Thursday, April 23, 2009


This is me on River. The horse who taught me collection. And yes, we're doing a trail course. I paid my dues in the all around world.

It's time for some more talk about collection. I had a question asked about how it feels as a horse begins to collect. I thought about this for awhile.

We have certainly talked about collection a bunch on this blog. But this was about feel. So I went back to the very first time I really thought about creating collection in a horse.

Which was farther along in my riding life than you would think. Collection was never a word I heard or thought of until I had been technically a pro for a bunch of years. Weird huh?

I started riding for other people when I was still riding Mort. I would have someone say, "I like your horse, could you help me?"So I would.

Or, "Would you ride my horse for me, I can pay you." So I did.

I never would have called myself a "pro." Turns out, according to AQHA I certainly was one.

Monte Foreman didn't talk about it much, not to my memory anyway. So I was riding for people, giving lessons and starting colts long before I ever thought of the concept of collection.

I was working up at the color breeders barn before I ever had to think about it. They had a big old dun stud in training as an all around horse with a young trainer named Devin Warren. They showed him in IBHA shows. He competed in everything the shows offered.

When Riv was home I was supposed to ride him. I didn't have a clue how to. When I bumped him with my legs he slowed down. His head was so low it freaked me out. When I picked up my reins he dropped his head even lower and tucked his nose in. He didn't stop though.

So the next time Riv went out for training I went with him. I started going out to Devin's place to learn how to ride the big horse.

This was the first time I came across the concept of collection, use of my legs to carry a horse along, creating a frame etc.

I learned how to ride him and had plenty of young horses back at work to practice on, so I really had a great opportunity to think things through.

I think the greatest benefit I had was the fact I was a pretty skilled horseman before the collection concept was thrown at me.

I was comfortable enough with my seat to ride bareback at a run through a rocky, twisty trail (thanks Mort). I had enough feel to quickly differentiate between each leg as it moved and think about the feel of propulsion and where it came from.

So I didn't fall into the trap I think many new or insecure riders fall into. Which is using the concept of collection as an excuse to hang onto her horse with hands and legs.

I truly believe a rider needs to be at ease with all three gaits before she tries to broach the subject of framing up her horse. Just ask my former students how many times they heard me say, "You don't need to know that yet, just ride the damn thing."

For that matter, I strongly feel a horse has no business being collected until he is comfortable carrying a rider through all three gaits. The quickest way to create a blocked shoulder or a break in the middle of the neck instead of at the poll is to start forcing a frame before the horse knows how to carry himself with a rider on his back.

That being said I'll explain how I start collecting my horses. I would love to get some thoughts from you guys. Keep in mind, I don't think my way is the only way, just the way I do it.

I'll start to collect at a walk. My horse is saddled and I'm riding with an O-ring snaffle.My colt will walk easily with a lot of forward along the rail of my arena. He has been taught to seek the rail. He knows to stay there even though my hands are quiet and my reins are loose.

He knows to stop if I take hold of his mouth and take my legs off of him. He rocks back and will go into a back if I continue my contact. When he backs he tucks his nose and backs straight. He can back five or six steps easily (I'm talking about "backing up" you English folks you).

As I ride I can increase the speed of his walk by squeezing with my calves in a rhythm slightly faster than his walk. He will speed up his walk to match the squeezing of my legs. He does this happily.

He can transition up and down through his gaits. He can trot into his lope, I'm not talking anything fancy here, he just goes. He trots when I cluck and lopes when I smooch. He can trot a happy working trot or extend his trot depending on the speed of my post. I post on my horses at the trot until they are 4-5 years old.

I don't touch my horses face during forward transitions. When I ask for downward transitions I ask with my seat and legs first, my hands second. My colt trusts me here, I am very consistant.

So now I'm going to collect him at the walk.
We are walking down the long side of the arena. I'm going to try to ask him to collect and have released him before I hit the corner. But I am willing to keep asking until I get what I want.

I ask for increased speed by squeezing with my calves in a slightly faster rhythm than he's walking. Just before he has matched the rhythm of my legs I take hold of his face. I have even contact with his mouth. I don't pull.

