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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hello!

I'm thinking about riding my gelding with spurs.

We're working on basic dressage at the moment. I'm having a really hard time getting him into an active trot. Even using tons of leg, bumping him each stride, he's plodding along. Today I tried doing some schooling outside of the arena, to see if he's bored of the arena, but no, same thing again. Random transitions don't wake him up, a hard kick won't wake him up, and I haven't tried using a whip yet. I'd rather not, because I know from experience that he'll buck if I do. He's bloody lazy!

I've never used spurs before. I do have an independent seat, and feel like I have good control over what my legs are doing. I'd like him to learn to respect my leg a little bit more, and how I'll do that is to ask him nicely with my leg, then prod him with my spur if he doesn't respond.

Does anybody have tips or advice, or anything for me to think about? Or even methods to liven him up without resorting to artificial aids would be good. I'm having such a hard time trying to push him into the bridle, he'll tuck in his nose and be a good boy when I ask, but I'd really like some energy so he'll be classically on the bit too!
 

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I'd rather not, because I know from experience that he'll buck if I do. He's bloody lazy!
Sounds to me like he's got you all figured out, and that a buck has become his tool to avoid the crop, and he can ignore the rest without much consequence. ;)

I've found a crop to be a good motivating factor with lazy horses. Sometimes even just CARRYING it will wake up some of them once they see you have it. I've never once cropped the horse I lease, but I didn't ever ride with it up until a few weeks ago either, but the first time I carried it (I hacked out alone for the first time on him and wanted that bit of extra control in case he showed any signs of being buddy sour) and I was surprised at the difference from many previous hacks - just having it in my hands seemed to have him paying extra attention for the entire ride. It was an eye opening experience.

Heck, more than a few horses I've ridden will instantly pickup their pace when they feel me gathering both reins with one hand as they can put 2+2 together on what might be coming next (A crop to the bum) if they don't do as they're being asked nicely to do. Moving from "ask" to "tell" is an important part of that process.

Have you tried just carrying a crop (without using it) on him, making sure that he knows you have it?

And when he bucks after being cropped, is it a "Ok, You're done here, off you go!" buck, or is it a half-arsed buck you can just ride through? I've ridden through the latter many times, sometimes cropping again afterwards to get my point across, and the behaviour gets less and less with every reinforcement to the effect that it's not an acceptable behaviour.

As for spurs, I've never ridden with them so I can't be of any help there, but I do know that they are quite discouraged around our lesson barn. Most, if not all of the 40'ish horses there have never experienced them, and none of them *need* them IMHO...and there are more than a few lazy "schoolmasters" there. ;)
 

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Spurs are a tool for aiding lateral movement, and vertical flexion not for encouraging forward movement. Your best aid would be a crop or dressage whip. A dressage whip, as it is longer then a crop, is effective for backing up your leg aid, you can use it on his shoulder and reach around and to use it on his hind end. If he bucks or kicks out such as in just being annoyed/disrespectful whack him again don't just tap him let him know you mean business. And remember to reward him when he is doing the right thing, don't nag. Let him commit to mistake then ask again make him responsible to maintaining his speed.
 

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I second the dressage whip movement. Spurs are not for speed, they are for finesse. If it were my horse and he bucked when he got a tap with the whip, then he'd get a harder smack. This has lead to rodeos around the arena before, but they soon learn that bucking gets them nowhere fun, and move off your leg before you have to use the whip. I've ridden some horses that respond to the slight outward movement of my hand when I move it to flick behind the saddle with the dressage whip.
 

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Use the crop for propulsion . That is what they are for. Spurs are not intended to move your horse forward. They are to add finesse to your cues for lateral movement and bending in your horse. When used to move a horse forward it usually doesn't take to long for the horse to end up dead sided to the spur as well.
 

