Curling behind the bit/ vertical - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 16 Old 03-21-2020, 11:52 PM Thread Starter
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Curling behind the bit/ vertical

Hi! I'm riding a horse who curls ridiculously far behind the vertical. It's to the point where he could fully have his neck extended with the length of the rein, and will put his nose around six inches away from his chest. I've been riding on a rein with no contact at all, and just relying on my body, but his neck remains curled, and his back down. Recently, I've been pushing with my seat and leg (more than I was) when he curls, and he'll bring his neck a bit straighter, but will then start throwing his head (still without contact or pressure). He has been checked by the vet and chiropractor repeatedly and does not appear to be in any pain in any part of his body or mouth. He is currently in a loose ring snaffle with a roller mouth. I have brought up trying him in a straight rubber mouth, or a three piece copper/ iron or coated mouth, or a different roller piece, possibly even a hackamore, but the owners refuse (I'm exercise riding him so I don't have any official say). Any suggestions? It's not like he doesn't listen to my seat or leg, but curling like that isn't good for him, and there's no way he could show like that.
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post #2 of 16 Old Yesterday, 06:57 AM
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Any more about his history? I know of one horse currently that does this and it is from damage to the nose from a past owner. Any pressure whatsoever and the nose drops almost to the chest. I'd be curious to see what riding without any sort of nose band would do but not my horse.
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post #3 of 16 Old Yesterday, 09:14 AM
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It might sound counterintuitive, but I would try having contact with him no matter how far under he curls, and any time he reaches forward even slightly, give him a release with the reins. He'll learn that he can't hide by curling under, and that the answer is to reach forward more.
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post #4 of 16 Old Yesterday, 10:27 AM
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Quote:
Chamberlin on Stargazing
Riding and Schooling Horses

One rule which is unchanging in regard to the action of the rider's hands, but not in regard to their position, is as follows: Whenever the horse places his head in a position other than the correct one, the hands are moved to where they can increase tension on the bit and make his mouth uncomfortable. In these cases, they must be so placed that the horse cannot possible escape the bit's tension for a fraction of a second, until the rider permits it. When he ultimately seeks to avoid discomfort by putting his head in the correct position - and then only - the hands must soften immediately...In the first instances, it is better to let the reins go slack when rewarding the horse...

...take the case of a stargazer...Most riders attempt to lower the head by carrying their hands low beside the horse's neck and futilely trying to pull the head down. The horse, by tipping the head a little further to the rear, can momentarily escape the tension of the reins...he will, of course, continue throwing his head as long as he succeeds in escaping the annoyance of the bit, even though it be only for a moment. In other words, he is being taught by the momentary reward he receives, that his procedure is correct.

The correct and logical way to lower the head of such a horse, is to hold the reins short enough (and no shorter), so that it is impossible for him, by any means, to escape the bit for a single moment. The hands, instead of being lowered in an attempt to pull the horse's head down, are raised, so that, as usual, the forearm and the rein make a straight line.

The tension on the rein must become greater than the normal feel. The hands are more or less fixed, and vibrations may be simultaneously employed, all of which increases the horse's discomfort. The legs compel him to continue at the gait at which he is moving, while the hands steadily hold the head in its elevated position. Sooner or later, he becomes tired and uncomfortable in this strained position. Also, he soon discovers that the usual throwing of the head permits no escape from the bit; and begins a search for a new way. Finally he will endeavor to lower it to a more comfortable and natural position. Instantly the hand softens to permit the lowering.
Use that same approach when the horse curls behind the bit. Do whatever it takes to make that a position more annoying to his mouth, and then let a normal head position go slack. It is essentially what @SteadyOn wrote, backed by the guy who literally wrote the manual on riding for the US Cavalry - and a former US Olympic team captain.

Worked when Bandit would do that, back when I first got him. Didn't take long for Bandit to learn tucking his nose caused me to become very annoying in his mouth, and relaxing meant....relaxing!

Riders ask "How?" Horsemen ask "Why?"
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post #5 of 16 Old Yesterday, 12:39 PM
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My aunt's horse Romeo did that when I rode him for her (to tune him up to sell). His past was unclear but we think he had some reining training at one point .... which was clearly incorrect training b/c he did not know how to follow his nose and would completely evade bit contact.



I put him back in a plain snaffle (no shank) and I actually stayed away from the arena. I hit the trails instead. I mostly let him pick the pace at the gait I asked for, and stayed off the reins completely. I just tried to show him how to be a horse again, and put his head where he wanted. I was very surprised how quickly he came out of it. Hardly a month after I started riding him, I could start showing him again how to follow his nose to a direct rein, and how NOT to hide behind the vertical when I picked up on the reins.



So more info about your horse would be helpful, as far as his background, how long you've had him, what training he has had, etc.
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post #6 of 16 Old Yesterday, 12:39 PM
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In hand work and flexions from the ground is a good place to start. Starting on the ground gives you more control over their position as you reteach them. When they dive and curl, you go upwards with the action of the bit to open the throatlatch.
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post #7 of 16 Old Yesterday, 02:21 PM
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I've dealt with a few of these, so first I'll start with addressing your questions/ comments in your post.

Quote:
Originally Posted by kimberpony View Post
Hi! I'm riding a horse who curls ridiculously far behind the vertical. It's to the point where he could fully have his neck extended with the length of the rein, and will put his nose around six inches away from his chest. I've been riding on a rein with no contact at all, and just relying on my body, but his neck remains curled, and his back down.

First, when you say "riding with no contact", what does that mean? Long rein? or Giving away contact? It sounds like you are giving away contact when your horse 'gives'. Is that correct? So, it sounds as if you are working on a pressure and release principle in order to attain a frame? By bringing reins back or touching the reins, your horse gives into pressure. The reason that this does not work is because the horse is evading true contact by giving into pressure. You want your horse to do the opposite: move into the bit and this comes from engaging the hind end and abdominal of the horse first.