I keep bumping with my legs. I will wrap my legs with each squeeze so I have more contact. If I can't make this contact without spurring I take them off.

I keep my contact and keep pushing until I feel his leg stride lengthen (not speeding up ) and his face become soft. I hold this for a couple of strides and then let go and leave him be until he relaxes.

I keep this up until he will lengthen his stride and become soft in my hands as soon as I ask. Then I need him to hold this for 4-5 strides. After I have been able to gather him up several times I relax.
Then I lope around the arena a few times on each lead, on a loose rein, to relax him and shake off all that nasty holding.

Then we quit for the day.

What I feel when I am successful is a lengthened stride (this is easiest for me to feel in the back legs), a soft face that flexes at the poll so my colt can drop his nose (he doesn't have to have his face vertical yet, just give) and his back will raise me in the air an inch or two. I can also feel the lift of his belly under my calf muscles.

I work at the walk until he can carry himself in frame around the arena. I'll talk collecting through the corners tomorrow.

Check back you guys, I'll see if I can find a photo of Riv and me once I get home.


gillian said...

You have a unique and effective way of ending your blog posts. Very cool.

mugwump said...

Wait....I probably wasn't done. I added my usual dribble down approach. My first post was a wrong push of a key.

Londoner said...

oh. I was going to comment..perhaps I'll wait for the next one

mugwump said...

go ahead..I'm done now

Redsmom said...

Funny you should mention this today. I read a magazine article not long ago that said to win in the judged classes, the most important thing is to put in time riding your horse; that judges can tell that. So, I've just been riding Matt out in the field and not working on maneuvers to much. Of a sudden one day, at a lope, his head dropped away. It dropped so far it scared me a little, but his strides stayed even and strong and my hips rolled with the canter strides like a belly dancer. I could tell by how my hips were going what lead we were on. This morning, we rode again. As I have been for almost 2 years, I was worrying about his high head carriage at the trot, so I said, "Put your head down, Matty." And he put it down. He carried a level topline until we made the turn for home and then, when reminded verbally, he put it down again. I never thought to just tell him to do it. these ancient school horses know some stuff we can't imagine.

Every time I make another breakthough like with the loping, I feel both bad that it took me so long and thankful to Matt for teaching me. I've only been riding him since December, so I'm not too bad. I have had to get us both in shape, and learn to relax and ride more correctly. This is the third time in my life I've had to learn to ride all over again. having quit for 10 years in between both times. I'm so thankful I bought this old schoolmaster to learn on. He teaches me so much.

Analise said...

The time I remember most recently "feeling" a horse collect under me was in a lesson a few weeks ago on a horse who's probably learning as much about collection as I am. We were working on sitting trot and the instructor was telling me to drive him forward with my seat and reminding me about my posture (I have a habit of rounding my shoulders and slumping instead of keeping my back flat). He's already got a not-so-easy to sit trot but I was doing pretty well until suddenly, as I was doing the "driving" bit, his back came up a bit, and he really started using his rear end and all that energy came up through him and I lost it. But apparently we looked really good there for a second before I felt forced to post again. :)

Unknown said...

For the english riders in advanced- sorry this is such an english thing though.
I see riders, trainers etc. that teach a horse to be collected or "on the bit" by shortening their reins and keeping them that short until after usually many rides the horse gives. As soon as you give them back their heads they are careening around with their noses poked out.

I love your way of explaining how to begin teaching collection Mugs. Good one ;)

manymisadventures said...

You know, I will probably never fully understand all the differences and similarities between 'western' and 'english.'

But damned if there aren't a lot of people around here whose version of collection would be a hell of a lot improved by yours.

I honestly don't know enough about collection to do it, or even really explain it. But a soft contact and a raised back sounds pretty good to me.

In dressage, increasing collection is to increasingly get the horse's weight back over the hind legs. More flexion in the joints: the hock flexes more as the horse collects. The horse is balanced, the stride becomes more compact but you never lose impulsion. Forward is always, always important.

Just a little rambling. Someday I'll learn more about it.

I guess I just wanted to say, you make sense to me, even though we're in different worlds. I like that.

mugwump said...

Thank you manyMisadventures! - Now I'm hoping some of the dressage guys will get in here. The development of advanced collection is interesting to me.

crochetyolelady said...

