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Discussion Starter #1
The board is my horse. We're trying to get him into real working condition, and that of course means suppling him up. On his left side he's decent, he could use work, but he can turn his nose back to his shoulder no problem, and once he warms up, he yields his forequarter okay. Not fabulous, but he can do it. On his right side, he can't even turn his head around. He turns to the right by backing up to the left. He never ever picks up the right lead in the round pen or in turn out, probably because it's painful for him. We've had chiropractic work done before and he does have a lot of issues in his head/neck region, but really the only way that we're going to be able to work them out is having him worked on, and then following up with some consistent stretching exercises before each ride. He's already left sided enough as it is, so I want to do as much as I can to get him evened up muscularly, so we can move on in his training to working with his right side comfortably. What are some basic basic basic stretching/suppling exercises that we can do, either from the ground or in the saddle, or both?
 

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Refer to the dressage section, there are multitudes of good posts in there that refer to suppling.
A supple horse isn't necessarily one which can bend it's nose around to scratch it's backside! To have a supple horse under saddle your need engagement. Fullstop. No shortcuts. You need to get him working properly. So start getting him walking up and down hills, then trotting up and down hills. Go back to the arena and work on millions and millions of transitions and changes of rein. Keep everything even, so work him the same amount on his good side as his stiff side.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
We're in Florida, so no hills! All we do is work in the arena as of right now. When I say supple, in this particular situation, thats exactly what I mean is a horse who can turn around to scratch his backside! lol If he can't bend that way, how can we even begin to do basic dressage work, or anything else other than trotting straight lines? We're strictly walk trot transitions right now, but I couldn't get him to pick up a right lead if I did it for him.
 

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Well for what you want right now (seems you just want him to bend his neck?), here's what I do. I do carrot stretches every day with my boy. He actually does it now without any treats if I just wiggle my finger at his side, he'll reach around and touch where I ask him too. They learn it pretty quickly.

Stand on the side you want him to stretch (but i'd do it on both sides anyway). Get his attention to the treat in your hand. Slowly bring the treat to his side, and he *should* follow with his nose. May take a few tries, just go slowly, but don't treat unless he's trying. As soon as he brings his head around as far as you want it, treat him. Keep doing this until you can get him to touch his side, and then start moving the spot he needs to touch farther back. I find this helps as a stretch before a ride.

As for in the saddle work, you've got good advice so far.

Hope that's what you were looking for!
:]
 

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We're in Florida, so no hills! All we do is work in the arena as of right now. When I say supple, in this particular situation, thats exactly what I mean is a horse who can turn around to scratch his backside! lol If he can't bend that way, how can we even begin to do basic dressage work, or anything else other than trotting straight lines? We're strictly walk trot transitions right now, but I couldn't get him to pick up a right lead if I did it for him.
Yes, but bending that way will not do much to improve how he goes under saddle. Working on building muscles and strength under saddle, will then impact on his ability to bend his neck around left and right as those muscle will have loosened from the work rather than remaining 'stuck'.

it goes hand in hand.
 

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Discussion Starter #6 (Edited)
Do you have a way without treats? He gets kind of impatient/nippy, and I don't want to confuse the crap out of him when he's bending but being grumpy about no treats.

Could I do something like the pressure-release method where I tie his head around? Of course I'd start gradually at first and then as he bends more on his own just shorten the tie a little bit at a time? That would take out two birds with one stone really, lol. Freshen up his pressure responses and then get him used to bending to the right xD

In response to Katy, I guess I should mention he's an OTTB, SUPER stiff and yucky...Even after an hour of riding around at an almost consistent trot he is unwilling to bend to the right. I may get him to bring his head around so I can see his eye before he jerks it back. (Ironically, thats exactly how he got away from me and I fell off the last time I fell) which is why I'm so stuck on this specifically.
 

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Yep, and I've had my fair share of ottbs and this is how I work on their stiffness issues. Thousands of transitions, changes of rein etc. I work them like any other stiff horse. Each and every one has come up supple as can be. Ottb's are no different to any green horse in regards to stiffness.
 

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I do agree that the best way to loosen him up is undersaddle. And I suppose you could do the carrot stretches without treats. But you'd have to find something to motivate him.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Ironically, food motivates him, but he gets a little overexcited about it, lol. I went out and bought a copy of Equine Fitness: A Conditioning Program of Exercises & Routines for Your Horse by Jec Ballou. It should be suitable to improve his stretching and his overall suppleness on the ground and in the saddle.
 

