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Claudia and Dallas
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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hello, all. My mare, Claudia, will not stick to the arena wall. Before I purchased her, she was a livery horse and was occasionally used for beginner kids who would let her get away with going to the center to stop working. Now, no matter what I try, she always fights to go to the middle. I use all the leg, reins (neck and direct reining don't work) and outside aids possible. Nothing works and she always ends up stopping or turning into the center.

She's perfect on trail, though.

Any advice?

Thanks,
Arrin

EDIT: This only happens when trotting/cantering. She is fine at a walk.
 

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I would allow her to go to the center and make her lope little circles. She will want to not do that. Little circles are hard work, and she thinks the center means no work. If you can’t make her lope little circles make her trot a bunch of surpentines. That will get old to her fast too.
 

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Let me tell you something a trainer had my daughter do with Moonshine. She hated the arena and wouldn't stay on the wall. The instructor rode her herself to make sure she understood the concept, and she evaluated her for pain and also fear. Finding none, she said, "OK, we're going to make it Moonshine's job to stay on the rail, not your job to keep her there." So, the idea was, get Moonshine started on the rail. If she drifted off, use an outside rein correction, quick and hard, one time (I should note she's ridden in a very gentle snaffle bit). After a few times, Moonshine got the picture and stopped trying to fall in.

For my own Pony, I do the traditional way. Use leg pressure. If that doesn't work, then kick with the inside leg. If he doesn't respond to let pressure, follow up with the dressage whip in the same place, a quick sharp tap.
 
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Over the past 50+ yeaars have found that a jab with the blunt spur on the inside leg works better than a whip. If you intend the horse to be Western Pleasure - no whips
 

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Make the center of the arena not a good place to be. In other words, you put her there and work her! Like Knave said, lope small circles, stop and back her up every time you stop. All kinds of things you can do to prove to her the center is not where she wants to be.
I have dull spurs, and a set of sharp ones, it depends on the horse as to which I use.
 

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Make the center of the arena not a good place to be. In other words, you put her there and work her! Like Knave said, lope small circles, stop and back her up every time you stop. All kinds of things you can do to prove to her the center is not where she wants to be.
I have dull spurs, and a set of sharp ones, it depends on the horse as to which I use.

I would agree with the above, except I would not 'put her there' and do this . That kind of defeats the purpose, which is for HER to choose. So, she chooses to go to the middle of the arena, you LET her go there and just start cantering or trotting in circles that are just a bit on the small side. keep her going every time she wants to quit, but if you ask her to leave the circle, and she does, then cease ALL pressure on her.. . . until she makes the choice to go back into the middle. Don't stop her, just let her turn around but the minute she has turned between 90 degrees and 180 degrees from the direction you were going (toward the outside of the arena), you start flapping your legs on her side, putting pressure on her to lope. you circle some more and keep your heart open for a place where she mmight want to quit and go back to the outside, where in you open your rein and offer her the chance to go out there, AND to make the choice to turn back.

The opperative word is that you let her choose to take the middle, but you make that not nearly as nice a place to be as on the outside.
 

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I would agree with the above, except I would not 'put her there' and do this . That kind of defeats the purpose, which is for HER to choose. So, she chooses to go to the middle of the arena, you LET her go there and just start cantering or trotting in circles that are just a bit on the small side. keep her going every time she wants to quit, but if you ask her to leave the circle, and she does, then cease ALL pressure on her.. . . until she makes the choice to go back into the middle. Don't stop her, just let her turn around but the minute she has turned between 90 degrees and 180 degrees from the direction you were going (toward the outside of the arena), you start flapping your legs on her side, putting pressure on her to lope. you circle some more and keep your heart open for a place where she mmight want to quit and go back to the outside, where in you open your rein and offer her the chance to go out there, AND to make the choice to turn back.

The opperative word is that you let her choose to take the middle, but you make that not nearly as nice a place to be as on the outside.
The only problem with that is you are still allowing the mare to make the decision. If you are the rider, YOU make the decision. She wants to be there, so put her there. Your choice.
By the way, the fastest way to deaden a horse's sides is flapping your legs. Get a set of spurs that you feel comfortable with using, and a mere touch will suffice.
 

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that is true, you do allow the horse to 'make the decision'. but only AFTER you have asked her to stay on the wall and she has insisted on fightng you. the idea is that you let the horse see the wisdom of her ways when she makes a decision that doesn't work out for her. That is the idea behind allowing the horse to 'choose' to go into the center, but make that choice more diffcult than her 'choosing' to go along with YOUR idea of staying on the rail.

Any time the horse is allowed to choose their own way (within the context of the leader making incorrect choices less appetizing then correct ones) . . the horse will feel better about the end result. You can force the horse to do things, but if they see is as a choice they make to make things easier for themselves, they will be happier going along with their lot in life.

additionally, the 'flapping" is to annoy the horse , not to cue them. I would never recommend dong this endlesslly. just to a point where the horse does something different, and then you instantly CEASE the flapping. you emphasize the horse making a choice. Often it's only a hesitation, and then the horse goes right back to choosing their own way. And, then you get them facing the center, flap or drive them (with spurs, if necessary) around , but always keep looking for that uncertainty in them, where they are thinking ."Isn't there anything better than THiS???"
 