OH so glad you posted this. I needed it. lol

Little Bird Lucy said...

Hi Mugwump,
Just wanted to give you an update on Tucker (the former plug). We have progessed to willingly stepping into a walk/trot and continuing it until told otherwise. It's a slow trot though. We are still working on consistently stepping into a canter. He's been occasionally taking 4-5 forward trot steps before he gets into a canter on lazy days, like today. What do you suggest for teaching him (and me) to increase and hold the increased rate of walk/trot?
Many thanks,

P.S. Great post today, totally over my head :) but I love to read about it. Maybe one day I'll be working on stuff like that!

Fyyahchild said...

Can we go back to discuss getting them to carry you? I'm working with Tax who is a 5 year old OTTB. He walks nicely although a little slowly which we're working on with the method Mugs described, trots well in both a slower relaxed frame and can really extend his trot. When we trail ride and everyone else is loping along he'll extend into the fastest trot I've ever ridden which is actually pretty comfortable considering.

I've got him turning and bending off my legs/seat finally (yay me!) although I admit I have better control of his hips than his shoulders because he's still really heavy on his forehand.

When we try to canter he loses his balance. I'm thinking more transitions, walk to trot, trot to canter, canter to walk and more backing. I'm also thinking just more riding time. Is letting him just carry me around in his crazy hand gallop while I try to slow him with my seat helping? The last time we trail rode he was actually pretty good heading back to the trailer. It was the most relaxed canter he's ever had but it took a whole day of putting up with the crazy gallop first. He takes off like there's a starting gate.

I started a little light jumping with him this week and I'm trotting him through some gymnastic grids. Ground poles to a cross rail and things like that. He perks up the minute he sees a jump and loves to canter depart which is another time he canters nicely. I half think it's the two point position we use for jumping because it reminds him of how the jockeys ride up off their butt.

I think I'm on the right track I just wanted to see if anyone else had worked with a horse that was just hard to ride because they were so heavy in front. Oh and good lord, he's uncomfortable when he hollows out his back, so the sooner we can work on collection at the canter the better. I swear every time we work on this stuff I end up dripping with sweat and out of breath which doesn't happen with the other horses I ride. You sit, point and shoot with December and she does all the work.

mugwump said...

Go Tucker Go - I knew I was forgetting somebody. I'll cover that might tie in with the OTTB.

onetoomany said...

This is pretty much what I aim to do with my horses. Up until now it's worked pretty well but my little pistol of a mare completely forgot winter teachings the second we put a foot in the outdoor. Now we're back to where we started where ANY kind of leg means go.

On a side note- I get to be Stacy Westfall's little gopher this weekend at our state's horse expo. I'm pretty pumped and plan on picking her brain.

HorseOfCourse said...

I’ve read through your post Mugs, and been thinking.
A while ago we discussed the difference between the dressage meaning of collection and the western meaning of it.
Now I wonder if I understand the western concept a bit more, after your explanation.
Out from what you write, might it be that your collection equals what a dressage rider means when we ride the horse “in an outline” or “on the bit”?
When you feel the back coming up, and the horse softens in the neck and mouth?
Would love to have your comments on this as I was a bit uncertain about the western meaning of collection after our last discussion!

The dressage meaning of collection is another (as we discussed earlier), and the ability to perform collected work comes a bit further on in the dressage horse’s education.
The horse has to have strength through a couple of years of dedicated dressage work.
When the horse gets stronger, you can work it a higher form – look at the outline of a GP horse compared to a horse in a lower dressage class.
Collection means a shorter, but higher step, with more spring in it. It requires strength and energy.
There are no shortcuts to achieve it; you have to build the muscle power into the horse through correct work over time first.
It is absolutely not possible to “collect” in a correct dressage meaning of the concept just by shortening the reins.
It is actually the other way around.
When the horse gets stronger, he will offer a higher form by himself.
We have to be very careful though, and watch that the horse is really working through the back. Some horses want to work in a higher form but tens up in the neck and do not work correctly over a swinging back. This is not collection. Such a horse has to be worked in a deeper and lower outline until it relaxes and works with a swinging back.
When your horse is working correctly, you should have a feeling that the withers are coming up, and that the horse is growing underneath you. The horse should be ready to go forward at all times - but you should have a sense of controlled power, and going forward does not equal running away on the forehand! The rider should be able to put the horse in a deeper form at any time, and still have a round outline and a soft contact with the mouth.

slippin said...