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You have identified a potentially dangerous problem with your horse, that is, he is refusing obedience to your leg. IF he becomes frightened while you are aboard he will, most likely, plant his feet and explode when you insist that he move. I've had this happen to me.
The best remedy is ground work and insisting that your horse immediately move where you want when you cue and halt when you cue, standing as long as you like, or walking, trotting, cantering as long as you ask, until you ask for something else.
We talk here a lot about drill=bad training, but IMHO this horse has learned that he doesn't have to work very hard and doesn't have to obey if the wind is coming from the wrong direction, so to speak. He needs a good month of just ground training and drill, drill, drill until he realizes that he only gets a rest when he behaves.
I have used blunt spurs with my young, and not yet finished QH. He was lazy when I "Adopted" him from a rescue, due to the "help" always riding him, and I school him with spurs, only using them when I don't get an IMMEDIATE response from my calves. Now he moves out right away. He has not ever bucked with me. You need a horse to react to your cues immediately and a Dressage horse in particular needs to understand impulsion.
This is the "baggage" we talk about with a horse that has been trained, developed a bad habit, then sold bc the owner cannot figure out how to retrain. If you really like this horse, please get someone knowledgeable to help you and teach YOU how to fix this and keep up with him.
I am a fan of Arabians. "Corporal" (1982-2009, RIP) was an Arabian. I believe that they have natural collection and look so nice doing Dressage manuevers, so I hope that you fix this.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Ok, thank you for the advice everyone. Like I said, I've never worn spurs before, so I was a bit unclear on what their proper usage was. I'll carry a dressage whip and see how we go.
 

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The dressage whip works very well for my lazy horse. At the beginning of most rides I go through a short session of transitions to make sure he's responding to my leg before getting into the "serious" work. I have definitely gotten myself stuck in the habit of constantly nagging him to go forward before, and it gets frustrating. It's much nicer when I'm consistent in enforcing that he HAS to go forward when I tell him to- ask, tell, demand.
 

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There is nothing wrong with trying spurs. However, go light with them from the start. After they use to them it doesn't take much to get them moving. Ware them on almost every ride. That way if I need them I got them. Firm believer in them. I have seen folks kick and kick their horse trying to get them to do whatever, however, with spurs it just takes a bump to get them to moving. Do what you want but my vote is to try them. If you don't like them try something different.
 
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After my lesson tonight on a notorious hard to push draft (no, not my usual Clydesdale mount) I'm seriously considering a set. He's a big draftX who is known for being a real slug to get a consistent pace on with and after working my **** off half the lesson pushing him forward I was starting to contemplate those spurs. I now think I'm going to need a wheelchair to get to work tomorrow. :wink:

I know he's one of only 2 or 3 horses there that has been ridden with them before so they wouldn't be a surprise to him...I'll have to ask the rider I know who did use them on him and see what the results were.
 

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I am a beginner rider doing English. My instructor has me carry a crop at all times.

If I don't get the speed I ask for after a verbal command, cluck, and heels, it's time to use the crop. And if he bucks (which he's done twice), he gets a harder crop smack to the back leg.

I've been instructed to never let him get away with a buck in response to a crop smack or he'll always do it, and this horse is used as a lesson horse, so he can't develop bad habits like that. He hasn't bucked again since I gave him a smack in response to the first buck, so I think it's working.

Man, do I dislike riding that horse, though. I prefer a horse that responds to leg cues. :)
 

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Like the others said, you need to use a crop or a dressage whip, not spurs.

If the horse doesn't listen to the leg, smack a point near your heel. For the horse it should feel like you used your leg harder.
 

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When I first started riding my horse last year, he was not terribly responsive to my leg and would plod along at the trot and would frequently break into a walk. I don't want to carry a crop with him as he is an OTTB and many of them react poorly to crops due to their racing history (or perhaps react a bit too much, I should say). He's much, much more forward and sensitive now and never walks unless I ask for it.

