnout (which is also hilly).

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Thank you for breaking it down like that @ApuetsoT plenty to think about. No ultrasound as the vetS and new remedial farrier were VERY confident that once we corrected her dropped heels and got her into regular light work the issue would improve and so far, they ain't wrong. I admit I've not done well... hardly any lateral work specifically. The odd yield *embarrassed face*. Her trot is horrendously bouncy and I feel like in order to improve her downward transitions I'm gonna need to practice it a lot so was worried about causing harm to her. I defo tried too hard to make her go straight before bendy in previous times and even now I probably don't work enough on bendy. Caveletti looks fun! I didn't realise that was the official term for it. As I understand with pole work I need to ensure that spacing matches the speed and gait I want to work at?

So more transitions coz I've not really worked on them specifically but don't overdo it. And I have played around with contact - she likes it firm but is not heavy at all. As I loosen my reins she actually maintains the same pressure by lowering her head. Until this thread it never occurred to me to utilise this....


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I'm gona actually HANDWRITE a plan I think coz I clearly am unable to entirely do it off the bat >.<
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post #9 of 18 Old 03-23-2019, 06:51 PM
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Originally Posted by Kalraii View Post

Thank you for breaking it down like that @ApuetsoT plenty to think about. No ultrasound as the vetS and new remedial farrier were VERY confident that once we corrected her dropped heels and got her into regular light work the issue would improve and so far, they ain't wrong. I admit I've not done well... hardly any lateral work specifically. The odd yield *embarrassed face*. Her trot is horrendously bouncy and I feel like in order to improve her downward transitions I'm gonna need to practice it a lot so was worried about causing harm to her. I defo tried too hard to make her go straight before bendy in previous times and even now I probably don't work enough on bendy. Caveletti looks fun! I didn't realise that was the official term for it. As I understand with pole work I need to ensure that spacing matches the speed and gait I want to work at?

So more transitions coz I've not really worked on them specifically but don't overdo it. And I have played around with contact - she likes it firm but is not heavy at all. As I loosen my reins she actually maintains the same pressure by lowering her head. Until this thread it never occurred to me to utilise this....

Don't do lateral work just for the sake of doing laterals. Learn the applications behind them, what each exercise does, and use them to improve her way of going through the exercises. Then it's not so much about remembering to do an exercise, as it it actively riding and correcting.


Yes, cavalettis need appropriate spacing. You can look it up online for the striding. Walking over raised poles close together slowly is a great exercise to get the hind legs stepping up and forward.



Trying to make them straight before bending usually ends up making them more crooked as only one part of the body is addressed. You need the body control that bending and suppleness gives to really straighten them.



They don't need to be really lame to have a soft tissue tear. You might consider getting an ultrasound if nothing improves.
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post #10 of 18 Old 03-23-2019, 08:07 PM
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ApuetsoT basically said the same thing I did. Just didn't mention serpentines however I do believe the changes in bend are beneficial.

But your latest post that the "trot is very bouncy" and that "she has kicked out in canter" tell me a couple of things.

A bouncy trot is GOOD! Dressage people call that BIG TROT suspension and it is a desired trait.

A horse with good suspension in the trot that kicks out in canter (or bucks the change), and has horrible downward transitions, is a horse that is on the forehand.

You need to control that bouncy Tigger hind end by getting the horse to engage in the back. Half halts are your friend!

ALL changes of speed, direction or gait should be preceded by a half-halt.

And as you call it "that bendy stuff" is vital.

A big powerful horse like Katie can just charge ahead and manage to look ok and feel ok to the uneducated rider.

Another statement you made has me wondering; do your instructors teach you what and how to warm-up and ride or do they just have you endlessly do the same thing hoping for a different result?

Hot horses like TB might need lots of repetitive canter circles to calm them down a bit, but a big powerful drafty type horse like Katie will not benefit IMO by endless circles at canter or trot. She is more likely to get irritated and bored, not good attitude for developing a willing partner.

I always advise people to seek out the best instruction they can afford whom is also the most successful yet kind. (hard to find, I know!) You and Katie will progress much faster and more correctly with expert instruction.

How is it possible that your instructors have never taught you the training scale? It is the base upon which all Dressage training must begin and end. It is the foundation and the pinnacle.
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