I know what you mean when you say that you feel bad that it took you so long to figure something out, but thankfull for the horse for teaching you. I have FINALLY gotten back into cutting, but the problem that I have right now is that for the past 6 years I have ridden horses that always needed help when working the cow. You can't just put your hand down and let the horse do its always had to HELP them and that has wrecked my thinking when it comes to this new horse I have. With him I can put my hand down and leave him alone for the most part, but since I have had to help those other horses for the past 6 years, my hand keeps fidgeting. I had my trainer and another guy that helped me turn back both tell me that my hand was moving around alot on the first cow that I cut out of the herd. I used to be able to keep my hand down like it was glued to my mares neck. It is very frustrating to me, because I KNOW to keep it down, but its not connecting for some reason...I guess out of habit.
I am going to a show on saturday, so maybe I will do better with keeping the hand down and win some money this time!! I once was told to grab some mane when I have my hand down, maybe I will try doing that.

autumnblaze said...

Redsmom - I have so many moments on my boy like that. Where the lightbulb clicks on, he goes so much smoother and easier and I'm thinking GOD he's a saint for putting up with me being in his way for so long! :) His first rider (kid-teen) wasn't the best from what I hear so I think he learned young who he's supposed to help along. I swear he pays attention to HOW I do things, if I do something 'better' I swear he seems to expect the 'improved' cue/form the next time. As if to say, I know you know how to do this right, so lets see it. He's got a lot more to teach me than any instructor could. :)

Shanster said...

Mugs & Horse Of Course: Hi! I'm working on this concept with my mare right now. We will show 2nd level this summer and we are workign on some 3rd level concepts. My mare DOES get very stiff in her neck and over her back, even tho she is spitting great gobs of green foam from her mouth. :)

We have been working her with every thing long and low - really getting her stretching over her back and reaching forward and out through her withers being careful that she isn't going on the forehand. It's helping immensely with her collection work.

Once she is long and low, forward and in my hands, I ask her to collect her frame. It's like a spring compressing. I should ultimately be able to ask her to stretch and uncoil the spring as well as asking her to compress and coil the spring again... her stride shouldn't change. The collection feels like power is there - harnessed and ready for whatever you ask.

It's still a work in progress but so far, this is where we are:

Her simple changes have improved dramatically and we are working on canter pirouettes. Not her favorite thing. She prefers the big forward extentions and lateral work.

It's really fun but it's also making my brain's wheels work and grind and smoke with all the new stuff! (in a good way tho!)

i know nothing said...

Hey Mugs!
Thanks for making your explanation understandable. I have a very low level question, maybe you can help. I'm working my 4yo QH mare. She's always been over-reactive. Maybe every 5th or 6th day, something sets her off that she can see or hear outside of my arena and round pen, and I can't get her attention back. Yesterday I finally quit trying to ride or round pen her after she was a sweatball but still not paying full attention to me. I walked her over to the scary area and hung around for a while. The scary area is grass and scattered trees next to my neighbor's house. Completely empty. Except that she sees things and hears voices I think. What can I work on to get her attention back when she is freaked out like that?
Thanks for any help.

Redsmom said...

Slippin and Autumn, thanks for the "validation." Tomorrow is the Ricky Spinks stock horse clinic. I am so nervous and excited. The thing with Matty is that you never know what he already knows. We went to team penning one time, but that was before I even knew to put my hand on his neck. No telling what he might do if I do that right. Full report on Monday if not before.

I'm also very interested in the dressage perspective on collection. I took dressage lessons for 10 months in New Mexico, so I know just enough to be dangerous.

Londoner said...

I was delighted reading this, because we have completely different methods! And that always makes for a fun discussion.
As a child I was taught the 'see-saw' on the reins - *shudder*
However, we soon discovered that the hard-mouthed, stiff necked riding school ponies weren't heaving any of this. mostly cobs, they were quick to evade and even quicker to take advantage of a fool.

