The Horse Forum banner
Status
Not open for further replies.
1 - 20 of 22 Posts

·
Registered
Joined
·
63 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi.

Have been riding about 2.5 years, once a week. Just cantered the first time about 2 months ago. I have a very spirited Quarterhorse (not my horse - a school horse) that I ride. He has a reputation for being a barn brat and has a strong bit (not a snaffle) on him, as well as a double rein. I ride using direct reins, but in a western saddle.

I was doing SO well with him. He rarely caused me any trouble at all, and I was kind of puzzled about why he would give others a hard time, but not me. But the past two times he has been BAD with a capital B. He is fine when I start to ride him and trot him but when it is time to pick up the pace he zooms to the center. He has started tossing his head too, and is just being rude.

I have two things working against me: my inexperience, and the fact that he is a really really strong horse - his neck is HUGE, and his head can be very hard to turn if he is being uncooperative.

I'm 43 and I ride with mostly teenagers - I don't mind doing this and the kids are very nice to me. I like my horse and the stable, and I don't want my relationship with this horse to continue on a downward spiral. I know that when he cuts in to the middle I have to get him out again to the outside ring, but that can be really hard because I have to wait for horses to pass so I don't collide with him. I was doing so well, and right now it is very very discouraging :-(

So if you have any specific techniques that I can use with him, I would appreciate it - basically, when he cuts - if I don't anticipate the cut - how do I get him back out of the center of the arena? Kick, crop, sometimes it just doesn't work. Again, I'm still very much in the learning stages of riding. I've emailed my instructor to ask her if I can come and ride him by myself quietly for an hour or so to re-establish the good relationship that I had with him. It's just so hard right now. I was doing well, and now this ...
 

·
Super Moderator
Joined
·
15,212 Posts
I would suggest keeping him mentally off-balance by not doing what he is anticipating.
Don't ride the rail, ride the inside track.
Don't ride follow-the-leader but make circles and serpentine's...turns and keep his mind on you and what you are asking him to do.

This horse sounds like a ring-sour schoolhorse
and spoiled brat, you are right, and he is taking advantage of you, past tense...he has already got your number and is using it against you.

When he cuts to the middle, push him through it to the other side and ride him with strong leg...push, push, push and make him not enjoy his "escape" to the middle.
Sounds like he has done this for quite some time if he has such a powerful neck and way of getting his way done so fast.
If you must wait for the other riders to clear, continue to make him move in the center in tighter circles...not stop & rest time....he works, works, works at your request {OK you TELL HIM} and at the speed you want...It won't take long for him to figure out that the middle means harder work not standing around waiting...
I do wonder though why possibly a pelham (double reins direct reining) bit and western saddle? Some of what he is doing may be because he has been mouth-hauled upon for so long he evades as a means to an end. He also sounds like there may be a mouth issue..

Have you tried relaxing your mouth contact, throw away your contact,..let him go and ride with barely a touch on the reins and see where he takes you to...as long as you are in a fenced ring..alert the other riders to what you are going to do when he tries the "grab the bit and run" so they have a heads-up....you may be surprised that he waits for you to tell him what to do next.
If the riders are all independent riders they can steer clear of you and give you space to work this through...use your voice and call out "Rail needed now, heads-up!" and Go for it!
He could just be "confused" with riding western saddle trained yet a hard feel of his face and mouth when he starts to get strong. I can only imagine you don't stay real soft and give but you brace against him as most of us would in your circumstance...he tightens his neck and jaw and is like a dump truck to steer...horses self-preservation. Try to not brace and out-pull him, you can't win. You must out think him and quickly as he is "tried and true" in getting his way...

At this point honestly, this horse is undermining your confidence level and teaching you many bad habits you now need to correct.
Ask for a different horse to ride and see how the ride goes. If it again happens, it may be you, not the horse creating the situation.
Either way this is something that needs addressing by a more skilled rider to work through and re-train out of this animals bag of tricks...

Your instructor should be in the ring with you, lesson or not, knowing you are having this situation on a now continual basis to work you both through and past this...this is a safety issue and one that can quickly escalate to dangerous in nature.
If she is not seeing this happen and giving you instruction as it happens to work past this then shame on your instructor...she is letting you down! And she is letting her other students down too.

Your instructor should be able to control where her student riders are verbally at all times...that means she can clear a ring instantly if she needs to make space for you to ride this through.

I send my best wishes for you to work successfully through this with safety for you and a new understanding of what to do in the future... a better educated rider we all strive for to become.
:wink:
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
10 Posts
When asking for canter do you hold on to the neck strap/saddle with your right hand by any chance? Just wondering as I am learning to canter and had this problem when I inadvertently used to pull on the left rein causing the horse to go into the centre. I solved it by holding the neck strap in my left hand.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
63 Posts
Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Wow, horseguy! Thanks so much for all the info.

The story behind the western saddle is: I originally rode English (I'm in foxhunting country) but was having trouble. She switched me to a western saddle, but I've never learned to neck-rein. This horse was a hunter/jumper but had a pulmonary problem early on. I've done very well up until now with him. It's just the past couple of weeks. I like direct-reining too.