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The only problem with that is you are still allowing the mare to make the decision. If you are the rider, YOU make the decision. She wants to be there, so put her there. Your choice.
By the way, the fastest way to deaden a horse's sides is flapping your legs. Get a set of spurs that you feel comfortable with using, and a mere touch will suffice.
So i had this problem with my gelding that was occasionally buddy sour or wanted to go to specific places. I originally did what you did and made him work where he wanted to be. It did not solve my problem. I had a trainer come out for a day and he told me it was important that the horse made the mistake and learn from it. Well, i watched what he said work and then i put it onto practice after that and a problem i had spent at least a month trying to fix was solved in a couple days.

So that has been my experience with this sort of problem. Maybe it's different with other horses, but letting him make the mistake was key to solving my problem.
 

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You have to block off the inside so staying on the rail is the path of least resistance. You may be thinking about the middle (worrying and such and also inadvertently shifting your attention there).

Think of staying as close to the wall as you can and going into the corners and form a strong intent about where you plan to go. Don’t look or think about the middle. Think of riding the edge of the arena and into the corners. Use leg pressure on inside leg and hold the outside rein so she doesn’t have leeway to turn in. If you feel her starting to veer, intervene and redirect then. You definitely want her to reconsider before she gets over to the middle, tap then kick if needed till you get her back where you planned to be. Once she gets it for a small stretch, take a break at a time of your choosing. Then extend the length of time she can ride on the wall before break.

I get the general gist of cantering small circles in the middle if the horse chooses to leave the rail but I think that could be confusing and may not be feasible if there are other riders/jumps etc in the middle.

You may need to build leg strength to push the horse over/create a wall to the inside. Also possible you have too much pressure on your outside leg (take note if it’s better when your dominant leg is on the inside and if so build more strength on the weaker side).

Lastly, think about your hips, shoulders and how you are sitting, your hips should open to the outside with weight on the outside sit bone and shoulder open to the outside so there is a flow towards staying on the rail and a blockage towards turning in. Once you really get it together, you could practice cuing the horse to turn in and do circles or stay on the rail using your body and legs and how you balance your weight instead of with the reins.
 

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I had a similar issue except with the gate. I used all of the above - and it didn’t work. I mean, it worked in a sense that my mare learned to march up to the gate (if I let her) and start cantering small circles. We had a constant gravitational pull towards the gate. I could keep her from going there but it was highly irritating.

This is what I did: always short 25 minute rides packed full with all sorts of activities and exercises. She never knows what comes next - ground poles, cones, super-fast canter, collected trot, small jump, intro dressage test, shoulder in - all smushed together in no particular order.

It worked amazingly well, she doesn’t even notice the gate any more and she got much more forward and she started collecting on her own. Just last weekend she started collecting in that very uphill manner of Spanish school Lipizzaners - I have no idea what to do with it but I felt like a general on a battlefield. And she did it in her own - I definitely have no clue how to train that.

Anyhow - yes, you can condition your horse with punishment and reward but I prefer to make it fun for both of us. Mind you - this may not work for every single horse but it worked great for us (I presume out of shape horses will struggle). And riding that way is exhausting mentally for both of us - hence the short rides.
 

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^^^^ I do this as well, mix things up and have the horse focusing on you and what comes next. I also would never go into the middle of the arena to stop and rest (sometimes it's me that needs the rest) with this horse after a bit of work as some of us do. Let her rest in a corner or just walk around the outside for a bit before continuing with the workout.
 

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Claudia and Dallas
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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
UPDATE: Thank you, everyone, for the in-depth and great responses! I appreciate it a lot. Personally, I have not used spurs yet but may look into some blunt ones. Regarding all the other responses, I have read each and every one of them thus far, and what I will try now goes as following:
-- (1): Make things fun and/or rewarding.
-- (2): Let my mare rest by walking out or stopping anywhere else than the center.
-- (3): Make the center uncomfortable for her (cantering small circles is a popular recommendation).

Some more insight on my horse's situation in case anyone needs it:
-- (1): My mare is a lazy girl, she is quite chunky too (nothing terrible).
-- (2): She is terribly buddy-sour (would like opinions on that as well if possible).
-- (3): Clauds is out at pasture every day, I barely have time to ride her anymore. When I do, I only ride lightly (walk, job, maybe a lope).
 

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This is what I would do with this particular horse, seeing that it’s a bit out of shape: get an intro dressage test and learn it off by heart. These tests don’t have any demanding moves or collection, just walk, trot and canter so it doesn’t matter if you ride English or Western. Do it once at walk only, have a quick break away from the center and do it again properly with all the gaits - and then get off.

The way it should work is that you will be focusing on trying to remember the test and that focus will be transferred to the horse. When you are doing a dressage test you have a purpose and the horse feels it - “I want to go THERE” - they usually respond really well to that.

The reason to get off immediately is to interrupt your routine. She will be all rattled up and forget about the center - and then it’s over.

The next time mix it up. Get a different test but put some ground poles down and do them in the middle of the test. Build on like that until she’s forgotten about being bored in the school.

I like using dressage tests because they are pre-packaged ride plans - no need to come up with your own. And no need to have a dressage arena, just imagine one - bonus points if the actual arena is larger so you don’t work on physical boundaries - keeping a horse on a straight line in open space takes a lot of concentration - which again transfers to the horse.

Overall - if you have a purpose your horse will have a purpose. Just aimlessly going around the school makes no sense to a horse.

This type of riding will help with buddy sourness as well - you are building a bond with her, at least while riding.

Good luck.
 
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