For collection, we used to take them up the fields at a canter, then increase to a gallop, or their fastest gait. Then lower our hands and put them wide apart, sitting down and giving the aids for a lower transition, but still keeping our leg on. A slight giving and flexing with alternate reins was usually all they needed to drop their heads, although there was always another five laps around the field on offer for those who wanted to keep their heads up. However, I'm not sure how long this method would work on a spirited quarter horse...hours?

Now, I use a passoa, and I don't care if it's a gadget, it gives more consistent aids than I ever will

Redsmom said...

On a trained horse that is being heavy on the forehand, I will stop and make them back up. Its a shortcut method that gets them working off their hind end. Also, following the Sally Swift riding methods will sometimes magically get a horse to collect better. LOL

mugwump said...

HOH - I don't know if my terms mean the same as yours.
When one of our horses is on the bit it means he has contact with the bit, created by driving his hindquarters forward. Our hands create the wall which contains the forward momentum.
One difference I do know comes from the riding I've done to condition dressage horses. It is a fairly popular thing to do around here, have a cowhorse or reining trainer ride a dressage horse for 15 - 30 days. We just slap our saddle on and ride them like a cowhorse.
The owners are always pleased with how light the horses are in their hands when they get them back and the horse has fun with the variety.
True collection to us means a horse who drives himself forward into an imaginary wall. The back is up and rounded, but the reins are very loose by your standards. We contact the mouth to give direction, then release them. They carry themselves for the most part.
Your horses feel extremely heavy to us, even the good ones.It doesn't mean they are, it's simply the difference in the amount of hold we have.
Pleasure horses operate on almost no contact. Reiners have contact and release and cowhorses are as close to you guys as we get. We ride with very light contact. As in if I raise my hand I will feel the mouth, but the reins are still loose. A true reined cowhorse carries a "signal bit", or spade bit. Which is a bit that takes a simple flex of a finger to cue them.They are trained fron day one to carry
All of our horses need the freedom of their head to reach out for balance. If it is on a cow or on the rail in a pleasure class, their head is supposed to be theirs to use to complete their job.
So think of it as the weight is balanced over the back end and the front end is free to pivot around as needed. Like one of those sprinklers you set in your lawn that sends a spray in a circle. If once you set the base into the ground and you took hold of the part that sprays water you would simply get wet. The sprayer needs to be free to water the lawn.

Amy said...

Okay, I want to know exactly what constitutes "see-sawing?" I was taught (in the very few English lessons I took) to "wiggle" my reins back and forth slightly- basically to squeeze the fingers on one hand, and then the other, alternating until the horse softens, and then to continue with contact on the reins, but a softer contact than what I had been applying.

This is the extent of what I learned in English.

During the western lessons, the only thing I learned about collection was extended trot, then half halt into a smaller trot, and to practice these transitions.

And, as a beginner, the thing I recognize as "collection" in my mare is simply enjoying the ride. My Licorice taught me what "on the forehand" meant- it means riding a bulldozer. I can definitely feel the difference between when she plows around and when she lifts her front end. I'm not entirely sure how to acheive that yet though.

Anyway, those are my "I've been up all night" ramblings, for what they're worth.

Keep writing, and discussing. I want to learn more. (I'm sick of riding a bulldozer!)

HorseOfCourse said...

Thanks, Mugs.
I love these discussions, but it is difficult for me as I have no knowledge of western riding.
If I remember correctly, you said in an earlier post that you did not want the dressage meaning of collection in your horses, i.e the short, high and springy step.
So what you are looking for - again, my assumption - is the lightness of aids, self-carriage, balance and strong hind quarters?
Which we do have in common.
I can understand that a dressage horse feels heavy in the hand to you. How were the responses compared to your own horses?
What did you feel?
As there is a bit of a practical problem to leave my horse to you, Mugs - lol - please, give some info on what your experiences were riding those dressage horses. I'd love to hear it. Any training tips? It such fun to get some info from a (for me) new angle!

