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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Cinny is getting more and more relaxed, and working better each time we ride in the arena. People are saying that he looks more round, more relaxed, etc. But I think I may be "cheating" to get him that way.

About a year, maybe longer there was a knowledgeable member here who would occasionally put out some little dressage tutorials. She is no longer here, but one of the tutorials was about a half halt, and a few other exercises. I've sort of adapted one of the things mentioned to my rides with Cinny and he is really liking it.

Basically instead of just having my reins steady yet following I instead incorporate a tiny squeeze with his leg movement (while still keeping my arms, elbows, shoulders soft and following of course). When the front right shoulder moves forward I give a tiny rein squeeze, left shoulder, left squeeze, etc. He really stretches and goes into the bridle when I do this as long as I have correct leg on him too. If I stop the squeezes, his head will pop back up, his back will hollow and sometimes he grits his teeth. I start doing the little squeezes and his back comes up and he quietly puts his head into the bridle and "flips" his front legs higher and flashier.

Is this a bad habit or cheating in any way?
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
I just wasn't sure. I've always been told to keep my reins as quiet as possible, and that seemed to be the way to go with him before with his sensitive mouth. But now he's liking this, I don't know why and I've never heard of anyone else doing it before so I thought maybe I shouldn't have started doing it. I thought maybe it was akin to "see sawing" though I barely do it, and it's not enough to make his head move side to side he stays relatively straight unless I tell him different with my legs.
 

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My trainer used to always talk about " receiving " on the rein on each side, as the horse steps forward, into the bit, in the walk. Maybe this is what you are doing
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As the horse walks, there is going to be a bit of a shift , from side to side , in the neck position, that will mean a minor increase in pull on the side where the neck is a tiny bit longer ( the outside of the bend for each step) as the neck moves to counter balance the legs in the walk. The lateral nature of the walk is why it feels different than trot (paired diagonals).
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
My trainer used to always talk about " receiving " on the rein on each side, as the horse steps forward in the walk. Maybe this is what you are doing.
Maybe but we do it at the trot too. He only likes "silent reins" at the canter but I think right now it's because he is concentrating so hard on everything else I ask in the canter which is mainly to move his hind end under him and we are also doing a lateral canter with a bend (not sure what it's called). Again, if I don't ask him to make even a tiny lateral movement in the canter up pops the head and he braces. If I ask for a slight bend and make him think we are going to go lateral he stays quiet in the bridle and pulls his hind under him in anticipation of it.
 

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I work for a reined cowhorse trainer. He says when riding in a snaffle, keeping steady pressure with both hands will often cause them to brace, but doing as you are (Right, left, right, left) works on the bars of the mouth and makes them much softer. That's a similar experience to what I would say, and what Tiny is describing sounds similar.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Thanks Guys. I won't worry about it so much then and instead perfect the "invisibility" of doing it. There is just so much that Cinny is teaching me these days.
 

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There is a difference between a steady and consistent outside rein, and holding it. You cannot expect a horse to be working with you if you hold that chunk of metal or nose pad straight and firm.

You have to learn to be "elastic" and go with the movement. I am not talking about hands up and down, back and forth, as this should come from a straight but relaxed shoulder, not from the wrist.

As for squeezing for every stride, I don't, because if you are elastic and time your half halts and engage the horse, you shouldn't need to niggle your horse in to the bit.

It would cause issues with straightness, and probably give him a shaky head.

You say from and older thread that he is fine on a longer rein, but if you try and shorten he throws his head. This may be because he finds it more comfortable to drop with rein movement as he has something to play with rather than something solid, but if you shorten your reins you are putting a whole load more pressure in his mouth and a constant nag, nag, nag, nag, nag, nag, nag.

Do you have any dressage trainers that can help? Half halts are all about timing, correct timing and how to best prepare your horse and communicate with him.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
I have two well known, excellent trainers helping me, they work together (one trained the other).
reiin
When I talk about holding the rein steady, I mean elastic...moving with him versus the gentle squeezes. He just doesn't seem to like it at all. The more experienced trainer that road him told me that "he prefers to be talked to with your reins instead of quiet hands."
 

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I do the same thing with my gelding. It's a little reminder for him that he needs to keep focused. My dressage trainers have told me that some horses like it/need it for reassurance. As long as your getting the desired effect and your horse is comfortable doing it then by all means it's correct. (My gelding doesn't have any issues with straightness or head nodding... well except for when he's trying to sight see ;-) ) It's not a one method fits all or black and white. Whatever works for your horse is correct. :)
 

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Hm, well, I wouldn't say "cheating" but a crutch. . . like you I don't like anything you have to keep doing over and over, doesn't seem right.

