Re-teaching collection/softness - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 7 Old 05-27-2014, 01:00 PM Thread Starter
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Re-teaching collection/softness

Hi Guys. I'm brand new here, so bear with me. Just seeking out a little advice...

I have a 6 year old quarter horse mare. I've had her just over a year and when she came to me she had 60 days cutting training, and 30 days reining training. She was primarily used in team penning and trail riding. When I bought her I didn't have a set riding discipline. I rode/ride western but my primary focus was just trail riding. I got her in the hopes to finally pick a route, either team penning or reining. Fast forward a few months and I decided to go with reining. Probably not my best decision...but at least I picked one. Also, reining is more prevalent in my area than cows, so reining is it. Fast forward another few months- I had been working with a great trainer, for both me and my horse and then BOOM. The trainer just left. This action created a revolving door of trainers and instructors through the barn. Each of which I worked with, and each of which told me to ride a different way. VERY frustrating.

So now here we are- I have been riding for 5 months without any lessons/ training and I feel lost. My mare will not "collect" any more and she feels like she has lost a lot of her "softness." I was riding in a modified billy allen bit and have switched over to just an o-ring snaffle. I have also added a LOT of ground work to our daily routines. And when I ride we do a lot of transitions- speed transitions and direction transitions. I've been doing this for three weeks straight, and still no improvement. She holds her head high, drops it really low when backing, ect...I KNOW she knows the right way, she used to do it all the time, but obviously we are not communicating effectively.

Any advice? I think one the biggest helps for me is to find a new barn, and while I am considering it, I would really like to work through these problems on my own first.

Thanks!
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post #2 of 7 Old 05-27-2014, 02:37 PM
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Your hands are more than likely causing much of this.

Do you have video of you riding her?

And too, if you board her, is someone else riding her without your knowledge?

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post #3 of 7 Old 05-27-2014, 03:12 PM Thread Starter
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I don't have a video of me riding. I'll work on getting one. I will say- I always start out on a loose rein, she seems to go wherever she wants, and the reins always end up a lot tighter.

I'll be sure to keep that in mind- thanks!
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post #4 of 7 Old 05-27-2014, 03:16 PM
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Some things to remember when you asking for vertical flexion and collection.

Make sure your not being to heavy handed, and your riding more with your seat and legs.

Focus on lateral work, horses do not have hard mouths they have stiff bodies. Go back to simple things like shoulder in/shoulder out, two tracking, backing circles, counter bending, serpentines, spiraling in and out. Do lots of exercises that will get her soft laterally then ask for the vertical flexion and collection. Break everything down into simple steps that she can be successful at, going for so long just ambling along without asking her to use her body then asking her to suddenly use her body again may be to much for her. Start out asking for a few steps rewarding her for getting soft, then ask again for a few more steps, build her stamina by asking for a little more everyday.

Vertical flexion starts with lateral flexion.
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post #5 of 7 Old 05-29-2014, 10:18 AM
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Various trainers and instructors will present various techniques and methods. The trick is to find what works best for you and your horse. Since you are working on your own at present, try reading and watching videos. Try to determine what the various presenters have in common.

Forget about reining for now. You need to back up and work on relaxing both you and your horse. You probably feel somewhat lost if you have been depending on an instructor to guide your every movement.

Going to a snaffle bit was a good move; this is the bit of choice for starting and re-training horses. Now, relax. Concentrate on sitting properly -- head over shoulders over hips over heels with your pelvic bone vertical. Think of balance and moving with your horse. Release any tension in your torso and let your upper body expand so the bones of your spine stack naturally and support your body without muscular effort. Relax the muscles around your pelvis and legs allowing your legs to drop naturally because of gravity and drape around your horse's sides without tension. Your stirrups should be long enough to hang level with your ankles when your feet are not in the stirrups. Riding without stirrups often helps riders sit better.

Don't worry about collection for now. Softness comes with relaxation (read: lack of tension, not slothfulness). Work at the walk until your horse relaxes any tension in her body. You should feel this in your seat. You might also hear a difference in the impact of your horse's feet on the ground if you are riding on a hard surface.

Take a one or two ounce contact with the bit and keep it there unless cuing. Let your hands move with your horse's head as your seat bones move with your horse's back muscles. Don't try to do anything much at first. Just try to move with your horse until your horse feels you moving as one. Then, you can start to influence your horse's movements by alterations in your movements. A good test of this is to simply stop moving. Ideally, your horse should stop moving when you do. If not, try again and apply a little tension to the reins by stopping the forward movement of your hands in relation to the ground; let the horse bring your body toward your hands rather than you bringing your hands toward your body.

Try this method of backing and see what happens. Simply take up any slack in the reins so that, if your horse tries to move forward, she runs into a barrier. Grow tall and lean forward about one or two degrees; this will lighten your seat and make it easier for the horse to back. Then, simply apply a little leg. Use a verbal cue as well if your horse is accustomed to this. Most horses will back the first time this method is used. With some horses that are accustomed to being pulled back, a little rein tension may be required initially, but quickly abandoned. Always release any rein tension when the horse responds.

Only after your horse is relaxed and responding well in the walk should you progress to the faster gaits.

Most people become intrigued when they learn how easy it is to ride their relaxed horses with subtle movements. Again, relaxed doesn't mean slow. It is a lack of tension which helps the horse and rider move and react more quickly at any speed.
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post #6 of 7 Old 05-29-2014, 12:12 PM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TXhorseman View Post
Various trainers and instructors will present various techniques and methods. The trick is to find what works best for you and your horse. Since you are working on your own at present, try reading and watching videos. Try to determine what the various presenters have in common.
I've been watching a lot of Warwick Schiller's videos on you tube and even subscribed to a few from his website. I have found them extremely helpful. And it's not that I feel completely lost, but I guess I am just searching for reassurance- that I am doing what I'm supposed to be doing correctly. I got that reassurance from a trainer. Now I'm learning to get that reassurance from my horse.

We had a good ride last evening. I used some tips I got from here, and from some videos and I left feeling like we actually made some progress!
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post #7 of 7 Old 05-30-2014, 07:06 AM
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I'm happy to learn that you and your horse are making progress. I'm also happy to learn that you are listening to your horse. After all, it is the horse that can best tell us that it understands what we are trying to convey.

Each rider speaks differently to a horse. Even if two riders use the same cues, the horse may interpret it as a different accent or dialect because of the difference in the rider's weight, leg length, balance, etc. Each horse and rider must establish their means of communication. The excitement grows as the communication becomes more subtle.

Training riders and horses to work in harmony.
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