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Discussion Starter #1
Just so my title isn't misconstrued, I'm not blaming this as solely an Arabian problem, but in my experience they do tend to have issues with it, keeping with the high head carriage they naturally have.

Ok, so my problem lately is Zierra. I've kind of been out of anything except trail riding for quite awhile and Zierra's training has gone virtually into the crapper. Which now means she's decided she doesn't need to listen to the bit, period.

Shay-las begun working with her, now that Cinder is retired and essentially the problem is her pointing her nose straight into the air and running away. She's ridden in a loose ring french link snaffle. She's fine if you keep a small circle - you can walk, trot, canter and keep her nose in a relatively "natural" position, and encourage her to give to the bit and bring her head around. She knows leg pressure, she bends nicely, and is overall an ok mare to ride.

The problem is "straight-aways". The minute you stop riding circles, that nose flies up and she bolts. You can get her under control, but the resulting gait is a bouncing, choppy pogo Arab canter with you practically hauling her mouth off to prevent her from going any faster. This is obviously completely counter productive. She will behave the exact same way at a trot, the minute you leave the circle - trotting with her nose sky high and attempting to canter.

In the past, I actually had my Dressage coach show me how to use draw reins because we had so much difficulty bringing her nose out of the clouds. Does anybody have any OTHER suggestions? I do know how to use draw reins, but I'm wondering if this should be my resort or if there are possibly other solutions I can examine?

As a note, this is when riding her English. The minute she feels a bit in her mouth, she seems to know she can get away with murder. If I throw the Western and a hackamore on her, she behaves almost perfectly, and I can lope loose rein circles on her. I DON'T get what her hang up is with the bit. She's been like this virtually from day one.

Thanks in advance. As a note, this is made even more difficult by the fact that we have no arena, just a snow covered YARD to school in. We've tried "shutting her down" by spinning a tight circle, but the footing just isn't good enough for that, hence our frustration when she gets silly with her head.
 

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My half-arab has the exact opposite problem, he "pig-roots" when he's not in a listening mood, I've never seen another horse canter with his nose between his legs like Caleb does.

A martingale could help, but that's more of a band-aid than a real solution.
 

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Gee I'm glad your not assuming you have an arab problem, any horse that runs around with it's head in the air has a less than desirable gait.

I'd have her teeth checked. But it could also be that she is just plain worried about her mouth. Your comments about are concerning. You should first off be asking her to slow down with your seat. Eventually the result will be that she will slow down with the seat aid alone.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
^

I don't know if you're being sarcastic or not, but I have owned Arabians my entire life. I do not blame problems on them being Arabians. What I am saying is that due to her natural head carriage being her nose in the air, I encounter this problem more with Arabs then other breeds - bringing the head up past the degree of control.

I've ridden her in a martingale most of her life due to this problem. We got it sorted out briefly when I was taking lessons and working regularly with a coach, and even she couldn't get that darn nose out of the clouds without throwing her in draw reins for a few weeks. A chiropractor actually told us that when horses bring their heads up that high, they trigger an endorphin release which is what makes them continue carrying their head that high - basically, they're getting "high".

I'd be more then happy to work on my seat, if you could kindly tell me exactly how. At this point, you're so busy wrestling for control, using your seat is quite a moot point. I'm beginning to think she needs to go straight back to basics and learning how to listen to the bit and give at the walk and trot before bothering with any canter.

This is how she runs around normally, so that is the only reason I blame it partially as an Arab problem - she's already used to having her head ridiculously high, so it's easy for her to evade the bit by doing what comes naturally:






 

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Discussion Starter #5
Oh and she's had her teeth checked before. She could probably use another exam, but she's done this her entire life and her teeth have always been the first place me and/or my coach at the time looked. Nada.
 