Nevertheless, it's wonderful that you have found a gentle way to communicate what you want! Now you can ask him to go on without the squeeze. As soon as he tenses up, or pops his head, stop, and apply the squeeze again, as if to say, "Remember this?" Practice a few strides, then proceed without the aid.

I'm doing something similar to this right now. By horse is a "head popper" too, even in so simple a thing as going from walk to trot. I can walk her in a very relaxed state, then ask for trot, and the moment she tenses, I release my aids, tell her to keep walking, "We're not ready." It takes awhile sometimes before she'll do transitions fairly relaxed, without tensing.

By the way, we do warm up some before focusing on the "stay relaxed" exercises. She wouldn't possible stay relaxed for the first trot of the day. It's a habit, and it's going to take some time to get over it.
 

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Talking is fine, you need to communicate, but a constant nag on the rein is as bad as a leg and spur that constantly kicks. You may end up with a horse with a dead mouth.

He just sounds like he needs a education on the use of a proper half halt, and yourself too, so you can progress.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Thank you so much for your comments.

And Duffy, I agree...he and I both need a bit of education. We had several hurdles to cross first as he was a "green reclaim." He sat in a dry lot for the first 6 years of his life and then was taken to some guy who did a "30 day break" with him (and in Nebraska that's cowboy style), then he had ill fitting equipment on him and sent a few people to the hospital because of it. From there he went back to the dry lot until he was about 8 when I bought him. I was told he was "untrained" when I got him, but then said he was green broke but bucked. Then I started running across people who knew the lady I bought him from and the stories about Cin started coming out. By then I already loved him so we've been drowning him in patience, or at least trying to. I'm the most impatient person in the world LOL.

It has taken us over 2 years to get him to even accept us to picking up the reins let alone giving him any real pressure with them. I'm talking head tossing, grinding, bracing, had shaking, the works. It's been a long road but now that I am learning more of what makes him comfortable, we are both finally ready to really be educated.
 

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It always takes time :) it is never going to be an overnight thing, and it shouldn't be viewed as one. Taking time and having patience means you will have greater rewards at the end.

You may want to start thinking about weaning him off the squeeze, though. Only apply it if his head starts to come up... But leg goes on at the same time to push him forward in to it. If you've come this far already, you don't want a horse that has a dead mouth. I have had one, and it took a long time to get any sort of softness from him. Fab horse, but he would pull against you, not to get his head up, but so he could have the feel and he was happy. I changed the bit to a thinner one as he was aging and the room in his mouth decreased and found that it was a big change for us.. You just have to figure it out over time, learn together and see what works. But you need to get out of the crutch of being on his face all the time.
 

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It sounds like you two have come a long way. It's great to hear that he's progressing.

A weird question though, do you feel like you guys are connecting more now? Is he the right horse for you? I know you were looking to sell him and it fell through.

He is such a pretty boy.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
It sounds like you two have come a long way. It's great to hear that he's progressing.

A weird question though, do you feel like you guys are connecting more now? Is he the right horse for you? I know you were looking to sell him and it fell through.

He is such a pretty boy.
I think we are connecting a lot more. I know that he most likely will never move beyond First level in Dressage, and may not move out of Training level. But we are becoming closer as I make time for us to bond and do the things he likes best like trail, trot on trail, canter on trail, graze on trail etc.

He was sold, but it didn't go through ( there is a thread about it). At this point I'm just going to go on as we are and work with him some more. Since I've sort of "given up" on him he has actually gotten better. I think he was reacting to expectations that were maybe too high for him. We will see what happens down the road.
 

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Alternating actions on the reins is a very bad habit for a rider to learn because it easily creates false flexion (behind the atlas/axis) because of its actions on the bars of the horse. A crutch at best, with a severe downside for the horse.

There is a difference between changing flexion (usually in hand) to mobilize the jaw and therefore be able to extend the neck, and creating longitudinal flexion from the action of the hand. The former has intention is creating a horse which follows the hand and keeps stepping through and the later only produces an outline (which has negative actions on the entire body.

But the 'winners' today (with horses which are compressed in their outlines/blocked in their gaits) are promoting alternating actions (chiefly because it is easier and judges allow it to produce 'winners'). The winners however are rarely poll the highest point or horse in front of the vertical (as per the rules).

The fact that the horse 'pops back up' and grinds it teeth shows the tension that is created by the actions, and worse yet the fact that the horse "flips" his front legs higher and flashier shows the (negative) balance implications.

Work on curved lines (this helps put the horse into the outside rein contact/thus creating straightness) with a mobile jaw, and then the horse's bit acceptance will improve and can be made longer as needed.
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
I don't really do it enought to change flexion. Trust me, he is a super sensitive horse and I barely move a finger and twich my calf and he bends in half to that side LOL. What I barely do with my finger doesn't even make him move his head.

But I see where you are going on the flexion, that is a very good point.
 
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