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I know I've said it before, but I'm saying it again... After almost a year of trying my hand at english/dressage, I've decided to go back to my roots and start riding western again. Call me wishy washy, call me indecisive, I don't mind. It's not a big secret. :wink:

The only problem I am facing is, well... Riley. He is an ex-race horse, an ex-eventer, and he is full of go. I have ridden him western in the past and he does just fine as long as I ride the exact same way I would in an english saddle and with a short rein. I managed to get a nice jog out of him, but he is pre-programmed to take off into a big trot. Plus, he doesn't know what to do if I don't keep constant contact with the bit, it's like he gets lost.

My english instructor has a few sayings that have always baffled me a little bit, like "You always want him on the verge of exploding" and "Think of him like a shook up bottle of soda with a bridle on". I guess it makes sense if you are striving for impulsion and collection, but what if I don't want that anymore? Unfortunately, that is all Riley has ever known. My goal is to get him out of that box. I want less impulsion, slower and longer strides, and looser rein. It seems crazy to me, but I'd even like to be able to neck rein with him at some point.

I feel like he would really love western, he is such a laid back horse. Dressage is great and all, but he doesn't enjoy it. I've seen horses who LOVE to show off, who perform like super stars in the dressage ring with the happiest looks on their faces. Riley is not one of them. I'd rather show him a different path and let him be happy than pursue my dressage goals any further. My horse is my partner. If he isn't having any fun, I'm not going to force him to do it.

So how do I get him to relax and slow down? How do I achieve a loose rein without losing communication? I know it's going to take a lot of work and I am willing to train him, I just need to know how and where to start. All of my western experience came from taking lessons on trained WP horses, so I've never had to explain it to a horse before. I know what I want from him, I just don't know how to make it make sense to him.

I've been contemplating this switch for a while now and I have started concentrating more on leg and seat cues, both in motion and at a halt. I'm hoping to get better and make my intentions clearer to him so that he will rely on my legs and seat when I start loosening up the reins. The concept seems simple enough and I'm sure with enough time, effort, and patience, he will understand.

I feel like I, as a rider, am in a better place to try western with him again. I know more about him, I know more about "technical" riding, and I feel like I will be able to problem solve this time. Before, it was basically the blind leading the blind.

Any pointers and suggestions would be greatly appreciated!
 
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I am not a WP person -- too slow and it looks like the horses are "skipping" instead of moving out....but, if you want him to work on a loose rein then just start at the walk and let him have his head..he will probably speed up, when he does shut him down back to a walk...do this until he will walk wherever and for however long you want without moving up his speed. When he stays at the walk, then move to the trot and do the same thing....and then the lope/canter. As you are working with him on this, work on your seat/legs as cues for his speed...stay relaxed and upright for the walk, when you ask for the trot(or any faster speed) do so starting with your seat, energy, and legs(I also teach mine that when my left hand moves forward with the reins it means go). And, once he gets to the desired speed, remove some energy from you seat/body/legs to maintain it. This will take alot of work on your part to get him to learn your cues for speed.

After you have him confident in keeping his speed in check with a loose rein(at all gaits), start adding in your neck rein cues in .... off rein on neck, after 2 steps, move the direct rein to get desired direction change; keep repeating until he understands that the off rein on his neck means "move away". AFter he is solid at that, add you leg aids....nothing to it...haha!
 

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Forgot to add...the real key in getting him used to maintaing speed control on a loose rein is to allow him to mess up by upping or lowering the speed and then correct it ASAP. Don't anticipate him speeding up and then use your hands to stop him from increasing speed; instead, let him increase the speed and then shut him down quickly. That way, he will soon understand that speeding up on his own is unwanted and when he does it you correct him by using the bit on him.
 

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You do what feels right. The horse doesn't care which tack, but he seems to like your style, so stick with it. If you get the urge to ride EP, just buy an EP horse that is trained to it and take lessons on THAT one.
You have to LIKE the style and your horse has to like it, too. NO PROBLEM seeing an OTTB in Western! =D
 
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