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Teach her (and yourself) the pulley rein. You can get her to stop without pulling her in a tight circle that way and she will be sensitized to your 'whoa' aids. If she tries to run off, you use the pulley rein. As for the contact, try holding your hands wider apart to encourage her to reach for the contact. Once she reaches with your hands wider apart, you can slowly start bringing them back to normal position while she stays in contact. Keep your seat deep, down, and upright. Set the pace with your seat, don't allow her to force your seat forward. Relax your body, particularly your arms. Know that I am only saying these as general ideas as I cannot see the actual problem with my own eyes, there may be a specific issue that cannot be discovered without a video/pictures.
 

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I second Eli's sentiments. I am sorry you have a problem with your horse - but please choose your words carefully as we don't need to fuel the fire when it comes to the "stigma" the Arabians are already under! It's a training issue...not an Arabian issue. Any horse that is running way with you with it's head in the air is going to produce an undesireable gait!!!

In your post you indicated that you ride in a western hackamore and that she has been out of training for quite a while and you both have just been trail riding. Maybe try another bit..perhaps a single joint snaffle? She obviously has not ridden in a bit for a long time and you might need to get back to basics.

If you are in a situation with a bolting horse, try the one rein stop method. By just pulling back on both reins evenly, the horse can lean on that even pressure, or even grab the bit in her teeth. No person is going to out match the strength of a horse. By just pulling on one rein, the pressure is unevenly distributed in the horse’s mouth, and she can't take advantage of this. Slowly pull the horse’s head to your leg. I don't mean to rip her into a tight circle either.

If your footing is bad then perhaps hauling to an arena might be an option.

Good luck!
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Thanks roro. I'll work on that.

I think I made her out to sound more "problematic" then she is. She's never run away with anyone - well, except an annoying ex-boyfriend who liked to brag. She's sensitive enough you can rein her in, but I'm just worried about the bit ruining her mouth. I've ridden her almost exclusively Western in the last couple years due to not having a coach.

As a note, she's almost 100% controllable if you have a tie down on her. This is obviously a quickfix, but what I'm saying is that it's her getting that nose into the air that is the entire problem. When she has a tiedown on, she listens, she doesn't get over excited, and she's very soft in the mouth. I gamed her this past summer in a snaffle and had a perfect whoa on her.

The problem is entirely her getting that nose up when nothing holds it down, and it being virtually impossible to control her without hauling on her when it's that high. I've tried everything to encourage her to drop her head, which she does quite nicely on a circle but then gets silly on the straight aways.

I'll try your suggestions to get her to relax. Do you think the pulley rein could work by teaching her that when I ask for canter it does not mean gallop? Or would that just rough up her mouth even more?
 

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Discussion Starter #9
I second Eli's sentiments. I am sorry you have a problem with your horse - but please choose your words carefully as we don't need to fuel the fire when it comes to the "stigma" the Arabians are already under! It's a training issue...not an Arabian issue. Any horse that is running way with you with it's head in the air is going to produce an undesireable gait!!!

In your post you indicated that you ride in a western hackamore and that she has been out of training for quite a while and you both have just been trail riding. Maybe try another bit..perhaps a single joint snaffle? She obviously has not ridden in a bit for a long time and you might need to get back to basics.

If you are in a situation with a bolting horse, try the one rein stop method. By just pulling back on both reins evenly, the horse can lean on that even pressure, or even grab the bit in her teeth. No person is going to out match the strength of a horse. By just pulling on one rein, the pressure is unevenly distributed in the horse’s mouth, and she can't take advantage of this. Slowly pull the horse’s head to your leg. I don't mean to rip her into a tight circle either.

If your footing is bad then perhaps hauling to an arena might be an option.

Good luck!
She used to ride in a single joint as a younger mare and hated it. I switched her to the french link for that purpose.

The high head, actually, is completely an Arab issue. It is her NATURAL carriage to have it high. Therefore, it is more difficult for her, then most other breeds, to bring it down. When she gets excited, it gets worse. Yes, at this point it is a training problem, but it is compounded by the fact that it resulted from her natural head carriage. I have not experience this problem on any horse that did not have natural high head carriage. Yes, horses will throw their heads up, but even when Zierra is BEHAVING her head is HIGH.