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DO NOT tie your horses head around. It's appalling, and completely unnecessary.

Try lots of figure 8's and serpentine's at the walk first, and then the trot. Keep the inside rein light and fluffy, occasionally giving him featherlight tugs to encourage him to bend both ways. You can also do lots of different sized circles, a 20m, a 15m, a 10m, back to a 15m. You can also spiral [which is, in fact, different from different sized circles], making each circle a little smaller than the last. Just be careful not to make too many small circles.

As far as stretching, I stretch AFTER I ride, when her muscles are warm. Light stretching before a ride is okay, but it's not good for people to stretch cold muscles, and muscles are muscles, so I'm sure it's not good for horses either. I stretch to each side twice, between her legs with her right leg forward, then again with her left leg forward. I also hold a treat up for her to stretch up to, as well as stretching her neck forward. Just be careful not to let your horse "bounce" when he stretches, and try to convince him to hold the stretch for a few seconds.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
DO NOT tie your horses head around. It's appalling, and completely unnecessary.
Done with baling twine and done correctly, tying a horses head around is a perfectly humane way to teach yielding to pressure. I've seen it posted by reliable posters on this forum.

I've been taught since probably the fifth grade to stretch before a workout, but after warming up. Since I tighten my cinch gradually anyway, adding some stretching in wouldn't be a problem. I'll have to figure out a way to do it sans treats.
 

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Oh dear. What do you suppose might happen if you tie your horses head around and he freaks out? Broken neck, broken back, broken legs, permenently spooked horses terrified of being tied up... the list is endless.

Plus, how is that supposed to supple a horse? Woohoo look at me I can rip my horses head around and bind it there. Then I get on and he won't bend anyway. How does tying his head around condition the muscles and to strengthen and stretch?

It is the sideways equivalent of rolkur.

But hey, each to their own. Unfortunately everyone wants things NOW without putting in the weeks, months, of work. And this is the result.
 

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Oh dear. What do you suppose might happen if you tie your horses head around and he freaks out? Broken neck, broken back, broken legs, permenently spooked horses terrified of being tied up... the list is endless.

Plus, how is that supposed to supple a horse? Woohoo look at me I can rip my horses head around and bind it there. Then I get on and he won't bend anyway. How does tying his head around condition the muscles and to strengthen and stretch?

It is the sideways equivalent of rolkur.

But hey, each to their own. Unfortunately everyone wants things NOW without putting in the weeks, months, of work. And this is the result.
Thanks for replying, Kayty, so I didn't have to. =]
 

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I've been taught since probably the fifth grade to stretch before a workout, but after warming up. Since I tighten my cinch gradually anyway, adding some stretching in wouldn't be a problem. I'll have to figure out a way to do it sans treats.
Ahem. A warmed up muscle is a warm muscle. My information is still accurate; do not stretch cold muscles.
 

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If done correctly tying a horses head around does help them figure out how to yield to pressure. The way I do it is to pull my stirrup forward and tie the rein or lead to the stirrup then when I release the stirrup the wieght of the stirrup takes the slack out of the rein. The horse can stand all day with his head straight but he has to hold the stirrup. It doesn't take more than 5 minutes and they are bending to get the relief. If something spooks them they can pull their head straight with no problem. I do very little of this. Only a couple of times on the average horse so that they can figure out what I want without having to worry about me up on their back.

In the case of the OP I think I would work alot on lateral flexion and teach teh horse to follow his nose and bend around my leg. Pull one rein to your front pocket and hold light but steady pressure on it untill his feet stop moving and he puts a tiny bit of slack in the reins then release completely. Do it a few times on one side then switch to the other. Don't give up and hang in there for as long as it takes. If he doesn't seem to be looking for relief increase the pressure a little. Once he is fairly supple that way do alot of direction changes. I hate to ride in circles so I wouldn't do too many of those but figure eights and spirals will help alot.
 