Recently, I've been pushing with my seat and leg (more than I was) when he curls, and he'll bring his neck a bit straighter, but will then start throwing his head (still without contact or pressure).

It's good that you are using seat and leg! You do need seat and leg to encourage your horse to use his hind end and come forward; however, be careful he is not losing balance (becoming too fast) as he will also plummet onto the forehand making it harder to use himself properly. As for the head tossing, I'd think that this is a combination of not having built the proper muscles to hold a correct framer, and also not knowing what to do with actual contact. One horse I had worked with was a head tosser. His head tossing went away as he gained more muscle and confidence. The only time it has reappeared (as far as I know) is when green riders with less steady hands have hopped on him.

He has been checked by the vet and chiropractor repeatedly and does not appear to be in any pain in any part of his body or mouth. He is currently in a loose ring snaffle with a roller mouth. I have brought up trying him in a straight rubber mouth, or a three piece copper/ iron or coated mouth, or a different roller piece, possibly even a hackamore, but the owners refuse (I'm exercise riding him so I don't have any official say).

That's a tough one. (1) because if there are others riding him and NOT following through with the same consistency, then his old habit may be continuously reinforced. If you do get somewhere with this horse, he can easily go back to curling shortly after. Then, you may get somewhere with him in a few rides and find out that the next ride he has gone back 3 steps. I still encourage you to learn from this experience; however, just keep in mind that there are going to be several limitations. (2) There could still be undiagnosed pain or poor saddle fit without your knowledge.

Any suggestions? It's not like he doesn't listen to my seat or leg, but curling like that isn't good for him, and there's no way he could show like that.
First, I'll say that you will have to go backwards before you go forwards. Meaning, do not worry about framing him up right now. Your main objective will be to have him take the bit or put weight back into the bit, as he is doing the complete opposite right now. I'll post a video on what to do with your hands, as I think the video shows it much better than I can describe it.


- I will mention that I'm not crazy about "wiggling your inside hand to soften the horse" and feel that could be counter productive on your horse particularly. If your horse has tension with the bit, then that should be addressed long-term. The wiggling, at least to me, is a quick fix method. Although, you can use the inside rein to help place the horse in the correct flexion without wiggling-

Every time he goes behind the bit, you want to pick him up again.


Ideally, what you'd like to encourage the horse, once you've picked him up from curling his head, to stretch forward to the bit and down. Keep your contact with his mouth and slowly allow him to move his head forward and out, as you close your leg. If he does not move forward, then do not give away contact. Keep it and try again later. If you do normally ride with a long rein, then you may need to shorten to a medium length. I've never done so with a long rein or western style contact, although I would assume it would be a similar process. Maybe someone else here has suggestions for that.

Also, keep using your leg and seat to ask for him to come forward, but only to an extent to which he is balance. When a horse begins curling, seldom will just sending him forward suffice, as this is normally an issue from avoiding bit pressure and not only falling behind. If he does get to fast, then half halt with seat or ask him to walk. At this stage, try not to use rein in half halting if possible.

Lastly, this will take time and often lots of time to correct. If curling has been a regular occurrence, then the muscles you don't want to build up (such as under the neck) have built and the muscle you need to hold a correct frame are weak. For a while, at least, this horse will not be able to hold a correct frame for long, so reward and encourage all the small attempts well.
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post #8 of 16 Old Yesterday, 02:50 PM Thread Starter
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I suppose my wording was unclear, so I'll give some more information. As far as I've been told, he has always curled. I was told he was "too round" while he was on the track so they rode him in draw reins to flatten him(??????), but he was still slow, so he was taken off the track. When I was riding him, at first I kept a contact no matter how close to his chest his nose got, but the owners got upset, and kept telling me to release when he curled so he would stop (??). So then I just rode him without touching the rein, so I would hold the buckle in case i really needed them, but didn't steer, or halt, or touch him with them. However, the owners are very antsy, and want him to already be done curling and in a nice contact and frame. I've not ridden him much (maybe 4 times), as I've only just started exercise riding him, and the owners schedule along with snow has been hard to work around (The owner always wants to be there to watch). They don't seem to understand the process this is, although they are both horse trainers. He is trail ridden, and he still curls even with no rein contact. Only one other person rides him (anywhere from once every two months to five times a week), but I know for a fact that she encourages him to curl (does the whole see-sawing the bit so hard his head is waggling until she thinks he looks pretty thing). She is allowed to get away with this because she is friends with the owner, who does't watch her ride all the time, but doesn't want to say anything and ruin the friendship when she does.
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post #9 of 16 Old Yesterday, 03:20 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kimberpony View Post
When I was riding him, at first I kept a contact no matter how close to his chest his nose got, but the owners got upset, and kept telling me to release when he curled so he would stop (??)..
And these people are TRAINERS???

A horse learns that whatever he does that earns a release is the right answer. So, they've very effectively taught him that curling behind the bit is the right answer, and this is constantly reinforcing that behaviour.
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post #10 of 16 Old Yesterday, 06:25 PM
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It is hopeless. As long as this other person is see-sawing into a 'pretty ' place, you will be unable to change this horse's way of going, and it is unfair to him to have him to be expected to respond one way on this day, and on the next be actually PUNISHED for the same response.


I will add that such a horse is actually dangerous, IMO, to ride on trails, becuase you have very little control when the horse is neither accessable by leg or by bit. It can curl away from rein control/support, and just refuse to move off the leg, and then you are riding without any control, a tense, tight horse who will take you where it wants, and at the speed it wants.
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