Hauling to an arena is not an option. Our trailer is buried in about five feet of snow with no way to get it out.
 

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Well by the sounds of it I thought she was running off with you! Now she's almost 100% controllable..okay then...let me change my train of thought...

Tie downs - quick fixes and addicting (but you know that!)
When her head is up - presuming she's not "taking off on you" - give her the reins, don't give her something to "fight" with (like pulling with all your might)...this works with some horses as they realize there's no "fun" (for lack of a better word) in it anymore.
or...
pull her into a larger circle with that one rein (like I mentioned above). If she is almost 100 % controllable you mostly likely can get her into a large cirle.
 

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That sucks about the snow! I know your pain...we don't get out riding as often as we would like in the winter because of the snow!
 

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^ I feel your pain sister! Bloody ay-rabs :p

Wildey did the same for the longest time. Of course I got him as a green 5yo when I was a green 10yo - What better combination could you find! So for a long time we struggled around with his head in my lap and my hands in the air. Sometimes I could see his entire blaze in front of me his head went so high. We made do. Then someone suggested a martingale - On it went, and yep, it helped. I learnt how things should feel without that arab head in the clouds. Slowly we both got better.

Nowadays - He really only flips his head if you catch him off guard with an aid or he doesn't want to stop out on the trail.

I don't think it is something you can completely get rid of in an arab that has the habit - It's just too natural for them.

I manage Wildey quite well by anticipating the signs of an impending head flip and shutting him down before it happens. I use one rein, hard, to say HEY! Back to earth! - He brings his head back down and looks cranky for a few strides but then continues on ok. Doing this consistently has really helped - I can ride him 99% of the time without any head flips.

I still put a martingale (super loose) on when other people ride him as they can't pick the signs like I can. When it's on he doesn't even try.

An idea on the straight lines thing - Can you get her two tracking/shoulder in? I.e. head facing left, shoulders moving right? If so - You could try moving onto a straight line and as soon as she goes to flip flex that head around and keep the body going the same way, and don't let her stop. When she relaxes again, let her straighten out, and repeat if it happens again. It will put a bend in her body/neck similar to a circle but still maintain the line.
 

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The pulley rein is usually used as a back up for if she doesn't listen to traditional slow down aids (ie leaning back, pressure on the outside rein). Since her mind isn't listening, the pulley rein makes her body listen. I have used it with great success on a jumping Appendix who liked to go from canter to gallop all the time(similar to your situation, controllable in circles but would speed up on straight lines), starting at the walk and then practicing at the canter. They will start to pick up on your normal slow down aids because they know that if they don't they will have to stop anyways with something stronger. It works well if you use it for transitions, ie asking for the trot, she speeds up, you stop with the pulley then trot again until she can trot without speeding up and slows down with light sensitive aids instead of an abrupt pulley rein. Think of your normal aids as the brake, while the pulley rein is your emergency brake. Make sure that you know the mechanics of the pulley rein before you try it by looking around for pictures, explanations, and videos of it being used.
 

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^ There are many, many situations where a hackamore isn't the right choice, and sometimes not allowed. I would not buy a horse who could only be ridden in a hackamore.
 

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Discussion Starter #16
Thanks a ton wild_spot! Haha, I was hoping you'd post - you know exactly what I'm talking about. I'd never put it off as an "Arab problem", it's just an issue that arises more in Arabs. It's not an issue I've ever really seen in say, stock horse for example.

Sorry I made it sound like she's "running away" - she just gets SO headstrong, that you're left not being able to do anything but concentrate on wrestling her down to a manageable canter.

I'm going to try the shoulder in techniques - she's very well trained to leg pressure, and I think you're right, I need to keep that busy Arab mind on something OTHER then "YAY RUNNING!"

Honeysuga - realistically, I probably could. But we like to jump her in summer, and Shay-la has taken a real interest in English and she's the ONLY remotely English trained horse we have on the property :lol: She's a fanatastic little mover when she behaves, it's just been about six years now since any real English training was done on her. The way we fixed it in the past was with draw reins and I was curious if there was an alternative method.
 