You are so right on all counts, though, with everything you say. Some days the arena is just very crowded on the days that I ride.

I will read and re-read your advice, think about it a lot, and go back to my instructor with some ideas!
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
63 Posts
Discussion Starter · #6 ·
And horseguy, I will try "letting him go." You are very right, I ride him very tight because I have been afraid, like any newbie, that he will get out of control. I've never asked why he has a pelham on him and not a snaffle.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
49,731 Posts
I think you are now about to become a pilot, instead of the passenger you have been up to this point. two and a half years of riding, if only done in group lessons and primarily staying on the rail, does not build the skills needed to really guide a horse, and certainly not one that is resistant.

However, it does sound that your are definintlye ready to start working on this. So , jump in!

first of all, if you can afford it, I would suggest taking private lessons, if you are not already doing so. Also, if the instructor is not working with you OFF the rail, you may need to seek another instructor who is willing to teach you how to ride, and not just pass the hour with you going around and around on the rails.

this horse probably has a long history of people being hard on his mouth. you are not the only one to ride him, right? so even if you've been careful, it doesn't mean others have. the double reins sound like a Pelham bit. the bit part is solid or broken?

you can certainly do the "if you want to turn into the center then that's where you'll work" approach. I would advise you to not approach that method with a surly , punitive mental attitude. horses pick up on that and meet your hardness with hardness, and I bet he can get harder than you can.

just bend him and circle , and circle and circle. not harshly, just "ok, sweety, let's circle some more. oh, you want to quit? no, off we go! more circles, come on, I thought you wanted to circle into the inside?" after a bit, you move back onto the rail. He does work harder inside the middle, and do put your leg on or a crop if he tries to stop, but don't fall into a real harsh frame of mind, just a matter of fact, "ok, we work here, now".

and when you get back to the rail, if you can let him walk out there for a bit, anything that makes being out on the rail nicer than being in the middle.


get some private lessons to learn how to stop the horse from leaving the rail in the first place. that entails using your inside leg, using the reins independently, bending the horse, and keeping them moving forward (catching their signs that they are about to try an evasive movement, and pushing them through it before they go there)
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
296 Posts
I definitely like the bend/circle exercise in the middle. I agree the middle needs to be the "work" place since he wants to go there rather than listen to where you originally directed. It sounds like everyone has offered suggestions fair to the horse in that other things may be interfering. You definitely don't to have a horse that braces on you and defies. Bending him for the circles will soften him and still make the wrong thing hard and the right thing easy. I would also encourage flexing/bending exercises on the ground to encourage him to be soft and responsive to you. This will help him be lighter and more responsive when you come off him mouth and be more fun for both of you.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
63 Posts
Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Hmmmm.... now that I have read all your comments, some things are coming to mind which I didn't realize before.

I have been riding him very hard and tight. Up until now he has been great for me. I do need to soften him, and I need to learn how to do that.

The thing that has been shocking to me is how quickly he turned on me. He was riding beautifully for me, and then a couple of weeks ago, he has turned bad on me. I just don't want to lose the bond that we had or were developing.

Thanks again, all, for all the VERY helpful suggestions to a newbie.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
63 Posts
Discussion Starter · #11 ·
In our arena, the middle is the "walk" place, the "listen to the instructor" place, and not the work place. I have ridden him before, by myself, doing serpentines and I enjoyed it, as did he. But we had the arena to ourselves, and we were working in harmony. I have missed that special horse/man unity these past couple of times riding.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
63 Posts
Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Is there a good online "how to bend your horse" tutorial that I could watch before I go into the arena? Like a youtube thingie?
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
296 Posts
Groundwork will help you regain respect. Horses will always test the rider to see what they can get away with, no matter the level of experience. Having said that, certain horses are better for certain levels of experience. Not knowing your situation personally, your trainer should be able to help you in determining that. As far as softening them, I like to use the flexing exercises both on the ground and under saddle from Clinton Anderson. He has a training show called Downunder Horsemanship on the RFTV network. My horse flexes well but was still tested me after I brought him home. The exercises softened him up for me too as he learned to respect me. Additionally I believe his previous trainer may have had a heavy hand as its taken me some time to get him as soft in the bridle as on the ground. However, he's progressing much better with our flexing on the bridle and often softening on just an ounce of pressure. Hope this helps!
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
49,731 Posts
when a horse changes quite suddenly, and you have not changed your riding, then look to some change in his environment or his state of health.

this can be anything from a change in in feed, tack, companions, stalling, amount of excersize, number of riders, tooth /back/ hoof health.

Has anything like that changed? your horse does not think of things as a bond with you. He is either reasonably comfortable and free from worry, or he isn't. If he changes suddenly, it's not like he suddenly decided to stop "relating" to you, but rather something else is more important. Or, he is doing the same behavior as always, but as your reaction to it has become more and more lax.\, he sees a possible opportunity to get out of work.

the inside being the place to rest, while you and your instructor talk, it's only natural that he will want to be there.It's the best place to be.