I did a lot of groundwork to establish the respect, and what my trainer had me do in the saddle was to trot him and sort of leave him alone (no kicking or nagging with my legs), and as soon as he slowed down and went to break to the walk I would give him a good kick and make him start trotting again. Soon, he maintained the trot without breaking into a walk because he figured out he would avoid the big kick. Similarly, I now use the ask/tell/demand technique to get him to increase his pace. The key to making them more sensitive to your leg is to use the softest cue to begin and escalate so that they learn to avoid the demand cue, but you have to be consistent and don't nag, just escalate. Practicing this on the lunge line helps, too, with getting him to extend his trot.
 

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There is nothing wrong with trying spurs. However, go light with them from the start. After they use to them it doesn't take much to get them moving. Ware them on almost every ride. That way if I need them I got them. Firm believer in them. I have seen folks kick and kick their horse trying to get them to do whatever, however, with spurs it just takes a bump to get them to moving. Do what you want but my vote is to try them. If you don't like them try something different.
Spurs certainly have a place in waking your horse up and making them pay attention. Just use the roundest, blunt ones and only touch them and quickly take them away. Then for a while, ride sometimes with them, sometimes without. After a bit, you probably won't need them at all.
The thing I hate is seeing all the Western Pleasure little girls in my area wearing sharp roweled western spurs all the time and gouging their horses to death even when their horses are standing still. These girls thinks it's cool to jingle around the barn wearing them and their trainers encourage the constant jabbing. (not to mention the constant never ending jerking on super hit port bits). To me the whole thing is pure abuse.
Carrying a crop at the shoulder helps too, once they know it's there sometime all you have to do is rub it on the shoulder.
I bought a horse several years ago that had never, ever been ridden with out western spurs and had to completely retrain him to move off the leg. I did have to gently use some blunt English spurs at first but after a short time he "got it" and has never needed spurs since.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
I'm giving him a week or two off work, he's barefoot and and a little bit footsore. All part of the conditioning process. ;) So I haven't put any of your suggestions to use yet, but I plan to! He is an OTTB, Janskee, so we can relate there! I'll probably begin riding him again this week and keep you all updated. Might also see if I can get someone to video/photograph me working with him. If there's bucks involved, you'll always want a camera around, right? ;)
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Also want to add that his groundwork is great. We're following Clinton Anderson's methods and he's doing wonderfully with that - he backs on body language alone, yields his hindquarters, flexes his head to both sides, and I've just taught him to yield his forequarters as well. He has simply learned that he can plod along and I will let him. It is my fault for allowing him to fall into that habit ... I'm new to dressage and still learning these things. :) Thank you all for your advice and thoughts!
 

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Spurs are not for forward, they are for lateral work and finesse.

I have a set of spurs, and I use them on all the finished horses I ride..be it in the arena for gaming or out on the trail. While my leg is steady enough that I can wear them without using them, until I finish a horse without them, I don't even put them on. There's no point to it.

Take a crop or dressage whip, not spurs. I've watched horses go from responsive to just leg to deadsided within a few weeks of a rider who doesn't have the seat/leg control or the knowledge of how to use them. It's honestly sad.

And to the poster who said OTTBs react badly or too much to crops/whips...fix that first. I can ride my ottb mare with a crop. She's already extremely responsive to any pressure, but sometimes (being a mare), she'll give me attitude and try to ignore me. One whack of that crop and she cuts it all out and goes off my leg.

I just don't understand why everyone wants to use so much unecessary equipment when it can be accomplished without it. I think it's trying to take the easy way out, which doesn't scream "good character"..but that's just my opinion.
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I think that spurs should be more of an extension of the leg. A crop or dressage whip should 'remind' the horse that your leg asked for something. I also found that one way to get them more alert is to use a 20 meter circle and start with asking for a different gait every 1/2 a ring. Then vary it. So you may be trotting, ask for a canter, ask for a walk, vary what you ask for and when. It really gets the horse listening and more forward.
 
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