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Oh god no! I would probably faint in shock if Bundy lifted his head much higher than his wither! I had to get used to riding a whole different way going from Wildey's Arab head carriage, to Bundy with his head-on-the-ground stock horse carriage! I still get a bit unnerved by really low head carriage!

The shoulder-in idea is great - It has so many applications. It's great for arabs because when they have that bend through their body/neck they can't physically get the head up. It's funny how improving lateral flexion usually fixes a lot of vertical flexion issues. So many people (Myself a few years ago included!) underestimate the importance of lateral exercises.
 

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I have two thoughts.

Do you have enough room to serpentine or big figure-8's? If you do, I'm not thinking of a fancy serpentine but rather, take her in a circle and then let her go straight for a stride or so, just enough to show her she's going straight, but not giving her enough time to bolt off like a maniac, and bring her into a circle the other direction. Hopefully, this should keep her occupied enough that she doesn't want to bolt. And, you should be able to increase the amount of time you can go straight before you have to circle again. Just try to catch her and get her in a circle BEFORE you "lose" control.

My second thought is doing tons of transitions. I know it's boring to walk around and stopping every several strides for twenty minutes, but it's the best way to "fix" most any problem. So lots of transitions. Walk, stop, walk, trot, stop, trot, walk, stop, trot... you get the idea. Hopefully reminding her how to "yield" to the pressure of the bit. =]

I also concur with your idea of ceasing to canter until she's better at the trot. Good luck!
 

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*giggles* Zierra's version of running away with a rider is comparable to a 3 year old trying to steal a cookie before dinner...she tries, but it's almost never something that she "gets away with". There's always a way to stop her, but out on the trail during a ride, who wants to have to hold up the group by doing circles in the field?

I do think ALOT of loose rein transitions will be very helpful. I also think she was catching onto the one rein stops, but like Moki said, the footing just isn't good enough to continue with that method. I do not think that just giving her her head and letting her get it out of her system will teach her anything except she gets to run...this mare LIVES to gallop. Most horses see stopping as a reward, it seems a punishment to this mare. I swear she'd do somersaults if it meant she could gallop...so since stopping is such a punishment in Zierra's mind, I figured loose reins would be her reward at this point, worry about picking up a contact again later once she's stopped eating jet fuel for breakfast. (sarcasm)

Moki was not trying to say this is an "arab problem", but merely compounded and reinforced by her naturally high set neck and head carriage. The pictures she posted should say it all...I think the only time I really see her head DOWN is when she's eating. That being said, the only horse out of our 8 that can hold a candle to Zierra's head set is my mom's QH/arab mare, she does the same darn thing but there are different circumstances to fixing that one. Long story made really short, my mom doesn't want us riding her because we're "teaching" her these things and we got sick of being blamed for all her behavioral issues. Just used that mare as an example that she's the only other horse on the property that has some of the same issues, and she's half arab.

It's been crazy getting used to my Clydie X's head set after years of riding said QH/arab and welsh ponies...every time she dropped her head I'd get worried she was getting ready to throw a buck...when in reality, that's just where she carries her head. It's quite the change. I'd LOVE to see Zierra RELAXED at the canter...she's always so "go-go-go" that it's either trot or gallop. I think my main focus at this point will be to get her to relax - lots of walk, trot, whoa transitions and I like the cut out canter entirely at this point. Once she's relaxed at the trot and not rushing it, whoa is solid with minimal movement, reintroduce the canter. We'll get there!
 

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As a note, she's almost 100% controllable if you have a tie down on her. This is obviously a quickfix, but what I'm saying is that it's her getting that nose into the air that is the entire problem. When she has a tiedown on, she listens, she doesn't get over excited, and she's very soft in the mouth. I gamed her this past summer in a snaffle and had a perfect whoa on her.
Which to me points to a balance issue. Ropers, gamers, etc put tie downs on for the horse to balance itself.
 
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