Don't try to remake this school horse into some idea of the perfect , soft horse ,especially when you yourself do not yet know how to get a horse soft. Yes, it's cool to start learning about bending and softening a horse, but keep in mind that this horse must deal with a certain life and its' pressures by defending himself , perhaps being stiff in the neck, jaw and back. Not that these are good things to be, but sometimes this is what school horses learn to do in defense against the many unbalanced riders they must carry.

Be fair in how much you ask him to change his way of being, he has a way that works for him and his life, so who are you to expect him to give all that up for a rider who is on him one hour a week.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
63 Posts
Discussion Starter · #16 ·
And tiny - I've noticed that he has started to not like some horses that he previously liked.

And I am trying to think what I am doing differently - but not coming up with much. I know that I have been having a hard time with grief - I lost both my mom and dad this year - and sometimes the sorrow comes out when I'm riding.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
2,291 Posts
I'm so sorry for your losses, that is exceptionally hard.
But please try not to take your horse's misbehavior as a personal slight against you. There are a million and a half factors that could have caused this. Perhaps his back hurts, and he rides better with you because you're in a western saddle that distributes the weight better, but now perhaps his back hurts more and the saddle isn't enough. Perhaps he had a diet change or got kicked by a buddy in the field. Perhaps they changed which paddock he was in which changed his hierarchy in his herd, leaving him feeling unsure and defensive. Perhaps someone else rides him the day before you who allows him to get away with coming to the middle to stop and he's simply just learned that when the work gets too hard or boring he'll just go hang out in the middle.
I taught lessons for years and dodging to the middle when asked for harder work is a horse's favorite thing. One of our horses even learned if he laid down the rider would get off! He had to be sold (he got a trail ride home and loves his life there).

It sounds to me like you're ready, like Tiny said, to switch from being the passenger to the pilot. If you're looking for a real 1-1 relationship with a horse to build your riding skills maybe you want to look into leasing a horse with free ride time as well as private lessons? So you can practice.
As a riding instructor - I hate when people keep their students on the rail! I don't think my students ever make it a full two times around the ring without a circle, serpentine, figure 8 or change of direction or gait. I also like to have my students do separate things, no 'follow the leader'. This is why I don't like to teach any groups more than 3.
I'm also mildly concerned about your instructors choice to switch your saddle. If you are comfortable in a Western saddle and want that - you are welcome to it, I have nothing against direct reining in a Western saddle or mixing and matching tack. But it sounds to me like you had an insecure seat and they fixed it by switching your saddle rather than helping teach you to use your muscles properly and build them up. Your seat Western is very different than Hunt Seat and the saddle will affect that. I've taught both English and Western, in both cases I want my students to have a solid seat and not be dependent on a piece of tack. If you were my student, having trouble with your seat I would give you lunge lessons in your saddle, with and without stirrups and eventually without a saddle. It may sound lame to just go round and round and not control your horse - but having a proper seat is really important. Lunge lessons are SO valuable in allowing you to concentrate on your own body and building the muscles you need.
I have several adult students and they have a much harder time than the younger ones because they mentally understand what they should be doing, but the muscle-memory just doesn't come as fast. It's ok, it just means you need to spend more time on it :)

Good luck and keep us posted :)
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
63 Posts
Discussion Starter · #18 ·
Thanks, punks.

Very very valuable stuff you are telling me here! You are right: we do a lot of follow the leader, on the rail, and it is only during quiet times that I get to do much with my horse other than round and round. True, we go outside if the weather is OK, but even that is along rails. True - one part of the field is not fenced in.

I have emailed my instructor about private time, either lesson-wise, or just riding around. Sometimes the arena gets so crowded on Saturday mornings, it is frustrating for riders (kids except myself) and I think the horses too. We have had a very very cold winter so far, and I think this is affecting the horses as well.

Problem is I've gotten too **** attached to my horse...

Maybe I need to look somewhere else to ride for awhile, where things aren't so prescribed.

You are right about my seat - it was very unstable and unproductive in English, so she switched me to western. I resisted this at first because most people ride English where I live, and I really wanted to ride English.

But I'm so happy that I've allowed myself to start to learn to ride :)
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
63 Posts
Discussion Starter · #19 ·
Punks: I was just very puzzled by my horse's change in behavior with me. We were doing well - his behavior was really surprising my instructor and the other riders in that I was able to get as much out of him as I was.

Do horses love us like dogs do? Or are we just those creatures that sit on their backs? I'm very curious about that too.

This is such a valuable forum.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
2,291 Posts
I think, if you want to learn to ride English, you should. Seat is a big part of it. Can you ask for some lunge line lessons where you can focus on buikding your seat and core strength, so you can ride inaan english saddle. The only time I switch tack for security is in therapy lessons, otherwisei just go slower and allow the student to develope the skill and muscle memory required. Adults muscles learn slower than kids - it takes time. But it is doable. You're brave for enduring such crowded rings and lessons that are just following the leader but I think you're ready for more. Does your lesson program allow you to lease? Can you lease the horse you like and free ride andtake private lessons on him?
 
1 - 20 of 22 Posts
Status
Not open for further replies.
Top