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If done correctly tying a horses head around does help them figure out how to yield to pressure. The way I do it is to pull my stirrup forward and tie the rein or lead to the stirrup then when I release the stirrup the wieght of the stirrup takes the slack out of the rein. The horse can stand all day with his head straight but he has to hold the stirrup. It doesn't take more than 5 minutes and they are bending to get the relief. If something spooks them they can pull their head straight with no problem. I do very little of this. Only a couple of times on the average horse so that they can figure out what I want without having to worry about me up on their back.
But WHY!? When you can simply get in the saddle and using the reins to encourage your horse to bend to the inside and to the outside? WHY when you can simply do carrot stretches after a ride to loosen up the neck and make them more limber? How do you teach your dog to lie down? By ripping his feet out from under him? Sure, he may learn, but he can also learn by simply placing a treat on the ground with your hand over and not giving it to him until he lays down. It takes more time, but in the end, you have a better adapted animal with more pleasant experiences. Training takes TIME. Tying their head is a quick fix, and even then, how are they supposed to associate a tied head to the cues from a rider on their back to do the same thing? A true bend takes more than bringing a rein to your knee. In fact, your inside rein should be hardly anything more than decoration.

I usually agree with you Kevin, but in this case, I most definitely do not when there are other, better methods to get a better result.
 

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Discussion Starter #17
If done correctly tying a horses head around does help them figure out how to yield to pressure. The way I do it is to pull my stirrup forward and tie the rein or lead to the stirrup then when I release the stirrup the wieght of the stirrup takes the slack out of the rein. The horse can stand all day with his head straight but he has to hold the stirrup. It doesn't take more than 5 minutes and they are bending to get the relief. If something spooks them they can pull their head straight with no problem. I do very little of this. Only a couple of times on the average horse so that they can figure out what I want without having to worry about me up on their back.
Thank you kevin. I would have had to go find a post by Riosdad otherwise!

I really do object to that being referred to as the "sideways version of rollkur", the only thing it would force him to do is use his brain and figure out how to make himself more comfortable. If he would rather stand there and be uncomfortable, he could do that, or he could just turn his head a smidge and release the pressure. I was not talking about cranking his nose back to his hip, I was talking about the equivalent of a direct-reined turn. Only with baling twine. And with me on the ground.

Also kevin, thats exactly what I'm looking for. Lateral flexion ground exercises other than carrot stretches. I want to be able to get on him and do the figure eights, but it would be an "S" with a straight line down the side. I already have the book I mentioned before, and it does have some nice suggestions for getting him stretchy and getting him back into shape. So we'll see how that goes.
 

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But WHY!? When you can simply get in the saddle and using the reins to encourage your horse to bend to the inside and to the outside? Training takes TIME. Tying their head is a quick fix, and even then, how are they supposed to associate a tied head to the cues from a rider on their back to do the same thing? A true bend takes more than bringing a rein to your knee. In fact, your inside rein should be hardly anything more than decoration.
I agree. Tying is a quick and not necessarily correct fix. In this case the horse is stiff. Tying him around will bend him but not supple him. Part of the stiff process that needs to be worked out is also getting the horse to step under. I don't see how tying a horse to look at the saddle or surcingle for any length of time teachs that. Working in hand or riding allows the interaction and the give and take.

Also agree with the trot circles and transistions. Walk, circle, trot, circle.
 

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Discussion Starter #19
He does track up under himself already quite nicely, he almost completely oversteps his fronts with his hinds, but he'll probably never be able to completely because he has a long back.
 

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Sometimes you need to get the bend BEFORE you get in the saddle. I t helps alot when your horse can give to the rein before you get on. The way I do it with the stirrup, the horse starts to follow its nose and bending really soft. I invite anybody that thinks it's unnecessary to try it and see the results. I don't tie to the D ring, I tie to the stirrup and it does the exact same thing as pulling the rein from the saddle. They can take as much rein as they want but the relief won't come untill they flex enough to drop the stirrup. If you want to get on a horse that doesn't bend then go ahead you will probably get away with it. I have gotten in bad situations that way enough that I choose not to get on a horse unless I have some bend in them. Some horses I can stand next to and get plenty of bend and I'll do it that way but some horses do better when they figure it out on their own. You have to know your horse and decide what will work well for you. Sometimes I will tie a stirrup up and go catch another horse then switch sides while I saddle the new horse. I think if you try it you will find that it is not cruel or ineffective. The horse only has one thing to think about instead of worrying about where I am and what I'm going to be doing next.
 
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