Laura Crum said...

i know nothing....I have a lot of sympathy for your situation with your mare as I trained a horse who was a big spook, and behaved as you describe. (This was Gunner, who features in my novels.) The truth is that I never got Gunner over seeing those horse eating monsters. He did get better as he got older. In general, I did my best to ignore him. Sometimes it wasn't easy. But if you ignore the horse's fearful behavior, letting him know by your body language, voice and confidence that there is nothing wrong, and insisting on a reasonable level of obedience (yes, you will go by here, even if you dance sideways the whole time), they will sometimes do a little better.

I sent my 4 yr old horse to a trainer last year and was amused that the trainer had no better solution than I did for the horse being "looky" in one corner of the ring. He ignored the behavior and kept riding him. Funny thing is, this year, at five years old, the colt just quit doing it.

I have used the stand around the scary place approach to good effect with some horses, and after reading about this on the horse blogs (I've never tried it) I would also suggest feeding the horse in the scary spot. This seemed to work for lots of people.

Other things that have worked for me: Chatting to a friend while riding (relaxed, happy voices). Singing while riding. Having someone around on a horse who isn't freaking. Selecting a task, such as dragging the pen with a tire and focusing on making a perfect drag pattern, or checking the fence for problems...just anything that you yourself focus on rather than your horse's behavior. Somehow the horse can tell when you're just trying to get a job done rather than focusing on the horse and his behavior. Tying the horse in the scary spot. If they can't stand it, I will tie them with a companion horse nearby. If a horse isn't really scared, but is more playing games, I will get after them enough that they are more worried about me than the imaginary monster.

Hope some of this helps.

Jess said...

@ Fyyahchild

"When we try to canter he loses his balance. I'm thinking more transitions, walk to trot, trot to canter, canter to walk and more backing. I'm also thinking just more riding time. Is letting him just carry me around in his crazy hand gallop while I try to slow him with my seat helping?"

Ex-racers were never taught to pick themselves up into the canter. They just fall into it from the trot. Or leap into a gallop from the starting gate. Either way, not good form for a hunter/jumper. :)

In my opinion, you're on the right track with the transitions. He might not have the strength through his back to lift both of you into the canter. Lots of walk/trot transitions will help build up his top line along with the backing.

When you go to canter, you should sit his trot for a few strides. Posting into the canter, especially if the horse starts cantering while the rider is in the "up" phase of the post can be unbalancing. You could also try starting the canter in two-point.

Personally, I wouldn't let him canter/gallop around disorganized. He probably doesn't have the right muscles build up yet to fully half-halt and re-balance himself. Instead when he gets out of balance, I'd trot or even walk until he's reorganized then try again.

You might try putting a pole in the corner of your arena, and asking for the canter a stride or so before. The pole should help him get the "lift".

Anyway, just my thoughts.

i know nothing said...

Thanks so much for your advice. I will print your response and try each one until we get it right. It is funny that your trainer had no better ideas, but I do think that simply consistent work solves many problems, even if the tasks are not complicated. And I will keep wishing that this isn't her lifelong behavior!

Deered said...


With my OTTB's I worked on getting the trot balanced before I started on the canter transitions - They haven't been taught to bend, or to do much more than lean on the bit for balance when galloping - hence why you find yours heavy on the forehand.

Start at the walk and work on getting "western style" collection - or at the least, getting the horse lighter on the forhand and balanced. Once you can happily work on 20m circles at the trot, put a single ground rail (or 1 foot x rail) diagonally across a corner like _\| with the rail being the diagonal line. Ask for the canter as you go over the rail and as both hind legs are up they seem to be able to get sotred a little better. At this point be in 2 point position at the trot - with no weight on your hands! - and stay in a close 2 point position. The horse is unbalanced, and if you are trying to correct him, and stay balanced, it often compounds the problem. Try to work on as larger circle as necessary to enable the horse to be balanced, then reduce the size of the circle as the horse develops the muscle and balance to be able to do what you are asking.

I know it sounds slow and boring and like it's going to take forever. Belive me - it gives you a much beter foundation for jumping than rushing into it.

Deered said...

Also the 2 point wont "remind him" of jockies - it's just that your balance is in a set place where he has the musculature to carry it - it's not his job to learn how to carry you - it's your job to develop the muscles he needs to be able to do what you want him too. If that means learning (and developing the muscles) to ride 2point for an hour at the trot, thats your job - believe me - I could out squat lift a few rubgy forwards when I was at school and working OTTB's.

