Hello again! I'm back with more newbie questions - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 8 Old 11-10-2018, 07:02 PM Thread Starter
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Hello again! I'm back with more newbie questions

Been a while since I last posted! Took the advice of taking more frequent lessons, it's been great :)

First off, for "fixing" a bad habit under saddle-- is it more effective to anticipate when a horse is going to do the bad behavior (in this case grabbing the bit and yanking down- my trainer called it "rooting") and preemptively take their attention away from the thought of doing it (gentle half halts), or to correct after the fact (harder tug on one rein)? The horse (lesson pony) I was riding got the picture to knock it off after a combo of both approaches, but for the purpose of helping his manners for other riders, what is the better fix?

Second, a more basic question-- I feel super dumb having to ask this, please be gentle-- but when when I've gone to catch a particular horse lately, he keeps trying to eat with his head down when I'm trying to put the halter on. I've found it much easier to just put it on while he's "down" rather than asking for his head up, because after raising it (without a halter on), he immediately drops it back to the hay as soon as I return my other hand to the halter to start putting it on. This feels like a "lack of respect" type thing, but I also don't want to sour him to being caught. What's the most effective approach?

Third, how long does it take a horse to "get in shape?", I've read here that they hold their condition longer than humans, so I assume they gain condition differently too? I got to ride a new horse recently that's coming back into work, and she's pretty out of shape. Made me appreciate the quite fit horse I usually ride even more :)
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post #2 of 8 Old 11-10-2018, 07:20 PM
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Personally, if I can anticipate an unwanted behavior and prevent it from happening at all, that is always my first choice. I am not sure that is going to help others riding the horse, but the less rooting he can do successfully, hopefully the less often the horse will try it.

When you go to catch this horse, are you putting the rope around the neck in some way first? If this was my horse, I would have the rope around his neck just behind his throatlatch and use it to ask the horse to pick up his head. If he then went to put his head down again, he would find his bottom jaw meeting my fist as it went back down. [Note, I am not saying to slug the horse in the head, simply let it run into your hand if it tries to drop to eat again.]

The getting in shape question needs a lot more details before I can answer it. How long has the horse been off work? Why was it off work? Was it stalled or out at pasture during that time? How fit was it before the break in work? How is the horse weight-wise now?


There is no joy equal to that found on the back of a horse.
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post #3 of 8 Old 11-10-2018, 07:32 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by phantomhorse13 View Post
When you go to catch this horse, are you putting the rope around the neck in some way first?
Uh nope. The horses at this barn are so easy to catch typically that they just put their nose in the halter when you hold it out, so I hardly know what to do when they don't.

Quote:
The getting in shape question needs a lot more details before I can answer it. How long has the horse been off work? Why was it off work? Was it stalled or out at pasture during that time? How fit was it before the break in work? How is the horse weight-wise now?
So this isn't my horse, but a lesson horse-- so I don't have all the answers to this. This is more a general question out of curiosity. For the sake of being more specific... compare a "couch to 5k" training plan for a human... which is over 9 weeks to get in moderate shape. What would a "pasture puff" of a horse take to say, canter with a rider for 10 minutes?
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post #4 of 8 Old 11-10-2018, 07:39 PM
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I think the horse rooting can be anticipated, but not too much. I mean, you can't go around all the time with the reins tight in order to disallow him to root.


But, you can be ready to anchor one hand to his wither, the instant you think he is thinking about rooting, and then when he DOES make that choice, he causes himself discomfort because your hand will not be pulled forward, it is so solidly grounded. you can also anticipate a little, and do something to distract him from that, such as asking him to pick up his pace right when you sense he is about to root. I think both are effective.




as for him diving for the grass when you are haltering. . . I'd have him meet my sharp toe, in the side of his jaw, when he got down to that grass. If you've put a little pull , saying hey! keep your head up, and he dives down, have him meet a sharp toe jab. Be ready for that head to come up very fast, so keep your head clear, so you don't get clonked on your own jaw.
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post #5 of 8 Old 11-10-2018, 07:44 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by elzilrac View Post
Been a while since I last posted! Took the advice of taking more frequent lessons, it's been great :)

First off, for "fixing" a bad habit under saddle-- is it more effective to anticipate when a horse is going to do the bad behavior (in this case grabbing the bit and yanking down- my trainer called it "rooting") and preemptively take their attention away from the thought of doing it (gentle half halts), or to correct after the fact (harder tug on one rein)? The horse (lesson pony) I was riding got the picture to knock it off after a combo of both approaches, but for the purpose of helping his manners for other riders, what is the better fix?
Stopping the behavior before it starts is #1. Better yet it resolve the reason the horse want to perform the behavior rather than just heading it off. Horses root for a number of reasons. Might be balance, might be the rider's hands are too loud/harsh, might be sore. Fix that and you fit the rooting without having to actually address the rooting. It shouldn't be your job as a beginner learning to ride to keep the lesson horses tuned up for other riders. That's what the trainer is for.

Never punish a horse by yanking on a rein. That's a cardinal sin.
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post #6 of 8 Old 11-10-2018, 07:55 PM
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You're doing so well! The rooting fix comes down to feel so you are absolutely doing the right thing. Curb it when you feel it coming on, be more firm if it actually happens. As far as helping others with this issue I think you've explained it well here. Some may get it and others not. Learning the "feel" is really hard for some and natural to other people.

Haltering the heavy headed muncher can be challenging. I would put the rope around his neck and expect him to lift his head to be haltered. We know he'll go back to eating so stomp your foot where he's eating and maybe a firm "uh-uh!" You may have to get after him a time or two until he stands quietly for haltering.

As far as bringing a horse back in shape, there is so much involved. Nutrition, underlying health issues like arthritis or ulcers, the age of the horse, how long they've been off work and even their personality all play a part. You want to look for them to maintain an optimal weight and to be able to tolerate longer exercise periods with shorter recovery times. If it's a naturally hot or spirited horse this can happen quicker, where as a more mellow horse may take longer and require more encouragement.

Keep us updated on your adventures!
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post #7 of 8 Old 11-10-2018, 08:03 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by ApuetsoT View Post
Better yet it resolve the reason the horse want to perform the behavior rather than just heading it off.
So, I think in this case, is that it's a behavior that's been reinforced and is becoming a habit. Lesson pony roots, yanks reins out of smaller rider's hands, gets a break as the rider re-situates. It may not be my job to fix these things, but I would still like to learn!
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post #8 of 8 Old 11-13-2018, 07:45 AM
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Many lesson horses are savy to the newbie and will try whatever they can to test their boundaries with the rider. You as a student may fix the problem for yourself but in most cases with a horse that tries the new rider on for size it takes the instructor tuning him up and then following through with a verbal while the new rider rides. We have one at the barn that steps out of the ring for every new student. If you haven't got the fundamentals down and learn to anticipate and redirect, correct or get him back in quickly before it happens he'll keep it up. If you are a regular rider that learned to deal with it and don't let him get away with it, he won't even try.
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