Deered said...

Ahh, just been talking about OTTB's with my Mum - she said to remember to have the weight in your outside heel for the canter, as if the horse is unbalanced it's hindquarters will swing out and the shoulder will then drop in. I hop this makes sense. I wish I could convince my Mum to get on here - she makes a lot more sense than I do and she taught me much of what I know...

mugwump said...

I really enjoy these tips about the OTTB's. I've only worked one and she was easy. So I like hearing from you with real experience with them. Fugs wouls probably be all over this, but she's in Neb. helping with the disaster at Three Strikes Ranch.

Deered said...

I love 'em - they can be so incredibly different - I'm not sure if it's the different trainers or just the differences between horses _ had one with a super light mouth - one reason she was retired was that she hated the jockeys holding her face so she went to the back of the field and wouldn't settle, the other was a typical "leaner" the funny thing is that much of what you say, is what I was taught to do with them, just with the "english twist".

I have also found that they are eaiser to start up than something that has been messed up by someone else, however not as easy as a green broke. It is always mazing to have a 50 acre paddock and be able to let 'em rip though... but only once brakes have been established or you may be there for a while!

Anonymous said...

Adding my two cents worth on OTTBs: Remember that most of them are very responsive to your weight aids, more so than to hands. Especially remember that pulling back at all can mean going faster to OTTB; jockeys often take a "2nd grip" when asking for increased speed. That's usually the opposite of what you want when you instinctively grab rein! But I digress...

My point was that when you are cantering in the beginning, even tho it may feel a little out of control, you can usually rate them while in 2-point by just opening and closing your hip angles (i.e. bellybutton closer to the pommel to go faster, or opening up to slow.)

Remembering that OTTBs are trained and understanding the different set of aids can make you feel less worried about a little speed in the beginning. You can still steer and stop...nice to know.

As Deered said, it'll take lots of time to build the new muscle set to canter in balance and not gallop. Lots of transitions help; I only ask for 5 or so strides of canter in the beginning, but will do many sets of trot/canter transitions. I don't agree with holding off on canter work too long, tho. I think cantering without being pushed to race is important to learn, too, and a little hand-gallop around the field makes a nice break from dressage.

Deered said...

Still learning said "I think cantering without being pushed to race is important to learn, too, and a little hand-gallop around the field makes a nice break from dressage."

I really should write my responses in word or something - leave 'em for a day and come back - I read your comment above, re read mine and realsied that I sound like I'm say never canter - you say it much better than I did.
thanks for pointing that out.

There is a reason I'd never be able to be a good trainer - I can feel what needs to be done, but I'm hopeless at explaining how to do it!

Fyyahchild said...

I don't know if you'll see this Deered but I think I got what you meant. I know I regretted the crazy hand gallop part of my post. I'm kind of a goof and sometimes in trying to be funny I don't come across the way I mean to. Writing is hard! It made it sound dangerous or something. He's just fast and he brings his knees up so high you can really feel him pumping his legs. I can stop him fine and he's not explosive or anything like that. I don't worry about him falling or hurting us either.

Sometimes I almost have to run him down to get any decent work done otherwise all he thinks about is running and won't concentrate on his trot. I don't want to fight him for an hour so its easier to go fast and work off some steam. As long as I stay in 2 point he's pretty good. If I try to sit and relax he drops his shoulder and leans in too far. I've tried shifting my weight outside and even lifting my inside rein (I know Mugs doesn't like the rein thing but I was experimenting to see what works) to pick him up but he's not responding to that yet. I think we'll just keep working on building strength.

I am a little lucky in that I didn't get him straight off the track. I actually got him from a reining trainer who knew a little dressage and would buy OTTBs to start them on dressage and resell them. He hadn't had Tax long when he decided to retire but he did teach him not to pull on the bit, and to soften at the walk and trot. His trot is actually pretty nice at this point, and he's lightened up enough we can do a lovely shoulders in at the trot. I think he's ready to move on to canter work, but I do want to take it slow.

Thanks for all the suggestions, Deered and stilllearning.

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